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Creative Learning

Updated: Jan 6, 2021

Even as homeschoolers, we've learned a lot during this extended time at home.

People don't always realize how active homeschooling families can be.

Where we've lived and schooled, there have been an array of different activities for homeschooling families to participate in and April and May had shaped up to be very busy months for us this past year.

My middle son (12) was in a musical through our co-op that was set to start having twice weekly rehearsals starting April 1st with an opening date set for May 15. My oldest (14) was signed up to attend a soccer camp over spring break and then him and my youngest (5) were set to start spring soccer at the end of March. My youngest had a weekly Wildschool meetup, swimming lessons, and was to start an outdoor explorers class at a nearby park. We also all had co-op on Fridays ( a 45 minute drive away), 2 birthday lunches we were hosting for friends, I was preparing a presentation on Hiroshima peace trees for an Earth Day celebration, and the in-laws were coming for a week mid May.

All that is just the major stuff that I can think of off the top of my head, I'm sure there was more, but also more that would have come up naturally - get togethers with friends, library days, field trips, art walks, robotics classes, and family dinners.

It all would have been great, but I realize, it all would have added up to a lot.

The past few year has forced us to slow down in a way that I don't think we ever would have otherwise.

With the war cry of "SOCIALAZTION!" ringing in my ears since our homeschooling journey began over a decade ago, we've been part of school groups, co-ops, gym classes, swimming classes, acting workshops, any number of different sports, taken countless field trips, and attended many local events.

There were honestly some years where we had so many activities going on that it was difficult to have time left over for much focused learning at all!

Starting back in March though, our busy lives outside our home, came to a screeching halt.

All of a sudden we were left to figure out some kind of new normal that included only our family and what we could create for ourselves.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention and man did we prove that over the past year!

Without friends, family, classes, gatherings, field trips, and countless other lovely distractions, we now had a ridiculous amount of time available to spend on whatever we wanted, just so long as it took place at home. That was where I discovered one of our first silver linings in this whole ordeal, our home is a very interesting place to be. From art supplies to science kits, seed packets to cookbooks, crafting materials to musical instruments to shelves full of books, we had a treasure trove of supplies at our disposal and finally had the time to fully explore them.

From this stock, an incredible amount of creative learning was inspired.

My oldest tried his hand at whittling, whipped up new treats in the kitchen, rediscovered a passion for stop motion, and after years of proclaiming his hatred of drawing, took up, to our great surprise, drawing!

My middle son, who's loved drawing for years, created a new deck building card game based on medieval times and fantasy lore called Round Table and created custom decks with themed cards for all the members of our family, including a princess deck as a Mother's Day present for me. He and his brother spent hours play testing their decks, dreaming up new creatures, and he often stayed up late illustrating new cards he would excitedly share with us the next morning.

My youngest, who at 5, was unable to spend hours reading like his big brothers, rediscovered Harry Potter via audio book, found glasses and a cloak in the costume trunk, and asked for help setting up a potions class which involved mixing different colors of water to make elixirs and poisons.

That turned out to be an invitation even one of his older brothers couldn't resist!

He also developed a newfound appreciation for Calvin & Hobbes and now goes back and forth between cosplaying Harry and Calvin, the latter costume consisting of an old red shirt that he drew black lines on, a pair of dark blue shorts, and a tiny tiger stuffed animal from last year's Easter basket.

He's even started drawing in the style of Calvin!

You might be thinking, yeah, this all sounds great, but where's the learning??

Other than creative projects, we were still completeing lessons in math and typing, and doing daily reading and writing, but you'd be amazed at how little time it takes to meet those requirements outside of the traditional classroom setting! You'd also be surprised how much you can learn exploring creative pursuits. When it comes to all the learning the boys were doing, I could break it all down and mine it for the standards to present, things like learning about primary and secondary colors by mixing them, building the grip strength needed for writing through drawing, learning to spell difficult words by wanting to write them correctly in a game, adding and subtracting fractions when doubling or halving a recipe, but why??

When it's easy to see that they are engaged and learning, why dissect it?

Isn't that one of the ways a great story can lose it's appeal, by being over analyzed??

They have been engaged in new ways and have been creating learning opportunities for themselves. They've been inspired and taken action to bring any number of creative pursuits to life and in doing so have come up with all kinds of creative solutions to the problems that have come up along the way.

That's a kind of learning that isn't often found in many schools or curriculums these days.

By choosing what they create, they are in essence choosing what they learn and how they learn it.

Every idea holds it's own unique combination of problems that need to be solved and problem solving is the basis of all learning, right?

Children aren't always encouraged to solve their own problems in school as often as they could be unfortunately. They are given problems to solve, told how to solve them, then expected to remember the formula they were taught. Solving your own problems, ones that arise from a project you've chosen however, are meaningful in a way that you can't easily replicate. Sometimes their ideas don't work or won't work the way they thought they would and it can be frustrating, but that's okay! Isn't trial and error just another way of saying fail and try again?

The most meaningful learning can come from figuring things out based on your own personal interests and ideas and having the time and space to fully explore what you discover.

