By Jeannie Fulbright

Young children tend to beam with pride over their own creations. As homeschooling parents, we delight in every picture they draw, every tower they build–and each new discovery is cause for celebration. Indeed, joy in creative expression, and delight in learning are natural for the young learner. Yet as our children age, too often their joyful creativity fades, and their delight in learning suffers a slow, painful demise..

Albert  Einstein  said, “It  is the  supreme art of the teacher  to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” As a college professor,  he sought to bring that life back to older learners.

We all know how important knowledge is. But what about creative expression?  Ameri can high  schools  typically relegate  anything creative to the arts department. However, Einstein believed creative expression to be an essential element in all academic fields of study, including science. Einstein actually connected creative expression to knowledge, thus revealing a powerful truth  concerning  learning.

CREATIVE EXPRESSION: THE LINK BETWEEN JOY AND LEARNING

Consider  our  own schooling  experience. Completing worksheets and memorizing facts  for  tests  characterized   much  of  our public  school  education. How  strong  was our knowledge of science, history, government,  and  foreign  language?  Most  of us  would  admit  that   although  we  made decent grades, we left school with very little working knowledge  of these subjects. Why? Could   it  be  that  delight  in  learning  was rarely awakened in the classroom?

Think abou  the classes you loved  or found the most interesting  in school. What was different? Was creative expression encouraged  by the teachers?

I remember well the two courses that awakened in me a joy of learning: government and creative  writing.  Both  classes were  taught by passionate  professors  who  gave imagina– tive assignments: role playing, interviews, contacting lawmakers, designing our own constitution,  writing  our  own   legislation. Tests  were essay questions  that  allowed  for creative thought and  expression.  Therefore, I graduated with a strong  understanding of American government and an ability to write creatively—but, sadly, very little else.

Creative assignments stimulate the mind. They fully engage imagination  and intellect, thereby  activating  long-term memory.  This higher  level of  focus  actually  develops  the critical-thinking  skills and  long-term retention children need to acquire before college. My teen  boys took  a Shakespeare course that required  students  to break into groups and make a movie about  a character  in the play Julius Caesar. Throughout the course, their conversations  often  led to whether  or not  Brutus  was justified in killing Caesar. They talked about  it as if it were breaking news, not ancient literature.  If engaging the imagination  can ignite this response in two teenage  football  players, creativity coupled with knowledge  may indeed be the key to a lifelong love of learning.

ENGAGING IMAGINATION

Einstein also wrote, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”  If he is correct, then our high schools are going about education all wrong.  As we have seen, their methodology restrains creativity, focusing instead on a system of input-output-delete. “Is this going to be on the test?” is still a common classroom refrain.

As homeschoolers, we do not have to continue this failing legacy!  Let’s instead strive to keep alive our children’s youthful imaginations,  so full of ideas and inspiration. It would be tragic not to nurture and refine this beautiful gift from God.

So, how can we engage our students’ imagination in order to increase their knowledge? Replace some or many of the assignments in their textbooks  with creative activities.

Instead of answering rote questions about the kingdom Plantae, have them create a scrapbook with live samples of the different phyla in the plant kingdom.

In place of a chapter test about the three branches of government, let them create a storybook that teaches this subject.

Have them make a Civil War alphabet book or write a “personal” scrapbook of a soldier in W W II.

Creating board games, writing and acting out plays, drawing comic strips, and even producing videos and PowerPoint presentations are just a few of the many creative and imaginative activities you can use in place of standard assignments.

The  Internet is full of ideas for projects.  Google  “creative  idea for (subject)—high school level.” Pinterest is also a great resource for homeschooling helps. Search the topic you need help with, and a plethora of ideas will come up. It might also help to find another homeschool family who will help plan and do activities with you.

NOTEBOOKING: CREATIVITY WITH A PURPOSE

My favorite method of enhancin creative assignments is the notebooking journal.  It is an educational scrapbook  of interesting and creative assignments—a place where all the student’s innovative efforts can be preserved.

Although  homeschoolers coined the term “notebooking,” this creative approach to learning is as old as the hills. Leonardo da Vinci, Lewis and Clark, and Alexander Graham Bell are just a few of the brilliant thinkers who employed this method when acquiring knowledge. When these men encountered new concepts, they wrote their thoughts down, recording their experimen and ideas in sketches,  drawings, and diagrams. In doing so, their imaginations were released to explore tangents and discover and design wonderful inventions.

So what exactly does notebooking look like? Basically, students creatively record and preserve what they learn in a notebook of some kind. Written narratives, illustrations,  diagrams, photos of projects and activities, newspaper clippings, articles—all may be included in the notebook. The student essentially makes his or her own book about the subject being studied,  making him not just a learner but also an engaged author in that field. Creativity becomes both purposeful and productive.

Notebooking has been shown to be extremely effective at both fueling joy in learning and enabling long-term retention of subject matter. This is true for all ages. Of course, students  must learn how to take tests and write timed essays for college, but there’s no good reason why they must abandon  creative expression as they pursue knowledge. Not only will your students spend time contemplating topics longer as they work on these assignments, but by the end of the year, they will own a work of art created by their own hands and imaginations. Indeed, their notebooks will become treasured possessions.

PURPOSEFUL AND PASSIONATE

As our children grow, let’s be purposeful in cultivating their creativity as they learn. With their imaginations  unleashed,  the possibilities for their lives become limitless. As we seek to keep alive the natural joy in learning, our children can envision a bright future and pursue their dreams with passion. As Francis Schaeffer said, “The Christian is the one whose imagination  should fly beyond the stars.”  

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Jeannie is the author of Apologia’s elementary science courses. As a homeschool mom of four, she enjoys encouraging parents and  sharing the lessons she learned along the way. Follow her blog www.jeanniesjournal. com for homeschool encouragement, spiritual edification,  and  helpful tips on navigating college. Be sure to hear her at the HEAV Homeschool Convention in June!

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