Sunday 18 December 2011

Does School Kill Creativity?

I have said for many years now how I believe schools kill creativity.  We all have different talents after all, not all of us are great at maths, English, science.  We all learn in different ways too. 

I loved this man's speech for many reasons.  He and his speech was brought to my attention by another home educator who recently got in touch with me and everything in this talk makes sense to me.  We can after all only go on experiences, and for me school just drifted by, especially primary school.  I daydreamed, fidgeted and felt completely isolated. 
As a child I thought there was something wrong with me, there was no such thing as ADHD then so I was just a naughty girl to my parents and teachers.  However, that was not the case. I am a creative person, I dance, paint, draw and try to knit; however, I do love Maths, English, History and Science too but that grew on me as I got older. 
I do wonder though, what would have happened if I had been allowed to daydream more?  If I would have been allowed to draw my daydreams, dance my daydreams?  Of course school doesn't allow for that kind of development, not then and not now.  But what if it would?  I did have a great attention for films as well, so would I have learnt more had the lessons been more interactive?  taught through visual stories?

I home educate my own children so that they have plenty of time to learn in their own way and their creativity is flowering beautifully.  They are always creating new things, painting, drawing, cutting, knitting and sewing using different mediums.  My eldest is regularly coming up with the most amazing craft idea's all out of her own head.  I even find before I'm downstairs and dressed they've created something new, most recently is a snowman piƱata  Could she have achieved this if she had been attending school?  I very much doubt this.  Perhaps I'm wrong...  What do you think?

I do know one thing, I wish that I had had a different education.  It was a struggle for me daydreaming in class.  I remember my maths lesson, my lack of concentration would lead me putting the 'right' answers on the wrong bit of the page.  Once my teacher asked why I was daydreaming and I answered 'It's boring; it's too easy,' I complained.  I do remember I never felt stretched at school, I struggled for two reasons, my creative side of my head screaming out for release and the other side restricted by visual stress.  I do remember that nothing at school ever seemed exciting.

I see this in some of my children now.  Especially my six year old.  Leave her alone with a maths sheet for 2 minutes and there are always beautiful borders of pictures telling stories or she's sitting there staring at a wall as if it is the most amazing thing ever - daydreaming of course - however, if I sit there with her, keeping it light and fun, she gets the whole worksheet done, virtually no mistakes and is happy with what she's achieved.  She loves the computer as a means to learn and I find most of her maths is done on there now as she finds the pictures and games more stimulating.  So long as they're learning that's all that matters after all.   
Also because she struggles with visual stress as I do, I do that one thing, that no one did for me and that is to write the stories that are in her head down on paper so she doesn't get so frustrated.  She re-writes them down happily then, changing bits as she goes along - proof that it works would be that she won a writing competition a few months ago with the Aquila Magazine.  I am pleased that she has found reading aides that help her, of course they weren't about when I was younger, but they have given her the chance to enjoy reading in a way I never could at her age.

My eldest has always been gifted when it comes to her writing skills.  She taught herself to read just before she was three and spelling just comes so naturally to her.  She is good at maths and science too.  Even when she was a baby, 18 months onwards, she has always learnt in a manner that she switches from wanting to learn maths for a couple of weeks or months and then all of a sudden it will be non-stop writing stories.  Sometimes she has complete breaks for a few weeks and paints, draws, knits, sews and invents new craft ideas, I am always blown away with the idea's, amazed that they are her own, inspired only by herself! 

I think this way my children like to learn also would not be a way a school would be able to manage to help them, in my opinion, reach their full potential in life.  I believe for a school to add this to their system would simply be too costly for them, well, certainly for a state school.

My third child is again completely different.  I know if I sent her to school, she would be labelled.  Keeping her happily at the table for 'structured learning time' is rarely possible.  However, although she is only 4, allowing her to learn in ways that are fun to her, rhyming through music, maths through games, reading through games and her favourite books and so on; my four year old can read, understand and do simple adding and taking away, count to 39 at least and count in two's and tens.  Is this because I allow her to dance round, draw and paint when she feels the need, watch movies and allow plenty of time for imaginative play? 
Well, inventors need a lot of imagination and they, after all, are usually the geniuses of the world.  Look at Thomas Edison, school didn't suit him either and fortunately his mother home educated him, would we have the electric light without him?  I'm not saying my children are genius children, but I don't want to get in the way of their full potential, I don't want them to grow into frustrated adults.

