Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bravery Begets Bravery

Fear, not inability, is the greatest barrier that keeps our children (like ourselves) from stepping out in creativity. After tiptoeing through years of well-meaning correction and red ink, we cower for fear of being judged or called wrong.

I did not model imaginative play to my son or inspire him into inventiveness.  Creativity just flowed naturally out of him at thirty-six months old. Rather than building the towers depicted on the box, he places his blocks in a single layer radiating out like a mosaic across the floor. When we can’t find his toy airplane, he wedges a cardboard scrap between the cab and bed of a pickup and flies it instead.  Adults do not teach children creativity; we teach them structure and in the words of Sir Ken Robinson, we often educate creativity right out of them.  Parents gently correct kids’ opinions or simply load them with too much instruction.  “Apple starts with A” or “This is a square” is beneficial.  But “No, this song is not sad; it is happy” or “Draw your snowman like this” can be stifling.  If we do not guard our tongues, we can inadvertently limit our kids’ capacity with the very words that we think are helping them. 

What else can we do in addition to encouraging their creations?  Be brave for them. Dance with them. Sing in front of them. Make up stories for them. These activities can release you from the impervious walls of your own comfort zone.  Young kids are great guinea pigs on whom to practice your storytelling skills.  They haven’t any background knowledge about the modern interpretation of plot development.  They won’t refer back to a selection of best sellers to compare your work to anymore than they would compare your clumsy tap dance routine during the credits of the Disney movie, Brave, to the genius of River Dance.  This blank slate with eager ears and zero expectations will not boo you away from their bedside.  Make up a story on the fly.  You will be surprised by how enthralled a 3-year-old can be at the tale of Dusty Crophopper rescuing Todo from Ursula the Sea Witch in a monsoon.  Or of dragons helping a bulldozer with their daily work.  You can even toss in a moral to the story if one comes to you.  For instance, the bulldozer can thank the dragon thus teaching gratefulness.  Or when Buzz Lightyear laments to Woody, Bulls-eye, Kristoff, and Sven the reindeer about his jealous longing for his own animal companion, Woody can encourage him to choose to be content with what he has.  Tell a story and when you overcome those old looming barriers, you can enjoy a newfound freedom and confidence.

We are made in our creator’s image, so it comes as no surprise that we feel closest to God when we are being creative.  What do you desire to do?  Do you want to try hip hop dancing, start an art journal, write poetry, sew a skirt, paint, play an instrument or pull off wearing those artsy glasses? Your creation does not have to be perfect. You will not receive a grade.  Don’t worry about impressing your kids; focus on making a more lasting impression on their personal development by cultivating their confidence. Bravery begets bravery. Let’s be bravely creative and raise up our children to do likewise. 

Disclaimer: By promoting free thought in creativity, I am not advocating immorality, relativism, or time tested positive social constructs. Teach children the truth every opportunity you can and guide them toward the fruits of self-control and wise evaluation.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

"Big" is a Nebulous Term

"Hey Linus, look up into that huge dark sprawling 40-foot tall tree. Now look beyond the tree at the first star tonight. Did you know that that star is bigger than that tree?"



"Hey Heather, look at your tall dark sprawling problem that seems to huge.  Now look beyond the problem at God.  Didn't you know that God is bigger than that problem?"

"... yah."

Tidbit #1

If your child is resistant to washing his hands, try inviting him to give his toy car a shower in the sink.  Or his army man or her my little pony.  Lather up.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I'm Not That Bad at Math and

my neck is not that long.

So it turns out I am not bad at math.  I find this out now at age 28 while my husband is in grad school, after 20 years of calculators and bashful avoidance and strategizing my undergraduate course load out of fear, leaving knowledge gaps in economics, physics and microbiology as a result.  How did this happen?

I know its the the same reason I have strategized my hairstyle and necklines around my long neck and "beady head" as Chris Rodriguez so loudly pointed out to me in 8th grade MATH class.  I believed what I was told about myself.

And then I rose to those expectations. Some teachers assumed I would not excel at math; they treated me as such and students perceive more than grownups realize.  Some kids are late bloomers academically, prolonging that blissful stage of play dough, crayons and ignorance- or just growing their strengths in some  areas before others.  My math and reading skills lagged.  I recall crying over 2nd grade homework pages and literally hunching down at my desk when the teacher called on students for answers. For me, my creative and verbal skills blossomed first, earning me encouragement which naturally bred confidence in those areas.  I am so thankful that Mrs. Macklebee promoted my writing.  Teachers unintentionally put kids in boxes (there is simply not enough time to give to a Texas-sized classroom of individuals.  As a teacher, I know- my own largest of 6 classes had 27 11th graders and no para).  At 6-years-old, I was filed in the sweet, well-dressed, artistic girl box not the clever, analytic, scientist box. So I adjusted to my imperfect label.  

As parents, we must check ever word we put into our kids ears.  We should ask ourselves, "Is it true? Is it uplifting? Is it necessary?"  If all three do not apply, skip the statement because it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Back to my body proportion.  I looked at myself in fitting room mirrors recently with less assuming eyes.  And you know what!  I don't look awkward or ugly after all! In fact, if Chris Rodriguez's magnifying words hadn't launched me into insecurity, this trait might never have stood out to me.  I've decided to call my neck elegant and my brain smarter than average (because obviously it isn't as big). The self-conscious feeling I have been so conscious of for so long was not necessary.  My neighbors don't waste brain space thinking about how weird that girl looks. My friends did not choose me and my husband doesn't love me because of the "normal" human I do or don't resemble. But hey body image and contentment is a whole other post, guys.  Like this throwback.

Homeschool Moms, do you have advice for me and readers in how homeschooling does or doesn't bump this problem?  Tell us in the comments.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

3 Thousand Different Kinds of Beautiful

1) Sunlight on water can be a thousand different kinds of beautiful.  Even over the same body of water, this East Texas lake for instance, every morning sky reflects uniquely and changes by the minute.  Every evening, I peer from this mezzanine-like porch through drooping cathedral limbs at the water and sky unable to look away for fear I will miss a "scene".  The elements never change, but I experience them differently every time I watch.  All I can do is stare, trying to sear the spectacle into my brain.  But once the waters are dark, I can not fully remember the fullness of the view or recreate the happiness I felt in it.

2) Likewise, though scripture (and liturgy) is unchanging, I seldom remember it fully after I close my Bible.  Neither can I easily recapture the experience, the reflection, or the connections I made during my reading.  Like a sunrise, a single passage can affect me differently on different days.  From the angle of my circumstances and the amount of understanding given me, I see the verse in a different "light" every time I read it.

3) Unlike unchanging elements and the Bible, my 5-month-old daughter changes with precise regularity.  I stare at her in wonder morningly.  I file the mental picture in my memory along with the glorious sunrises and life-changing Bible study moments- all three categories jumbled and fuzzy in my mind, never to be repeated.  In this limit of mortality, I feel a mix of sorrow and delight.  But mostly I feel awe.