Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Creativity and Motherhood

Creativity and MotherhoodPardon me for getting a little serious and introspective but . . .

Jordan at MommaBlogga asked me about how I find fulfillment in motherhood and my first thought was "creativity." To me, motherhood is the ultimate creative endeavor, where else does one make and nurture something with as much potential as a human being? But next to my four little masterpieces, otherwise known as Grace, Spencer, David and Lillian, I find creativity critical to my sense of well-being. I have to have a project, have to be working on something, have to be looking toward the next thing I can produce.

I found a couple interesting things around the blogosphere lately for your perusal. They're not short so you'll need some time (about 15 minutes for each video clip) but they're thought-provoking and entertaining. I wouldn't give you something that was a waste of time would I?

First, here is a presentation by Sir Ken Robinson entitled "Do Schools Kill Creativity?" that is not only funny and worth seeing for the entertainment alone but it's an interesting argument for public education reform. Robinson says that the purpose of public education has changed since its birth during the Industrial Revolution and should be shifted to meet society's new needs. He argues "creativity is as important as literacy and should be given the same status" and that a child's natural creativity must be encouraged in ways that the current system is unable to provide.

I like his position that creativity isn't just about artistic endeavors, it's about creating something new and that stigmatizing mistakes (and we're talking ideas here, not morals) crushes creativity but let's be honest: though dance and the visual arts may be beautiful can they really be compared to science and mathematics when talking about the greater good? Just because there may be a lot of would-be Rembrandts out there do we really have a responsibility to nurture the humanities equal to the sciences?

Second, here is a video by Larry Lessig called "How Creativity Is Being Strangled by the Law" which is also funny and engaging--get a load of his presentation techniques and watch in awe. His points are that creativity is a natural human desire and the law is at variance with common sense by regulating intellectual property to death. Though I warn you, he has three remixes included with the presentation--two of which are hysterical--but one goes past irreverent and dives right on into being religiously offensive though it makes the point for his case.

Now here are my thoughts:

The first video goes after public education, the second video goes after the government--both fine targets I'm sure--but I tire of the blame game. Public education has to have parameters, must have ways of measuring and calculating success, so to criticize this system of tests and grading seems futile. Maybe in utopia you can say to a child "Your dancing was brilliant, just as brilliant as if you'd discovered the cure for cancer" but for now it won't fly in our supply-and-demand, nine-to-five economy and it's time to get over it.

Yes, I agree the government is straining at gnats and I have absolutely no sympathy for the entertainment industry's constant whining about copyright infringement but that's only one small area of influence. Teaching creativity needs to come from the top down and when I say the top I mean the home.

Public education and government aren't the solutions because learning and creativity start in the home, parents are a child's first connection to this process. It's not just the schools that should be thinking about this, it's parents. So how do we do this?

It's not about running kids to more after-school activities (goodness we have an abundance of that already don't we?) or about pushing children to get better grades (grade inflation and the pressures to score high do plenty to raise the fear of being wrong in kids today) it's about teaching problem-solving skills, independence and courage.

Unfortunately parents do too much for children nowadays, acting more like personal secretaries, chauffeurs and maids for their children than educators and parents and until we can let go and allow our children to do things for themselves--including making mistakes--they're not going to find more creativity and schools will face the same issues, business will stay in the same rut and government will debate the same topics. Perhaps creativity isn't about more but about less: less over-scheduling, less micromanaging, less hovering. But then what do I know? I'm not a Stanford professor or a British knight who can influence thousands--but I am a mom and I can help the four I've got.

What do you do to feel creative? How do you encourage it in others or in your children?

One more thing: here's a series of posts from Mark McGuinness about organization's affect on creativity found through Liz Strauss at Successful Blog and worth your time.


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Erica Douglas said...

Great post, which I largely agree with, I've seen that first video on whether school kills creativity, it's definitely worth a look if only to get you thinking.

Mary Alice said...

This was a very interesting post. I wrote about what I call "Frantic Family Syndrome" earlier this month on my blog. FFS is the fear that many families have about life which causes the competitive crazed chauffeuring to a myriad of activities - in the hope that it will give their child a leg up on all the other kids.

I think you hit the nail on the head when you said "creativity isn't about more but about less" Less allows you the time to think and the time to do...both necessary components of real creativity.

Chris said...

I didn't watch the videos yet but wanted to answer your question. I certainly hope I do. I have a box full of junk: old Christmas cards, stickers, pieces of fabric, paper, plus paint, glue etc. available for the kid whenever the mood strikes her. She has her own space to create and I try hard not to freak out about the mess! She also has a box of dress up clothes. I try not to direct her and encourage her to come up with ideas on her own. She's also in a drama class, as it suits her dramatic personality. I'm not sure what else I could do. But any ideas are welcome.

