Written by contributor Kari Patterson of Sacred Mundane
“All children are artists, and it is an indictment of our culture that so many of them lose their creativity, their unfettered imaginations, as they grow older.”
—Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art
The Kingfisher and Usborne encyclopedias were stacked high on my lap, the kids leaning in close, interrupting every other sentence with, “What’s that?” “Why did they do that?” “What does that word mean?”
(Every lesson takes twice as long when the kids are actually learning something.)
I glanced at the clock; I was way behind schedule for the morning. We had finished the lesson on archeology, when both kids jumped up off the couch, a surge of creativity lighting their eyes:
“I know! Mommy, can we do an archeology dig right now? Can we dig for clues about what people used to live like? And can we put all the clues together and make a book about it?!!”
I glanced down at the list of “school” left for the day and knew what the right answer was:
“Absolutely! Let’s go!”
Within two minutes they were dressed for adventure—bandanas, notebooks, magnifying glass. The rest of the afternoon was spent outside, digging in the dirt. Sticks were dinosaur bones, rocks were bits of weaponry, some old weed-barrier cloth was surely primitive clothing.
Someday their cursive may be sorely lacking, but their creativity will never be.
See, the cultivation of creativity is one of our homeschooling goals. Why?
Because creativity enables us to live fully alive. As Madeleine L’Engle says,
“Unless we are creators we are not fully alive. … Creativity is a way of living life, no matter our vocation or how we earn our living.” ~ Walking on Water: Reflections of Faith and Art
Creativity enables us to empathize with others, because we easily imagine what it might feel like in their shoes. Creativity equips us to imagine solutions, inventions, innovations. Creativity prevents boredom, inspires leadership, and protects from a life of lemming-hood.
Creativity enables us to believe. (What is faith, if not informed imagination?)
Creativity enables us to live fully alive.
So how does this happen?
With curriculum as a catalyst. Discipline as a diving board.
For our homeschool days, cultivating creativity begins with using curriculum as a catalyst. Following a guide doesn’t box us in, it opens up new doors for us to walk through.
Through curriculum we enter new spaces we never knew existed.
And discipline is the diving board. As L’Engle says, “Inspiration usually comes during work rather than before it.” It is through steady, consistent discipline or routine that we learn the skills that free us to be creative.
Without some structure, curriculum, discipline, my days don’t feel creative–they feel chaotic. But when we have done the chores, recited the lines, practiced the penmanship, and dived into the books, we find ourselves on the edge of a magnificent diving board, high above a vast pool of knowledge, experience, wisdom, beauty, joy.
So this is what I picture in my mind:
Each morning we get up, we climb step-by-step up the diving board ladder, by discipline and order, structure and consistency, and then at the top, we face the beauty of the rest of our day–open and free to swim in the depths of experience and creativity.
We tip-toe carefully out to the edge …
And we dive in.
Cultivating Creativity in Our Children
Though I am no expert, here are a few simple ways to cultivate creativity in your children, for a life fully lived:
1. Start with Consistency & Discipline.
As stated above, we aren’t free to swim in the depths of creativity until we’ve mastered our habits.
A chaotic, messy, disordered environment does not necessarily mean creativity is being cultivated. In fact, gifted creatives can find life frustrating unless they’ve learned the skills of order and self-discipline.
2. Limit Electronics.
For little ones, the more a toy does the less they do. The less a toy does the more they do. Think blocks over batteries. Books over blinking lights. LEGO bricks over LeapPads.
Necessity is the mother of invention. If a child’s toys do everything for them, there is little left for his mind to do.
3. Love & Listen.
Nothing stifles creativity more than feeling insecure. When we are truly loved and listened to we find ourselves far more willing to dream and try new things.
4. Embrace Risk & Failure.
Demonstrate your willingness to risk and sometimes fail. Be a beginner. Cheer for good efforts not just for great results.
Reward every small effort at overcoming fears. Create a safe environment free of ridicule and sarcasm.
5. Laugh & Have Fun.
Creativity coach Susan Ann Darley says, “Creativity and humor are linked. Encourage it. Humor loosens the hold of the intellect, which can restrict playfulness and out-of-the-box thinking.”
Can discipline and creative fun go hand in hand? Absolutely!
My son and I chant (yell?) his memorization work while wielding light-sabers in the yard. And when I really want him to listen? Talking like Yoda works every time.
Nothing makes my children’s eyes light up quite like when I catch them off guard and initiate an imaginary adventure.
Here’s to creativity and a life fully lived.
Now, your turn: How do you cultivate creativity as you homeschool? Please, inspire us with your imaginative ideas!