The first year she wanted a princess theme, and we planned several games, but all the girls wanted to do was the craft project and playing outside. So the next year, we just got supplies for a different craft--sharpies on mugs.
Now, if you got a bunch of 40 somethings together to paint mugs, there would be much hemming and hawing, with a lot of "oh, mine is dumb" and "I don't have any good ideas." The 8 and 9 year olds, however, just jumped right in. They had their ideas immediately and proceeded with confidence.
So this year, we left it even looser. We got a bunch of cheap flat "canvases" and paint and turned them loose. Again, everyone got straight to work, and the range of ideas is stunning. They are also encouraging each other and praising each other constantly. They occasionally ask for advice, and their friends think about it seriously and share their thoughts. It's beyond sweet.
They also talked about reading levels, which their school color codes.
"I'm orange, but I hope I'm going to be purple pretty soon."
"I'm just a white."
"I can't wait until I move up a level so I can read other books."
I'm trying to be unobtrusive about my eavesdropping, so I don't know if jumping in to say, "That's bullshit! Read what you want!" is really the right move. Still, I'm disturbed by the juxtaposition of their natural sharing about books they love with the rigidity which I know is enforced in their classroom regarding which books they "supposed to" read.
I wonder if next year they will still feel as free to create whatever they want, or if they will start the smothering self-criticism that so many of us do around creativity. The idea of being "good" at something or "not good enough" is poison we breathe in. Instead of enjoying the process, we get hung up on comparing our results. I want them to read what they want, create what they love, and support each other's attempts to do new things.
I want that for all of us.