The Little Boy by Helen E. Buckley

I read the poem, The Little Boy, by Helen E. Buckley a few weeks ago. I can’t seem to shake it. While there are many lessons that stick out in this poem, the greatest to me is how easily a child’s creativity can be diminished. I keep coming back to this poem over and over.

In the early fall we attended a play group on a farm. Each week we read a story, were given material to make a craft, and then we met an animal. The first craft was to make a barn using paper. They were told to draw doors and windows, which were to be cut a specific way, and instructed to cut the second piece of paper so it would allow for gluing to the first sheet of paper. It was an advanced craft for the age group. Gannon and Waverly listened intently to the instructions. Gannon did pretty well drawing windows and doors. He didn’t want to cut them because he was happy with his drawing. He was quickly led to the scissors and told how to cut his doors. I told him he didn’t need to do anything to his barn and if he was happy with it not being cut he didn’t need to cut it. He looked upset that she couldn’t see how hard he worked on his barn. They didn’t do anything wrong with the material they were given, it was simply different than the model they were shown.

After this first meeting the crafts were more simple and they figured out that unless my kids asked for help they preferred to be on their own. Mostly they did well doing as instructed but they just enjoyed using whatever material they were given, especially Waverly who had just begun finding her creative side. The group and the staff were wonderful and we can’t wait to do it again in the spring.

The end result should be a child who is proud of their project and the work that they put into it, regardless of what it looks like when finished. To be honest, one of the hardest parts of homeschooling for me has been letting go of specific projects like the ones I did as a child. They can be a lot of fun so I don’t think I could ever eliminate them completely. One of the best parts of homeschooling is attempting to do a specific project and seeing where the kids take it. Having an open mind, allowing kids to use their own minds, and seeing the learning is pretty amazing.

The Little Boy

Once a little boy went to school.
He was quite a little boy.
And it was quite a big school.
But when the little boy
Found that he could go to his room
By walking right in from the door outside,
He was happy.
And the school did not seem
Quite so big any more.

One morning,
When the little boy had been in school a while,
The teacher said:
“Today we are going to make a picture.”
“Good!” thought the little boy.
He liked to make pictures.
He could make all kinds:
Lions and tigers,
Chickens and cows,
Trains and boats –
And he took out his box of crayons
And began to draw.

But the teacher said:
“Wait! It is not time to begin!”
And she waited until everyone looked ready.

“Now,” said the teacher,
“We are going to make flowers.”
“Good!” thought the little boy,
He liked to make flowers,
And he began to make beautiful ones
With his pink and orange and blue crayons.

But the teacher said,
“Wait! And I will show you how.”
And she drew a flower on the blackboard.
It was red, with a green stem.
“There,” said the teacher.
“Now you may begin.”

The little boy looked at the teacher’s flower.
Then he looked at his own flower,
He liked his flower better than the teacher’s.
But he did not say this,
He just turned his paper over
And made a flower like the teacher’s.
It was red, with a green stem.

On another day,
When the little boy had opened
The door from the outside all by himself,
The teacher said,
“Today we are going to make something with clay.”
“Good!” thought the boy.
He liked clay.

He could make all kinds of things with clay:
Snakes and snowmen,
Elephants and mice,
Cars and trucks –
And he began to pull and pinch
His ball of clay.

But the teacher said,
“Wait! And I will show you how.”
And she showed everyone how to make
One deep dish.
“There,” said the teacher.
“Now you may begin.”

The little boy looked at the teacher’s dish
Then he looked at his own.
He liked his dishes better than the teacher’s
But he did not say this,
He just rolled his clay into a big ball again,
And made a dish like the teacher’s.
It was a deep dish.

And pretty soon
The little boy learned to wait
And to watch,
And to make things just like the teacher.
And pretty soon
He didn’t make things of his own anymore.
Then it happened
That the little boy and his family
Moved to another house,
In another city,
And the little boy
Had to go to another school.

This school was even bigger
Than the other one,
And there was no door from the outside
Into his room.
He had to go up some big steps,
And walk down a long hall
To get to his room.

And the very first day
He was there, the teacher said,
“Today we are going to make a picture.”

“Good!” thought the little boy,
And he waited for the teacher
To tell him what to do
But the teacher didn’t say anything.
She just walked around the room.

When she came to the little boy,
She said, “Don’t you want to make a picture?”
“Yes,” said the little boy.
“What are we going to make?”
“I don’t know until you make it,” said the teacher.
“How shall I make it?” asked the little boy.
“Why, any way you like,” said the teacher.
“And any color?” asked the little boy.
“Any color,” said the teacher,
“If everyone made the same picture,
And used the same colors,
How would I know who made what,
“And which was which?”
“I don’t know,” said the little boy.
And he began to draw a flower.
It was red, with a green stem.

~ Helen E. Buckley



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