Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Thomas Edison and Parenting

From a very early age, Thomas Edison began playing with wires, car batteries, chemicals, using household objects to create unique inventions. He often got in trouble for taking a part things in his parent's house and for SETTING THINGS ON FIRE.

I'm not kidding.

At one time in my life, I would have read right over that stuff, never thinking twice.

As a mother, I stop...reread those paragraphs to myself while my boys stare at me. My mind drifts off, to a different place...until one of the boys says, " you done reading?"

No. I'm not done.

Actually, I'm sitting here, in the middle of a school lesson having a mental break down about our life.

How do I inspire creativity and encourage real life, out of the box thinking in my kids?

What if Thomas Edison's mother cared more about her house being clean than her son getting to explore and think, create and invent?

I read the descriptions of these great inventors and scientist's lives as children and immediately think..."Car batteries? She let her kids play with car batteries? He lived to set two things on fire? Where was his mother?"

Sorry to be having a nervous breakdown today.

I thought this unit on inventors and scientists was going to be a bore...a chore.

Instead, it has me wanting to set up creativity stations in our house...places we never clean...places where my kids can make a mess and never apologize for it.

I want to rethink life...

"Do my kids have enough time to create? Do they have enough time to think? Do I encourage creativity in them?"

I'll leave you with my favorite quote from Thomas Edison, the man who invented over a thousand things...the man we can thank for movies, mp3 players and light bulbs.

"Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration."


BHG & Co. said...

Heather, how can that be your favorite quote... don't you hate perspiration?

Great post here. I think it goes farther than imagination. It also has to do with adventure and (especially for boys) danger. Let them take acceptable risks: jump off of playground equipment, hit each other with sticks, get dirty (clearly not a problem with many children!?)... you know, stuff like that.

I remember climbing trees, exporing, getting in fights (that probably crossed the line), and jumping off my house - I was a little older for that last one.

I am not exactly sure where this is going... and I don't justify everything I did as a lost child, but the more we can encourage experience, adventure, risk, and imagination (with boundaries), the more our children learn things like acceptable risk, courage, limits, and creativity.

alisha said...

so i don't have kids, but in light of creativity & fun things to do...

"The 21st annual award-winning Chemistry Open House and Science Exploration Gallery will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 25) at Texas A&M. The theme for this year’s open house is “Having a Ball with Chemistry.” The highlight of the day’s activities will be three presentations of the popular Chemistry Road Show — at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. — in Room 100 of the main Chemistry Building. The show is recommended for all ages and includes demonstrations of popular science including fires, explosions, weird polymers and super-cold materials. Door prizes will be given at all the shows. The event is free and open to the public. Activities begin at 9:45 a.m. in the foyer of the Chemistry Building, which is on Ross Street by the three round brick fountains called the “H 2 O fountains.” No reservations are required. Organizers remind participants that Ross Street is under major construction; signs will be placed to guide them to the Chemistry Department. "

Hendrick Family said...

That's so great, Bill.

It reminded me of something Marylou Brieger told me once. I'll never forget it.

She was talking to me one time about wishing she had more kids. She has two sons, but was talking to me about how amazing big families are.

She said something like this...I don't remember her EXACT words, but this was the gist of it...

"I think it's great for a family to get so big that the mother can't possibly keep up with all her kids and micromanage them."

Isn't that funny?

Of course she's not saying to neglect them or to naively let them do whatever sinful thing they want to do. She was talking more about letting them live as children, to suffer some consequences for their own thoughtlessness, etc.

I think this is important, especially for mothers of boys to hear.

I have to remind myself all the time that I'm not raising little me's. I'm helping Aaron raise men.

I want to raise brave, adventurous, confident (in a the good sense, not arrogant) men.

That means, like you said, purposefully not looking at some of the things they are doing that aren't sinful...just a little more brave than I'm comfortable with at times!

This could probably be an entirely different post. Maybe we'll revisit this some time!


