Homeschooling permits a flexible schedule and time for children to pursue a wide variety of interests. I have previously listed a variety of “practical life” activities; these are all excellent kindling for arousing interest in useful hobbies. And, unbeknownst to the child, simultaneously foster development of fine motor skills, character, confidence, and true self-esteem.
I considered entitling this post “Dumpster Diving For The Homeschooled.” We drove by a neighbor last night piling up large scrap-wood by his dumpster near the curb. I pulled over to ask him (trying not to appear shocked!) if he was (really) throwing all that wood away, and could my sons have a few pieces? Surprised, he said they could have as much as they wanted. My sons thought it was Christmas. They hammer just to hammer. They plan as they go along. They make bird-houses, balance beams, tables, race cars. (And that was just last week.)
We have other favorite projects. This summer I taught the 6 & 8-year-olds how to sew on buttons, and this led to making dolls and pillows – for their little sister, of course. Every project is freely chosen and self-directed. My role, as parent, is to observe quietly, ensure safety, provide occasional suggestions, answer questions, and initiate discussion about the project once it is completed.
Simple slip stitching 2 pieces of fabric together, leaving a small space to turn the item right-side-out, filling with stuffing, and then sewing the gap shut… Let’s just say, I have one daughter here who is spoiled by thoughtful big brothers!
We have also done a variety of washing activities – scrubbing chairs, tables, or bicycles. Using a small washboard to wash clothes by hand, inside or out (while discussing life without electricity!) Cooking and meal-planning are also big here, and when they are in just the right mood, washing dishes and even folding laundry are learned well.
Homeschool mama Marcia has put a lot of work into a thorough check-list of industry skills that children should learn before they reach adulthood. It’s fantastic. Check it out here.
Watering plants. Crushing soft rocks and mixing them with grated soap and drops of water to make paint. Weaving friendship bracelets. Making forts out of sticks and twine. Shooting a bow and arrow. Fixing bicycle chains that have slipped off a gear. Making arm slings. Polishing grandma’s silver items. The list is as long as your imagination.
InfoMontessori has a basic list of presentations here if you’re looking for a place to start, and Montessori Services makes it easy to find the tools you need. My favorite resource for child-size safety glasses is SafetyGlassesUSA.com.
Practical Life boils down to providing young children with the opportunity to do meaningful work with their very capable hands. The huge sigh of satisfaction and glimmer in the eyes when they’re done makes it all worthwhile.