The child is only truly educated who can use his hands as truly as his head, for to neglect one part of our being injures the whole, and the learned book-worm who is ignorant of the uses of a screwdriver, also lacks that readiness and resourcefulness, mental neatness and capability, and reverence for labour and its results, which a knowledge of practical matter gives. — The Parents’ Review
The Parents’ Review was a magazine sent to parents and teachers who were associated with Charlotte Mason schools in the 19th century. Although I am not knowledgeable about the whole of Ms. Mason’s educational philosophy, I have found a number of her ideas suitable in our homeschool. The unique way in which she qualifies the concept of “arts and crafts” is quite interesting. In contrast to the images of getting busy with cutting and pasting, it seems the pursuit of “handicrafts” in a Charlotte Mason education has as its purpose the exertion of creativity to produce something actually useful. This really strikes a cord in me as I have always been one who despises wasting precious time and expensive resources on crafts that soon after will find its way in the garbage bin.
Thus, alongside our book work these past months since the fall, I have allowed the kids both the investment of time and resources in “handy” crafts that have not only kept their hands busy but have allowed them imaginative and experimental expression in the creation of “work” that is of some value. While plodding along in their studies of numbers, words, languages, ideas, nature, the world and God’s Word, they take time to persevere in fashioning a thing of beauty and/or usefulness. And this has definitely added to the sense of satisfaction they find in their learning. This has also served to add some spice in their endeavours.
Chancing upon a complete knitting kit at a thrift store last year, I took the opportunity and gave it to my 11-year old for her birthday. To my surprise, she took the time to learn this new craft all by herself and has come up with some lovely beginner creations.
With a whole family to make knitted clothing for, she never runs out of projects. Here’s an infinity scarf she gave me recently.
We also decided to give our Christmas teddy bear ornaments a new color theme so she took on the job of making them sweaters.
When she’s not busy knitting (or crocheting, which I now understand to be different), she is occupied with caring for and training her little hamster pet that was given to us by some friends who found they had one too many hamsters to care for. Looking after her pet requires ensuring daily supply of food and water, making hand made tunnels and hamster paraphernalia for his physical activity, and regular cleaning of his home as well as changing of his bedding. Her 7-year old brother assists her in this responsibility and shares the enjoyment of raising such a creature.
Or how about producing some room decorations by hand? Spend this time with your roommate and contribute to the growth of sisterly affection.
Introduced to working with clay and wood through his art curricula/books (“Artistic Pursuits” and “Hands-On Sculpting”), 12-year old son continues to experiment on his projects. He created some for his 17-year old sister on her birthday recently.
When he isn’t busy with his art projects from his “Artistic Pursuits” program, 7-year old joins his older brother busying their hands studying objects and recreating them with clay. To take a break from her knitting, their 11-year old sister would join them and try her hand with clay as well.
Though 12th-grader has to consider an art credit to fulfill and cannot as freely pursue her ideas, to her younger siblings, she remains to be an inspiration of someone who pursues creativity, working with her hands patiently to produce as excellent work as she can.
Now that she is almost on Christmas holidays, she’s decided to pursue those ideas and make some presents by hand.
Since the children just really began these undertakings this school year, they have yet to learn, explore and take time enjoying and perfecting these, indeed, quite handy crafts!