Since we began unschooling, my appreciation for creativity has grown immeasurably. Starting out, I thought creativity was great for artists, yet not particularly useful beyond that. Over the years I came to see how valuable it is to have a creative approach to life, and that unschooling is a wonderful way to help children retain their creativity. I think children are naturally creative, but that many of our conventional parenting and teaching practices discourage its use.
Let’s look at creativity from some different perspectives.
We’ll start with the obvious visual and performance arts. With the conventional focus in childhood on right and wrong, judgment often funnels young artists into the “box.” The adult reactions to blue trees, dissonant chords, and new dance moves often send the message to young artists that their imagination should stay firmly within the bounds of reality and convention.
One of my daughter’s favorite quotes is from Walt Disney,
“Every child is born blessed with a vivid imagination. But just as a muscle grows flabby with disuse, the bright imagination of a child pales in later years if he ceases to exercise it.”
With unschooling, a child is free, and encouraged, to follow their own path of engagement with the creative arts. That can be a very individual dance. At times they may be exploring the techniques, experiences, and ideas of other artists, both directly in their field of interest and beyond. And at other times, they may be pulling inward, connecting those thoughts to their own understanding, letting their imagination percolate and play. Unschooling parents are partners in this dance, sharing their thoughts and perspectives, while being careful not to fall into judgment, artificially restricting their child’s playground – their imagination.
Analyzing Situations and Creative Solutions
A “yes/no answer,” followed up with “because I said so,” is often the quickest way to move on in the moment, but there isn’t much learning or creative thinking happening there. One of the things that makes unschooling more time consuming is that rather than perpetuating the black and white distinction of right/wrong, we spend time looking at situations from various angles. In many everyday moments, there are other possible paths to take beyond “yes” to one person, “no” to the other. It’s possible that the needs of everyone involved be accommodated – it just takes some creative thinking to figure out how.
Analyzing situations is about finding the real parameters and exploring the needs of those involved. From there, our minds can dance through the possibilities. Paths don’t need to be as the crow flies—sometimes efficiency isn’t the most important goal. That’s where original thinking shines!
Sometimes I’m a bit stunned by how little creativity many adults put into their thinking. When a question or issue arises, they think of the typical answer and stop there. Anything outside the conventional has too much risk associated — they crave the comfort of the box. They can’t see the possibilities a bit further down the path, the tangible opportunities that may grow out of an unconventional experience.
Imagine how useful these skills will be in adulthood! Being able to analyze situations and think creatively will help them in many ways, from discovering obscure yet rewarding paths to meet their own goals, to working with team members and finding unique ways to meet their company’s business goals, to exploring the possibilities of life with their own children. Are you finding your journey to unschooling is flexing your creative thinking muscles?
I am still amazed at how rich and fulfilling learning is, off the conventional path. When I started my unschooling journey, I was just beginning to glimpse the learning that can happen outside the school system. Over the years, that glimpse has shown me the rich and diverse landscape that learning can be. Unschoolers explore the world through their interests and passions, reaching out and connecting, learning, and growing. This real learning is understood and remembered, appreciated and enjoyed, and most often it’s fun! And it’s all around us.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Life is full of challenges. Yet unschooling helps young people discover the things they are so interested in that setbacks, even though disappointing, aren’t major deterrents. Instead, they are pieces of information that can be used to tweak their course. With unschoolers, their internal motivation is often extraordinary.
Over the years, I’ve seen unschoolers take so many different paths to learning things, to finding a place in the adult world. As unschooling teens dig into their interests and passions, they find communities and make connections, whether face-to-face or online. Even when they dip into more conventional learning tools, like college, they come at it from an entirely different perspective because they are there by choice. They want to learn, not just get a degree. Not only do their unique learning experiences and passion for their field come across in their resume, but their excitement for their field of interest often means they are sought after by others as passionate as they are. Watching unschoolers move into the adult world is so interesting!
I have come to treasure the creativity that unschooling nurtures. Giving the priority, space, and time to cultivate the perspective of being open-minded, seeing possibilities, thinking for themselves and seeing what happens, allows life to play out in marvelous ways time and again.
Excerpt from Life through the Lens of Unschooling: A Living Joyfully Companion
Pam Laricchia left her career as an engineer and happily began unschooling her three children in 2002. Watching them explore their interests and passions not only brings her joy, it has also been an incredible learning experience. Pam has written about unschooling for years including her books, Free to Learn, Free to Live and Life through the Lens of Unschooling.