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Cultivating Creativity

If we begin at the very beginning, we’d start with definition, I suppose. We’d say that creativity means transcending the traditional or ordinary ways, and creating new ones. It is originality. For many home educators, creativity utilizes and engages that most dazzling mind-power of all – imagination. 

We can define it by breaking it up into familiar words that feel less ambiguous, but we’re still speaking of something that by its nature breaks all of its bonds.

I look at creativity as a current, as energy that flows more easily the more we practice it. The first time we pause and step outside of the ordinary way of doing things, it begins. 

Our tools are libraries and their books. Building blocks. Websites dedicated to crafts. Pots of paint and sidewalk chalk, laptops and toy boxes. 

Since we often have the same resources inside our home, as well as in the world around us, nature and its seasons play a large part in inspiring my family’s creativity. Summertime is filled with beaches, sand, swimming, water balloons, painting en plein air, flowers, and butterflies. Autumn inspires play with clay, fantastically colored leaves, various weavings, dipping things in beeswax. Winter has its snowballs, sledding, and suncatchers made of ice. Spring! Spring makes us tingle after a long winter’s nap, with its greenly things poking through, inviting us to dig in the mud, as well as inspiring us to live in gorgeous color again. Since my children may not always feel as inspired by the seasons or our surroundings as I do, I recognize and acknowledge that, and use these things as my own inspiration in fostering their creativity.

As an unschooling mama, there are a number of things that I do to make sure that we’re living creatively. I look through the community education papers that arrive in the mail. “Interested in diving lessons? Or dance?” I check in with my children through (funny and often insightful) interviews. We regularly go downstairs to the rumpus room and bring up stacks of games and books for inspiring play.

Creativity is the very life force of home education.

As soon as we stop accepting that things should be done “because it has always been,” we start to grow. Creativity begins. We begin by opening our mind and heart, and then forever thereafter ask “what are the choices?” We start practicing creativity by coming up with alternatives and more elevating options. We ask, seek, ponder, get inspired, and play. And there it goes!

Cultivating creativity has many different facets. We – as families, parents, and individuals - have hundreds of different preferences, environments, and loves. Sometimes we can become utterly consumed by our interests – we want to spend all of our time drawing dragons or writing fan-fiction, inventing new tricks on bmx bikes, or writing game code.

Some things are engulfing, and they seem to take us along for the ride. It seems that the act of creating isn’t even a practice, but rather something that is carrying us along. 📷

Alternatively, while living with passion is a grand thing, creativity isn’t always the serious matter of being wholly immersed or inflamed. It’s often seeing, hearing, tasting, or feeling something and getting a brilliant idea. A spark of magic that flashes in your head and makes you grin.

That’s where the oh-so-wise parent comes in, ready with tickets to the museum or a play, the address of an intriguing website, a new stack of brilliant white paper, or a smile and an attitude of “let’s see what we can see...” Practically, we can present a project to our children and say, “Hey, maybe this?” and then smile with pleasure when they come up with something entirely different. Creative. Imaginative.   The whole point of creativity, to me, is expressing our beautiful selves. We want our children to have a marvelous sense of being. We want them to be engaged in their lives. We want them to know themselves – and love themselves – so thoroughly that they do not have the slightest understanding of what it means to live or be educated on the mass production line. We want them to live their whole lives knowing what they are about and liking what they see.

Creativity is a fine tool for that. Creativity insists upon joy. By its essence, it is reflective of the individual and her clever mind. It allows him a chance to feel, and then see, the shining light that is him and his. We only need to make way for it. We can make space in our home, leave lots of free time for it in our days, and be open to the (sometimes subtle) suggestions of inspiration.

The most important component in tending creativity, I believe, is allowing it to be. Letting it flow. Allow it, recognize it, admire it, and be taken by it. Acknowledging that we have such a lovely thing in our lives and in our selves makes way for our ability to appreciate it – raising it in value, as well as increasing its flow.

Much of the time, the creative process only begs laying out a couple of things on the proverbial table. A big one! One that asks all of its visitors “what if…”.

Stephanie Sims believes that if she celebrates and cherishes as many moments as humanly possible with her two children, then they won’t grow up while she’s not looking. She follows them around with her camera, plays math and chemistry games with them, and tells their daily stories at her blog Ordinary Life Magic.

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