Tag Archive | creativity

Don’t stick with what it says on the box – or in the school!

There were some interesting comments from Ben Fogle in the press recently as he drew an analogy between the development of Lego and the development of the education system, both of whom he feels had become increasingly prescriptive.

He says that once upon a time you bought boxes of random Lego bricks and created models yourself, now children are frustrated over prescriptive kits that require you to stick to instructions. And this sounds very like schooling which has become so prescriptive kids have little opportunity to build the skills, or learn the subjects, that interest them but have to stick with within restrictive boundaries dictated by others.

Thank goodness for the choice of home education where we can step beyond those prescriptions about learning and approach it another way.

But we also have a choice with the Lego don’t we? And isn’t the issue really about training minds to exercise choice and not stick always with what it says on the box? To be brave and imaginative enough to try other approaches – either with Lego or learning? Lessons or life?

This is indeed what home educators do all the time. And the knock on effect of this creates something else; for once you’ve broken out of the idea that everyone has to go to school in order to learn anything, I believe we develop the skills to see possibilities in breaking out of other frameworks of thinking that can hold us imprisoned if we don’t examine them.

No one has to be imprisoned by Lego kits! Child or adult (apparently there’s a huge Lego cult among adults now too – I watched a fascinating programme about it). And the more we encourage the children to look for possibilities beyond the preconceived or prescribed the more this develops their intelligence, creative thinking and mental aptitude. So equally no one has to be imprisoned by other aspects of life either.

So whatever activities we buy for the kids or encourage them to do, we can also encourage them to consider other possibilities.

We can do that with Lego and we can do that with life; we can encourage vision beyond what we think are boundaries but may not be so at all. Both require innovative thinking. And innovative thinking is as useful a skill for living as being able to follow instructions!

Wishing you Happy New Year energy!

One for me - a landscape to look at on those wintry days I can't get out

One for me – a landscape to look at on those wintry days when I can’t get out

I get sick of words sometimes! Yea – I know I’m a writer but everyone gets tired of their job!

I often spend ages looking for the right ones, sometimes it takes a whole mile of tramping out in the wild to rustle up enough inspiration to even think when writing so depletes it. Let’s face it any work depletes it!

And finding the right words to express yourself is extremely difficult. Even great philosophers have a problem with language, because some concepts are so intangible and difficult to express the language can limit what you mean. It can be a barrier to pure thought. Certainly hard to write what we mean at times.

And we expect kids to do it?!

Anyway, sick of the linear form and released from the writing treadmill (yep – it can be as much a treadmill as any other job), I’ve been taking some time over the holiday to try and restore some creative energy, so turned my hand to more practical, hands on and visual forms of representing the things I love, or expressing love to others through making them gifts.

Several bags and cushions later I feel much refreshed. And practising some of the other ideas I’ve preached here throughout the year I bought nothing, just reused stuff we had, some of the fabrics dating right back to when the children were here and we’d collected materials from the recycling centre. So glad I didn’t pass them on as I threatened to do on several occasions I felt over cluttered!

And I was able to express my love for others, my love of textile, and my love of the land, in a different way from words, even if I did write this blog to tell you – the experience turning me back to writing and thus being just the refresher I needed.

I hope you were able to refresh over Christmas among all the other demands and now face the new year nicely rejuvenated.

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all my wonderful readers whose support means so much words still fail to do justice to it!

Wild in the UK

Ben Fogle; ‘Lives In The Wild UK’

I’m totally loving the new Ben Fogle programmes; Lives in the Wild UK on channel 5.

I’m not especially an admirer of his but I love what the people featured in the programme are trying to do; trying to live their lives a little differently and not bow to mainstream pressure to do it the same as everyone else.

When you listen to the interviews with them during the programmes their heartfelt values and principles come shining through and I always admire anyone living by their values, even if it’s going to be challenging. For many of them it certainly is.

As a former home educator I know all about challenging. And I also get to meet some incredibly courageous people also living by their independent values, courageous because they have to step away from mainstream thinking and other mainstream lives, as home schoolers do.

Looking at these programmes it is comforting to see others, not necessarily home educators, but others who are upholding values outside the mainstream thinking of a heavily consumerist society, that tends to judge people by what they have rather than what they do or what values they uphold.

People who are finding that others ways of living, that are not to do with the treadmill of wealth adulation, are turning out to be more fulfilling than even that. Who are returning to their connection to the earth, in fact to ways in which we all must have first lived, living as much with their hands as with their computers, in order to restore something that modernity tends to be neglecting; our need for something other than big wealth, technology and a consumerist treadmill.

