Fall Creativity and Self-led Projects

Monday is knitting day at our house.

Since I’ve been off my feet, I’ve taken up knitting and crocheting again. I started out my recovery time thinking I would do a lot of reading, something I hadn’t had much time for in recent years. But it turns out, I can’t read for eight hours a day. Especially at the beginning of my recovery, I found it made me sleepy. What I needed was something that kept my hands busy—and cooking was out of the question because of mobility issues. (It’s hard to move liquids from table to counter when you’re hopping on one foot…trust me.)

I used to crochet, and from time to time in recent years I’ve worked on the odd little project. But while I was still mobile, and on one of our frequent library trips, I saw a posting for a knitting club that would be meeting at the library Monday afternoons. “Great!” I thought. All I have to do is figure out how to get us to the library and we can learn to knit and crochet together! So we signed up.

And after lunch each Monday, we get a ride to the library, spend an hour in the company of some really great women and we knit and crochet together. I have knit and crocheted slippers, hats, blankets and sleeping bags for dolls. Big Sister has crocheted a sleeping bag for her little doll and Little Brother has discovered the fun of spool knitting (he loves to see the “snake” coming out the bottom of the spool).

Once we get home from the library, it’s homework and reading time (because, of course, the kids have picked out a dozen new books at the library).

This past Monday, Little Brother picked some leaves on the way home (while waiting at the bus stop). Because I’m on crutches, I try to discourage my kids from carrying too much (I need them to keep their hands free to help me since my hands are helping me walk right now). Generally, I would encourage the collection of many bits of nature to bring home and discuss or create with. But things are a bit different right now. Anyway, Little Brother claimed that his handful of leaves would not prevent him from helping me get on and off the bus and into the house, so I let it go. (And he was right. He was his usual, very helpful self.)

Turns out, it was a good thing that I let him bring those leaves home, because he had a project planned in his mind that occupied the rest of his afternoon. And all the struggle that I may face to get them to and from the library each Monday was worth his dedication to his afternoon project.

And isn’t that we want for our children?

We want them to be passionate about something.

We want them to want to do something so badly that they figure out how to do it themselves.

We want them to enjoy their learning and to really be engaged with it.

We want them to grow up and mature and grasp initiative and self-led learning so that it doesn’t have to be forced on them and they don’t have to feel like learning is painful and without pleasure.

If we engage them and guide them to follow their passions and allow them space to create and discover, they will learn everything they need to know.

Little Brother brought those leaves home, got out his paint set and brush, found some colourful paper and set himself up at the dining room table to work on his project. While he worked, he told me about different types of trees and leaves and how you could tell the difference between them. He talked about colours in the Fall and the greens from the summer. He explained to me how to mix colours to make new colours and did a few experiments on the paper towel he was using to dab the water off his brush. All of this without a prompt from me.

After over an hour of creating and designing, he quietly cleaned up his paint, washed out his brush and laid out his creations to dry.

Leaf painting

Normally, I would supervise Little Brother’s painting project in an effort to avoid a painting disaster. Because of my current mobility issues, I’m generally more tired by the end of our knitting club days. However, all went well without one bit of overseeing on my part. He was inspired by nature, planned his project, collected what he needed, completed the work and cleaned up after himself…and though he didn’t say anything, I could tell he was quite proud of his accomplishments.

And for the rest of the evening, we were privileged to experience the effects of his self-led learning and the confidence it gave him. Where we would sometimes see an upset little boy because he was not allowed to take his own path, we saw a well-behaved five-year-old settle a small dispute with his sister. Being allowed to plan, develop and execute a project of his own choosing filled him with accomplishment.

A young boy painting

He was confident in his abilities and it overflowed into everything else he touched that night.

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