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Nurturing the Crazy Creative Soul

The kids I have known well…myself, my siblings, and my kids…are wildly, weirdly creative. Though I am a creative person, I also have the soul of the scientist. Whenever anyway says, “This is the way it is,” I think, “Who says so? How did they test that hypothesis?”
Today my daughter and I were having a really laid back homeschooling day because yesterday evening at 6 p.m. she was diagnosed with a massive double ear infection that she hadn’t even complained about till 15 minutes before. It turned out that we were in the doctor’s office to deal with my almost-ten-year-old’s minor fractured wrist (yes, it was that kind of day!), when the pain of the ear infections suddenly came to the front of her creatively active brain and she started to moan. Luckily, there was a doctor in the house.
Bck to creativity. So this morning I was basically following her lead, because she deserved a day off if she wanted one. A kid in school wouldn’t have had to go to school! (When I or one of my four siblings was sick, our mom let us stay home, hang around in bed, and drink Seven-Up. There was some Midwestern theory about Seven-Up calming upset stomachs. Our scientific minds did not argue with that theory since we got soda pop so seldom!)
The six-year-old creative genius started to unload the shelf of borrowed stuff I keep separate from the many stuffed shelves of stuff we own. Our stuff she gets to treat as she would like (creatively). Stuff we borrow I have to keep reminding her we have to treat like other people treat. For example, one does not decorate the boxes containing educational materials from the Resource Center, no matter how plain and white and uncreative that box may seem!
So she was unloading the shelf and looking at all the things we’ve borrowed from her school library and the Educational Resource Center. A talking clock. Nix. Pattern blocks. Double nix. Hm…what are these? Base ten blocks? What do you do with those? I absolutely hadn’t been planning to do math, but the law of homeschooling is that you have to go with it. So we unloaded the bag and looked at the ones, ten bars, and one hundred blocks. She was intrigued.
I got a piece of paper and separated the areas into 100’s, 10’s, and 1’s, then wrote a two-digit number and showed her how to represent the number using the blocks. That was intriguing. Then we added another two digit number to it, and she saw herself adding two two-digit numbers that she wouldn’t have attempted to add without the blocks. Hm…even more intriguing. “I want to do one with a hundred block,” she said. So I started to set up a number like 235. Then she started to do something…weird.
Homeschooling for me is all about holding my tongue. Because frankly, I’m one of those people who really likes teaching adults. You want adults to do something, so you get up in front of the class and say, “Do this.” Teaching children is like speaking in a sign language that they are making up one step ahead of you. It’s terribly frustrating for people like me, who like things laid out in straight lines. You just can’t ask a kid, “What’s your hypothesis?”
So I watched her. She was chaining up the little 1’s blocks, which were made to stick together. She made a chain ten long, measuring it against a 10’s block. Then she looked at the ones area in which I had written “3”. She picked up three 1’s blocks, and instead of putting them in the 1’s area of the page that I’d created, she started adding them to her chain. Bite your tongue! I commanded myself, and amazingly, I did. She hitched up three ones to the left side of her chain of ones, and then removed three ones from the other side. Those three ones, she proceeded to place on the paper in the correct place.
I know that if we’d been in a classroom with other children to distract me, all I’d have seen is that difficult girl playing again instead of doing her math. But in fact, she was not only doing her math, she was really GETTING her math. She was taking her chain of ten ones, popping new ones on one end of the stack, and popping off old ones at the other end. Exactly what a computer scientist might do.
This is the sort of creativity that turns into something meaningful. Later, when she got really excited that she had paint on her hands, and she painted the outside of the paint tubes with paint…that was creativity gone nutty. But the creativity with the base ten blocks was her way of exploring the pathways growing in her brain. It was darn cool to watch. The sort of thing that teachers in a classroom seldom have the luxury to notice.
So normally you wouldn’t introduce the idea of carrying a ten over from the ones area into the tens area on the first day, but she had already gotten that concept. I knew it just from watching her creative play actively. So we went on to that concept, and she got it, and then she said, OK, that was interesting. Now can we go outside and play?

Posted in Homeschooling, Parenting.

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