This past week, we’ve been cleaning, organizing and painting. The boys haven’t helped with the painting, but the rest of the work has been a family affair. One of the things Charlotte Mason advocated that needs translation to modern times was teaching children handicrafts. We tend to think of handicrafts as just “crafts,” the second cousins to “real arts” busy work often with a seasonal theme. This is what Mason wrote of handicrafts:
“Again, we know that the human hand is a wonderful and exquisite instrument to be used in a hundred movements exacting delicacy, direction and force; every such movement is a cause of joy as it leads to the pleasure of execution and the triumph of success. We begin to understand this and make some efforts to train the young in the deft handling of tools and the practice of handicrafts. Someday, perhaps, we shall see apprenticeship to trades revived, and good and beautiful work enforced. In so far, we are laying ourselves out to secure that each shall “live his life”; and that, not at his neighbour’s expense; because, so wonderful is the economy of the world that when a man really lives his life he benefits his neighbour as well as himself; we all thrive in the well-being of each.”
Handicrafts aren’t just those “useful arts” like sewing or woodwork, but also those life skills that everyone needs to know — or to be able to pay for — in order to exist. Cooking, laundry, gardening, household repairs, and the like. So our efforts painting haven’t just been about knocking something off the to-do list, but teaching the girls a useful skill.
Likewise, Bulldozer has recently expressed an interest in cooking, so I’ll be teaching him how to cook over the next few weeks. This is where homeschooling has a distinct advantage: life truly is our classroom. Every project, chore, or home repair is an opportunity to teach our children useful skills in a “real-world” setting. And trust me, nothing is quite as real as a toilet backing up.
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Simply Charlotte Mason has an extensive list of handicrafts and life skills, along with the four principles of choosing and teaching these arts.
UPDATE: Shark poncho finished!