Natalie Wickham was homeschooled from 4th grade through college alongside her five siblings. After graduating from high school, Natalie continued her education through distance learning. In March 2006, she achieved her goal of becoming a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music. Natalie owns and operates a successful piano studio. In addition to her involvement in music, Natalie is a strong proponent of character education. She helped implement the Character First! Education program in local schools and churches, and she currently serves as the director of Adventures in Character. Natalie wrote the book, “Pajama School: Stories from the Life of a Homeschool Graduate,” in which she shares candidly about the experiences that led her to conclude that education is about much more than academics. In her article for Homeschooling Teen magazine, Natalie focuses on the importance of creativity.
Redeeming the Time with Creativity
A crowd of teachers eagerly took their places as the session got underway. I waited expectantly as one of the organizers of the event introduced me to the group. They had asked me to present a workshop on marketing and running a successful music studio. I was excited to share some of the things I’ve learned over the years. But I wasn’t prepared for the specific remarks of my colleague and how they would give me a whole new appreciation for the decision my parents made many years ago to home educate their children. His words still echo in my mind, “Natalie comes from a somewhat untraditional background…” (I’d heard that before!) “…and I think that’s what contributes largely to her fresh and creative approach.” (Wow, I’d never really thought of that!)
Pondering that statement over the last several months has led me to realize what a tremendous gift my parents gave me when they pulled me out of school to start our homeschool journey. Not that I always felt that way, mind you! Our first year of transition, in particular, was wrought with lots of frustration and tears. But as we learned to replace society’s educational model with a more biblical understanding of true education, a whole new world began to open up before us. Instead of being constrained to a classroom for hours at a time, life became our learning ground. I was free to explore areas of interest and pursue skills I wanted to develop.
In a recent interview with Kevin Swanson (another homeschool grad!) on Generations Radio, he shared a vivid analogy: those who are raised in our modern schooling system tend to approach education and life as a paint-by-number piece of art, whereas those who are raised outside the system are likened to a sculptor. In a paint-by-number, as you know, someone has already determined the final design and you – the artist – are just coloring in the spaces. There’s some room for artistic expression, but only insomuch as it falls within the parameters of the original designer’s intent. A sculptor, on the other hand, employs a host of tools and materials to create a unique work of art – limited only by his imagination and ability. Obviously these are generalizations, but I love the thought that a homeschool education can be the catalyst for ideas, discoveries, and approaches that might otherwise lie dormant in a tightly-structured, conformity-based classroom environment.
My favorite definition for creativity comes from CharacterFirst: “approaching a need, a task, or an idea from a new perspective.” In a homeschool environment, the opportunities to develop creativity are endless! Consider these needs: lunchtime meals, clean clothes, money for school curriculum. Or what about some daily tasks: practicing an instrument, doing a math lesson, cleaning the bathroom. And we could never exhaust a list of ideas: hosting a Bible study, organizing a field trip, creating a short film. One of the biggest advantages we have toward developing creativity in these areas is time. The average graduating high school senior will have spent almost 30,000 hours at school, plus even more on homework! When you consider that the recognized number of hours it takes to become an expert in a given field is approximately 10,000 you begin to realize the incredible potential that exists for homeschoolers…if we use our time wisely.
Ephesians 5:16 says that we should be, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” The idea behind the word “redeeming” is that we spend our time on that which is profitable. In other words, we are trading in our time to get back something more valuable. You could contrast this with the opposite – squandering time, which is frivolously spending time on things that have no lasting value. With that in mind, I’d like to outline three ways that you can redeem the time by developing creativity in your life:
1. Spend time with the Creator. Proverbs 2:6 is one of my favorite verses, “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Whatever your questions, whatever your needs, whatever your problems, the answer is found in the Lord Jesus Christ. The more time you spend with the Lord, reading and studying His Word, the more you will be able to draw on His wisdom and creativity as situations arise in your life. We are promised “good success” if we meditate on the law of the Lord day and night and do all that is written in it (Joshua 1:8). Likewise, the man who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night is said to prosper in all he does (Psalm 1:2-3). Talk about a return on your investment! Filling your heart and mind with the wisdom and knowledge and understanding of the Lord is the source from which the fountain of creativity springs forth!
2. Take time to think. Victor Hugo once said, “A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labor and there is an invisible labor.” Isn’t that great?! Whether due to busy schedules or hours wasted on mindless entertainment, there is precious little time given to just thinking. One of my favorite things to do is to make my way onto our deck late at night, gaze up at the stars, and just…think. Sometimes memorized Scriptures come to mind; sometimes I present questions to God; sometimes I ponder a difficult situation with a student and how I should address it; sometimes I reflect on attitudes or behaviors in my life of which I need to repent; sometimes I contemplate upcoming events or special occasions and what I can do to make them more meaningful and memorable; and so on. Another essential for me is my “idea book.” It’s just a plain spiral-bound notebook, but I use it to jot down thoughts and brainstorm about everything from goals for the year, to lesson plans for students, to book marketing strategies, to articles, and more. Society today undervalues just sitting and thinking because it is perceived as being unproductive. Quite the contrary! It is an essential underlying element that produces an even greater level of productivity.
3. Make creative plans and put them into action. There’s a certain amount of risk in being creative because you have to be willing to try something that you haven’t done before. I like to think of scenarios in terms of a “means justifies the end” philosophy. “Will the benefit derived from the planning, preparation, implementation, and evaluation of this project be worth it even if the endeavor itself is deemed unsuccessful?” Not only does this serve to bolster enthusiasm and diligence for the project, but it also offsets the discouragement that accompanies a failed venture. So put on your creative “thinking caps” and just give it a try: treat your family to a fancy lunchtime tea and scones, make your own set of flashcards and work with a sibling on math facts, invite a mature Christian to share their testimony and host a group of friends for fellowship and encouragement in their walk with the Lord. As you develop creativity, you will discover all sorts of ways to be a blessing to the people around you. Not to mention that you’ll always keep them guessing as to what you’ll come up with next!
Creativity is an amazing gift from the Lord, and homeschooling affords us the time and environment to develop it in our own lives. I’ve had to throw away my fair share of “paint-by-number” coloring sheets as the Lord has led me to re-think the customary way of doing things in society. It’s a little scary, but what an adventure! So, grab your block of marble (i.e. whatever needs, tasks, or ideas are facing you today) and start sculpting away. Let’s become everyday artists who fill people’s lives with creativity and cause them to marvel at the ingenuity of our Creator!
Natalie Wickham is a lover of all things creative. She enjoys trying new things and looking for better approaches – whether it be in teaching, writing, speaking, cooking, or whatever else seems interesting at the moment! She has tried many approaches that haven’t worked so well, but finds great security in the unchanging character and Word of God, which remains her anchor in the midst of it all. She is the author of the book, “Pajama School – stories from the life of a homeschool graduate” and producer of the CD “Journey to Self Publishing – 12 steps to successfully publish your book.” Natalie also founded and runs MusicMattersBlog.com – an on-line compendium of creative, practical, and up-to-date resources for music teachers. Feel free to stop in and visit her at PajamaSchool.com !