Monday, 3 January 2011


Here is the despair and joy that is home ed.

This is the creativity of children, and it is scattered over most of the floor in this house.

It's not mess, although to unimaginative adult eyes, it might look like mess.

Actually, it looks a lot like mess. Especially when I see it in the cold, early morning light, or when I'm tired, facing doubts and troubles. Knowing that only last week, I encouraged this state of affairs.

But I know it is not mess.

It's the reason why I started with home education in the first place. The creativity of children astonished me. They felt and knew everything in the world from love and rage to anguish and patience. Their experiences and understandings poured out in everything they did. It felt like I would commit a crime to shut them away in a crowded room, to take their creativity from them, order and arrange it, compose it in a worksheet, tell them what to do, how to answer, then give it back to them, timed to end in fifteen minutes.

These papers aren't mess. They're the visible parts of a story my children have been telling. It's an old story, and it stretches back a long time. I've asked the children, how long have you been telling this story? 'Years', says Squirrel, definitively. She says it, matter of fact, like this is part of who they are, as if I had asked her name, or her age.

Each time they tell the story, they add more nuance and subtlety and danger and delight. It is indeed, growing older with them.

Sometimes, I see that even at age 10, my children enter so deeply into this story they have trouble translating between fact and fiction or between reality and imagination. They are moved, made angry, given to laughter and delight, at events that emerge from their telling. Each time it's told again, I don't know how it will end. The story might end in tears. It might end in a flash of anger, sharp words, and slammed doors. Or it might be simply paused, everyone agreeing to suspend their part in the story until after tea.

I cannot tell you what the story is. It would be a betrayal. It's not my story to tell. I think I can say that it comes from places where there are unicorns who have rages and loves of their own, and who protect each other and break their word, for which there are consequences and new events to tell.

One day, I hope Shark, Tiger and Squirrel will find a way to tell this story they've made. It won't matter to me whether they do that through art, dance, writing, or simply by being themselves, by expressing their ideas and imaginations.

So it's not mess. Definitely not mess. Even though, some days, it is all so much mess, and so disruptive, and the sight of it causes my heart to sink, because I know I've taken a part in bringing it about. But I know their creativity is still a source of my joy.

I can't help but feel, this is like falling in love with someone who you know won't do your life any good at all. But you still can't help it, and fall in love with them anyway.


sharon said...

And you will always feel like that about those lovely girls, no matter where they go or what they do.

Big mamma frog said...

I have a floor like that too...but worse.

Some days I can cope with creativity. Hell, there are days when I actively encourage it in the kids. Other days I want to black-bag every little scrap of paper/loo roll/pine cone/ribbon/coin/unidentifiable metal thing found in a gutter and shelve anything remaining in a nice labelled box.

I wonder if there is such a thing as tidy creativity? Or is that an oxymoron?

Fioleta said...

And I was just complaining that our living room/kitchen floor no longer has any space for walking on. I'll go tell my husband that it isn't messy - it's the product of great creativity, which it is as you rightly point out.

MadameSmokinGun said...

My husband does complainy things when he wants to eat his dinner AT THE TABLE.

He doesn't understand that clearing THE TABLE is a huge and dangerous undertaking.

I'll have me dinner on me lap me.