Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Year of Knowledge: Creativity

With all I have to learn about teaching and homeschool and parenting and children, I have decided to make Sundays all about family and children for School House Sundays! Yesterday, I read an amazing article on creativity and education, so I want to explore why teaching creativity is so important.

I have been trying to incorporate creative projects and assignments into my son's homeschooling. I would like to say it was because I knew how important creativity is to the developing mind, but I just thought it was more fun! Why read a boring textbook when we can create lapbooks, write stories, paint a picture, or sing a song! Because I was brought up very traditionally in terms of education, all of these things did not feel like teaching to me. Creativity was to be for after-school activities like band, theatre, or French Club. Classes are supposed to be hours of drill and kill, memorize, write, research, and then spit it back out. So having these fun assignments felt like I was somehow cheating him out of a real education.

I could not have been more wrong.

Creativity develops good critical thinking and analysis skills. It shows children how to think outside of the box and be willing to question the accepted norm. A child who thinks creatively is much more likely to resist peer pressure, stay in school, and have more stress-reliving coping skills.

The most important aspect of creativity is the process and not the results. In our society of teaching to the test, getting the right answer,and  keeping our eyes on the prize, anything that emphasizes the means and not the end is difficult to support. However, study after study supports that creativity is so important for proper brain development.

So, how do we develop creative thinkers?

Encourage child-led free play. Play dates and lessons and sports teams are all important and have their place in a child's life. The structure of these activities, however, limits creativity. Having time set aside with no agenda, no electronics, and no adult direction will dust off those creative thinking skills that we are all born with.

Have supplies on hand that encourage creative thinking. Art supplies, dress-ups clothes, musical instruments, empty boxes of all shapes and sizes,  water and sand tables, colored paper, and anything else you can think of to encourage imagination and out-of-the-box thinking. My oldest is very analytical. He never really did that I-know-it's-a-doll-just-pretend-it's-a-space-alien-type of play. He  would just look at you and say, "It's not a space alien. It's a doll." Imagine my absolute delight when, after just a couple of months of homeschooling and more creative thinking opportunities, he was using an empty sandwich baggie box as his grenade in a first-floor guerrilla war scenario.

Encourage activities that have no one "right" answer. Remember, it's all about the process. Many board games and card games have specific rules that have to be followed for a specific outcome. However, games like Pictionary, Guesstures, and Mad Libs all offer ways of being creative within a set of rules. In fact, often the more creative, the more likely you'll win!

So as you are busily scheduling every activity under the sun to develop your child's body and mind, don't leave out a good chunk of time to concentrate on the process and not the end product. They are only children once, so let them just play.

Thanks to and for information for this blog.

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