Charlotte Mason Methods: Handicrafts

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When I was at college, training to become a teacher, I observed and assisted in many classrooms and had many conversations with a variety of experienced teachers about the daily realities of teaching and the problems they faced.  One thing many educators lamented was the lack of time for the “frills” of education.  There was so much pressure to spend so much time on the basics, the core subjects, that there was not much room left for arts, crafts, music, even science and history took a back seat to the Great Language Arts.

As a homeschool mom who loves the methods practiced by Charlotte Mason, I believe in the benefits of the “frills” of education.  I know that studying art and music can transport you to other worlds and help you see the world in new ways and thus promote better problem solving and deeper critical thinking skills.  The extras of education are the riches and treasures of the school day.  They are fun and enjoyable and uplifting.  Although I know all this, arts and crafts and music have been quite a challenge for me to try to fit into our daily schedule.

The main problem, when I boil it down, is all that stuff you need for doing arts and crafts and music.  The thought of pulling all the supplies and materials out (especially when my littlest one is awake and about) making a huge mess and then cleaning it all up and putting them all away again is exhausting.  I think it is important to do, but I never can quite get myself to do it.

A lot of craft supplies: yarn & a crochet hook, pastels, various beads, a loom, and a few crafty kits.

A lot of craft supplies: yarn & a crochet hook, pastels, various beads, a loom, and a few crafty kits.

Another reason for my struggles in getting this a part of my schedule is that I have never been naturally artistic or crafty.  I could never draw and I never was any good at any sort of craft (until just a few years ago when I discovered the joys of scrapbooking!) so the idea of teaching my kids to do something that I’m not good at is a bit daunting.

At the same time, this also fills me with a longing.  I am excited about learning new crafty skills.  I am really looking forward to scrapbooking with any kid who will enjoy it with me.  Last year, when I started trying to occasionally incorporate some Learning to Draw books in our days, I really enjoyed the idea of learning to draw.  So I am trying to fan these feelings and get some excitement that will lead me to make some room in our days for crafts.

I really appreciate what Charlotte Mason had to say about Handicrafts in Volume 1 of her Original Homeschooling Series.  She wrote that Handicrafts “should form a regular part of a child’s daily life.”  She gives a few guidelines for these handicrafts that I think are brilliant.  First, “they should not be employed in making futilities.”  Instead, their crafts should be beautiful, valuable, and functional.  (Amen to that!)  Second, “that they should be taught slowly and carefully what they are to do.”  Third, “that slipshod work should not be allowed.”  Finally, because of the previous direction, “the children’s work should be kept well within their compass.”

My daughter loves arts and crafts.  She loves handwriting and drawing and baking and all sorts of artistic pursuits.  So I decided, in an attempt to get us both excited about Handicrafts (and to keep me accountable to actually follow through on this craft plan), I took her to Michaels with me to find craft kits or supplies  that she was interested in learning how to do or use this year.  We got clay, a crochet hook (and I let her pick out a skein of yarn of the color of her choosing- she picked out the multicolored blue, purple, pink that is in the above picture), and a latch hook kit.

All day today, she begged to start her latch hook craft (a blue butterfly on a pink background- it is so very her).  Her enthusiasm was just what I needed to be motivated to do crafts with the kids (my objective in taking K to Michaels was achieved).  So, after school, and after her little 2 year old brother went down for a nap, we pulled out the kit and learned together.

September 2014

 

She loved it and I loved her joy.  After reading the instructions carefully (as I have never done this latch-hook stuff), I helped her start with making a yarn key and showing her how to use the tool to do the first few knots.  Then she went to town and finished one entire row.  She was so excited and so proud to have persevered and completed a whole row.  I was so excited and so proud that she was able to do it all by herself.  She is looking forwward to tomorrow when she gets to start on the butterfly itself.

She has plans- Handicrafting plans- for her future!  She wants to complete this project and then learn to sew.  She also wants to learn to draw flowers.

X-man received a woodworking kit for his birthday a few months ago and he and his dad built this train together.  I’d like him to paint it (and cover the lovely marker decoration his little artist brother lovingly bestowed upon it) and do a few more of these projects if he is interested.  It really helps to have motivated kids.  It makes me willing to go to the effort of pulling the stuff out and then deal with the mess after (or make the kids deal with the mess which is almost as much effort- and sometimes more).  What he really likes to do is draw so my plan is to draw from this excitement from today’s success and try to make it a daily reality, as Charlotte Mason recommended.

September 20141

Pablo Picasso said, “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”  The focus required when creating art of any kind transports you away from the cares and struggles of your day and puts you in a peaceful world for a moment where nothing else exists.  It is refreshing to use a whole different side of your mind and heart when you produce something beautiful.  Possessing an artistic or crafty skill can be a source of peace, joy, relaxation, and delight.  As you create, you are brought closer to your Creator and there is spiritual refreshment in that. I want my children to explore their creative sides and find a skill or two or more they want to develop, practice, and enjoy.

These are my ideas for crafts and skills they can select from and we can spend time learning this year:

Latch-hook, Wood-working, Crochet, Sewing, Cross-stitch, Baking, Gardening (if California ever gets rain again), Mosaics, Beading, Weaving, Clay, Pastels, Painting, Drawing, and Scrapbooking.  We also received gift certificates to a local pottery studio that I am excited to use and we will continue to practice the life skills that are appropriate and useful in our household.

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