by Maribeth Spangenberg

I admire the person who can visualize a concept in their head and then transfer it unto a blank sheet of paper. The woman who is able to mentally match swatches of colored material and turn it into a beautifully, decorated room has my greatest compliments. However, considering that I have lived in my present home for ten years and I still sleep in a white walled bedroom, shows my limitations in this area.

But as much as I lack in artistic ability, I have come to realize that creativity has many forms. It includes the small child building castles in the sandbox, the young boy setting up toy soldiers in strategic positions on the family room floor, and the teenager putting together a power point presentation on the computer. All of this involves a creative mind and a child utilizing his/ her imagination.

One day I made a conscious effort to take special notice of signs of creativity in my own family, so I could better encourage each of my children in this area. I was amazed at what The Lord showed me.

My son, Andrew, is a doodler. Every school subject has little scribbles in the margins, mostly of cartoon characters. So, when I noticed in a particular homeschooling magazine that they were searching for submissions for a future cartoon column, I brought it to my 15-year-old’s attention. Through encouragement, my son “created” a fictitious homeschool family for laughter’s sake. He spent two weeks drawing and designing a father, mother, young son and daughter, and toddler. He experimented with faces, statures, and expressions. This learning opportunity also prompted him to do a research paper on “The History of Cartooning”. Although we are still waiting to hear about his submissions, the whole experience for him was fun, educational, and creative.

About this same time, my husband bought a new video camera. My 14 year-old son asked to have our old one. Amazingly, he was able to fix it. As a result, he, his 12-year-old brother, and some friends used it to make their own movies. They spent hours writing scenes, rehearsing, designing props and costumes, and filming. For the most part, their sitcoms were battle scenes, gunfights, sword duels, and bank robberies.

I was intrigued at the creativity they used in the settings of woods, tall grass, open fields, and marshy wetlands near our home. My laundry load increased, but I was glad for an alternative to television and video games.

The Lord also brought to my attention my 18-year-old’s ability to cut hair, even her own. It is a tremendous help to me on Sunday mornings when she takes the initiative to French-braid or style her 10 year-old sister’s hair. This interest for styling seems to go right along with her tastefully decorated bedroom. Pictures, shelves, knick-knacks, and dolls, all intermingled with a lighthouse theme, reflect her ability to design.

Music is another form of creativity. I enjoy listening to my oldest daughter play the piano. God has given her a great gift in writing songs and putting Scripture to music. She has now learned to incorporate graphics and overhead projections to accompany her songs.

Watching my youngest children I was amazed at their imaginations. My 12 year-old frequently designs and builds LEGO creations and then explains to me the purpose of each planned part. Some of his creations were so impressive that I photographed them. His building interests also extended to outdoor, wood forts and crafted replicas of guns and swords. Each project required thinking, planning, researching, and, at times, seeking the advise of his father.

Knitting, sewing, and latch hooking are special interests of my 10 year-old daughter. She finds great enjoyment in knitting scarves, designing pillows and doll quilts, and latch hooking rugs. She then uses them as presents to siblings and friends.

My youngest, at eight, can spend hours chalking on the driveway, creating with playdough, building army fortresses in the sandbox, and setting up roadways on the family room carpet for his small cars.

Making a conscious effort to look for creativity opened my eyes to its endless possibilities. In fact, I found that even I was able to be creative.

While attending our state, homeschool curriculum fair, I came across a vendor who sold bound books with blank white pages. I thought of my third grade son and his American history course. Taking a detour to the used book area, I found an older edition of his current history text.

“If, while I am reading to my son from his updated history book, he could be cutting out the corresponding pictures from the older edition,” I thought, “It may increase his understanding. And if I assist him by also clipping out important names, places, and phrases, it would enable him to retell the story and facts in his own words.”

The result was that my son eagerly looked forward to history each day, to be able to cut and paste. He even enjoyed it to the point of wanting to push ahead. His enjoyment increased his retention level and made him proud of his condensed, personal, history book reproduction.

Sometime later I was browsing our local dollar store and came across 11×17 scrapbooks. I again thought of the success that “textbook reproduction” had achieved with my youngest child and decided to adapt it to my 5th and 6th graders. Fortunately, I had also been able to find older editions of their history textbooks. As they completed reading and answering the questions in the newer texts, I would rip out the corresponding chapters in the older editions, instruct them to cut out any pictures of interest along with the typed explanations, and to thoughtfully arrange them on the scrapbook page. They could only utilize one 11×17 page per chapter, so I stressed that I wanted them to be particular as to what they felt was most important in what they had read.

Again, I found that it increased their interest and learning.

At the end of our school year, when I presented my children’s portfolios to our evaluator, per Pennsylvania’s homeschooling law, he gave us a glowing and encouraging report, not just for creativity and academics but also…. for our ART curriculum. He elaborated not only on our “textbook reproductions”, but also on my children’s LEGO structures, wooden crafts, movie scripts and choreography, knitted scarves, cartooning research paper, and even my highschooler’s doodles in the margins.

Without the aid of a preplanned or printed out curriculum, my children and I had unknowingly integrated art into other areas of our academics, making school fun, learning creative, and retention higher.

Art had become not just a separate entity, but one of “creative integration.”

When planning curriculum for the coming school year, or even if you are in the midst of one, make your load lighter by combining. School projects, crafts, and hobby interests can increase learning when mixed with the academics. I found that it doesn’t take much to be creative. If attentive and observant, you may find that it is happening naturally.

Resource for professionally bound, hard cover, 28 page blank books: Miller Pads and Paper – search for “bare books”; large books sell for $3.25 and small books sell for $2.25.

Copyright ©  2006 Eclectic Homeschool Association