Schools and Education: Are We Encouraging Lateral Thinking and Creative Thinking?

For a long time, I have been wringing my hands and fretting about sending Aristotle to school rather than homeschooling him. He is a very sensitive child who can be quite challenging to deal with when he doesn’t want to do something. Thankfully, he has had great teachers who have managed to handle him well and are more capable in bringing out the better part of him – more so, I’m sad to say, than me. It has been crushing to see how much better he performs in the presence of others and how resistant and unwilling he has been for me. Nevertheless, I try to see the good in that – it allays the fears that I have had that school might not be the right place for him. And if I had any other concerns about it, a couple of incidents I have witnessed at his school have been reassuring…

The Story of the Three Little Pigs

Last year, Aristotle had an assignment at school. The task was to rewrite the story of the Three Little Pigs in his own words. Before I continue, I should add that writing is one of Aristotle’s least favourite tasks. So this is essentially what he wrote…

Page 1 – Once upon a time there were three little pigs who were sent out into the world to make their fortunes.

Page 2 – The first little pig made a house of straw. Along came the big bad wolf who said, “Little Pig, Little Pig, let me come in.” The little pig said, “No no by the hair of my chiny chin chin.” And the wolf said, “Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down.” And he huffed and puffed and blew the house down.

Page 3 – The second little pig made a house of sticks. And the same thing happened.

Instead of writing out the story in full, he abbreviated the story on the second little pig to get out of having to write the whole part about the wolf all over again. Luckily, Aristotle’s teacher had a sense of humour and she appreciated his creative way of reducing the amount of writing he had to do.

Image courtesy of Poonsap /


Working Around the Rules

At Aristotle’s sports day, he participated in the beanbag race where you have to balance a beanbag on your head and walk to a line and come back. Aristotle, put the beanbag on his head under his cap so it couldn’t fall off and ran to the line and back. When asked about what he did, he replied that the instructions were to put the beanbag on his head which he did. There was nothing said about it having to be on top of the cap as well. Indeed, it was a loophole in the instructions and my sneaky son was quick to seize it. Although I was mortified to witness it, I was glad that the teacher in charge had the sense of humour to appreciate his lateral thinking.

It is easy to get annoyed by a child like this – the smart Alec who looks to be taking the mick out of every task set. Thankfully, the teachers at Aristotle’s school have taken it in stride and can even see the positives in his actions. My initial reaction has instinctively been to respond negatively to this cheating by breaking unspoken rules. In hindsight, I realise that he is working smart. He searches for ways to get through a task more easily and then he employs these methods. It demonstrates he is thinking outside the box – a characteristic that I have always wanted to nurture because I believe this is the sort of quality that will help our children when they get out into the real world. Rather than penalise him for it and squashing these initiatives, I feel glad that Aristotle is in a school that recognises these qualities.

When I contemplate my children’s education, I have come to the realisation that the one thing that I want more than anything else is to ensure that they are prepared for life in the real world. As long as the school they are attending provides them with this sort of education then our goals are aligned and I feel reassured that we’ve made the right decision.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

One thought on “Schools and Education: Are We Encouraging Lateral Thinking and Creative Thinking?

  1. Hi Shen-Li,
    It’s so crafty of him and fortunate to have teachers who sees him at eye level. It’s a very competitive world in their generation, I agree with you that their education should ‘prepare them for life in the real world’.


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