I don't know how the future will look for us, but I can tell you that our homeschool will not go back to exactly as it was before. I have a new found appreciation for creative learning and want to continue to make space for it to happen regularly in our lives. I plan to take a hard look at anything that we're thinking of adding to our schedule going forward and honestly ask myself if the time it will occupy is worth the trade off for less open-ended creative time and flexibility in our lives.

If you're interested in inviting more creative learning into your family's life, the following questions are to help you look at the environment in your home and what you can do to cultivate it into one that better fosters creativity and out of the box thinking.


1. Is your home a place you want to be?


If your family isn't used to being home as much as ours is, your home might not be set up for being comfortable there for long stretches of time. Even our family, who is used to be home a lot more than the average family, has made a lot of changes to up the comfort level of our home. It can be tough to get the creative juices flowing if you're feeling overwhelmed and aren't at ease in your home. Look at the common areas and how they're being used and think of how you can make them places your family want to spend time in. Think cushions, blankets, good lighting, pops of color, interesting artwork, candles, plants, natural textures or found objects on display. Don't think ANY of this has to be brand new though! Not only does our family have financial constraints, but many places we frequent, such as the local thrift stores, have been simply unavailable for parts of the year. We've had to be creative and borrow or repurpose items from other areas of our home, exchanging, organizing, and redecorating with what we have to create a space that we love. Bringing the outside has been hugely beneficial for my state of mind and can be as easy and inexpensive as collecting interesting rocks, feathers, or pieces of wood to display, or digging up a flowering plant in your yard and displaying in an old jam jar. Do your best to get rid of clutter (see my posts on purging and getting organized) then bring in elements that you love, and you'll be amazed at the new feel of the space you've created.


2. Is your home an interesting place to explore?


Think about all the resources you or your child has access to outside of your home. Now, think of spending a long time with access only to what's available in your home.

What is there, outside of electronics, to do?

Are there books?

Writing supplies?

Art supplies?

Tools for baking, building, crafting, etc.?

It really doesn't take much to upgrade the creative potential of your home, starting with just designating a space (or two) that can be used for creative purposes. I outline setting up your space in my post on Strategies for Schooling at Home, so check there for more detail on the subject, but basically, it involves collecting what you have, organizing it as best you can, and having it easily accessible in a central place in your home for anyone to use.


3. Are you making space for creative exploration?


This question does not refer so much to physical space, but rather mental space.

Are you being mindful of how you spend the majority of your downtime?

Many people, both kids and adults, are spending the majority of it consuming one form of media or another. That can be great sometimes! There are many amazingly creative people in this world and they can come up with any number of awesome content for you to enjoy and be inspired by in the form of shows, games, apps, and social platforms. I am by no means bashing them, but trouble can come when there isn't a balance between consuming and creating yourself. There's a huge difference between creating media and consuming media, and as fun as consuming can be, it can take over your life if you're not careful and suck up more than it's fair share of your time and attention. Time you could be spending giving life to your OWN ideas, inventions, and creative pursuits.

Make time in your routine for the possibility of creating something of your own, even if it takes a while to come up with anything at all. Give your mind as much space and time as you can to let your own ideas come to the surface and give them life! Allow yourself and your children the gift of being bored, it truly can be the source of some of your best ideas if you just give it time.

Everyone one in the world is different, so therefore everyone in the world has something unique only they can create. If you truly value creativity, you've got to make it a priority, then prioritize the time to make it happen. I read once that you always have time for what you choose to make time for. Nobody has more than 24 hours in day to work with and while I understand that many people have a lot of constraints on their time that are outside of their control, everyone has hours in the day that they can spend as they choose. Make space for what matters to you.


4. Are you valuing creation yourself?


This can be a tough one for people, I know it was for me. I've asked the 3 questions above about our home for years, but this last one, not nearly as much until recently.

I knew what I SAID my priorities were -

My Family

Learning

Creating

Personal Growth


But based on my actions, especially the first few weeks of the pandemic, my priorities would have been -


Facebook

My Phone

Netflix

Online Shopping


My boys had been amazingly creative throughout that time, but I was not being so creative myself. I was focusing so much energy outward that I had left little time to cultivate my own interests and allow my own creativity to spark, not to mention give proper attention to my family. I fully realized how much I needed to take a step back from social media, when my youngest, having the least amount of resources for entertaining himself and two brothers who aren't always receptive to his company, had a total meltdown that I know was in big part due to my lack of being present.

I decided that not only would I give his projects and creations more attention I would also find things I was interested in and give myself time to explore them. Over the past year I've developed an interest in building miniatures (something I'd never tried before!), designed and built (with help from the hubs) a new shelving unit for our living room, started writing again, and rediscovered mediums I haven't explored in years.


I've found exploring my own creative interests to be wonderfully fulfilling!

It's been wonderful for our children as well because it means that not only am I available as a source of inspiration, but also as a co-collaborator if they decide they'd like to jump in and create along with me.

I've also found that the more I create myself, the more mentally available I am to act as a facilitator and help them on their own creative journeys. Below is a picture of my boys and I making candy together, something my 12-year-old was very excited to try, but involved tools, like a candy thermometer, that he wasn't comfortable using for the first time solo.


My sincere wish is that everyone who reads this can find a way to fit more opportunities for creative learning into their lives, it's done wonders for our family and I hope it can do the same for yours.

Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions either in the comments below or in the homeschooling forum, I look forward to hearing from you!




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