Friday 27 March 2015

Learning by Hand

Learning by Hand is a monthly handicrafts link-up hosted by Amy at Crossing the Brandywine blog. 

I think the title of this link-up is a very appropriate one in the context of handicrafts in a Charlotte Mason education. Learning by hand extends beyond the more modern notion of crafts and broadens  the traditional concept we tend to think of when we hear the word handicrafts.

I think of manual arts - woodworking, metal working, iron work, tin work, carving, picture framing. Domestic skills such as cooking, making meals from scratch, managing a home, creative budgeting and thrifty techniques.
Interior decorating, home renovation, minor repairs and home handyman skills. It encompasses traditional skills such as knitting and sewing; weaving, spinning, crocheting and darning.
Scrapbooking, embroidery, cross-stitch.

In past generations rag rugs and patchwork quilts were made from old clothes and rags. One of my sons once asked me why I buy material, cut it up and then sew it together again. My Great Grandmother would have wondered the same thing. That would have been unthinkable in her day.

I may not have to resort to using old clothes to make a quilt and it may be cheaper to buy the article ready-made but for me there are other reasons why I would make a quilts.

...a Christian, above all people, should live artistically, aesthetically, and creatively.

Edith Schaeffer: The Hidden Art of Homemaking

I enjoy creating useful and beautiful things. I love handmade presents from friends who appreciate doing the same themselves.

I make meals every day and they get eaten. I clean the house and have to clean it again. I do the washing and ironing and a couple of days later it's all back in the washing machine again. I don't see much evidence of the vast majority of my daily endeavours and that's one of the reasons I love handiwork. Even though much of the creative output of my hands gets consumed, a permanent visual reminder, such as a framed cross stitch on the wall or a quilt on a bed, demonstrates an underlying continuity that is part of who I am.

Many of the handiwork skills I have were learnt as an adult but I am so grateful for those skills I did learn at home when I was a child. It's amazing how much can be built upon even a very basic foundation learnt in childhood. These skills of the hands are so important but they have been overlooked and dwarfed by the push to have knowledge.
Annie Kate posted some thoughts on skills as opposed to knowledge (in a different context) recently.

One day, one of the boys told me what a great week he'd had and then started to tell me some of the things he'd learned during that time. My husband had given him some jobs to do and he'd been shown how to use some different tools. It had given him great satisfaction.

Another day, I was out with the youngest two and two of the older boys were jack-hammering the tiles off the wall in the toilet. I got home a few hours later and saw a workman's ute, plus my husband's car next to the house and then I noticed a trail of water down our long driveway. One of the boys, who is always very gung-ho about everything, had accidently jack-hammered through a pipe in the toilet resulting in water gushing out everywhere - onto our newly laid wooden floor...down the driveway. His older brother acted quickly and turned off the water at the mains & they called Dad and he called the plumber, who had a good laugh when he heard the cause of the burst pipe.

All that to say that it will cost you something to teach your children skills. Hopefully you won't have a plumbing bill to pay, but there will be a cost in time, patience and discipline.
Sometimes I'd cringe when my children asked me to teach them something. I'd think, "mess" or "I just want to have some time to read my book" and not have the inevitable interruptions that go along with learning these skills but I don't regret spending the time I did on teaching skills.
I think it is important that our children see us learning by hand. I know that my children's interest in learning a skill has often been sparked because they've seen me pursuing my interests or helped their Dad fix something.

It’s many years since someone has taught me a skill—which is completely different from being taught knowledge—and I had forgotten what it is like to be at the receiving end of such teaching. - See more at:
It’s many years since someone has taught me a skill—which is completely different from being taught knowledge—and I had forgotten what it is like to be at the receiving end of such teaching. - See more at:
 ...for the Christian who us consciously in communication with the Creator, surely his home should reflect something if the artistry, the beauty and order of the One whom he is representing, and in whose image he has been made.

 Edith Schaeffer

Cross stitch, spinning and weaving; crochet, patchwork and quilting have been a way to express myself and show evidence of creativity in my life.
Relationship, reading, poetry and nature help fill my soul and always have, but a creative outlet where I use my hands to express myself completes the filling. I need this outlet just as much as I need the others and I try to always have something satisfying I can put my hands to.

