Our current lunch time read aloud is Applewhites at Wit's End by Stephanie Tolan. It is the sequel to Surviving the Applewhites which we have listened to more than once and all love. If you haven't read either of them, the first book has all the right components... bad boy makes good; large, crazy family; and let's put a show on in the barn... all rolled into one. An added bonus is that the Applewhites are homeschoolers and rarely have I seen such a realistic portrayal of homeschooling in main stream fiction. The sequel, which we are in the middle of has the Applewhites strapped for cash and so decide to run a camp for creative children. We are all enjoying it.
The reason they chose to run a creative camp is that every single one of the Applewhites is some sort of an artist. (Well, all but one, which is part of the plot of the first book.) This plays into my enjoyment of the book because I have always been a little obsessed with large families populated with creative people. Part of it was that the reality of living in such a family was so far removed from my own experience that I found it fascinating, and the other part was that it just looked like fun. My first experience with such a family was in the movie, You Can't Take it With You. My only complaint was that though I loved how the family pursued the things they were interested in, none of them was very good at it. My competitive nature just couldn't imagine pursuing something without seeing decent results... and I also couldn't quite understand how you could be so unaware as to the true nature of what you are creating. But it also is what made the movie, so I could let it pass.
Perhaps this is why I love the Applewhites. Not only do they all pursue creative endeavors, they are also good at what they do. Since I still have a tendency to focus on product over process, I find this satisfying. But creativity is really more about the process... the doing. I know my own tendencies and try not to pass them along to my children. We talk a lot about the enjoyment we get from what we do; about how nothing will be perfect; about trying again another time.
But this isn't the only ingredient in becoming a creative family. I find much of it depends on me and my attitude... about mess and effort. Encouraging children to be creative also means that there will be messes. It means that I have to take the time to get the watercolors out for the littles. It means that clay will sometimes be stuck to the table. It means that I can't get upset when my children have used up yet another role of tape. Creativity and the excessive order that I sometimes crave just can't live in the same house.
This is the other reason I love the Applewhites. It's because in reading about their family, and the crazy, messy, uninhibited, colorful existence that they lead, reminds me that mess is OK. Life should be joyful and relaxed and that excessive order is neither of these things. It encourages me to allow my children to be creative... and myself as well.