Creativity in our Homeschool ~ A Little Background

In the past couple months I've received several questions about creating a home environment conducive to self-directed learning and creativity. Eventually I'd like to address both of these but first I want to talk about creativity. I believe the "learning part flows from that creative foundation.

To answer this question about self-directed learning and creativity I've written a four post series:

A little background to our creative homeschool:

My kids have always loved to work with materials (sand, dirt, snow, clay, yarn, fabric, cardboard, flour, etc.) to make things and I have the impression that most children are like this, unless there is a developmental issue. Or unless that natural desire to create has been squashed by "Don't make that mess!" or "Why do you want to do that?" or "But that isn't part of the curriculum." 

I just followed their cues through the years, bought supplies that I thought they needed, looked around a bit for inspiration (& craft ideas) and let them loose. I also explored my own creativity and choose to recognize and acknowledge that I too was a creative being. 

As recent as four years ago or so I didn't think I was creative. That just boogles my mind to think now.

How could I believe that lie?

It was my children really (and coming across the creativity of other mamas on the internet) that showed me, I too was creative. I could see from the very beginning that my children wanted to make and do and I determined to give them the freedom to do that. And then a realization dawned on me, the same freedom I gave them I wanted to give myself.

The freedom to explore, dream, and make mistakes. The freedom to fail and the freedom to fly.

When I let loose my pre-school children with glue, scissors, stickers, tape and goggly eyes I wasn't expecting a masterpiece. I was expecting, quite honestly, a mess. I wasn't expecting it to be a work of art but a work of heart (sounds corny I know but it's true).

Slowly, very slowly, I realized I could extend this same grace and acceptance towards myself and my own creative process. 

I'm a recovering perfectionist so this was and is hard sometimes. To accept the messy and not always productive ("but I didn't create anything useful or beautiful!") process of creativity. To open myself to that and go with it. This is one of the many lessons I've learned in motherhood.

I can give myself the same grace, freedom, enthusiasm, and encouragement I give to my children and their creative ventures. 

This was perhaps not what you were expecting dear reader when you asked the question about what tools to buy or supplies to keep stocked but I feel it is the place I must start to answer those questions. Because it's not so much about the "stuff" as it is the overall mindset and atmosphere you create that allows for creativity to blossom.

Children will create something out of junk (my children regularly raid the recycling bin) if you just let them. And not that you want to limit them to that. Trust me, I take great satisfaction putting quality tools and supplies into my children's hands. Though I do hope you get my point - supplies are important for encouraging creativity but so is your philosophy. 

A creative philosophy:

These are just a few thoughts of mine that help explain why we place so much emphasis on creativity in our home.

  • We were created in the image of God - the grand, awesome, blow-your-mind Creator of the Universe.  
  • Inside each one of us there is creativity and beauty because the Creator is creative and beautiful.
  • Creativity is not about being able to draw and paint (though it might be for some). It's about making things, solving problems, experiencing beauty, and exploring ideas. It's a key piece to being "educated" and feeling challenged and fulfilled as human being. 
  • Creativity is not synonymous with crafts. 
  • Solving a complex math problem with out-of-the box thinking, writing elegant computer software, and baking a loaf of bread are all expressions of creativity.
  • Creativity resides in each one of us and it's a joy to discover, develop and share our unique creative gifts.

If I had time to sit here longer I could probably come up with a few more but that's good for a start.

Our family is headed into a stage of life that requires our creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. Raising our children with these life skills is of utmost importance to us. Just as important as learning and living them ourselves.

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  • kimberly

    kimberly on Jan. 24, 2011, 6:27 a.m.

    YES!!!! So many things in this post simply resonate with my soul! From not thinking I was creative to wanting to instill and encourage my children to simply living a creative life. All so true to my own journey. Thanks for sharing your heart. I once went on an artists' retreat because I wanted to hear the speaker. I got asked several times what my "medium" was. Once I figured out what they meant, I was a bit embarassed to be there. I wasn't really an artist. I mumbled about writing and calligraphy and enjoying many things. Do you now what I later discovered? I am an artist. My medium is simply my life.


  • Rebecca

    Rebecca on Jan. 24, 2011, 8:58 a.m.

    THANK YOU! I love this post!

