by Emily Orton
Simple efficient living is a necessity in my not-so-big home. Some may raise their eyebrows at the severity of my limits on what creations may be kept and for how long. When I still cared about raised eyebrows, I wondered if I were somehow stealing childhood memories or harming my children’s self-esteem. I teach my children the joy is in the making. I have learned that emphasizing creating rather than keepingmakes sense for storage and, more importantly, generates genuine confidence.
I first got a hint this was working when my toddler, Lily, poured milk all over her older sister, Alison’s, painting. Prepared for contention, I was surprised when sweet Alison said, It’s okay. The joy is in the making. I’ve since heard her say this to friends in multiple settings as well. Sarah Jane, age 9, rarely concerns herself with keeping her creations for long. Her attitude is: There is more where that came from. Karina, 13, put any of my remaining anxieties to rest. She recently explained her concept for a new project and I suggested she look online for ideas to get started. She gave me that whatever face her age group is famous for and said, I have my own ideas!
What joy to my mother heart! My children are confident in the creative process. They invent and explore. They are persistent and prolific. They act independently. This week they sewed unsupervised. Karina sliced, diced, and combined two old tee shirts to make a fashion forward modest top. She wore it for two days in a row. Alison taught herself and Sarah Jane how to make quilted pincushions on the sewing machine. They don’t call them pincushions. They call them “happy pillows” because, as Alison says, Whenever I look at it. I know that I made it and it makes me feel so happy.
Of course my children sometimes get frustrated as they struggle though the creative process. Things don’t always turn out the way they envisioned them in their minds. The sewing machine eats their fabric. That’s when I hug them and encourage them to take heart. I read somewhere that it requires about 10,000 hours to become truly proficient at just about anything. My children have probably heard that 10,000 times. They have learned creativity often has a messy phase. Another mantra at our house is Mastery first, then speed. Nobody loves making mistakes, but my children grumble through these speed bumps knowing they will get better if they keep at it.
Creating things will serve my children throughout their lives. Partly, because it builds confidence. Certainly, it supports innovation and solution seeking skills. Creativity empowers them to be self-reliant and may provide a living. It definitely brings joy to themselves and others. Most important, is the fact that every time they engage in the creative process they are exercising the embryonic divinity within them. They are engaged in the same work as our Father in Heaven who tells us, “there is no end to my works...” (Moses 1:38)
While I am thrilled that there seems to be no end to the works of my children’s hands, I have to figure out what to do with them. I have to set limits. I’ll share a couple that work for us.
- Limit Time. For example, I ask my children to take all the art off of their bedroom walls once or twice a year to “make room for new ideas.” I require that our scotch taped “art collection” be rotated monthly. We have an 8-12 week limit on seasonal living room wall art Karina creates. This keeps her flowing with new ideas and makes our home lovely. We abide by a one week limit on all large cardboard creations. My children don’t fuss when their beloved boxes go because they know the creative process will start again when a brand new box comes through the door. Drawings left out and uncared for are discarded daily.
- Limit Space. Paintings, drawings, crafts of eclectic mediums are constantly flowing through our house. It is not physically possible to store them all. Each child has a school cubby, a stuff box, and a large plastic art envelope. When any of these locations becomes cluttered or overflowing, each respective child is responsible to bring order to their space. This includes, prioritizing which creations to keep, preserve via digital photo or scan, and which to trash. They enjoy having ownership of this process.
Emily Orton is a former middle school teacher turned New York City SAHM and writer. When she's not reading or writing, Emily enjoys walking all over Manhattan, coastal sailing, and editing her apartment. She and her husband, Erik, have five children. Emily will be sharing more expertise on homeschooling in small spaces at the LDSEHE Home Education Conference on May 12-13 in Virginia Beach. For more info, please visitwww.ldsehe.org.