Yesterday’s post was actually my conclusion, but after reviewing some of the comments from the week, I thought I’d tie up a few loose ends. Thank you all for participating so much in the discussion in the comments. I love thinking through these things together, and even though we haven’t thought through it exhaustively, I feel like I now have a better handle on where we are and where we’re going and what I want that to look like, and I hope that you do, too.
With that said, let’s take a quick look at those loose ends.
Crafting is Fun and Part of the Imago Dei
Jimmie said this:
I think that crafts are valuable for creativity, expression, and plain old fun.
And Rachel’s comment goes along with this:
However, I would also argue that crafting is, in and of itself, not just twaddle. We are inherently creative beings; that is one small piece of being made in the image of God. As such, I believe we are compelled to create.
I’m tying these two comments together because one provides the reason for the other — children delight in creating because they are made in the image of the Creator. There is a verse which will nicely frame my next point:
When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. (I Corinthians 13:11)
A lot of folks simply discard any sort of crafts as they grow older and enter into an adulthood that produces very little of beauty. But if we are going to say, and we say this truly, that the nature of the child is a reflection of the imago dei, that they create not because they are children but because they are human, then we have to ask the question: what does it mean to become a man in this area?
I think handicrafts answer that question. This is how crafts grow up. They become more, not less. They become valuable not just as a fun activity, but as an expression of beauty that can delight others, that can even delight the Lord who inspires them. They become a simple, lifelong source of joy.
A Little More on Crafts “Reinforcing Lessons”
It is possible that what stirred inside her head at that moment was her brain, waking up. She was nine years old, and she was in the third-A grade at school, but that was the first time she had ever had a thought of her very own. At home, Aunt Frances had always known exactly what she was doing, and had helped her over the hard places before she even knew they were there; and at school her teachers had been carefully trained to think faster than the scholars. Somebody had always been explaining things to Elizabeth Ann so carefully that she had never found out a single thing for herself before. This was a very small discovery, but it was her own. Elizabeth Ann was as excited about it as a mother bird over the first egg that hatches.
I noticed a couple days ago that this quote is also posted over at Charlotte Mason Help. (I am really enjoying exploring that little corner of the Internet.) This quote is an introduction to considering Charlotte Mason’s opinions on … are you ready for it? … elaborate lesson plans.
Lindafay, who was once a Teacher-of-the-Year as a public school teacher, explains in her article Let’s Talk About Lesson Plans in a CM Education, that she used to be Super Teacher. It sounds to me like she probably created the best lesson plans one could imagine. She says that she planned out in advance all that her students would learn, the mental connections they would make, and so on. It sounds exactly what I remember studying in the one (tedious) education course I took in college.
Lindafay drops the bomb on this subject:
Miss Mason was very much against carefully prepared lessons that correlated several subjects together. She felt that this made the teacher do most of the work (thinking), spoon-feeding information to the children while creating a teacher-dependent atmosphere. Instead, she believed children need to make those connections themselves.
She has lots of quotes from Mason’s works (which are quoting from scholars at the time of her writing), and this article is well worth reading if you want to think through this subject.
Since we have been talking about crafts, I want to bring it back to crafts, and crafts only, because such quotes could open a really large can of worms, and, it being Advent and all, I really don’t want to inadvertently talk myself into doing some sort of ten-day series on lesson plans.
It might scare away my readers!
And my self.
Mason quotes a certain Paterson who wrote:
Too much learning, without requiring any effort on the part of the student. The teacher works too hard to use all her training and experience, but the student does nothing. If education is made too easy, then students are robbed of the active mental challenge of learning. Learning can be a difficult challenge, but the exercise teaches students to concentrate and to work independently.
Following this quote, Lindafay herself explains:
Eventually, I realized that during my teaching career, I had treated children like baby birds, chewing the food first and feeding them bit by bit as if they were helpless in this ‘getting of knowledge’ process.
To put it in the terms I often use here on the blog, this is the difference between educating for freedom and educating for slavery. Students raised up to be dependent on teachers are intellectual slaves. Like Betsy, they are incapable of an independent thought life.