Andrea said...

C. McNair Wilson says that no one has to teach a child to dance or role-play, it is something that comes natural and fuels that creativity. But as they grow their creativity is squashed by people (sometimes their parents) who say “you can’t paint it that color” or “don’t do that in the grocery store” or “no singing at the table”…

I like this topic!

We have one ultra conservative, non-risk taking, rule following child (just like me except that she does love roller coasters, the higher/faster, the better - go figure...), another child who will do anything if it's fun but is fairly cautious and one who flies by the seat of her pants and is very thoughtful - after the fact.

Perhaps that's what Edison was like. Maybe he tried whatever and then processed his brilliant deductions afterwards. Maybe he didn't create a plan and say "ah, a car battery would do the trick!", rather, he saw the car battery, tore it up and waited to see what would happen and came up with something brilliant.

I guess I'm just thinking that, generally speaking, we keep our kids and ourselves too busy to explore. We should go outside and play, or lay in the grass, check out the stars and dig a hole or something.

I think we’re going to sing at the dinner table tonight and we might eat dessert first in moderation, of course - health & safety first!

Hendrick Family said...

Such good ideas!

Let's all sing over dinner tonight!

These comments are inspiring me.

I have some ideas brewing. So fun.


Emily said...

I jumped off my house all the time. I also jumped off the second story of our barn. I'm not sure if I was on my way to becoming a genius or if I am now less intelligent because of it:). I bet Thomas Edison's mom didn't know he was playing with car batteries. Everything crazy I did my mom didn't know about it until I had already done it. NOw, I lived in the country and we had ten acres and I could spend all day outside away from the house, up a tree, or playing with horses and my mom didn't know exactly where I was. I don't know what I'm suggesting exactly because now that I think about it, i'm always going to know where Baby J is:). Maybe just letting the kids outside a lot is my suggestion...that is where all my inventions happend. NOw, I invented mud pies and crazy games to play on horsebak (horse gymnastics...real safe) and never once tried to play with a car battery...but I'm a girl:).

Rebekah Hubley said...

My last post is on "walking in corn starch". It shows it and everything. Steve Spangler has amazing ideas and science experiments. I really want to do this, on this scale, with my kids next summer! Go and check it out... BTW: I got your blog from Tanya Borlase: One Crowded House.

Anonymous said...

When Hannah had her b-day party, the theme was Hawaiian, so we played a game we called, "Build a Hut." We broke up into 2 teams. I made a pile of blankets and sheets on the floor. The teams took turns going to the pile and choosing one item, until all of the items were gone.

I gave them a time limit and assigned them each different rooms.

They had SO much fun creating huts with those items and whatever else was in the room! They had to figure out how to anchor the sides so that the blankets wouldn't collapse inward, etc.

When we built our dining room table, all of the leftover materials were given to the kids to do with as they wish.

When Hurricane Ike blew through, my 15 year old and a friend took junk from our garage and attached it to the dolly that Mark uses to move big furniture. They made a wind cart to test in the great winds.

Most of it involves me allowing them to make a mess and do whatever comes to their brains. They play in the creek next to our house - despite the worries of many moms about that - but I do have them wash their hands afterward! They catch all kinds of critters and make containers to hold them in. They build hilarious traps in the "woods" close to our house, trying to catch raccoons, etc. It's never worked, but because they have gone out there and seen their "bait" gone and/or the trap knocked down, they keep trying!

As a little girl who loved Barbies, I would lay out a hand towel on the floor and make items for a house to place on it. The towel was like the carpet. I used toilet paper rolls, cotton, empty spools, and whatever was around to make furniture.

Just a few ideas...


Andrea said...

Back again... I couldn't resist sharing this from McNair's blog intro. Honestly, I just found this site but I'm definitely adding it to my feed list. His post on Columbus Day (Discovery Day) fits well with this discussion.