    I realize that I probably don't give myself much space for creativity and definitely not much grace. A confession from one recovering perfectionist to another: I always want the pretty result and will rush the process so I can have it NOW. Then I don't really have much fun and I come away from the whole thing feeling like a failure because, well, I rushed it and screwed up what might have actually been a lovely experience if taken at the right pace. Whether I mean to or not, this is the legacy I'm passing on to my kids - the idea that creativity is the means to an end, rather than an unknown, exciting journey that may or may not result in something worth framing ;-)

    Thank you for saying it - we are made in the image of God who is the ULTIMATE CREATOR! Of course we're creative! Thanks so much for sharing your philosophy and ideas on this subject. I look forward to parts 2 and 3!


  • renee

    renee on Jan. 24, 2011, 1:48 p.m.

    Just found this post this morning which goes along with what I'm saying:

    In which I convince you that you are an artist @ Chatting at the Sky


  • Nicole

    Nicole on Jan. 24, 2011, 3:05 p.m.

    Great post! I love the picture of the yarn dolls, my kids have made dozens of these over the years (and the cloths for them too!). Now that most of my kids are teenagers I can look back (and around me at present) and see that out-of-the-box thinking really works wonders. I supply the materials (whether its recycled items, kindling from the wood box or store bought paints - the list is endless). My kids are so creative and I have grown with them and accomplished things I never thought I would.


  • Megan@SortaCrunchy

    Megan@SortaCrunchy on Jan. 24, 2011, 5:42 p.m.

    "Because it's not so much about the "stuff" as it is the overall mindset and atmosphere you create that allows for creativity to blossom."

    This and your description of your creative philosophy - this brought tears to my eyes.

    In 8th grade art class, the teacher's lukewarm response (and I'm being generous here) to my creation left me convinced that I wasn't creative. Oh, maybe with words, but anyone can do that. (Right?) But creating with my hands? I missed that gene.

    Thank you for the gorgeous and glorious reminder of the truth in which we were created.


  • Pamela

    Pamela on Jan. 24, 2011, 7:12 p.m.

    No one makes me want to homeschool like you! Just this week my daughters discovered the joy of modeling clay. And they would love to learn to sew (oh, children with pins and needles!). So, I will find time, make time, to create more. I never thought of myself as creative until I had children. They are so convinced that I can make ANYTHING, that it makes me feel like I can. What joy that brings to my heart!


  • Elizabeth

    Elizabeth on Jan. 24, 2011, 8:23 p.m.

    What a wonderful post! As I bring up my two boys (the oldest is 3 and just beginning to have an imagination) I hope for the ability to look past the stuff and recognize their creative minds. I know for myself that will also require being creative myself and patiently observant.


  • Karen

    Karen on Jan. 25, 2011, 1:53 a.m.

    I finally got around to teaching our 10yod to use the sewing machine to make a simple apron, and the next day she designed and sewed a top for herself and thought to embellish it with old buttons at the neckline because she thought it otherwise looked boring. That is just one example of oodles and oodles over the years of letting the kiddos be creative. I ssoooo agree with you, but battle with what to do with all the stuff (we still have 7dc at home, 3-14yo). I can handle the mess and clutter only for awhile and then we have to weed through the cupboards and closets and get rid of their Once Wonderful Creations that have lost their lustre even in their own eyes.

    Many homeschooling friends would wonder where all our 'toys' were when they brought their children over to play, but our dc have always had few commercial toys as they make their own inventions and find they easily get tired of toys. But a recycling box and bag of yarn or paints and glue or tape is endless hours of enjoyment. Anything can morph into almost anything else, just limited by the imagination.


  • Cheryl

    Cheryl on Jan. 25, 2011, 2:52 a.m.

    Renee, this was a fabulous post. Everything you wrote resonates with me: the perfectionism; the importance of attitude and good supplies and setting an example; daring to fail and learn from your mistakes; allowing yourself to believe you're an artist.


  • Megan

    Megan on Jan. 25, 2011, 8:41 p.m.

    Thank you for reinforcing my convictions on this. I've been purging our house of "stuff" and find we are happier, and more creative with less! I kept a handful of wonderful books that we read more often than ever before, and switch that out with things from the library. When you have more room to breath, you have more room to create, yes? :)


  • Teresa

    Teresa on Jan. 25, 2011, 11:44 p.m.

    Awesome post. I am researching homeschooling for my child and I am excited about this post. I think too often kids are limited at a young age with their creativity. It's almost wierd for kids to have an imagination any more. I want my child to know without a doubt that God gave her the gifts to suceed in this world and that her imagination is one of the tools to do that. I can't wait to see your list on what supplies to keep. Thanks!


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