What Charlotte Mason had to say about handwork was...
- The end-product should be useful. The children should not “be employed in making futilities such as pea and stick work, paper mats, and the like.”
- Teach the children “slowly and carefully what they are to do.”
- Emphasize the habit of best effort. “Slipshod work should not be allowed.”
- Carefully select handicrafts and life skills to challenge but not frustrate. “The children’s work should be kept well within their compass.”
(taken from Home Education, p. 315)
The point of handwork is not simply to keep children busy. It is not crafts as we know it. It is something bigger- the ability to employ body (using one's hands), mind (planning and implementing the method, using focused attention, practicing coordination) and soul (thinking of how one's work will make the home more beautiful or thinking of whom they will give their work to as a gift of love).
I have kept a running list of the handicrafts we have experienced in our homeschooling over the years. Some of our best afternoons have been spent busily working on our handicrafts as a family!
wet-on-wet watercolor painting
making salt dough
nature sketching with pencil
practicing handwriting and cursive
It is so easy to let this part of our education fall to the wayside in favor of making more time for 'real academics' like math, writing, grammar, literature and the like. But I must remember that there is more to education than these and really stay true to the philosophy of Charlotte Mason when it comes to spending weekly time with handwork, folk songs, hymns, artist study and foreign language.
I hope this post has inspired you as much as it has re-inspired me!