Many homeschoolers I know tend to be natural builders, creators, pioneers or inventors. Simply based on the fact that someone is homeschooling alone causes them to take on the pioneer spirit for one reason or another. We figure out this homeschooling monster, we establish schedules and brainstorm ways to make literal space in our home to house all of these learning materials. We realize that mega amounts of learning can happen without a single textbook, pencil, or computer screen in sight. Our students learn to make time and space to create things and tend to be involved in real-world style problem-solving.
Let them play (or move stuff, in this case)
An example of this happened recently in my own home. My daughters share a room and desperately wanted to rearrange the furniture in a way that would give them each a bit more privacy. (This completely made my heart cheer for joy because my roommate in college and I rearranged our tiny dorm room as often as possible!) However, there is a lot of furniture in a room with a very odd shape. After living here for close to 7 years, I knew that I had tried every possible rearrangement in that room, but I let them brainstorm ideas anyway. Without giving a lot of instructions, I left them to create a plan. A few minutes later, I heard one of them running down the steps in search of a tape measure and graph paper. Eventually, they had developed an idea and were ready to give it a try. Sure enough, they came up with an arrangement that I had never thought of and the new plan gave them both a bit more privacy. We called this a triple win: they got a fresh looking room, I watched them design a plan, and they cleaned their room!
Get out of the way
I find myself struggling to step aside and allow them to innovate, but I need to give them moments to problem-solve without me. I also need to point out scenarios that use an inventor or engineer to develop a better way. I frequently hear variations of the statement, “I wish I had a way to make this better”, and I get to listen to my kids’ ideas on how that might work. We frequently end our conversations at the point of just imagining ways of solving the problem, but it has developed a habit of wishing for more, better, or different options.
Here’s where raising inventors gets really tough for some of us—the mess. Designing, trying, and recreating new ways requires loads of stuff. One of my kids has a box where she keeps her “lost things”, which includes anything from springs from inside pens, washers from a DVD player she took apart, strong magnets, and dozens of other parts and pieces. She is saving them for when she needs them and I fully believe that one day she will actually use them. I need to be ok with having more things around that I would wish and remind myself that I don’t live in a catalogue—that real life is happening! Inventing is messy, potentially greasy, and frequently space-hogging. Give the kids some boundaries, but also give them the grace to let the mess spill out sometimes.
I find that, when given the freedom to imagine solutions to problems or create something out of nothing, thinkers engage deeply. We can provide these moments for our students if we are just careful to watch for them, get out of the way, and try to be ok with the collections of things. Our future needs people willing to try new ideas, make mistakes, develop messes and try to solve real-world problems. I am thankful for homeschoolers out there that are willing to establish this greenhouse of learning!
In what ways can you make your learning and crafting spaces more innovator-friendly?
Looking for some curriculum to foster problem solving?
Global Student Network has innovative options!
Lindsay Banton is a caffeinated mother to three great kids. She never expected to homeschool, but has found that it is a wonderful addition to their lifestyle and wouldn’t change it for the world. In addition to homeschooling, Lindsay works alongside her husband in campus ministry at a large university in Connecticut. She grew up in Virginia but has settled into life in New England, learning to love the long winters, cool springs, green summers and gorgeous autumns- and has built a boot collection to meet all the demands. She is currently blogging at www.lindsaybanton.com