Have you once again been hurtled into the position of teacher and already feeling overwhelmed and exhausted?
I am here to bring you a huge silver lining. This season of having more time at home, playing parent and teacher rolled into one might just be the best thing that ever happened to your child. It could be the time that you truly unleash your child's creative genius which may have been buried by the constraints that formal education can impose.
I get it, you're now looking at your child trying to touch the hot stove for the fifteenth time or thinking of the last 45 minute tantrum you endured over putting a spoon in the dishwasher, and wondering if the lockdown has gone to your head?!
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Children are really born with an abundance of creativity for us to nurture. According to a test devised by NASA scientists, 98% of young children are born creative geniuses. The study looked at 1600 children over 20 years, starting when they were between 3 and 5; the results found that the older we get the less creative we are. By the age of 10 creativity has dropped to 30% and by adulthood its just 2%
Some would argue that our flawed education systems have something to do with this creativity drain. One of the most watched Ted Talks of all time was given by Sir Ken Robinson where he argued that schools were killing creativity. He believed that creativity is as important in education as literacy and should be given the same status. Yet nearly every education system has the same hierarchy of subjects with maths and languages at the top while the arts are always at the bottom. He argued that the school system teaches children that one of the worst things you can be is to be wrong, an attitude that can crush the key to creativity, divergent thinking.
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Maybe you’ve noticed with some of the class work being sent home that it's not so much about learning as it is memorising. It can feel like eat, sleep, memorise, repeat. The standardisation of school systems can often mean that exploration and intellectual curiosity is stifled leaving very little room for a child to explore their own unique passion and talent. Schools are still running almost like an industrial factory where children are put into boxes according to age and perceived abilities based on a narrow criteria, school is a one size fits all model, when our children are anything but.
A primary purpose of education is literacy, yet in countries like the US and the UK literacy is among the lowest in the world. Lack of literacy in English and maths, has real world implications. For example, 1 in 5 Americans can’t calculate their weekly salary when they are paid an hourly rate, and 19% of high school graduates can’t read. While in the UK, according to the OECD, out of 23 developed nations, English teens had the lowest literacy rates and the 2nd lowest numeracy rates.
Photo by Christin @terraandtint
So if these systems are flawed, but it’s not looking like there will be a learning revolution happening anytime soon, how can we help our children shine and be part of their holistic education? We can try our best to give them a personalised learning experience at home. Before you spot another grey hair it's not as time consuming and complicated as it sounds, quite the opposite. The system might not allow time or patience to guide our children in the right direction, but we do.
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So here are some ideas to get you started;
Let your child be bored; This will ease the weight off your shoulders; you don’t need to take responsibility for their constant entertainment! In fact, it's good not to. Recent research has shown that ‘helicopter parents’ excessively filling up free time in activities are stifling children's development. Allowing your child to be bored can be hard to tolerate, take some deep breaths, withstand the whining and wait for the reward; remember they are hard wired for imagination and innovation. Give them time they will manage boredom themselves.
Encourage imagination; This is actually how kids make sense of the world and engage in their emotions, whether you're playing with them, they are alone or with their siblings, you can encourage them by using puppets, different voices, movement, toy figures or dressing up boxes. Let them lead, soon you will find yourself eavesdropping on them re-telling stories with their imaginations.
Messy Play; You might shudder at the thoughts of the clean up, but for the benefits it reaps it’s worth it. Anything sensory from play dough, bubbles, suds, gloop or kinetic sand. It's also a great activity to encourage independent play.
Get outside: collecting leaves, building forts, learning about nature, making mud pies and, don’t forget, jumping in puddles.
Dance and Sing; let yourself go with your kids, do your funny dances, change the words and let them make up their own songs, let them sing about their day, their problems or things they have learned.
Innovate their way not your way; You might dream of your child playing the piano just like you did, but they are more into drums, give them time to explore their talents and nurture and value them.
Ditch the screens; It's well established that overuse of screen time has harmful impacts on children's mental, physical and creative wellbeing. Try to switch screens for audio books, quiet time for writing or reading alone or together.
It's ok to be wrong ; Children are not frightened of being wrong, so let's keep it that way. If you're not prepared to fail it's hard to come up with anything original. Every thought they have is valuable, allowing them room to discuss, debate and explore ideas, problems and life lessons.
Be the opposite of school: School is a place where it's all about sitting still, memorising and testing, where children are expected to passively observe. So ask questions, trigger their curiosity, help generate ideas (divergent thinking) problem solve together or with siblings.
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It’s about instinct: Your children might not recognise their talents but they will pursue them instinctively, allowing them the time. space and freedom to try new things, picking up paintbrushes, building, writing, creating, imagining.
Be an encourager: Remember to praise and encourage their choices rather than your expectations. Resist the temptation ‘step in’ and do it your way, what you’re saying to your child is you can't do this
And remember the primary and best educator for your child, is you. I remember being nervous at my first ‘parent-teacher meeting’ for my 3.5 year old with his preschool teacher! These systems make parents feel the pressure that their children need to ‘perform’ in certain ways which can lead us to stifling their creativity and perhaps neglecting to nurture their true talents. We can help our children discover their gifts and what makes them happy and hope this will help them one day to become adults who love what they do and who they are.
Embrace this time and have confidence in yourself and in nurturing your little genius.
Blog post written by Wendy Grace Broadcaster & Journalist & Presenter of 'The Morning Show' @spiritradioire CEO of Compass Communications