Inspiring Creativity at Our House, by Apryl

 

Inspiring creativity in our children can be intimidating for some families. Many have no idea where to begin, or believe that since they aren’t artistic or crafty themselves, that they have no way to pass creativity on to their own children.

It can be done, and should be done. It will look differently in every home, but it begins with the same idea: exposing your children to the creative side of life.

This is what it looked like in our home when our girls were small.

Outdoor free play was important. Sometimes it was making a train out of lawn chairs.  Sometimes it was filling buckets full of earthworms or cardboard cities in the back yard.

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Music was vital. We listened to all types of music, sang songs and danced around. They made noise, played on instruments, and made up songs. Growing up, they knew the sounds of Bach, the Wiggles, the Beatles, Union Station, Guns and Roses and Norah Jones.

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Our home was imagination friendly. As long as they weren’t overly destructive, or in danger, they had the freedom to play. As you can see in the photo below, we had all sorts of things accessible, even as toddlers and preschoolers. The desk and drawers were full of paper, glue, markers, scissors, paint…you name it. And they were allowed to use them. They were allowed to empty closets of blankets and pillows to make forts. They were allowed to drag baskets of books under the table to read.

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Yes, sometimes their creativity ran away with them…

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But even then, it was an opportunity to learn about personal responsibility, caring for your home, and how to clean up.

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We had toys that had no specific purpose. Simple wooden blocks that provided years of entertainment and learning, marbles and balls, nameless dolls, boxes of odds and ends for inventing; all were available for play.

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We let them take some risks, like climbing trees, and playing in creeks. Yes, they fell. Yes they bled. And oh, did they get dirty! But they made some wonderful memories, and can still recall the elaborate dramas they created in their minds as they played outside.

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They used real tools, like scissors. Yes, hair got cut occasionally. It grew back.

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Sometimes, paint got eaten. (Non-toxic, of course.)

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Sometimes it was actual food…they learned how to cook and use real kitchen appliances. A real oven was used instead of an Easy Bake.

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They even had places to go for quiet contemplation or just to be alone.

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And plenty of opportunity for complete silliness.

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Their adventures led them to all sorts of imaginary places.

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And sometimes even turned up an Oompa-Loompa.

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The point is, creativity doesn’t have to be a beautiful work of art. It is often messy and a little wild. It is simply the freedom to let your mind play.

 

Apryl–Born and raised in Tennessee, Apryl is a southern girl at heart.  She lives out in the country with her husband and her three daughters. After having an unfulfilling public school education herself,apryl and struggling to find peace with the education her girls were receiving in the public school system, she made the choice to homeschool.  When they began their homeschool journey, the girls were in the third and sixth grades.  Now she is happily coaching three teenaged daughters through their high school years.

 

Homeschooling with Haydn (et al.)

violinBy Kirie

When I sat and thought what made our family unique as homeschoolers, my mind immediately went to music. Both my kids have been taking music lessons for over half their lives at this point in time. Our musical journey started with an inherited 100-year-old piano and a 5-year-old with way too much energy and not enough focus, asking to start piano. I shrugged and found the kid a teacher with no expectations in mind.  My fingers were crossed that this child who couldn’t hold a pencil correctly might gain some small motor skills. Homeschooling wasn’t even in the cards for us for two more years. Here we are still trucking, 7+ years later, 5+ on the homeschooling. I had no idea how music would shape our world. Our homeschool is structured with music in mind and it gives a lovely rhythm to our days.

Whenever I talk about music at our house, I like to give some disclaimers:

  1. I have no preconceived notions that my kids are going to be musicians or performers.  Lessons learned from pursuing music can be applied to many things. I felt my own childhood was enriched by the pursuit of music, even though I did not pursue music after high school.
  2. I don’t think music lessons are for every child and every family. It helps to have an enthusiastic adult and a teacher that connects to your child as an individual (I know people who are teaching their own kids or have self-taught kids too, which is great).  Many of the lessons learned through pursuit of music can be learned through dedicated daily practice of any number of things.
  3. I am not a “Tiger Mom.” Not sure how else to put that! I think some people envision me cracking a whip over here. When we started, my goal was is to get the kid to the instrument six days a week as a discipline. That is still my basic goal.
  4. We use the Suzuki method. As my son and daughter age and advance, the use of Suzuki means less and less.  Any good teacher will welcome an involved parent. An involved parent is fundamental to success with Suzuki in young kids, so it makes a great way to start with kids age 6 to 8 and younger. I don’t think there is anything intrinsically magical about the Suzuki method, and Suzuki philosophy can actually be applied to almost anything.   I feel strongly that educational philosophies are great starting points. But connecting to individual kids is where success is found.

I’ve always wanted to sit down and puzzle out the gifts we receive from having music in our lives. So many parents seemed puzzled that we include this as a big part of our homeschool but I never get to have a real conversation about it.

  1. Kids get a chance to work with an expert mentor one-on-one at their own pace.
  2. Community. Kids that practice and play music are generally good kids with engaged families. Not always, but usually.
  3. Understanding the ins and outs of the way your child learns by sitting with them and learning with them every day. I’ve applied these lessons to all areas of our homeschooling.
  4. Appreciation and understanding of the rewards that come with hard work. Even if my kids are crabby all week about practice, they are joyful when they have a good lesson or perform well.
  5. Sense of history and cultural literacy. We learn about the composers we play. We attend concerts and shows with homeschool groups. We talk about where music ties to the past.  The first thing we notice when we walk into an elevator or watch a new movie is the music.
  6. Performance! It is a great life skill to be able to comfortably stand up in front of an audience.
  7. Fighting perfectionism. Learning something like an instrument is so incremental that there is always a way to do better and through that we learn there really is no perfect. We can just keep trying. It has helped my kids who started life so unwilling to want to try anything they couldn’t master immediately.
  8. Focus on the minutiae. We have some ADHD tendencies running around here – parents and kids alike. Stopping everything to focus on some very tiny things like the angle at which our finger hits a piano key, the difference in tone between two notes, or the way our pinkies sit on a violin bow have upped the ability to focus in other areas.
  9. Patience. Mostly for the Mom! I have gained patience in other areas through greater understanding of what makes my kids tick.

 I want to make good citizens. If a child hears fine music from the day of his birth and learns to play it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart.

—Shin’ichi Suzuki, founder of the Suzuki method

Thanks for listening to the somewhat crazed ranting of a musically-preoccupied homeschooling parent!

Kirie is a secular, eclectic homeschooling parent of 2 in St. Paul, Minnesota.  In a previous life, she was a software engineer doing web-based projects and has always been a math geek.  Her family is working on mastering the long homeschooling road trip and has traveled through 30 U.S. states by car in the past 5 years.    She enjoys biking, reading, knitting, cooking, and playing the violin.