I am a pretty crafty person.
I make my own soap, I sew, I like to scrapbook, my husband and I make our own furniture, I recently learned to knit, and I love to cook. Homemade things make me smile. I enjoy spreading out fabric and creating something that wasn’t there before for my home or a loved one. It gives me satisfaction to throw together a batch of laundry detergent or set aside an afternoon to make bar soap. It’s commonplace for me to stop buying some product or food or whatever once I discover I can make/create/substitute something homemade in its place.
You might think this natural bent would translate into a creatively handcrafted homeschool, right??
Not so, my friends, not so. Well, not naturally so………
Here’s the rub. I used to almost loathe any of the time our lessons suggested we spend on a project or craft. I wasn’t a good sport when my kids asked to play with playdough. It used to set my teeth on edge to have to pull out paint and glitter and glue to supervise a kiddie craft session. The mess drove me nuts, that was part of it, sure. The more embarrassing reason behind my reluctance is my somewhat ridiculous inability to just let go, abdicate control, and keep my hands off whatever it was they wanted to do. I found it a struggle to allow my kids to be kids, free to paint unrecognizable blobs, mix playdough colors, spill glitter, break crayons, and just generally enjoy creating whatever struck them in the moment, reveling in the mess of however they chose to get there.
My reluctance wasn’t in the crafting alone. I was, without a doubt, a “no” mom. I almost universally answered “no” to questions of snacks, ideas, or activities from the kids that weren’t already in my plan, without even much of a second thought. Isn’t that terrible?!? To be fair, I believe it developed out of a desire for order, the need to keep a young family on a schedule, and a general exhaustion with living from moment to moment on the whims of babies and toddlers. But those babies were growing up, and I didn’t even notice how negative I’d become and probably wouldn’t have had a family member I admire and respect not pulled me aside and lovingly called me out with gentleness. She asked if I had reasons behind the particular “no” answers she had observed me hand the kids throughout the day, or if I was answering automatically out of some preference or perceived inconvenience. She helped me to realize ‘no’, ‘not right now’, ‘maybe’, and ‘I don’t think so’ have their time and place, but I needed to examine the heart of why I almost always said no to anything no matter how normal, kid-like, and perfectly harmless the request.
I had to remember my job as a mom and teacher is to guide, correct, protect, and encourage the development of three individual young men. I might consider certain crafts or activities to be messy, chaotic, and difficult to control, but it would bring me no joy to raise three boys limited only to the preferences and abilities of their mother.
I want the boys to see a clump of trees and instantly start thinking how to make a fort. I want to raise up men that love and spend their free time in the outdoors. I want them to appreciate the beauty in a sunset and still be awestruck by a city skyline. I hope the boys see the art in all kinds of music. I want each of my kids to see wood, machine parts, scrap metal, or any other number of things and be constantly considering new and useful ways to put those materials to use. I want boys that want to send creative thank you notes to their grandparents and keep a photo journal of their various exploits. I want so many things for my boys that can’t be accomplished with “no”.
It’s been a few years since I really set out to change the way I thought about and responded to the requests of my children. I haven’t been perfect. Like you, I am a constant work-in-progress but I can recall countless hours the boys have spent exploring, creating, crafting, and brainstorming in those years. As much as the projects and creations themselves make me smile, it’s the silly, messy, courageous, fun, surprising, and creative questions and ideas my kids constantly pitch my way that make me believe we’re heading in the right direction!