Exposing our children to all sorts of activities, including handicrafts, facilitates “not all doing or all feeling or all thinking . . . but, all living.” Handicrafts also expose our children to lifelong occupations and build skills needed in other areas of academics.
But, how do we achieve this with a household, or co-op, with multiple ages and abilities?
This year in our co-op, we focused on two handicrafts: sewing and painting. Imagine a co-op with five homeschool families with boys and girls, ages 5 to 15. Imagine the variations in motor skill abilities, process skill abilities, and even social skill abilities. If you are imagining a calm room with classical music playing in the background and essential oils diffusing, then you would not be imagining the room I was in. Instead, you would see organized chaos: some children working on different projects; some children frustrated and waiting for help, and some children speeding through their tasks to go play outside. Though they all worked at different levels with older children mentoring the younger ones, the camaraderie of completing a project together was a visible benefit.
All were being exposed to a new activity and simultaneously building underlying skills. Due to the wide age and skill range, both handicrafts required multiple options for the children to be successful and the chaos to be organized. Thus, we adapted the degree of difficulty.
Ranging from the beginning to the most difficult level (1 to 7), here are some adaptations, or similar projects, we used:
2) Draw pictures directly on grip shelf liner and sew the picture through the liner. This allows for more creativity, but the large holes in the liner make the spacing for the in-and-out motion with a needle clear. (https://amzn.to/3G1NXMk)
3) Hand sew with a kit. These kits typically are precut and have holes for sewing. They also typically require a smaller needle than the shelf liners. (https://amzn.to/3lvX3HK)
4) Hand sew from a simple pattern.
5) Complete a project over several days, weeks, or months.
6) Sew straight lines on fabric with a machine. We sewed a quilt over a six-week period and then contributed it to a local quilting club that donates quilts to refugees from across the world.
7) Sew patterns or designs on fabric with a machine.
1) Focus on the process and not the product. Play with the mediums of acrylic paints within finger painting, marble art, or splatter painting.
3) Provide a simple idea to paint. Many struggle with the ideation of “what” to paint.
4) Use a step-by-step painting lesson from a YouTube video for children who know what to paint but struggle with “how” to paint.
5) Use step-by-step painting instructions from a book.
6) Study famous works of art and try to recreate them.
7) Create a painting over days or weeks.
Having children engage in handicrafts facilitates the sense of “all living . . . with some manner of vital interest,” develops lifelong leisure occupations, and builds foundational academic skills. As a parent-teacher, adapting the handicraft activity to accommodate varied ages and skill levels meets Charlotte Mason’s goal that “the children’s work should be kept well within their compass.”
Now, considering all that, how will you add, and adapt, handicrafts into your children’s education?
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Sarah is an OT and home school mama whose zone of genius is bridging the gap between OT's and homeschool parents with resources to help them both thrive.