We should pray that our kids don't turn out to be anyone other than who (whom?) they were created to be. And maybe we (I) should do some work on my own self!

Doodling on the table cloth sounds like fun too!

"When I was a child I thought as a child, but when I became a man..." I didn't change a darn thing. And you can too! This site is not about being "child-like." The objective is to assist you in recapturing, harnessing, and pursuing those tendencies expressed quite naturally as a child—now gone dormant. Our creative spirit, curiosity, and sense of wonder are all factory-installed faculties. They might be a bit rusty, not to worry.

TEA WITH McNAIR is your tune up. Come in and grab a cup. Do feel free to doodle on the table clothes so we'll know you were here. Return often."

Molly said...

Just wanted to tell you how much I love your heart! I love everything about you, as a mother, as a Christian, as a woman. I wish I had time to think right now and share thoughts, but I desperately need a nap. With this sweet baby in the house, I am sleep deprived, but also LOVE reading your stuff. Keep writing and sharing PLEASE. Sorry for not having input...but just wanted to send my love! You are an INCREDIBLE mom, but you can't do it all!

Charlie's MOM said...

Don't answer their questions all the time. Charlie isn't old enough to ask, but I teach 19 7 year olds who are. I don't want to put my "old" thoughts into their new heads when it comes to creativity. They are way better at than I am. Mostly I just sit back and watch them discover while keeping them from hurting one another....always a challenge!

BHG & Co. said...

I had another thought too.

Maybe it isn't so much an issue of cultivating creativity. I think imagination is natural and arguably one of the ways we relect the image of God.

Perhaps it is an encouraging of knowledge. The more they want to learn... the more curious they are... the more they naturally investigate and experiment and discover.

Another correlation (I do not know what if this has come up yet). Television is an imagination killer. Their minds get lazy. They do not need to imagine images and things because it is all provided for them.

Reading, Inquiry, and Curiousity... these things are essential to creativity - and probably for healthy growth in general.

Jeanie said...

I teach a class for students with dyslexia and we study Thomas Edison because he had dyslexia. When he started school the teacher thought he was incorrigible and not the brightest bulb on the tree. His mom yanked him out of public school and decided to homeschool him.

Katie O said...

Hey Heather...I have 3 boys and I don't really have an answer to your question. But, I was reminded of what happened at our house yesterday. Something that would send most any Mother into a tailspin of despair. It really frustrated me, but with my older two(ages 7 and the other a month shy of 5) nothing is a surprise anymore... Here's what happened...

First a sidenote: we live on my parent's dairy farm and my Dad had just returned from hauling some cattle to the salebarn. He was washing out the trailer.

Okay, so the boys run up and ask if they can go "help" Grandpa. Andrew is wearing his school clothes, but I figure...surely he won't get TOO dirty. It's dry as a bone around here and maybe they won't spray each other with the hose. After all, they are both wearing rubber boots. Take off boys!

Several minutes pass, maybe a half hour or so. My Dad calls.....uh oh.

Dad: (through laughter)Are you watching your boys?

Me: No, WHAT are they doing? Are they in the mud? (DUH...there is no mud.)

Dad:(again through laughter) Not exactly mud!

Me: WHY do you let them do this?

Dad: It was too late when I noticed. (Still laughing!)

Once again...I had a mess to clean up, but you know what? They had fun. I think the key to creative kids is not to be too uptight.

I'd like to think this through a little more and wrap this up better, but I have crying baby boy #3 on my lap begging to be fed. Sorry for any typos!

Vanessa Rogers said...

What an interesting topic. I don't have kids but I am constantly trying to figure out how to include more creativity in my life. I sometimes wish I had kids just so that I had more excuses to do creative projects. Around every holiday my husband and I try to do something in the creative area, from making gingerbread houses, to carving pumpkins. This year, we made an amazing haunted house for my aunt's office all from scratch.
Personally I love structured projects because the sitting down and doing something planned will lead to other freer imagination and creativity.