Collecting fuel for warmth, raising crops, farming and feeding and keeping a physical roof over your head can be just as much a treadmill as the commute to work to earn enough to buy it. But these people are finding that doing it for yourself sometimes, instead of always buying it in, can be satisfying in ways that buying cannot.

It’s making me look at my life and see if I can think more creatively and find little ways and changes that help me do the same, rather than always opting for the mainstream way, which so often seduces us by default. And the more we do this as parents, the more we encourage our children to question and examine their own ways of living, rather than always opting for the norm without questioning if it’s right for them or the damage it may be doing them.

Forget forever busy – learn from nature!

One of our fledglings that'll be flying thousands of miles!

One of our fledglings that’ll be flying thousands of miles!

It won’t seem right without the swallows in the sky. They’re gathering to make their epic Autumn journey.

I see them swooping about the sky as if with pure enjoyment. If you live in a city it’s more likely to be the House Martins and Swifts you see flitting around, flexing their muscles for their long migration.

Nothing marks the turning of the seasons more than the summer visitors going – people and birds! And the harvest gratefully done, the fields a little quieter for a bit, fallow and golden, the garden dropping down to seed head slumber.

I won’t be tidying the dead stuff away. I leave it for all the little creatures and insects to overwinter in a duvet of fallen leaves. They can sleep in peace and shelter.

I’ve written about this fallow time before. How these seemingly fallow times can be so developmental and we shouldn’t worry about children having fallow times too. These are as instrumental to their progress as productive times. Just because there’s nothing tangible to show for it doesn’t mean there’s nothing going on in their minds. Intellect needs fallow on occasions; it’s a valuable to growth as stimulation is.

It’s the same for the parents actually. Parents, especially mums, mostly operate at high energy levels, whether running round after toddlers or finding new ways to negotiate teenhood, it’s all exhausting. Even twenty somethings can exhaust you with concerns, says she with experience!

And writing, or any creative pursuit, certainly exhausts you. You certainly need fallow times in order to recuperate some of the energy expended on a project to bring it to harvest.

So I wanted to say that whatever work you do, not to worry about fallow. It’s hard to sit and rest and cogitate in a culture that upholds forever busy. But forever busy is not the best way I’ve found, not for kids, nor parents, or for writers or workers.

All of us worry sometimes about the kids never doing anything, about us needing to constantly motivate them, about never being able to write anything again. And the guilt in doing nothing is paramount! The over emphasised work ethic that surrounds us heaps guilt on thicker than mayo on coleslaw.

But it’s best to push all that aside and enjoy a few fallow Autumn moments. For have you noticed, whilst nature’s settling into the season with a sigh, she has no guilt about lying dormant at all!

Neither should we. It’s what charges us all for future success.

Nature I find is often the best teacher. We can learn valuable lessons from her.

Why we need to develop creative intelligence in education

I had a surprise visit from friend and artist Bob and Roberta Smith the other day.

The artwork of Bob and Roberta Smith

We were connected in our childhoods but rarely get to meet these days living in different places.

It’s a shame because we have a common quest; our desire to get people to understand the importance of creativity in education.

People often respond to that idea with the question ‘What use is painting pictures in the world of employment?’ as if that were the only interpretation of creativity. It also misses the point; creativity isn’t restricted to painting and drawing, for goodness sake!

Creativity is primarily about thinkingcreative thinking. Intelligent creative thinking.

Intelligent creative thinking is what enables us to lead our lives on a day to day basis.

Intelligent creative thinking enables us to find solutions, solve problems, rise to challenges and develop as people.

We use intelligent creativity every day even in little ways like getting the dinner, what to wear, how to fix the hole, how to best parent the children, what colour to paint the bathroom, how to make a tenner last all week. And I haven’t even touched on creating artwork yet.

But on that subject, have you ever considered that every single man-made thing you own was created and designed by someone? Someone who had to apply creative intelligence.

From the sofa you sit on, the cup you drink from, to all the technology you use, not to mention the Web, it’s all been designed by someone applying creative intelligence.

And anyway, aside from the fact that everything we have has been made by a creative, our young people will have to employ their creative thinking skills in order to fit into a job market that has less jobs than the people applying for them. They will need to be creative in tackling employers, in making their mark in whatever form or industry.

Creative intelligence is required for that self development process that puts a young person in front of others.