So, if this is the case then surely something should be done about the school system or perhaps for the children being let down by the system, home education should be something given to all as an option not hidden from the general public?  After all as Sir Ken Robinson mentions in the link I provided, creativity is being quashed out of so many children at school at the moment, in public schools as well as state.  Surely, in this case, so many other families out there could also benefit from home education too?

What do you think?


  1. I propose the word 'Scholotomy' to cover the damage that schooling can do. Variant: 'Schoolotomy'

  2. I posted the link to Ken Robinson's talk about a week ago on my FB - very inspiring and entertaining too! I am very grateful for the option of home-ed and hope as a family this continues to be an option. I am sure it could benefit many children and their families enormously but of course in practice often it's not always feasible.

  3. I think it would be a rare school indeed that could enable children to truly explore their creativity.

    By that I don't mean a school that gives children instruction in art or craft or sets out a prescribed activity for them. I mean for children to have the time and freedom to explore their interests without a time limit, without the need for order or tidiness, without the channelling by grown ups to tick a curriculum box and without the requirement of an end product.

    Certainly in the UK I know of no schools that could or would do this. And I have no doubt that if my kids went to school the uninhibited creativity and imagination that they exhibit at home would be crushed.

  4. I would almost be willing to say that here in the US it is one of the purposes of public school to quash creativity. It's disruptive to the rigorously controlled lesson plans of the teachers/curriculum.

  5. I do think that the school ethos kills individual brilliance (and creativity..). There is such an obsessive emphasis on "teamwork" that it is almost impossible for a gifted individual to shine without being pulled down to the "average" level - there are no risk takers and no winners - and that's a great shame.

  6. My perception is that creativity is a long way down the list of things the institution of school was created for and has evolved into. The first function in the UK must be free childcare enabling women to enter the workforce with minimal interuption and second to maintain the social status quo. Even in 2011 when most of the present government have an Eton and Oxbridge background people still buy the myth of meritocracy.

    This is such a huge topic for my children I say
    I believe so strongly now that timetabling is a resource allocator with no basis in educational psychology. Who has ever proved that the optimal learning time for humans is in one hour blocks? My children don't stop painting because the bell rings they stop because they have finished.

    and I haven't even started on peer pressure...

  7. Hi Angela, I understand what you're saying. I am only suggesting that everyone should be made more aware of the option of home education. There are many people out there who feel school is the only option, as we know, some people even think it's illegal not to send your child to a school. People need to know this is not true.

    I also feel very blessed that I am home educating too. It is the most wonderful thing for my family x

  8. Mamma Frog - you said 'I think it would be a rare school indeed that could enable children to truly explore their creativity.'

    I agree completely, I can not see a way that any institution could produce such a place. I would be very interested in seeing how someone proposed it to be done, that's if they think it possible to do so in the first place.

  9. Cap'n Franko and Chrisotherwise. It is a sad situation. The worst bit about it, over here in the UK, is that there are so many families in this situation that don't even realise they have another option. They frustratingly look on at their childrens personalities change, not in a positive way, before their eyes. Well this is my opinion of it.

  10. I'm with you all the way Katie! Fitting people into boxes doesn't work. I can't imagine stopping C or N from writing a story because their hour is up, they finish when all their ideas are down on paper or when they are ready to have a break. Creativity needs flow after all. xxx

  11. I suppose the individual teachers standing at the front of rooms don't set out to squash creative instincts but somewhere along the way they get sidelined. Schools are ranked and graded and secure future pupils on the basis of their Sats and gcse results. Last time I looked the main creativity going on there was the relationship between teachers and examiners.

  12. re personality change in young children starting school I wrote this on a forum earlier

    The whole quality versus quantity thing in friendship is so crucial in understanding how home ed works and what institutions do - You hear the same phrases and language about "fitting in" "square pegs round holes" "smoothing off the rough edges" over and over - that is why people who do well in institutions are described as well rounded I guess!