I have crafty kids. It's just what we do.
This time of year especially. For weeks leading up to Brienne's birthday Céline sequestered herself away in our bedroom - one of the few rooms in our home with a door - to sew.
And now with the Christmas gift giving season upon us there will be a lot more secret sewing and crafting going on.
Recently, when we went to our friend's farm for the weekend the kids took a small bin of supplies and their favorite new craft book (mailed to us from the Netherlands by a FIMBY reader). Along the way, we bought felt at the fabric store, and the kids arrived ready to get on their crafting groove.
The kids were worried they wouldn't be able to speak to their French-speaking friends but we knew crafting could be the common language.
Ever since that visit Céline has been e-mailing back and forth with her friends en Français et en Anglais photos of the craft projects they are doing.
People have asked me how to encourage their own children to be creative and I have shared those ideas already here on my blog: have good supplies, be willing to make the time for it, be ok with the mess it will create (teaching your kids to clean up their mess will help with this).
(It's interesting to note that even though I don't do as many crafty things, especially sewing and paper memory keeping, as I used to when my children were younger, our kids continue to craft on their own initiative.)
I wrote a little book about how you can nurture creativity in your own life, and honestly, the same advice I give to moms' applies to kids and people in general. The advantage kids have is that when they start creating from the time they are little they don't have the same hang-ups adults do - fear of failure and perfectionism being too biggies.
Encouraging creativity is near and dear to my heart and it's something that comes up in most of my coaching and online teaching. I think it's one of my core life messages right now.
Based on your suggestions during the teleconference, I've even started doing my own art again - which is my life's passion, but I thought I had to put it on hold until my kids were older. Instead, now we're doing it together. Yes, our house is much more peaceful and I'm even getting my own "battery recharged".
As an educator, I believe creativity is an important part of learning. As a human being and a mother, I believe creativity is simply a part of joyful and wholehearted living (see Brené Brown's book The Gifts of Imperfection for more on this).
I was asked the following question in a recent interview:
There is always a lot of discussion about the need for creativity in our lives, but not as much on the subject of why. What do you believe mothers gain, both as individuals and as parents, from fostering their own creative spirit.
Here's my answer:
Joy. When you tap into that creative activity (or activities) that both challenge you and help you express yourself you have access to a sweet spring of joy.
Not all moments are joy of course (writing ebooks is NOT all joy). But the main reason I both nurture creativity and tune into the creativity in my days, e.g. arranging pottery just so on the table and taking a picture to share on my blog, is for the pure joy of it. The joy of beauty. The joy of being alive and having a gift to share.
My children also get immense pleasure from their creativity. The actual making of things brings them joy. Showing and giving their art to family and friends. Playing with their handmade toys. They do it because it brings them joy.
I believe we were created for joy and pleasure. For relationship and beauty. Nurturing creativity puts us back in touch with this.
What if your kids don't craft or fill-in-the-blank?
There are so many things that can bring creativity, joy, pleasure and beauty into our lives.
Music is one of those things. Did you know that none of our children play a musical instrument?
Some people might think this is a shame but our children haven't expressed an interest to learn an instrument and we decided this wasn't going to be one of the requirements of their home education.
Did you also know that learning never stops and people can learn new things all the time?
What this means is that if our kids one day want to learn how to play a musical instrument they can! If they want to learn to speak Japanese they can! I don't have to teach them all these things when they are knee high, nor do I have to hire someone to do so.
I don't have to carry the burden of exposing our children to every good thing before they are eighteen, training their young minds to speak three languages and play two instruments. They have their whole lives.
It may be sacrilege to say this but you don't have to give your children the perfectly well balanced and well rounded upbringing. In fact, trying to do so would be impossible because none of us are perfect.
You can build your family life and home learning environment on your family values, your children's interests and natural talents, your interests and talents, and your overall goals for your children's education. Yes. You. Can.
When your children leave your home they will build on this foundation, carrying forward some of the values and teaching you instilled and then add entirely new pieces according to their own desires and life mission. And won't that be fun. For them and for us.
Damien and I have already talked about the twists and turns our family life will take when our children come of age and choose their own path. We're excited about it! We're going to learn so much.
I think the reason parents, especially homeschooling parents, feel we have to teach it all when our kids are young is because we must carry a belief deep-down (so deep it's hard to acknowledge) that learning stops when kids reach a certain age. Or if not learning, the ability to study something you're interested in and pursue your dreams.
That freedom stops when you are an adult and if you haven't learned how to sew or haven't wrapped your brain around Newton's Laws by the time your eighteen, well that's just too bad. It's all over. Because now real life starts, and don't you know "in real life you don't get to determine your own course of action, you have responsibilities". And if you want to learn Latin, well too bad. If your homeschool mom didn't teach it to you when you were twelve, it's all over for you.
Do you hear what I'm saying?
We create because it brings us joy. We make useful things, and some not so useful things, and we learn important skills. We make time for creativity in our homeschool curriculum because it is one of our family's core values.
Does this mean you have to craft with your kids? Not at all. Maybe you bake with them instead, or play musical instruments together, take dance classes, or spin wool from your own sheep. Maybe you speak Japanese in the morning and conjugate Latin verbs in the afternoon.
If this is what you love, what brings your family joy, and is inline with your family values - then do it! And do it with gusto. Do it well, do it often. Do it to the glory of your creator.
And teach your kids this with your example - we never stop learning. The door is always open. We never graduate, though we may pass some exams along the way to show certain proficiencies (trust me, I want that surgeon to have passed their medical school exams).
Our children's childhood, foundational as it may be, it not "it" in terms of their learning window of opportunity.
Release yourself from that burden. Release them.
And then go make something. Just for the fun of it.