When I first had kids, I was committed to having a fabulous, craft-filled home. I strongly believed that children learn best when they engage their hands as well as their heads. In my childhood home, we had an unfinished basement with an old table and shelves overflowing with leftover fabric and yarn, beads, paint and paper. Old shoe boxes and spice boxes were saved because there was no telling what kind of house you could make for your small toys with them. As a kid, it had seemed like an Aladdin’s Cave filled with treasures and things yet imagined. As a young mom, I had visions of recreating these same delights for my children.
Naively, I thought these creative childhood outlets would occur in a simultaneously neat, clean, organized home. With childhood blindness, I seemed to remember my childhood home as being perfectly neat at all times! I was sure that if I just required my children to clean up after themselves, our home would also remain a perfect oasis of neatness.
But, somehow, those adorable babies of mine grew into active toddlers and then school-age children. Even as they have grown, they have yet to fully embrace my standards of neatness and tidiness. They delight in messes and when I tell them to clean up, they look around blankly at all the things scattered across the floor and ask, “What mess?” Add in homeschooling and it feels like there is always something out of place!
Fortunately, principle has won over my naive ideas of a perfect home. I accept that having a rich learning environment means there will be a certain amount of mess. Even on the best days when everything looks ready for company, there will still be a clay creation drying on the counter, a new painting hung on the refrigerator, or the most beautiful shoe box doll house sitting on a bedroom floor.
One of the strongest forces that has changed my perspective of crafts and messes was my second-born daughter. She lives life in each moment to the fullest! She loves a good, hands-on mess. She has a hard time sitting still to read her phonics book, but pull out clay, beads, and glitter glue and she will make an amazing creation. I have to adjust our learning environment so that school does not become drudgery to her, empowering her to learn in the ways that she learns best. As her mom, I get to embrace her God-given personality and adjust our home environment in small ways so that she can grow to be the best person God has made her to be.
As I have made those adjustments, I have come to realize how much hands-on learning benefits my other children as well. They are growing and developing better as students because I am creating a richer learning environment.
As I began to plan for more messy learning activities, a friend and I decided to get together for a small co-op. With a weekly meet-up in place, it was a lot easier to make sure I planned history activities. With five kids all excited about a craft, I couldn’t skip a week! The increased kid-to-parent ratio on our co-op days also forced me to choose crafts that did not need high parental involvement. The older kids had to be able to do the project on their own. Over the past few months, we have made some amazing messes, and have learned so much along the way.
With all that I have learned personally, I have not suddenly become an amazing crafter. I still dislike mess, and the hands-on learning activities that we do are NOT picture perfect. We allow the kids to make their own creations, including their own mistakes! Although the activities are based in history, the kids will still add their own flair. I am pretty sure glitter glue was not added to clay lamps in Biblical times, but the kids love adding their own touches!
On this section of the blog, I am going to post the occasional craft that shows what “good enough” looks like for us. These are not Pinterest-perfect crafts, but each time, my kids have loved the project and learned through doing, so I have accomplished my goals. I hope that these crafts will give you vision to add some hands-on activities into your home, even if you, also, are not a crafty mom! In our home, we have found that these projects truly are a mess worth making.