24 May 2010

unschool monday :: creativity

I'm going to wander with you through my own creative learning, if you'll indulge me for a little while... My memories of time before school include learning to write my name and play kiss chasey at kindy and spending days at the gallery or at home with Mum. She encouraged me to draw, to scribble to experiment, draw patterns, play with colours. Dad worked from home and he reminded me that I could colour inside the lines from time to time if I felt so inclined. A perfect balance. Then came school. My first gold star emerged after a moment of frustration inspired genius. Finger painting. I was relishing the sensation of paint between my fingers, all squidgy and cold. I played with squiggly pattern, beautiful shapes and the faint texture of my tiny finger prints. "I've finished" I proudly announced to Mrs. Green. She was unmoved. "It doesn't look like anything, Lauren. You need to do a picture of something, like a house, or a flower..." Deflated, I sat back down and thought for a minute. With the side of my thumb I drew a circle around it. "Finished!!" I called out again. "What is it?" The teacher asked. " A bowl of spaghetti." She couldn't argue. A creative compromise and most certainly gold star material. I soon learned that houses and flowers and such things are what's expected at school. I learned how to draw houses from my friend Jane. She'd been taught at her kindy. My next gold star came in the form of a painting of a girl with a dinosaur. The dinosaur was tartan. Lots of pattern and colour. More creative compromise. And so it continued...

Mum supported my many craft projects and occasional interest in backyard sketching at home. The various craft and art teachers I encountered attempted to demonstrate the correct way to do things... Leading to my almost fail in year 7 craft... By the time I reached year 11, I felt like the creative wind had been beaten out of me. Then in year 12, we were asked to find our own personal creative style, develop it and make something awesome out of it. With a lot of nursing, suggesting and experimenting, my teacher managed to help me figure something out, eventually. I did well. Really well. Now what? It was expected I'd go to Uni and become an art teacher, or do an arts degree. To my teacher's surprise, I followed my heart and went to art school. I did a year 13 folio building course to help me figure out a direction. I got to spend all day, every day learning about art and design. We did drawing and ceramics and printmaking, photography, 2D and 3D design and art history. I was in heaven. I was supported by an amazing bunch of mentors. I got to play with all these different mediums and look for my passion, then develop it. It was there that a teacher noticed that I always incorporated pattern into my work. Had I thought of textile design? And so began a new creative journey.

I suppose reflecting on that was one of the motivators in choosing to unschool the owlets. All those years of being told how to do it, lead to uncertainty and floundering. The school I went to aimed to turn out academically successful young women and did, but if you were interested in something slightly off the beaten track, you were rather on your own. Such is the case in many schools where there just isn't the time or the space or the facilities to cater to every child's particular interests or needs. You need to work within the system. As such, creativity dies. Or at the very least is suppressed. We feel that our children need to follow their own creative interests and be encouraged in them. They need to be exposed to whatever life can offer them and find their own way.

The pictures are of the owlets creative pursuits this morning. Big owlet is into monsters at the moment, so when I suggested we make some felt monster puppet toy type things, naturally she leapt into it hammer and tongs... and made an elephant. Little owlet also thought it was a great idea and designed a psychedelic rabbit, somewhat reminiscent of Donnie Darko. They drew the characters, chose the colours, cut the felt, sewed by hand and on the machine, stuffed the toys, sewed again and played for the rest of the afternoon... Then made movies on photobooth in which their heads swirled around with said creatures. Had I imposed my own creative aspirations upon them, they'd have lost interest almost immediately. Unless the creative process is their own and they are entrusted with it, the creativity dies right at the start. Think of what we'd miss out on!


Two of my favourite clips on creativity and kids, in case you feel like watching rather than reading... I know I do sometimes...


  1. Absolutely brilliantly gorgeous, gentle journeying, such incredible textural descriptions. You blow my mind. Thank you x

  2. Thankyou so much for sharing your story! I totally agree! My school was the same and it is only now at 30 that I am reclaimimg my creative self. I loved art, music and graphic design at school but it was never focussed on. If only someone had recognised my abilities I may not have spent my 20's in a corporate environment which I hated. This too is why I would like to un-school my daughter. No-one should have to re-learn how to create, sing or dance AFTER being educated at school.

  3. Creatvity is THE biggest challenge for me with my children's schoooling. I love that my children "scribble", that their work are origianl interpretations of how they see their world, not the conventional type house and stick figure which children are taught to draw. Imagine how much it kills me to walk into my daughters class room and see 25 identical ladybirds across the wall, or hear how Tully didn't draw correctly today as she forgot she was supposed to outline with texta and then colour in (my how i dislike the term)with her pencil. I so want to homeschool, Tully on the other hands loves the social aspects of school. Oh how i dream of a reggio Emilio style school opening up in my little country town! Thanks for the continual inspiration!

  4. Very inspiring post. Haven't decided what we'll do about school, but I know for sure either way we want to encourage freedom and creativity. Love your kiddos' creations!

  5. Love it!!! We've been struggling to find our homeschool way with our soon to be 7 yr old...this year though she started reading like wildfire, and suddenly I felt relaxed...I'm realizing that I'm a little bit of an unschooler as well...it's nice to finally just relax about homeschooling, and just know that they will turn out fine! Really...the reason I started our homeschooling journey was to be able to support interest based learning...letting my daughter lead the way for the both of us!
    :-) Maureen

  6. I love the Ken Robinson talk. I sat through a very long inservice (1 hour, not so long, but felt like an enternity as it was so dry) on teaching gifted and talented children and the short clip of his talk was the most inspiring part. I've since watched it all and it was even better than I'd imagined.
    I am a teacher but often say I'm home schooling my kids. I am not sure we'll do it when they come along but your blog and my knowledge of schooling certainly makes me lean much more towards keeping them at home and giving them a creative and meaningful education.

  7. LOVE LOVE LOVE! It is all so true and good for you that you have posted it - Ah creativity.



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