A School Year’s Resolution

And so the Big Wheel turns, and somehow, summer is gone. Autumn is rolling up with its own pleasures: crisp apples and apple crisp, cooler days, falling leaves, and… (I’ll whisper this in case kids are near) … school. The start of school is as inevitable as death, taxes and Monday mornings.

Along with school comes the onset of The Crazy Life. The daily schedule during the school year is a demanding one. Days speed by. I know this from my own experience. This year, my wife and I will accomplish a difficult feat: we’ll have a child in elementary school, middle school, high school and college. There ought to be a medal. Better yet -- a free night away.

One of the casualties of life in the class-lane is family creativity. There exists in our country what I call a “creativity gap”. Time is too short at home to pursue imaginative activities, so parents hope that their children are getting stretched at school. In classes, however, teachers are often forced to spend so much time gearing up for testing that they don’t have time left over for outside-the-box exploration. Creativity falls into the gap.

It doesn’t need to be this way. You can make your home a haven for creative thinking. For a start, here are just three simple ways to encourage the imaginations of your children:

• read aloud. Ten to fifteen minutes a day minimum. And leave time afterward to discuss what you read together. What is the character feeling? What does your child think will happen? Where would she take the story if she were writing it? Re-read a sentence or two that had a wonderful description or used a really choice word.

• use time at dinner to explore ideas. Tell stories from the day’s events, or from family history. Play word games. Ask “What if” questions. Don’t hurry off, but linger. Plant ideas like seeds.

• limit outside activities. I know, this seems counter to parenting instincts which say, “Let children do as much as they can.” But nothing erodes family time more than an overloaded schedule. Don’t sacrifice the wholeness of your family for the perceived well-roundedness of individual members.

You ready? Here comes the school year. Let’s make it a creative one.

Bruce Van Patter

all material ©2005 Bruce Van Patter