Creativity begins with imagination, conceiving a thing that is not but should be, and then taking steps to make it a reality. It is facing a problem and envisioning an original way to solve it satisfactorily. Creativity can be born of practical necessity or artistic expression, but it is something original—not done before, or not done in the same way.

Without creativity there would be no innovation, no progress, nothing new or different. Think of the tools and trades that never would have existed without creative thought. Man would remain in the Stone Age—no houses, cars, computers, planes, or even light. Disease would have no cure. There would be no music or storytelling.

God is creative. We are the proof of that. Being in his image, it is our nature to create—to endlessly strive to come up with something that amazes and gratifies.

Creativity is associated with happiness and success in life. Creative people are interesting people; the lack thereof makes one a wallflower.

Just a few years ago, operational efficiency was the yardstick of market success; today it is all about anticipating consumer demands. This translates into the insight to conceive of a heretofore-unknown product that meets a need, or at least a new way to market an old product.

Is Creativity an Inborn Gift?

Why are some people creative and others not so much? I have often heard people say, “Oh, I just wasn’t born with the gift for creativity. I am better with numbers and facts.” This statement simply is not true. Researchers have found environment to be more important than heredity in influencing creativity, and a child’s creativity can be either strongly encouraged or discouraged by early experiences in life and in school—including homeschool.

Are Your Children Creative?

Ask a group of eight-year-olds if they are creative and 95% of them will say, “Yes.” Ask twelve-year-olds and only 50% will say, “Yes.” By the time students finish school, only 5% say they are creative. The fact is we are all born with creativity, but it is pulled, wrenched, strangled, pried, screamed, and bored out of us by the time we are adults. Creativity can’t be tested, so it has generally been abandoned. Yet now, by questioning large numbers of successful people, it has become apparent that creativity is the key to their success.

Homeschooling began as a creative explosion that was pulling children from the ranks of sameness and giving them a vision of possibilities. Then came homeschool curriculum—same old, one-cover-fits-all books and tests. Then quietly, the homeschooler began to fall back into the line of uniformity. What a crying shame!

How Can We Unleash Creativity?

Every child is born to be an artist, a storyteller, an inventor, and an explorer. Expanding creativity in children takes place when we turn them loose and teach them to have grit, determination, perseverance, and belief in what they are doing. Adults have a tendency to want to see the end of a thing, but creativity comes in bits and pieces. A creative person rarely sees the whole, only the piece he is touching at any given moment. Creativity can’t be hurried. Anything rushed is just a stamped-out repeat, and is not part of creative genius.

Many years ago when I was in school, my art teacher made a dumb mistake. She had a class of gifted artists. She came to class one day and gave each of us three pieces of colored paper and told us to create a picture using those papers. She wanted us to be creative, but the idea she had in her head was just that—in her head. The three-colored project was a boring, frustrating experiment for the whole class. If the teacher had been wise, she would have shown us two or three examples of how an advertising company used three colors, and in doing so would have unleashed a ton of creativity. The most powerful way to develop creativity in your children is by example—your example and the examples of what other people have done.

There is real pleasure in creativity. In studies, children who are allowed to be creative associate joy with making something new. Sometimes all a child needs to get started on a project is a good question. Instead of making a suggestion, ask a question: “Does this blue remind you of sky, water, or a pretty dress?”

You might notice a child staring at a pattern on the kitchen wallpaper, so you ask, “Do you see something? I think I see an alligator in that pattern.”

Homeschooling mamas are almost always in a hurry. Hurry and creativity cannot sit in the same seat. Stationing a baby or toddler in a puddle of warm sunshine that is pouring through the window, where he can stack blocks, paper, and various objects, is a simple, soothing, creative afternoon activity. Letting children play in the dirt, making roads, bridges, lakes, and buildings is creating the next generation of builders and makers. Sitting them in front of electronic media, even educational media, is killing their genius and dumbing them down. Sitting them down with a stack of workbooks that bore them silly is creating silly. Consider this: Any project that they get involved in—whether it be music, painting, mud building, writing, storytelling, stacking, making tents, performing plays, making cameras, or whatever—that results in someone being able to say, “Wow, that is interesting. What are you going to do next?” is creativity.

Old School, New School

As children mature, creativity will begin to involve long-term projects. Songs that need hours of careful trial and error, poems, stories, articles, term papers, research, building projects, etc. can lead to frustration or despair without patience. Encouraging a budding mind to persevere is critical. An important lesson in life that will be reflected in all areas of maturity and godliness is learning that life is work, and that rewards for greatness only come with time and energy. You don’t immediately become an expert musician, artist, writer, or builder. Good things come to those who stick with it. This lesson could be called discipline: learning to harness your feelings and drives for the greater good of tomorrow.

Schoolbooks are set up for short-term accomplishment. “Finish your pages and then you will be through,” I have heard said a hundred times. The end of today’s torment is near…yeah! This type of schooling does little to teach children the value of delaying gratification. School projects are a much better way of teaching, and they are certainly more conducive to developing good character.

In today’s society, knowing how to research is a thousand times better than knowing facts. Information is now at our fingertips. We live in a different world than we did 25 years ago, yet homeschooling curriculums are developed in the old world of knowledge. Once, schools were the gatekeepers of knowledge and memorization was the key to success. We tested a child’s ability to regurgitate facts and formulas. That day is over. Yet even in the old-school program, children came home each evening to run and play, chase the wind, and build doghouses. There were hours of creativity that children don’t experience today due to electronics.

I would that all children become tinkers and thinkers. If we are to remain a free, strong, and confident people, then this next generation needs to dream, create, work hard to make it happen, and then take the next risk.

Questions to Ask

  • Are you homeschooling your child in a way that cultivates creativity or that stifles it?
  • Is your household structured to encourage creativity?
  • Are you so regimented in finishing school books that you leave no place for developing creativity, leaving your children to face a dull life, not becoming accomplished in business?

Facts to Consider

  • From the perspective of CEOs, creativity is now the most-valued quality in a potential employee. In an IBM research study, about 60% of the CEOs polled cited creativity as the most important leadership quality.
  • In the world of business, studies prove there is a strong connection between trust, character, and creativity. Trust in a company, a family, and even in a government, unleashes creativity. The knowledge that we are all working to make a better life for everyone causes an individual to reach for greater ways to serve others. This environment of goodwill allows followers to take risk. Risk is associated with creativity. Where there is no scary risk, there is no creativity.
  • Creative individuals are naturally more unafraid of experimenting with new things. They think more about ideas and less about what people think of them, thus they are often less susceptible to peer pressure. Studies show creative people tend to be self-reliant and willing to go against conventional “wisdom.”

Creativity Killers

  • Don’t patronize children by offering rewards for their creative labor, for it will steal their pleasure.
  • Be careful not to make your child a nervous wreck by unconsciously setting up expectations of grandeur. Be practical in your expectations, and let his vision of what he can do grow with his abilities.
  • When your children are involved in creativity, don’t hover over them instructing them on how to improve their creations.
  • If your child is making something, don’t feel compelled to evaluate his project.
  • So you’re an adult and can show your child how to do it better—don’t. Let him have the joy of discovery. It is much more valuable than the outcome
  • Please don’t set up creative projects that suit your house-cleaning habits. Take the kids to the library and turn them loose on ideas. You might sit on the floor and look through “how-to” books with them. Let them come up with ideas they would like to try. You can coach but don’t poach.