Last year I read Charlotte Mason’s third volume, School Education, with a group on the Ambleside Online forums. The phrase that stuck out to me was “Books and Things“. In her Educational Manifesto, Miss Mason writes:
Children can be most fitly educated on Things and Books.
I’m a bookworm. I love words and language. I love this “books” thing. And I’m sharing that love with my kids. But things? I spent a few years not even knowing where to start. Charlotte Mason speaks of handicrafts in volume 1:
The Handicrafts best fitted for children under nine seem to me to be chair-caning, carton-work, basket-work, Smyrna rugs, Japanese curtains, carving in cork, samplers on coarse canvas showing a variety of stitches, easy needlework, knitting (big needles and wool), etc. The points to be borne in mind in children’s handicrafts are: (a) that they should not be employed in making futilities such as pea and stick work, paper mats, and the like; (b) that they should be taught slowly and carefully what they are to do; (c) that slipshod work should not be allowed; (d) and that, therefore, the children’s work should be kept well within their compass. — Volume 1, pg 316
Unfortunately for us, handicrafts (also called handiwork, manual training, life skills, art training, or hand training) were commonplace in Miss Mason’s day, and she saw no need to expound on them in her last book, Towards a Philosophy of Education:
It is unnecessary, too, to say anything about games, dancing, physical exercises, needlework and other handicrafts as the methods employed in these are not exceptional. — Volume 6, pg 234
But my interest never died, and I noticed when others mentioned handicrafts. I read the words of wiser mothers, I looked at lists of modern handiwork fitting Charlotte Mason’s requirements. To make a long story shorter, I took stock of my own handicraft skills and found them lacking. I picked up knitting again, I learned the double crochet stitch. I spent some money on actual watercolor paper and modelling clay. And I discovered that while I could perform these crafts with varying levels of skill, that didn’t mean I could teach them. So we invested in a few videos and, of course, youtube (after parental preview, of course).
Only one thing was (is) missing: consistency. Accountability is key to developing a new habit. A journey into new territory is much easier with like-minded friends. So I’m inviting you to join me for a monthly link-up, where we can show our family’s handiwork and discuss handiwork in practical and philosophical terms.
The linky will be posted here, monthly, on the 4th Thursday. I will post more details next week, as well as ideas and a cool link-up button. Stay tuned!