Happy New Year from Right At School!

Happy New Year from Right At School!

…and how did I completely miss 2012?  Are the years going faster as our kids (and we) get older?

And while I am at it, when we were in elementary school, didn’t the time between Christmas and New Years last longer?  Didn’t it seem like weeks between the holidays?  Today not only am I back at work, but I’m already behind schedule.  Yikes!  Time has simply sped up for me as an adult.  How about for you?

Fortunately, time is still rolling a bit slower for my kids this winter break.  The older boys do seem to spend a lot time sleeping, and my daughter may spend a bit too much of her extra time watching TV, but I’m sure my folks said the same about me.  Right mom?

The good news is I also am noticing that the kids are getting a bit more creative during the break; a bit more inventive. Pillow forts are built, stories are told, crafts are created, and it all happens at a slower pace.

It’s not surprising.

During the school year, time is tightly controlled.  Our school days are short, and there are too few opportunities to allow children to work at their own pace. Children are regularly pulled out of their concentration in order to move on to whatever is planned to be next.

While this may be a useful time management technique for the school day, it constrains exploration and engagement.  It constrains creativity.

In their now twenty year old book called The Creative Spirit, authors Daniel Goleman, Paul Kaufman and Michael Ray argue that one of the greatest creativity killers is a lack of time.  More so than adults, children often enter that creative state called flow.  You’ve probably seen “the flow” in your kids at one point or another—when time doesn’t seem to matter, when there is only the moment or project at hand.  I’ve seen my own daughter in this state plenty of times—usually when we are late and need to be somewhere else.

Unfortunately, while children flourish in the flow, we adults don’t let them stay there for very long—certainly not during the school day, where deep concentration is neither rewarded nor afforded.   In our Right At School classes we try to give space for this, but even this can be tough.

At home we all really need to learn to let go.   Give kids some paints or clay or whatever it is and let them be.   When they’re bored they’ll stop, but when they get in the flow we need to do our best to let them stay there, rather than rushing on to something else.

Here’s a couple of tips to extend the flow:

  • Put on classic music or jazz in the background while kids are working on projects.  This seems to both put them in the flow more readily and keep them there longer.
  • Create projects for your children that are just a tad more challenging than they’re used to. Too easy and they get bored; too hard and they become frustrated.  We’re big fans of puzzles and games from Marbles The Brain Store and projects and crafts from Dick Blick Art Supplies
  • Keep a box of art supplies nearby and regularly switch out supplies so it is always a surprise what is in there.
  • If a child too quickly says they’re bored or wants to move on to one type of screen or another, let them—but before they leave their project, give them two projects to choose from “for next time.”  This often leads to brand new energy and drive for the moment at hand.

What ideas have you have found to be successful?   Let us know!  And in the meantime, happy new year.

Have a great 2012  2013.

Mark Rothschild

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