If we bring it back to crafts, when we teach on the verse, “We all like sheep have gone astray” and then break out the cotton balls and glue and make a sheep, we are not reinforcing an independent thought life.
In fact, we aren’t even reinforcing the thought, because the thought is that we have all gone astray. If a child is familiar with sheep, he will know they are incredibly stupid creatures who desperately need direction, and he will connect that this means it is inevitable that we go astray. No amount of cotton balls will teach him this if he is not acquainted with sheep, but they just might distract from the point.
In my own home, I would rather see reinforcing-type crafts be spontaneous rather than carefully planned and executed because I thought they were cute and somehow connected to whatever was at hand. On day one of this discussion, Jami expressed this perfectly:
[H]ere creativity abounds and after reading about Egyptians the kids may get out the Sculpey clay and make jewelry Or they might draw and cut-out Greek paper dolls. Or draw elaborate maps and pictures from Wind in the Willows. These *could* be crafts, I suppose. But they don’t feel like it. I think of these creations as 3-D narrations.
Let’s examine the difference here. In the former instance (the lesson-plan instance), the teacher dictates the thoughts of the child and decides to reinforce her predetermined thoughts through a craft. In the latter, if I might embellish Jami’s house a little bit, the teacher has set forth a feast of ideas. These ideas are living and active and they take hold of the imagination. Because of this, the children do crafts as a response and reflection of the ideas they are chewing on. In the end, we might have two identical pieces of clay jewelry, but one represents the teacher’s thoughts and the other represents the child’s thoughts.
Because the mind is nourished on ideas, our time as teachers is best spent learning how to help the child … have ideas. After that, narrations, even 3-D narrations, will happen quite naturally.
Purging Paper Crafts
In case you all didn’t catch it, Rachel R. had a great post over on her blog on just this subject. She is taking a more direct route than what I have done in the past, which is to say, sneaking around my house in the dead of night throwing away paper projects. I will repeat what I commented there: I think the process she described will actually make her daughter a better artist. Go read it if you have “masterpieces” piling up all over your house.
On Not Being Crafty
One of the things we learn as home educating mothers is where we ourselves are lacking. Actually, motherhood in general teaches this, but giving lessons certainly opens doors to rooms we tried to close off, now doesn’t it? We all got through school not being good at math/art/literature/spelling/whatever and now we go and decide to teach our children and there you have it: our flaws are back, staring us in the face again.
This last year has taught me two lessons: (1) Don’t let ideals discourage or intimidate. Let them inspire. (2) View known and discovered weaknesses or aversions as a lack in my character, education, or formation.
Even though I only plan on discussing (2), I put (1) in there because lots of times it is through ideals that we become aware of our weaknesses and aversions. I have spent time trying to embrace aspects of life which, ten years ago, I would have declared a complete waste of time. Let’s just say I didn’t grow up dreaming of a farm (even a microfarm) or hoping I’d own a flock of laying ducks. These things are things I have grown to love, but they are not a reflection of who I have always been.
It used to be that when I discovered that someone loved something I thought was silly or somehow inferior to my own interests, I thought that that person was somehow lacking. Now I see that it is I who am lacking, for God created a very big world, full of things worthy of being loved by mankind, and if I do not love those things, there is something lacking in me, not in what God has made.
We will never be perfect enough to teach our children everything. However, as we combat our own deficiencies before the watching eyes of our children, this just might be one of the greatest lessons we teach them. They will see that humans, not just human children, learn. They will see that old dogs really can learn new tricks. They will learn that flaws can be remedied, weaknesses made strong.
And we all build memories in the process.
I hope that, ten years from now, I will write a post and tell you all that I am, in fact, a crafty mom.
Where are you going to grow?
A Couple More Things:
Crafts in the Life of the Child Series Index:
- Crafts in the Life of the Child (Part I)
- Crafts in the Life of the Child (Part II)
- Crafts in the Life of the Child (Part III)
- Crafts in the Life of the Child (Part IV)
- Crafts in the Life of the Child (Part V)
- Crafts in the Life of the Child (Part VI) ← you are here
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