Anonymous said...

I give my daughter's all my "leftovers" from scrapbooking and card making. They can do whatever they want with the scraps and believe me! They come up with some creative items :) Great Post!

Lainey-Paney said...

I agree that creativity is important. I also feel that I am happiest when I have a sense of productivity. I love being productive, whether it is through making something, writing something, cleaning, etc....

ames said...

*standing ovation* yes!! I for one would like to see more encouraging children to think like designers, i.e. seeing a problem and solving it, and really opening your mind to the endless possibilites that creativity provides (go on, someone say that you can't make a living doing Art, I dare ya!).

I certainly think that it would improve our lives and our world if everyone grew up thinking about finding solutions and having the forethought to not cause more problems.

Stephanie said...

Amen sister. We are certainly on the same page when it comes to parenting issues. Kids need to learn to think, logically and creatively. I do not think public education fosters this, but I agree that the primary responsibility lies with parents.

As parents it is not our job to entertain and make our children's world painless. It is to prepare them for life beyond the roof of our home.

Tea Party Girl said...

"Hear! Hear!" My tea mug is pounding on my desk as my children spend the morning swinging on a large INDOOR rope swing they built in our two-story entry way.

It's relieving to find other parents with similar vision because I can wonder where my children will find "kindred spirits" sometimes.

We've done SO MUCH to make space for the children to have margins just to play and create...from living somewhere with land and safety, to limiting the extra-curricular activities. The oldest is 11 and I like what I see so far. We'll see!

Julie Pippert said...

Yes, yes and yes.

Free time. A lost art.

And this is so much of what I was aiming for with my Blue Dog post. I DO believe that putting arts education at risk puts kids at risk.

I will have to follow those links.

Using My Words

Cocoa said...

We moved to our current farm two years ago. The nearest town is 45 minutes away. Because we aren't close to any movie theaters, dance studios, music teachers, swimming pools, etc we've had more time to just relax and let the kids play. It was an adjustment at first. We were all used to being on the go, go, go. And used to having other things and people to entertain us. Now the world is there to explore. There are forts here and there that sometimes turn into castles or forest for fairies. My children have discovered books and book writing, sewing, baking, cooking. I realize too that we could have accomplished the same thing living next to town on our other farm but we didn't 'see' that because of all the distractions.

Mary@notbefore7 said...

I have seen the first video, but will have to tune in to the second.

We certainly try to encourage creativity by NOT overscheduling, but we truly are the minority around here. WE try to encourage creative play and find toys that do as well. I love watching the girls during rest time act out things in their minds with dolls and cars.


Lara said...

I didn't have time right now to watch, but I will definitely go back, because I am interested.

My husband and I are both extremely right-brained, creative people and the way we live our lives and teach our children may seem odd to others, but it works for us. I love nothing more than watching my children use their imaginations.

I do try to nurture their creative interests. My eldest is very interested in music and reading/writing. So I make sure she has lots of oppurtunities to do both.

My second loves the visual arts, and again, I make sure she has the supplies and time to draw and paint the things she loves.

I will be interested to see what my baby wants to do. :)

As for the blame game, I don't really know what's happened along the line. My husband teaches orchestra at a high school and a middle school and every year they seem to add new math or language requirements that make it even harder for the kids to participate in things like music and art. The high school almost killed the drama dept. when the last teacher quit...if it weren't for the english teacher stepping in and saving the day it would be gone, and that would be so sad.

Lori said...

I really believe it's important to stay creative. It's so easy for parents to become stagnent. Creativity allows us to use a differnt part of the brain.

For now, I use my blog to stay creative. I also enjoy baking, especially holiday goodies.

My daughter is 10 months old and I'm so looking forward to doing crafts with her.

For Christmas, I'm encouraging my husband to get creative by buying him a guitar and lessons!

pussreboots said...

I've never thought of fulfillment in terms of motherhood.

As far as creativity goes, I teach my children by example. I have lots of hobbies that involve creativity.

I don't have the time or money to chauffeur my children to lots of activities. Instead when spent time together on the weekends as a family.

Rather than buying the hot toy of the season, I spent the money on art and craft supplies. We are well stocked on crayons, paints, paper, pens, felt and so forth.

The Lazy Organizer said...

"Just because there may be a lot of would-be Rembrandts out there do we really have a responsibility to nurture the humanities equal to the sciences?"

If teaching violin can create an Einstein then why not? He couldn't have been one without the other. (scientific/creative)