All these skills; mental and practical, personal and social, are developed by all kinds of creative practices, whether creating artwork, fixing stuff, making decisions, gaming, designing, or feeding yourself on a tight budget.

Creative intelligence helps you think outside the norm, outside of prescriptive academic conditioning, to more useful transferable skills that take you further.

Neglect of creative experiences, subjects and practices, is neglect of a huge part of our children’s education and personal development. Those in charge of the education system should be ashamed to call what they offer ‘education’ without it.

Thank goodness for champions like this trying to put the balance right.

Read his letter to Nicky Morgan here.

The bravery of art

You might think it brave climbing on the roof to do repairs as per my last blog. But it’s not the bravest thing I do!

The bravest thing I do is putting writing out there.

If you’re one of those brave people who do it too you’ll know why.

If you’re not, you might be one of those who think it requires no courage or stamina at all and is just an excuse not to get a proper job!

However, it’s one thing creating something. That’s hard enough in itself especially if you do it day after day on your own. But it’s something harder to make it public. Especially since the majority of the public seem to think they’re qualified to criticise, even though they’ve had no direct experience of doing it themselves.

That’s a bit like home education, I’ve found. Those who have absolutely no experience of it still think they’re qualified to pass judgement.

Doing art work is a bit like raising your child. It’s something you have nurtured and protected, developed and grown with devotion and emotion and times that have cost you dear. And just like with a child, the moment of letting go, letting it out to fend for itself in the battering world, is like tearing a part of yourself off. You want to hide and lick your wounds.

Some people never manage it. Never manage to allow their children or their art work a state of independence.

To do so is immensely brave. It involves trust. It involves confidence. And it will involve taking the knocks that will sometimes be the consequence.

The thing is, no one knows what it’s like to raise your child, they’re not you, they don’t live to your circumstances, they have no understanding of your challenges. And those who never put art out into the world in whatever form; books, pictures, sculptures, films, performing, textiles, designs, whatever, have no comprehension of what that’s like either.

Or what the personal cost is in courage.

I now know both, as a parent and a writer.

Many of us know what it’s like to parent and let our children go. Equally many don’t and insult us with the term ’empty nest syndrome’. But parenting is an art form in itself, so we are all creatives. Even without home educating, when parents are extremely brave and creative in educating their children independently of others, we are all creative parents – have to be.

But less of us know what it’s like to write or paint or perform, create films or textiles or designs, and actually put it out there. This is the bit that takes the most courage.

So whatever creation you come across whether it’s by a five or a fifty year old, perhaps after reading this you could show a little compassion rather than criticism towards those who’ve done it, most particularly if you’ve never done it yourself.

And consider the bravery it takes not only to craft something, but also to share something so personally nurtured with the rest of the world.

Climbing out the wellies

I’m doing quite well at the not-spending I was talking about in an earlier post.

Click on the picture for tickets…or just turn up at The Purple Playhouse Fri/Sat at 7.30!

I’ve not bought several things I’ve looked at and thought; ‘that’s nice, want it, need it’, only to rethink; ‘actually, I don’t!’ Then went off and got pleasure from  other nice things always available like wild flowers, sunshine on my face, a passing butterfly, friends and loved ones.

This has helped keep a nice bit by for my trip.

I’m climbing out my wellies and going city side to visit my eldest and see her production; Decade 20, in the Brighton Fringe.

When I go away money leeches out of my purse faster than water leaks into my wellies. But it’s so nice to be able to treat the girls to coffee, cake, food, frivolities they wouldn’t normally afford – it’s the best spending of all.

Is this when we get to be proper grown-ups – when we get more delight in spending on our offspring than on ourselves? Perhaps! Seems I have no hesitation in treating them to new shoes whilst I walk about with holes in my boots.

Might have to purchase some new clothes, (new to me, anyway – they could be from a charity shop), just so I don’t feel quite so decrepit visiting in the same old rags I’ve hung onto for years. On the other hand I could just get the sewing machine out and revamp them, as I taught them to do.

Both girls have that same skill of creative recycling we used through their home educating days when budget was tight but inventiveness was rich. (There’s a funny story in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ where they paint their wellies – and their dad’s – when I couldn’t afford coloured ones)!

But when education is in your own hands you tend to get inventive. This independent way of educating requires creative thinking which spills over into all aspects of life, developing intelligence, useful skills and resourcefulness. And there’s nothing better than resourcefulness for overcoming all the challenges you face in life.

So, being resourceful, maybe I’ll just look for something to patch my wellies instead when I get back and the purse is alarmingly empty!