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And an Orange Peel on a Christmas Tree (sung to the tune of 12 days of Christmas)

Last week we went to dinner at the *Moseman’s house, (*name changed to protect the innocent, and not so innocent :)).  After a great dinner, we were sitting around eating “cutie” oranges (the kind that are so easy to peel).  The kids (five of them ages 6-18) were peeling their oranges in really elaborate designs.  Later, I saw that the peel was on the Christmas tree, and I laughed about it, until I noticed that there were a lot of peels on the Christmas tree.

When I pressed the issue, I was told that the girls of the family decorated the tree in orange peels this year.  I love it!  I love that the kids are allowed to do their wacky ideas in that house.  The thing that’s really amazing about this family is that the father and grandfather build airplanes.  Not model airplanes, but real two passenger airplanes in the barn in their backyard.

Yeah, as in “See ya later Ma, I’m  just going to go out and build an airplane with Dad, be back for dinner!”

We had the dinner with the Mosman Grandparents and the grand matriarch, let’s call her Maggie, asked me to look at a book that her daughter had written and illustrated.  The design of the children’s book took my breath away, and even more shocking was the fact that this daughter had written it when she was a teenager.

The house was full of inventions, design, and creativity.  I asked Maggie how she taught her children to be so creative, and she said that it was because she and her husband were creative.  But I need to add that these people were not just the “idea” type of  people, but the “doing” people as well.  The couple possessed the twin virtues of vision and work ethic – and the kids followed suit.

I told Maggie a little about my oldest daughter (who calls herself an artist).  Maggie told me that in order to encourage her, I should go to the store, buy some mats, and frame her work.

A couple of days later, my daughter drew a picture for me and wrapped it up as a present.  I took Maggie’s advice, and bought a frame.  When I showed the frame to “J”, she looked like her five-year-old heart would burst with joy and gave me a gigantic hug.

When I asked the Orange Peel father (Maggie’s son) about writing this post and how often the girls decorate for holidays, he said that they are fanatic about it, “doing up the home” with wonderful wacky children mayhem for every holiday.  I asked if he was OK with it, and he said, “you think I could stop them?”

I guess orange peels on the tree serve a grand purpose after all, your kids just  might end up being  the next Wright Brothers!

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When to follow and when to fly free!

The other day, I was working with a teen group and they were putting together pages for a family history type of memory book.  The leader of the group had meticulously created some really lovely pages, and then provided the materials to make each page to exact precision.

One of the teenagers, 16 years, asked if she could make the pages however she wanted to instead of following the prescribed design.  Now, normally, I would say, “Sure, create!”  But in this case, when the leader had gone to so much trouble, I told the girl that she needed to follow the pattern.  It may not be creative but she could learn some new designs and techniques as well as showing appreciation to one who had gone to so much trouble.

However, there are times when we need to allow our kids the freedom of creativity, especially when they are younger (birth to early grade school ages)!  I read an opinion piece yesterday by Erin Stewart about this, and I quote  a section of it to illustrate my point.

“While attending my daughter’s weekly art class, I noticed the mom next to me getting increasingly frustrated. Her 18-month-old daughter was apparently not smearing the paint just right or placing the foam stickers where she wanted, because this mom kept uttering statements such as, “I’ve had it with this project,” and “No that’s not right. I am so over this.”

Watching this mom lose it over finger paints made me sad for her daughter, who was too scared to do her own art project. I’m no mother of the year, but in this instance I felt glad that my own daughter’s painting was just how it should be — a complete mess.

I hadn’t meddled in her finger painting skills or guided her foam sticker placement. Her painting looked like the work of a 3-year-old. It was messy, creative and unrecognizable as anything.”

The full peice can be found here.

Guess what – at early ages, children just won’t “do it right”.  They need to explore and practice.

For example, my two year old and I were walking home from taking my 5 year old to school.  She wanted to push the stroller for a while.  Now THAT takes time and patience –  waiting for a two year old to push a stroller… and stop to look at the flower… ants… tree… get the stroller straight, etc, etc.

The point is, that there are times when we need to practice, times when we need to explore, and times when we need to learn.  The trick is to have patience with ourselves and with others when they are in a different stage than we are.

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Creative Teaching

nature spring 2009 078

I’m a teacher both by Profession and by heart.  Despite the wicked pay, I can’t get over the thrill of being with a class.  Perhaps it’s the power trip of having control over a body of individuals [insert maniacal evil overlord laugh here] but maybe, it’s the creativity that the classroom allows and the intrinsic value  that comes from helping others.

Whatever the reason, I found a very intriguing article about teaching that I want to share, it’s called –  Stupid Learning.  The author John Brown teaches a writer’s workshop at conventions and conferences and has some GREAT information on writing on his website.

It’s a humorous piece with some very important points about the power of natural motivation in learning.  I will freely admit that I didn’t truly begin to value personal education until I became an adult woman working on a graduate degree.  Since then, I have tried to learn a multitude of things  – from religion, to string theory physics, to economics, to the history of Argentina.

The main point of this post, is to give you a creative prompt about your own learning.  What subjects interest you, or your children the most?  Who are the experts in that field of study?  What projects can you work on (by yourself, or as a family) that would help you better understand the theories behind that course of study?

Then because of the current economy – How can you begin to “dabble” in that field without spending a fortune? (The library comes to mind from this question, or the community classes bulletins, and of course the wonderful worldwide web).