Letting Go of the Reins

I came here today to admit one thing to you, sweet readers.

I can be a control freak.

Not in all aspects of my life. I’m pretty mild-mannered and laid back in my social life. If no one wants to see the movie I like, I’m cool with it- I’ll just go by myself or rent it later. If the trash doesn’t get taken out the instant I request it, I’m not going to blow a fuse over it. Generally everything rolls off my back, and I like it that way.

In my classroom, I try to be pretty flexible. I’m a big fan of student-led learning. If we get off topic because we decide to explore something that the kids really want to know about, I don’t mind at all.


If I come up with an art project for my kids to do, I want to keep my hand firmly around the reins at all times. This keeps things from going off the rails and keeps our art projects from going haywire. It’s usually a good system. However, the more I read about education and art classes, the more I’ve realized that I have got to let my kids take the lead and not stay directly on top of them. They might only be four and five, but they can and want to work independently. Art projects are one of the few times that I can totally let go and let them create and use their imaginations. So why don’t I?

Perfection is overrated. I know this, and more than I want to present cute projects to parents, my director, and the world at large, I want my kids to explore, create, and have fun.

Today I took a very small step in that direction. Our letter for the week is “J,” so I decided we should make jellyfish to decorate the room for the week. Yesterday, we painted paper plates purple. We let them dry overnight, and today after we finished our seat work, I passed the paper plates back out to them and broke out my stash of yarn. I have a ridiculously large amount of yarn just hanging out in a bag under my desk, so this was a good time to use up some of it.

I unraveled the yarn a little so the kids wouldn’t have to do it, passed around scissors, and showed them the length the yarn needed to be cut to make tentacles. Then I stood back and let go. They were able to pick out how much of each color they wanted, they passed the yarn around to their friends, and they decided when they were done (I did stay close by to make sure that none of them used up all of one color or got way too much.)

I know it sounds silly, but this was HARD for me to do. I didn’t want them to waste the yarn. I didn’t want them to only use one color. I didn’t want this, I didn’t want that. Blah blah blah.

But I forced myself to keep my mouth shut unless they needed help. And you know what? The jellyfish turned out to be absolutely darling.




I stapled the yarn to the plate (the hot glue took entirely too long when I initially tried it), and punched holes in the edges to string fishing wire through so I could hang them from the ceiling. We now have a bunch of colorful jellyfish bobbing around the room, and I have discovered how nice it feels to just let go and let the kids do this for themselves. They can do it. 

Do you have challenges like this in your class?



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