If Schooling Kills Creativity Does Unschooling Bring Creativity Back to Life?

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I love Ken Robinson’s talk but do schools kill creativity…

To me the answer to that is yes and no, to me creativity never went away in the first place.

Do Schools Kill Creativity? I don’t really think so, as I don’t think you can kill creativity. It is like a heartbeat or the wind, to be alive is to be creative. Creativity doesn’t stop just because you go to school, you can’t kill it. It is always there, in the background waiting for you to step in to it.

The question for me is does a schooling environment constrict that heart beat or that creative flow of air? Yes, I think so. But to say it Kills Creativity, for me is like saying that the sun has gone out just because you have stepped inside, the sun is there ….you have just gone inside. But it is there for sure.

When we put our children in to a schooling environment creativity didn’t even enter in to it. We came back from South Africa and put them in to an English school, the girls were seven and our son was five. They were so full of fear and nervousness that I spent the first three months with my daughters, in the school bathroom. They would go in to the oh so small toilets and I would stand out side by the very small sinks. And I would wait…

and wait…

And wait…

Then they would step anxiously in to the class and each time a little bit of my heart broke. As I knew that they weren’t coping.

They were suffering from an extreme case of fight or flight. There was no creativity going on there at that time just plain survival. Our son was younger and he initially went in to the class quite easily but it all changed when he realized it was no longer fun for him. His jumper was always frayed and damp at the sleeves from constant biting. He started the creative habit of eating his jumper, which led on to giving him a red rash around his mouth, which only cleared up during the holiday times. I talked to myself, I had inner scripting which went like this ‘It will pass they will get used to it, it is just nerves.’

They didn’t get used to it and adapt to school. It didn’t pass for them or for us. I really do thank them that it didn’t pass.

So now they are at home, unschooling.

Do schools kill creativity? Maybe the question I would be curious about is this… Is it the tension and anxiety that school can bring on that is the thing that can be so chokingly difficult for children? The constant tight structure, the need to fit in, the tests, the competition, the exams, the expectations. In the grip of fear how can anyone be creative? I am a good case in point, I went to one of Britain’s top drama schools, The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. I have acted in front of hundreds of people. But in some situations when I am scared and gripped by anxiety I am a mess.  For example in a school-like situation, an interview, a meeting of a few people that I deem to be important. I am our girls that were in the loo. I am not creative in those situations, I am closed off, blocked and I do that rabbit in the head lights thing. I simply cannot create when I am scared.

Does unschooling bring creativity back to life?

Yes, I think so, absolutely. Unschooling to me, is a creative process. It is the ebb and flow of learning, it is the chaotic madness of curiosity and experience colliding. It is the intersection where science, technology and film making collide through a chaotic experiment. Where history, art and design meet. Where you fry ice cubes. Where an aspect of maths is understood through looking at the symmetry on a butterfly.  It is where the huge uncensored questions get asked, then researched, then thrashed out, or not…

It is the essence of being truly alive in the moment. It is the acceptance of silence, boredom and learning the art of doing nothing.

Unschooling is creativity in action, it is fearless learning, life doing its thing and yes to me it is very much alive and always there, like a breeze, a strong stormy wind or a faithful constant heartbeat.


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