Sunday, October 28, 2007

Why Include Handicrafts in Your Home School?

I used to work for a before/after-school elementary school program. I was responsible for planning "projects" for the kids. It was amazing the difference in the attitude and enthusiasm of the children when we did more hands-on crafts with a real product as a result, instead of the stand-by coloring pages, collages, or cut and paste projects.
I think their favorite project was when we sewed fleece pillowcases. The whole group (K-5th graders) all got into the project. Sometimes it was a chore to get all the students to sit down and work on that day's project, but this was an exception.

As I was reading from Charlotte Mason I was struck by her points about what makes an appropriate handicraft:

"The best handicrafts for children under nine seem to be caning chairs, carton work, making baskets, weaving small rugs, Japanese curtains [?], carving cork, sewing pretty samplers, easy needlework, knitting with big needles and coarse threads, etc.

The important things to keep in mind about children's crafts are that:

a. they shouldn't waste their time making useless things like paper mats, or models constructed from softened peas and toothpicks.

b. they should receive patient, thorough instruction so they know how to do the craft correctly.

c. sloppy work should not be allowed.

d. they should be given work well within the ability of their age range so that they are able to do it well and not sloppily."

Charlotte Mason in Modern English Page 315-6

I really appreciate point a. Children don't want to make something useless. The want to learn how to sew, knit, garden, scrapbook, etc. They want to learn the skills they see us adults using.

The difficulty with teaching the children real handicrafts, and what seems to deter most parents I think is point b. It takes "patient and thorough instruction" on the parent's part. Yes, it may take more time and attention to teach a child to knit instead of having them color in a coloring book, but remember the idea is to teach a life skill. That is Charlotte Mason's whole idea behind teaching children handicrafts- teaching them life skills.

When I was probably 10 or 11, my parents bought me a sewing machine. I attended classes at the sewing shop and joined the home school sewing club. Today I sew gifts, sell crafts online and even attempt to sew clothes occasionally. What a great skill, that I never would have developed without the encouragement as a child. It is hard to explain how relaxing and satisfying it is for me when I am immersed in a project. That is something worth sharing with our children.

I think what I like the best about this idea is that parents can share whatever craft and skill they enjoy. Do you like to garden? Help your child plan, plant, and tend to his or her own little plot of land. Maybe he can just have a pot on the deck of his own to care for to start with. Do you knit? Teach your child to knit a simple scarf. Do you love photography? Share that passion with your child. It might even motivate you to get back to your favorite handicrafts. We all need that time.



ellie said...

thanks amanda. i really appreciate this post. that's why i think your kits are such a great idea. it helps moms like me. any suggestions of easy handicrafts for little boys? i like the fleece pillowcase idea. i can see my boys liking that (of course, they would have to be superman and batman!)

timbuck2mom said...

Sometimes for me, I'm unsure of what age they can do things. I probably underestimate their ability

melissa said...

Thank you for the reminder. I picked up some idea books at the library today.

Flo @ Yielded Heart said...

I am not fond of making "useless things" either, but I have a daughter who thrives on those and so we do it once in a while, depending on what we are learning, or I just let her do them in her spare time:)

Thanks also for the reminder!

Barb-Harmony Art Mom said...

Can we turn back the clock? I look back fondly on those days of playing at the sewing machine, where I knew more than you did. :)

I still have fun playing with you in the you sew and I scrapbook but we are still just spending time together.

Love you,

JacciM said...

Well said! :) I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. I admit, though, that I *still* have not yet worked on the handicrafts that I meant to start this term. I have a 3 year old and an 8.5 month old, so I try to save handicrafts until naptime, but then *I* often need a nap! I'm joking (sort of). I've been thinking that I might save introducing a new handicraft for breaks in between terms. That way, I could spend time teaching "patiently" and thoroughly when I'm not actually doing lessons with them. That would give me four separate chunks of several weeks in a row to focus in on introducing a handicraft, and they could continue doing it with less of my help when the term got going. Have you ever tried this? Have any thoughts on it?

Della said...

I love the handicrafts aspect of Charlotte Mason. I have a four year old and a two year old and one that is 5 months, so I can relate to JacciM. I don't have alot of patience come the end of the day. I did by my four year old daughter some plastic canvas, yarn and a big plastic needle so I can start teaching her some stitches. I don't know what I'll do for Jackson. Is wrecking the house from end to end a handicraft? :)

Carol said...

"patient and thorough instruction" - so true but it's amazing how teaching even just one particular skill well can branch into all sorts of areas as children mature.

Charlotte Mason in the City said...

Such a great post and a reminder to be "useful" in our crafts. As my kids are getting older, they are developing their own interests apart from mine, but I'm thrilled about their "useful" hobbies. My daughter loves to bake and my son likes to make fishing lures. I'm not involved with either of these pursuits with them (other than eating my daughter's baked goods!), but I have my own "useful" hobbies as does my husband. The challenge is to remember how much enjoyment we get from our handicraft activities and to allow TIME for the during our weeks.

Thank you for participating in the CM Carnival with this post! Will you be submitted something for the next one too?

Celeste said...

That patient and thorough instruction can really be a stumbling block for me, but it bears so much good fruit--not just a skill well learned but also time together, teaching (or learning alongside!) the children.