Wow. It’s almost eight months since I’ve actually managed to write anything for myself. My workload has been ridiculously heavy of late, with various projects running at the same time. Now that has eased, I can finally sit down and muse over topics that interest me. Today, it was creativity and our children.
Consulting mostly from my home office affords me the privilege of being able to home-educate our youngest daughter. The Dad also is self-employed, so between us, we are able to facilitate a bespoke educational experience for Miss E.
We home-educated our eldest, Miss P, on and off for several years, but by the time she reached 10, she decided she wanted to go back to mainstream school and is currently finishing her first year of high school. It suits her.
Little Miss E however, is an entirely different child.
We sent her to school – a small village primary, of around 46 kids – when she was just four-years-old, with the condition that the first six months would be flexi-schooling, i.e. half days. This worked quite well. Then she progressed to full days. I’ve never seen the spark wither from a child’s soul so quickly.
She became so tired, anxious, nail-biting and bed-wetting very quickly. Compared to her peers, she was simply doll-like. She was a late-summer baby and physically tiny. She looked out-of-place. Then she came home with wet pants. The teaching assistant (who was her full-time teacher and not qualified) refused to let her go to the toilet; said she could wait until break time. Who does that? When a small child says they need to pee, they are literally on the cusp of wetting their pants.
The final straw (along with the poor welfare considerations on a major environmental threat to the school) was when she started pulling out her own eyelashes during the night. I was devastated.
She didn’t return to school.
Over the next few years of being at home and learning in her own way, space and time, we saw our child return to her former magical self. She had always been a creative little dot; regularly on the go with some sticky art or gluey craft activity. This returned with a force, and her art took on a large-scale form, with canvases and creations from her own imagination, springing up around the house and garden.
She often finds a recipe she’s seen – Matilda and the Ramsey Bunch is an absolute favourite of hers – and recreates it. Mary Berry is her cake hero. I wouldn’t think twice about leaving her in the kitchen to get on with cooking or baking. She will occasionally shout through to my office: “Mammy, I’m doing this but what does the measurement look like on the scales? Don’t come in, just tell me where to look.”
She has a maths programme on her tablet, English workbooks and whatever else takes her fancy, we make happen for her. She loves to watch YouTube tutorials on hairstyles, and then practice on me or her sister. She’s pretty amazing. The same goes for art, nail art, sculpture, slime-making…anything creative or art-orientated, she’s all over it.
And luckily, she is able to do that. There is no interruption or time limits to her learning, nor any prescriptive programmes or curriculums to follow.
I’m not saying I’m anti-school; but I am pro individual learning.
The current state of education in the UK is pretty shambolic. No longer do our teachers get to actually teach in order to impart knowledge; schools are centred around tests, tests, more tests, government red tape, and yet more tests. The ongoing budgetary squeezes from the Tory government have impacted subject provision, namely creative studies. The arts have taken an entire battering, marginalised for the traditional subjects such as maths and science.
How then, do our creative children flourish?
How do we help blossom, those kids who are a whizz with mechanical stuff under a car bonnet that would baffle most people? Or those enlightened young artists with a vision beyond most adults’ understanding? Or those children that have a beautiful heart and are true peacemakers? A curriculum does not and cannot provide these life, living and hands-on skills that are so desperately needed in our gloomy adult world.
One size does not fit all. I worry for those children who will grow into adults, never having realised the full power of a creative life, occupation or influence.
Here’s my thoughts on ways to help your child(ren) discover their creative flair – they’re all tried and tested by our household!
Five Ways to Help Children Be Creative
- Leave them alone. Seriously, don’t fill their every waking moment with clubs, organised activities and ‘things’. Let them just be. This doesn’t include using digital devices incessantly (see my blog on gadget-free days). Let them be bored. Let them create their own entertainment. It’s valuable learning. Play is wholly underrated.
- Be their guide, not their teacher. For instance, if they’re interested in arts and craft, help them to make a box of paints and crafty bits. A dedicated drawer, table or corner, space-dependent, is ideal for them to build their collection of art kit. Inspiration comes from a wide variety of sources: outdoors, museums, old magazines, car journeys etc – use wherever and whatever you’re doing to provide a rich environment for ideas.
- Encourage reading. Self-reading and reading to your children. Whatever their age – my mother read to me still when I was 15. If they don’t enjoy reading a book themselves, what about audiobooks? Both of my kids love audio books at night, when reading is not as enticing to tired eyes. An audiobook can carry you away to another world.
- Make sure it’s fun. Being creative isn’t a reward-driven activity to elicit praise: it should be about the experience itself and always fun.
- Empower your children to be problem solvers. During war years, austerity and rationed goods meant households were part of the ‘make do and mend’ culture. This automatically fostered creativity, purely out of the need to survive on whatever people had. Whilst I’m not suggesting you return to that extreme completely in the present day, there is a lot to be said for parents who fix things themselves. And this battles against the dreadful throw-away culture we live in. Children are then able to learn being creative on practical levels by watching their parents ‘have a go’.
Here’s to the creative ones. The ones who see colour on a dark day. The ones whose perfectly crafted words can comfort, inspire, teach and motivate. The ones whose clever brushwork can create an artwork that can bring people to tears. The ones who play music from their soul to silence an entire room. The gentle hearts that bring peace to others’ disagreements. The ones who have the skills to design, make and fix. The ones who feel it, but don’t quite know their gift just yet.
May they forever add light to the world.