This article is excerpted from my book The Real Life Home School Mom, which is available as a free PDF in the sidebar of www.virginiaknowles.blogpot.com.
Nurture Your Creativity with Home Arts
How about home schooling for mom? Our creative home arts skills can flourish in our families and then overflow to the outside world. They make our lives more beautiful and satisfying. Edith Schaeffer, in The Hidden Art of Homemaking, encourages women to develop and express the “hidden arts,” the little creative things you do in your home that sometimes no outsider even sees. You might take them for granted, not aware of their potential, but if you start small and practice them consciously in your daily life, you may see them blossom outward from your home.
Our creativity flows from the fact that we are made in the image of our Creator. The Holy Spirit fills us with unique skills, abilities, and knowledge to serve God and others, not just ourselves. In Exodus 35-36, Bezalel and Oholiab not only crafted sacred articles for the temple, but taught their skills so others could join in the holy task. The shepherd boy David ministered with anointed music to soothe a disquieted king (1 Samuel 16:14-23) and wrote everlasting psalms of praise. Dorcas, in Acts 9, made clothes for poor people. The creative Proverbs 31 woman also spread out her hands to the needy.
What do you think of as creative? Here are a few ideas:
♥ drawing, painting, calligraphy, sculpture, stained glass
♥ photography, photo album arranging, origami, booklet making
♥ toy making, greeting card design
♥ sewing, needlework, clothing design, costuming
♥ hair styling, wardrobe selection
♥ singing, playing a musical instrument, composing music or lullabies
♥ puppetry, drama, poetry, humor, choreography
♥ story telling, fiction/factual writing, letter writing
♥ cooking, baking, menu planning, experimenting with recipes
♥ hospitality, celebration
♥ flower arranging, landscaping, gardening
♥ home organization, interior decoration, furniture restoration
♥ inventing, teaching, mentoring, problem solving
Obviously, you can’t do it all! What do you want to do? Are you confined to the things for which you have natural talent? Some things may come easier, some you may enjoy more, and others you may excel at. However, you can learn a little something about many things to enrich your family and home school. Ask yourself these questions:
♥ What talents have I already nurtured?
♥ What hidden arts or secret ambitions do I want to develop?
♥ How can I use these talents to serve God and others?
♥ What steps must I take to get started?
♥ What equipment and supplies do I need?
♥ Can I get a friend to teach or coach me?
As you evaluate the options, please realize that creativity changes with motherhood. Your stage in life may inspire you to delve into areas you had not thought of before. On the other hand, if you have young children but you don’t have a separate place for your own projects, there may be some activities you will have to save for another season of life. For me, this includes oil painting and extended quilting projects, since they involve time, mess, spread out space, and hazardous supplies. I still do crafts with the children, draw with markers, sew simple items, make up songs, and write. Calligraphy would be another fitting hobby since it requires minimal setup and supplies, and can be used for home decoration and gifts. What a blessing it would be to have beautiful Scripture passages to grace our walls!
Accelerate Your Learning Curve
When my daughters came home from Miss Dee’s house with glowing accounts of baking bread from scratch, I just had to tease Dee about being “homier than thou.” But one day, since my husband has a weakness for homemade bread, I decided to try my hand at whole wheat. I called Dee for a recipe, gathered my ingredients, and plunged in. Three weary hours later, I had four soggy loaves, five dough-covered daughters and a totally messy kitchen. “Why did I ever do that?” I wondered. Yet I had lots of flour and yeast left over, so a couple weeks later I tried it again with a different recipe. I’m glad to say it was much easier and tastier the second time around! Several months later, I could bake four loaves with only about 30 minutes hands-on time. What made the difference? It was the learning curve! I had to discover more efficient ways to work, twiddle with the recipe, invest in tools and supplies, and learn to assemble large batches of dry bread mix ahead of time. I also found sources for bulk ingredients. For example, a two pound package of yeast costs about $2.50 at a warehouse club, which is a better buy than the four ounce $4.00 jar at the grocery store! But now I must confess the pinnacle of my learning curve: my mom gave me her old bread machine and now it’s a snap! So was it a waste of time doing all the fiddling and learning? No! I still make my own huge canisters of bread mix with bulk ingredients, and at least now I know how to make bread by hand if necessary. I was also able to teach my daughters how to do it, and some of them actually enjoy the process!
Much of motherhood and homemaking requires learning curves. We need time to acquire the skills of our trade without expecting instant success. Whatever the subject is — academic instruction, child training, marital communication, cooking, gardening, hair cutting, sewing, crafts or house cleaning — at the start it seems like you’ll never get it right. It just doesn’t seem worth the effort, does it? Yet you persevere. Try, try, try again. Practice makes perfect, and all that stuff. Pretty soon you’re a veteran.
An extended trial-and-error process is not always necessary. Creativity is not just a matter of totally spontaneous originality. Our projects are often based on previously developed plans such as recipes or patterns. Especially when we are learning a new skill, we must be willing to follow instructions. When we have gained enough proficiency, then we can branch off into more original ideas. In my eighth grade sewing class, the teacher told us to go buy a pattern for a simple piece of clothing. Being a rather fanciful girl, I had other ideas! I sketched an elaborate velvet gown and told Mrs. Gregg that this would be my sewing project. “No way!” she replied. “You don’t even know how to sew yet, much less design something like that!” I meekly bought a pattern for a rather plain skirt, followed the instructions, and learned the basics. The principles and practice from two years of home economics classes have served me well for 20 years. Now I can follow packaged patterns as well as design my own projects.
Do you want to accelerate your learning curve? Consider these tips:
♥ Read about your topic; the library is full of how-to books.
♥ Start with some form of written instructions or one-on-one coaching.
♥ If you have problems, ask someone to help you troubleshoot.
♥ Plan ahead to be sure you have the tools, supplies, time, and space.
♥ Relax and take a deep breath. It’s hard to work when you are tense.
♥ Work slowly and methodically, referring to your instructions often.
♥ Make sure you clean up promptly so the project won’t haunt you!
♥ Evaluate the results and think of how you could do it differently.
♥ Write down your new ideas and try a few of them next time.
♥ After you have a grasp of the basics, you customize the project as you want.
♥ If you really don’t like it after a while, chalk it up to experience and quit!
Don’t be afraid to try new things, including fresh variations on old routines or projects. Allow learning curves for the rest of your family too. Affirm their efforts and encourage their creativity, but don’t demand perfection or squash enthusiasm. Let us all curve right on up to success. If we are skilled in our work, we’ll serve before kings — like King Jesus!
Find Your Own Learning Passion!
Forget what your kids are learning for a moment! Do you have a topic that interests you personally? Give yourself permission to do a little research and reading. This is a good example for your children, as long as you don’t get carried away with it to the detriment of your family schedule. You can’t learn about everything, but I’ll bet you could be an amateur-expert (is there such a thing?) about one or two subjects. I obviously love to research family life, education, and Christian growth. In my case, I write from the overflow of what I learn, and this has turned into two books and ten years worth of e-magazines and freelance articles. I also love literature and history, which in turn richly equips me to teach in our home school co-op classes. I’ve been told that my enthusiasm for the subjects is abundantly evident. That’s because it comes from my heart! No, you don’t have to write books or teach classes about your chosen subject, but I do encourage you to enrich your own life and your family by learning for a lifetime.
P.S. You can find my recipe for whole wheat bread using a bread machine on my main blog, http://www.virginiaknowles.blogspot.com/, at Whole Wheat Goodness: Pancakes, Bread in a Machine, Peanut Butter Cookies.