Thursday, April 26, 2012

Handwork in Montessori

I like Margaret Homfray. I agree with so much of what she says in the videos that are posted on Google Videos. Remembering that in these videos she is focusing on the primary age, which is a different plane of development from elementary, she does present some really excellent information on the other ages.

She says something in one of her videos (sorry! I cannot remember which one! If you know which one it is, please send me the link so I can link to it and note the location of what she says) about the adolescent plane of development that is very striking.

Children are innately creative at the third plane of development. They want to create artistic ideas. They *SHOULD NOT* be hindered by the process of learning the artistic skills needed to express themselves and the turbulence inside them.

We have unruly teenagers because of the lack of emotional and *technical* preparation beforehand.


At primary, at elementary, children should be given the skills they need to be artistic at the adolescent age.

Yes, she says, girls AND boys should learn needlework. She explains that women historically did these things for the home; but the men (tailors, monks) did these things for the priests, for the kings, for the public offices.

If we give the children enough skills and exposure at the younger ages, anything they didn't learn but want to know can be readily picked up when needed. We don't have to teach everything, but to what should we have exposure in our homes and Montessori environments?

  • Knitting
  • Crochet
  • Needlework and/or embroidery
  • Cross-stitch (yes different from needlework)
  • Basic sewing skills: buttons, mending of various materials (mending leather is different from mending a hem) - think "what are basic repairs that can be made?" - children will take this further when needed
  • Drawing 
  • Painting
  • Origami
  • Clay
  • Music expression and enjoyment
  • Writing styles
  • Using hammer and chisel
  • At least 1 other sculpting technique (whittling, etc)
  • Weaving
  • From-Scratch Cooking
Most of these are covered in the primary art area (in the Exercises of Practical Life album in AMI) or in music (language and sensorial albums); but all skills should be developed as the child studies in the other areas:
  • re-creating the puzzle maps in a variety of media
  • design work with ALL the metal insets (typical insets; fractions; elementary plates, etc)
  • draw images of their work (golden beads lead to both geometry AND art; tower and stair in combinations are beautiful to draw and it covers mathematical principles)
  • salt-flour maps of various landforms (yes, they are doing art with the clay landforms in primary)
  • whittling (teach with soap bars)

In elementary, the children can be choosing works of art to re-create from other cultures and other time periods: 
  • pottery and painting styles come to mind
  • book-making
  • furniture styles
  • origami styles through the centuries
  • house styles - architecture - the Roman Arch for example
  • Calligraphy
  • Illumination
  • Sculptures
  • candles, soap, other common household goods - make them from materials as close to natural state as possible
  • textile creation; spinning thread and yarn; dying textiles, threads and yarns
  • beginning food preparation skills

Do not think *crafts* - think ART. Think beauty, aesthetics, function, style - and provide the very basic materials and simple presentation to get them started. 

Do not think *projects* - think inspiration. Give the basic material and simple presentations on how to use particular tools; then let them be inspired (it's ok to drop hints and there; and if something is a requirement for the child, imposed by the adult, then the adult should be right there with the child through the process). 



When we provide this foundation for our children, those emotional disturbances in middle school, when their brains need a rest and their hearts need an outlet, will be joyful exploratory years, in which the child comes to know himself and the world around him in a new way. And we adults come to see the wonderful creation that is this particular child. 

Nothing in a "Montessori" environment is learned in isolation. Everything connects in history, in mathematics, in practical life, in beauty. 

Are we starting to see how cosmic education works? 




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