Some things that I've done in the past have been too difficult for me to do with a large family or when there were lots of littles around.
I haven't used my table loom for years and this scarf was my last project:

I'd always wanted to try patchwork and quilting and this was my first actual quilt. I signed up for a block a month over twelve months. Each month the materials would arrive but I'd still be working on the first block. I just did it when I could and spread it out over a longer period of time.
A friend signed up at the same time and she was just as slow as me but we helped spur each other on. The good thing about this was that we were sent fabric we probably wouldn't have chosen ourselves and it helped us to think about different combinations of colour, especially when our two quilts turned out so differently. This was pretty basic and the instructions were for beginners like us:

Once I'd done this one I felt more confident to try other patterns:

JJ and Zana, my two eldest girls, learnt quickly and went beyond my ability. Their Aunty Deb was a great help and took them to classes in beading and scrapbooking, things that I didn't have the time or energy for. These were some projects they did between the ages of 12 and 16 years, following patterns either bought or from a craft magazine:


A little sewing bag Zana made for Mother's Day one year:

And this is my ongoing project. It's Zana's 21st birthday present but she's just turned 22. But I am making progress...
I'm linking this up at Work in Progress at Freshly Pieced. I hope to get the sashing between the blocks done in the next week - I'll be using the dark blue material.

Amy asked in this month's link up about how we organise our supplies etc.
I have to admit that I 'm not very organised in this department but the key for me in getting time to do something like patchwork (I do it mostly by hand) is to have pieces cut out as you can see above and ready to sew. I can take this anywhere and it's surprising how much I can get done in even 10 or 15 minutes. I do the fiddly measuring and cutting on a weekend afternoon when I'm likely to have less interruptions.

Monday 23 March 2015

A Course of Study for Homeschooling Years 11 and 12 in Australia

This is an outline of the work JJ, our eldest did in her final years of high-school. Most of it was done over eighteen months as she did the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) in May of her final year, and when she received the results from that, she applied directly to the university she wanted to attend. She received an offer by phone about two weeks after applying and was sent an official letter confirming it soon afterward.
The application to the university included:

*  Official SAT results
*  An outline of the Year 11/12 equivalent subjects she had done
*  A letter from me as her teacher regarding her abilities, attitude to study etc.
*  A list of books read - Literature, History, Fiction
*  Extra curricular activities (music, volunteer work, paid work, interests, Girl's Brigade Leadership) 
*  A photocopy of the Table of Contents from the Chemistry course she did as Chemistry was a pre-requisite for the degree she wanted to do.

This university accepted direct entries which means you don't apply via UAC (Universities Admission Centre) and you are not restricted to applying at only certain times of the year when there are multitudes of other applicants. It allows a home educated student to show the breadth of their interests and abilities - which you can't do on a fill in the blank form. Not all universities have this option and her two siblings after her had to apply through UAC.

Year 12 Credits:

Maths - Saxon Advanced Maths; Calculus
English - Literature; Writing/composition; Poetry Study

History & Geography - Ancient & Modern History

Religious Studies - Old & New Testament Survey

Science - Apologia Chemistry; Physics

Electives - Typing; Information Technology (computer based training); AMEB Grade 5 -Theory;       AMEB Grade 8 - Practical Piano; Health; Nutritional Science; Duke of Edinburgh Award

A Reading List

Homeschooling materials were very expensive at the time, mainly because the Aussie dollar was very low and postage high, so I tended to buy books that would be helpful in putting together my own course of study. These are some that have been good investments:

TruthQuest History: Age of Revolution III  by Michelle Miller 

This is a guide to late modern history in the form of a huge book list with added commentary. Even though there were many books I couldn't source, it helped to have a chronological list of living books to serve as a guide. The author covers principles relating to History, Law, Government, Culture & Art, some of which are often overlooked in other resources. I didn't actually have this book when JJ was covering this material but her brother went through it when he was doing Modern History. I've read unfavourable comments on the author's style through the commentary and her fondness for exclamation marks. However, I think the content is good and I just overlook the delivery. A big chunky spiral bound volume with around 300 pages.

Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum by Laura Berquist

Although I don't adhere to the ages and stages concept of modern Classical Education, the heart of this book is providing a Liberal Education & imparting culture and character/virtue. It is helpful for both designing your own Classical curriculum or adapting a curriculum to make it your own. It was a good general guide for me in working out what to do with our first child. I like the tone of this book. The author has a common sense approach to homeschooling a large family without sacrificing excellence or neglecting the things of the heart. She also includes wonderful book lists!

We've also used Laura Berquist's The Harp & Laurel Wreath for Poetry and it's very helpful for the high-school years. I wrote a little about it here.

Using Books - this is a post I wrote last year on how we've used books and there are some there I used with JJ for her later high-school years.
Below is a sample of JJ's Year 11 schedule. She didn't start 'formal' science until she was 16, but she did regular nature study and other activities relating to science. So in Year 11 she was still completing Biology: