Teaching Lost Arts by Rebekah Wilson
Although it was once necessary to know and use many of the "old fashioned skills" in order to produce what a family needed and used, with modern convenience's today and the ability to purchase almost any item we desire, there is no longer a pressing need to teach young hands the older skills. Yet � have we gained from this loss? What skills have replaced the traditional ones? Most young people today spend their time unwisely and waste their formative years never learning how to use their hands to benefit themselves or others.
"There is a charm in occupation which can scarcely be understood by idle persons, nor does the enjoyment end when the time has been whiled away; for the permanent results remain in the comfort or gratification we are enabled to give to those around us."
E. Davidson, 1874 from The Boy Joiner and Model Maker
This is an excellent point from one who knew the importance of working with his hands. Whether sewing or woodworking, cooking or gardening, knitting or whittling these and many more of the lost arts deserve to be brought back and encouraged in the younger generation. Parents who are willing to learn side-by-side with their children will pass on not only a legacy and enjoyment of working with their hands, but also many precious memories that never would have been made without the impetus of learning a new skill.
"And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing." 1 Thessalonians 4: 11-12, KJV
The Bible has many many verses that speak of working with your hands for the benefit of others and ourselves. The Virtuous Woman found in Proverbs 31 is highly praised because she "worketh with her hands" and benefitted not only herself, her husband, her family and servants, but all those around her. She is a shining example of diligence, industry, perserverance, fortitude, forethought, and many other wonderful characteristics. But the most important characteristic she displays is her joy at working hard and doing many tasks with her own hands. She "eateth not the bread of idleness" that is so rampant in our modern day. How many children are being raised who have truly found the joy in working industriously with their own hands? And how do we teach this joy for working with our hands?
First we need to discern the different levels of "work." There is the boring more mundane work such as cleaning toilets, washing dishes, scrubbing floors and folding laundry. These are important and need to be taught as it builds responsibility and reliability, but you will not find the same joy in cleaning toilets as there will be in baking bread or embroidering a pillowcase. Some work is basic duty like cleaning the home, whereas baking, cooking, sewing and other types of work are more enjoyable because we are creating and putting a part of ourselves into our work. The important aspect is finding joy in finishing the mundane, which allows us time to work on the enjoyable.
And yet, the secret is, it's ALL work to some extent or another. Children who are able to get into a routine habit of always being busy, industrious and keeping their hands busy will mirror the Virtuous Woman so highly prized in Proverbs 31. Embroidery, bread baking or another fun and enjoyable skill can be and is work, yet using them as a reward instead of allowing a child to watch television, play video games or other worthless pasttimes will help build their character and truly "reward" them for the mundane tasks they perform.
Having basic skills taught while young allows our children to have a wide variety of knowledge to use throughout their lifetime � this is a hidden gift we give to our children that blesses not only our children , but all those they come in contact with.
Because we were created in the image of God, we have the ability to create; to bring into being something that was not there before. God truly must enjoy the process of creating as He has made some of the most unique, interesting and intricate things that fill our world. We have the God-given ability to enjoy His wonders and marvel at His creative genius. But He has also given us the desire and urge to be creative in our own heart and mind. The desire to create is strong in all of us and gives us an outlet for expressing ourselves, which is important for true happiness and usefulness. It doesn't do anyone any good to have fantastic ideas if they can not express them!
In the past children were taught the skills needed to provide their family and future family with most of what the family would use or need. But these skills also allowed the children to express their creativity and find joy and pride in creating something worthwhile or pleasing � and to even earn extra income if needed. Today's children have not been given this hidden gift and have idle hands and little enjoyment of the accomplishment of others. For example, you can not truly appreciate an intricate painting if you have not attempted to paint yourself. As a homeschooler, I have found that teaching something to my children and then taking them to see a master's work often helps them understand the depth of skill and the effort and endurance it took to create it. Whether it is woodworking, sewing, gardening, canning, or a wide assortment of other skills � it is worth the effort of teaching it so our children learn and also gain enjoyment from another's work.
Basic hands-on skills are something every child should know. A knowledge of hand sewing is an almost indispensable skill for the home. And the best way for a girl (or mother) to learn to use a needle and thread is by starting on small embroidery projects that teach simple handsewing stitches. These are quickly completed and the reward of a beautiful hand made item will inspire yet more interest in sewing.
Copyright, 2005. Used with permission. The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.