28/01/2016 10:15 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

Back To School: Should We Encourage Our Kids To Be More Creative?

Boy blowing dandelion clock
Brand New Images via Getty Images
Boy blowing dandelion clock

When my twins started school back in 2006, I promised myself that I'd nurture their creativity as much as I'd help them with the academic subjects. Those first few years of school were pretty stress-free -- the boys would greet me at the school gate with treasured pieces of art; ranging from finger painting to experimental aboriginal art.

A more experienced mother warned me: "Treasure those primary school paintings because, the older they get, the less art work they're given."

As the years went by, the cute poems, the stencil art, the jewellery made from gumnuts and pasta disappeared. There was the occasional self-portrait attempted with lead pencil but instead of being greeted at the school gate with art work, by Year 6 they were well and truly catapulted into the world of 'real school', which seemed to place more reward on being academic than being arty.

So I made a huge mistake. I hired maths tutors and encouraged my boys to improve their grades, rather than explore their more artistic side.

Which is more important? Do we value the brainiacs more than we value the artists? Or is it simply a matter of letting your child be him or herself, no matter what?

Recently I interviewed technology pioneer, entrepreneur and scientist Nolan Bushnell, who's determined to help turn the concept of education on its head.

"We have to get rid of the industrial processing of our children. There should be no grades in schools. Grades crush creativity," Bushnell said.

"The whole idea of grades in school classrooms is so industrial that it causes a whole range of problems for our children. They need to learn at their own speed."

Once kids get to high school, most mainstream schools don't allow for creativity. Sure, there are art classes, music classes, jewellery making and woodworking at my son's school. But the emphasis is on the 'real classes': math, science, geography, history.

Creativity is smashed out of most students by an explosion that leaves invisible scars. So, as our little darlings scuttle back to school again, this is my poem for those students, and for the parents, who, like me, allow it to happen.

Box Of Paints

When you were small

I gave you a box of paints.

You loved finger painting

dragons, swords & men

in red castles.

But I took them away from you.


I gave you lead pencils and

soulless pens.

And now you're in high school.

You hate the text books,

the computers,

the algebra & the science lab.

Your soul sinks as they mock you

"Let's see you get creative now!" they whisper

as their laughter burns holes

into your heart.

So now I'm giving you back

your dragons

your swords and

your men in red castles

Here's your box of paints.