by Mike McHugh
Many of the most famous home educators from by-gone days were those who exhibited a capacity for creative genius. How different our lives would be without the intellectual exploits of inventors like Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers. We would literally be largely "in the dark" and "grounded" were it not for their accomplishments. The simple fact is that home education, properly approached, is a unique vehicle for stimulating creativity in young minds. Parents of home school students must, therefore, take the time to evaluate whether they are doing enough to encourage creativity in their children. The suggestions that follow should help instructors to determine just how well they are doing in the task of promoting creativity in their home schools.
- Teach your children the importance of prayer in helping to spark creative genius. Young students need to know that God the Creator made His creatures with the capacity to be creative, so that they might reflect His image and glory. The ability to be creative, therefore, is ultimately a gift from God alone. If as God’s people we wish to prosper in any intellectual pursuit, we must ask the Creator for His wisdom and blessing upon our endeavors. The Scripture does not say in vain, " …Ye have not, because ye ask not" (James 4:2b). Indeed, the book of James makes it clear in Chapter 1:5-6 that, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering…".
- The life and testimony of the famous scientist and inventor, George Washington Carver, provides a wonderful example of a true genius who refused to abandon his simple childlike faith during his scientific inquires. Biographers tell us that Carver, both before and after he was an internationally renowned inventor, would go each day into what he called "God’s little workshop" and before beginning his work would pray a simple prayer asking God to bless his research. When working on the problem of how to fully utilize the sweet potato, for example, Professor Carver would say to his Maker, "Lord, I don’t know how to make use of this sweet potato, but I know that you do---show me!"
- Teach your children that the process of creativity still demands hard work and persistence. As Thomas Edison once remarked "the process of inventing things is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." Young students also need to become familiar with how to intelligently approach projects, for hard work alone will not always pay dividends. In many cases, it is needful to "work smarter, not harder" and students need to grasp this principle as they learn how to do preliminary research, outline the goals for their projects, and calculate what materials they will need.
- Home educators must consistently labor to establish an atmosphere in their homes that encourages independent exploration and inquiry. Support your children in their quest to discover how they might creatively solve a problem or invent some new gadget by investing in good tools that they can use in their various projects. If possible, set up a workshop area in your home where students can tinker and bring their ideas to life. Orville Wright, in reflecting upon his upbringing once commented, "We were [blessed] enough to grow up in an environment where there was always much encouragement to children to pursue intellectual interests; to investigate whatever aroused their curiosity. In a different kind of environment, our curiosity might have been nipped long before it could have borne fruit."
- In relation to the previous point, parents should purchase fewer games and videos that only have an entertainment focus in favor of items that will stimulate a child’s creativity or intellectual development. Every home should have a supply of manipulatives such as legos, puzzles, art supplies, musical instruments, and a wide variety of building materials.
- Two examples of movies that do have genuine value for students would be Young Tom Edison, starring Mickey Rooney, and Thomas Edison : The Man, starring Spencer Tracy.
- Parents need to recognize that although they are called to train their children to master the fundamentals of reading, writing, and arithmetic so as to become truly literate, they also have a secondary calling; namely to inspire their children to love wisdom and to pursue it with passion and spiritual integrity. As the old saying goes, "education is not the process of filling a bucket, but lighting a fire." In this regard, it is critical for parents to get their children to take ownership over their own learning as soon as possible, while they also encourage them to ask questions on a regular basis.
- Sooner or later, if you want to bring out your child’s curiosity/creativity you will need to incorporate hands-on learning activities into his weekly routine. Direct your student to build or repair something in a new and innovative way. Start with simple projects, and then slowly increase the difficulty level. For example, you might have your student build a birdhouse using unusual high-tech building materials, and then have them graduate to building a space-age doll house. The point is to get your students to begin to think deeply and to employ problem-solving skills. In other words, you are training them to "think outside the box" and to learn how to improvise.
One of the great advantages of home education, is that it affords most students a greater measure of freedom to explore what truly interests them. The pursuit of knowledge, excellence, and usefulness is, after all, what should characterize a home school, and such goals can only be pursued when students exhibit a passion for learning that is sparked by their God –given curiosity and creativity. If you are homeschooling now, or are thinking of doing so in the future, make sure that you approach your task in such a way as to bring out the unique gifts of creativity that the Lord has placed within the minds of your students. Only then will your children be used of God to build a better mousetrap, and in the process a better world.
Copyright 2006 Michael J. McHugh
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