CF: Veteran Hs'er Series 2014

Cultivating Creativity in the Classical Homeschool, by Briana Elizabeth

I’m a bit privileged in that I get to read everyone’s posts for Sandbox to Socrates before they go up. Not because I’m an editor, but because I’m nosy and I love seeing what everyone’s up to. Something that I was going to talk about in this article on creativity in the homeschool was scaffolding, and I would like to point out that everyone’s posts were about scaffolding their children’s inherent creativity.

In Lynne’s post, she talked about how she bought the boys all of the regular art supplies, but her boys didn’t like them so much. However, she gave them the opportunities to use things that they had in non-proscribed ways and then praised what they came up with!

Which in a very unexpected way is what scaffolding  and creativity is about.

bloomTaxonomy
This is Bloom’s Taxonomy, which shows the orders of learning. If you look at the top purple part, the definition of create is “Combining information, concepts and theories to form a unique product. Requires creativity and originality.” Lynne’s boys embody creativity, just not the kind she was used to seeing. She was open, put aside her ego as to what she thought ‘creativity’ should look like and let them express their own true creativity.

So, how do we scaffold our children’s creativity? We give them the products, we give them instruction on how to use the products, and then we stand back.

That’s not a lot, and yet, it actually is. Scaffolding is a structure around something being built; then the scaffolding is taken down. It’s a temporary structure. It’s empty. It will be filled with what your child builds.

Creativity is also how you can tell if your child has learned what you’ve been teaching, so it is something that you want to pay attention to.

So, how can we promote creativity in our homeschool?

If we’re just talking about artistic endeavors, we pay attention to what they are drawn to, and we show them how the materials are used. We could give them a project, like here’s how you set up a still life, and here are stamps to press into the clay,  and then stand back. At my house I have children who play instruments, others who write poetry, and some who are artists in the traditional sense of paints and pencils.

But, if creativity is the apex of learning, how do we bring that into ALL of our schooling, not just ‘art’ classes?

Is giving the child a full ‘art’ package really allowing them to be creative? Or are we just dragging them through an artistic experience and counting that product as the achieved goal? Is paint by numbers really an expression of a child’s creativity? Is it really about shadow, light, tone, and correct perception? Or is it about being able to match numbers to colors and applying them correctly? Are we requiring disembodied  projects and calling them creativity because the student has done precisely what we expected them to do in a fill-in-the-blank way?

What really drove this point home for me was reading Laurie Bestvater’s The Living Page: Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason.

pg 64 “The main principle, the hard one to keep in view in our end-gaining society, is that Charlotte Mason’s various paper activities are essential instruments as opposed to artifacts; for process, more than product.”

And on page 65, she says, “Does this represent a complete unschooling, anything goes, Summerhill approach where the child is free to write or mark the page in any way he chooses? No, clearly no; teachers may still, indeed must, specify–a written history, narration or a particular map copied, or a poem composed in ballad form, is a productive and essential limit but the sifting and presentation of the content and noticing are all the child’s.”

Then on page 66, Bestvater quotes Mason’s Philosophy, pg 149, “…to a child who perceives these things miracles will not be matters of supreme moment because all life will be for him matter for wonder and adoration.”

This also can be heard in Mr. Kern’s oft quoted, “You become what you behold.”  Or Remembering, Thinking, Communicating, as Stratford Caldecott said it. It is the Lectio, Meditatio, Compositi  as Ms Rallens teaches us. If we’ve truly beheld something, we become it, we communicate, we create. So do we take a lesson and build a project around it? No. We build a scaffold and respect the child enough to let him create on his own.

First, I know that they need to have the base knowledge, the Remembering, Lectio part. Then they need to obtain the skills. They need to learn the poetic tropes, the scales, the color wheel and paints. Then they need to have the time-this is where the Meditatio, Thinking, Understanding comes in. You can’t command it. You can exercise it, you can practice, you can plan, you can build skill, you always keep working at it, but how those connections are made in your head, that is the unknown. How a child will represent what they have learned is so individualistic and unique, and isn’t that the beautiful part? Do we really want to turn that into paint by numbers? Isn’t that just fill-in-the-blank’s eclectic sister?

My job is to give them the tools and the opportunity. I show them art, we read poetry, and we listen to great music so that they are filling their own wells. 

beading

So far, what I’ve discovered is that we resist the extreme pull to produce all but the final product for the child. I think this last part is the scariest and – for a parent – the part that requires the most respect of the child. We let them put their own connections together, we give them to room to work their own knowledge with their own skills and we get out of their way. We drop our expectations of what their creativity should look like. We let them fully be persons of their own.

briana   

Briana Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.

 

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