The Starting Block.

My kids are writing their own books.  I’m talking full on chapter books, but also talking graphic novels, short sweary books, and the like.  One of them makes detailed animation based movies – he’s done stop motion claymation, strung together filmed segments, is gaining an amazing talent in sculpting and blocking scenes.  One of them is heavily immersed in the world of musical theatre, and they’ve written a script, drawn and labelled costumes, arranged songs. They are filled with joy both behind and in front of the camera, and have started drama school only to have realised there is a real possibility of working professionally doing the thing they love to do playfully.

Earlier this week, they had two friends over. One was specially coming over to work on a collaborative project with S – they’d had an idea for a novel, so of course they arranged a time to get together and work on it. M and the other child also joined in.

I stood in the kitchen, watching.  They were laughing, throwing ideas out, occasionally pausing to use spell check.  Their thoughts were thick and fast, their words were natural.

Did I feel proud? Yeah. But did I feel jealous? HELL YES.

I’m so pleased to give my children the opportunity to work on their creative ideas. I’m so relieved and grateful that this is a way of life for them.  There’s no crippling self doubt, no feeling they don’t deserve to pursue creative dreams, no thinking that they won’t succeed.  Their success, right now and from my point of view, is that they are simply doing it.  They are making.  They are creating, drawing, writing, singing, acting, exploring.

It’s no exaggeration to say I have a strong preference for the creative arts, that I wish I had realised at a much younger age it was a possibility for me.  That I’d been supported in that.  So something in my heart lightens and glows to see my children creating.  Something in my mind is deeply pleased when I read longitudinal studies stating that children who have been unschooled since the start are extremely likely to go into creative fields – artists, writers, actors, STEM fields.  In fact, four out of five kids grow up to work in those fields.

If M or S want to be that one in five who grows up to be an accountant, or a retail manager, or something not in the creative field – well.  All I really want is for them to be happy.  I want them to get joy from the life they create, I want them to do things to help make the world a better place, I want them to learn and grow and find peace.

I guess that’s still all I want for myself.  My kids just have a head start.

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Balloon frenzy (or the day my kids discovered the art of picking glue off their skin).

We are lucky enough to live in a city that loves hot air balloons. Spring through autumn (but especially summer), when dawn and/or dusk are clear, dozens of balloons fill the skies. And due to the way the wind blows, they drift right over our house. We often wake up to skies of balloons – rainbow coloured, chicken shaped, countless balloons – low and lazy, we can hear the fire and see the flames as they heat the air. And when we go out for sunset adventures, a great summer tradition, they hang low in the sky above.

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My childhood was filled with memories of watching hot air balloons take off. The high school just down the road from us had a big field, and we’d go down once a week or so to watch the balloons be unrolled, inflated, floating. One landed in the field across from my house one day, and that memory of excitement is as bright as the balloon itself was.

Last summer we took the kids to our city’s International Balloon Fiesta. It always happens right around their birthday weekend, and they are already looking forward to this summer. We spent the day in hot sun, picnicking, watching planes do aerobatics overhead, riding Ferris wheels. And at sunset, we watched over a hundred balloons depart the skies. It was amazing.

We’ve been having jokey conversations about what sort of balloons we would design – because the balloons in our city aren’t just all colourful, but multi shaped – and so I thought, Hmm. Let’s make some to hang in the house. I cast my memory back to the third grade and some Christmas decorations I made in school, explained the idea to the kids, and we ran out into the garden.

Armed with glue, yarn, balloons, empty yogurt pots, tissue paper, and all sorts of stuff. An easy little craft, I thought. And I’ll put up a tutorial once we’ve finished them.

But OH THE DRAMA. We had popped balloons, glue covering most of our bodies, soggy wet yarn drying itself to the path in big clumpy knots.

At one point, little S actually fell backwards into the paddling pool while fully clothed. It was like a bad children’s movie! To her credit and determination, her grip on her wet balloon never faltered and though she was crying and covered in suspiciously green, ice cold water, she held the balloon up and safe.

This is as far we we’ve got:

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For our physical and emotional safety (only half a joke, folks!), we’ve decided to leave it for today and do more tomorrow. Don’t ask why there’s only one. What happened to the other one is busy being repressed by the owner of that ill fated hot air balloon. Maybe it’s gone to that clear, lightly breezy place in the heavens.