Becoming Educated

Bear, when she was a smally, reading one winter morning

“Children’s aptitude for knowledge and their eagerness for it made for the conclusion that the field of a child’s knowledge may not be artificially restricted, that he has a right to and necessity for as much and as varied knowledge as he is able to receive; and that the limitations in his curriculum should depend only upon the age at which he must leave school; in a word, a common curriculum (up to the age of say, fourteen or fifteen) appears to be due to all children.

We have left behind the feudal notion that intellect is a class prerogative, that intelligence is a matter of inheritance and environment; inheritance, no doubt, means much but everyone has a very mixed inheritance; environment makes for satisfaction or uneasiness, but education is of the spirit and is not to be taken in by the eye or effected by the hand; mind appeals to mind and thought begets thought and that is how we become educated.”

~ (Charlotte Mason, Philosophy of Education, p. 12)

Bear’s Garden Series

Charlotte Mason, Out-Of-Door Life For The Children

“All this is stale knowledge to older people, but one of the secrets of the educator is to present nothing as stale knowledge, but to put himself in the position of the child, and wonder and admire with him; for every common miracle which the child sees with his own eyes makes of him for the moment another Newton.”

A pretty bloom
A pretty bloom

“An Observant Child should be put in the way of Things worth Observing.”

Can you see the bee?
Can you see the bee?

Marz’s Garden Series

They must be let alone, left to themselves a great deal, to take in what they can of the beauty of earth and heavens.
~ Charlotte Mason, Out-Of-Door Life For The Children

Children should be made early intimate with the trees, too; should pick out half a dozen trees, oak, elm, ash, beech, in their winter nakedness, and take these to be their year-long friends.
~ Charlotte Mason, Out-Of-Door Life For The Children

Little Stitches

I have amassed a mother lode of embroidery patterns and am missing the feel of needle, thread and calico between my fingers. Peep’s been quite the little rascal though, so I haven’t able to get back to stitching. The girls, on the other hand, have been quite productive, ma shaa Allah.

Marz went through a bit of a confidence crisis and was convinced that she would never amount to much in the crafty department. After much discussion, we agreed that creativity can be cultivated and that everyone has a bit of artistry in some form or another. We just need to be supremely patient and determined to hone the skills. With renewed enthusiasm, Marz has made a bigger effort to be more precise and exacting. Effort and creative process are just as important as the final product, so she is learning to find joy in the journey as well.

Marz made a quilted mug rug. She chose two of her favourite fabrics from our stash and hand-pieced them together before sandwiching the batting in between and hand-quilting the whole thing. She hopes to use the sewing machine the next time in shaa Allah for a neater finish, but I think this was a terrific effort ma shaa Allah. The mug rug has since been gifted to a a friend of hers — a mum new to homeschooling.


Bear made a little heart-shaped cushion for an aunt who is expecting a baby girl. This was her first major project. She was so thrilled when she completed it. “I can’t believe I finished it!” She is so in love with it that she is almost tempted to keep it for herself ;)

Peep wants to play even though he has the sniffles; Bear is pressing me to draw a heart-shape for her cushion (“It will be bigger, in shaa Allah!”) and Marz seems to be hinting that she wants me to cook bhunna ghosht … I guess embroidery will have to wait…

Redwork and other crafty thoughts

Again we know that the human hand hand is a wonderful and exquisite instrument to be used in a hundred movements exacting delicacy, direction and force; every such movement is a cause of joy as it leads to the pleasure of execution and the triumph of success. We begin to understand this and make some efforts to train the young in the deft handling of tools and the practice of handicrafts. Some day perhaps, we shall see apprenticeship to trades revived and good and beautiful work enforced. In so far, we are laying ourselves out to secure that each shall “live his life”; and that, not at his neighbor’s expense; because, so wonderful is the economy of the world that when a man really lives his life he benefits his neighbor as wll as himself; we all thrive in the well being of each.
~ Charlotte Mason, Volume 6, Philosophy of Education p. 328

I’ve just treated myself to some lovely redwork patterns … an `Eid prezzie so to speak :)

As I look at my needles and threads, I am reminded of the art lessons I had when I was in my second year of primary school, at age 8. Looking back on that time, I realise that my schooling that year had many Charlotte Mason elements! We spent a great deal of time on penmanship, reading and useful handicrafts. The crafts we learnt were not dime-a-dozen projects… rather, we made things that were very worthwhile. We did weaving, raffia stitching and even needlework.

I remember when we spent a few months working on our cross stitch samplers. The entire class had to work on this, even the boys! We were each given a piece of Aida fabric and assorted embroidery flosses. We would form a queue in front of the teacher’s desk and hand her our cloth, whereupon she would help us individually. She demonstrated how to stitch a pattern and sent us back to our seats to repeat the pattern. Once we successfully completed a row, we rejoined the queue to get a new row of patterns to work on. When we had filled the entire fabric, we got them stitched into a rectangular pencil case. (Our mums helped to sew up the zippers and hems.)

It was very painstaking work obviously, but one that gave me a lot of satisfaction. My teacher, who was NOT known for her patience, admirably curbed her temper during art and craft hour and persevered in guiding us through our projects. That was the only time I believe, that I received any useful training in art.

By the time I was in secondary school in my teens, education had changed a great deal. It was all about textbooks, exams and grades. Art lessons were reduced to only drawing and painting. We did campaign posters, still life, tiles and such and used different paints and pencils, but it was really essentially just drawing and painting. No real coaching was actually given – you either had the talent or you endured the lessons and horrid grades you received.

I would have loved it if we had art appreciation and art history woven into our lessons and learnt the techniques that the artists employed. I wish we had also been taught other forms of art and craft like knitting, crochet, collage making, stitchery among others as well. (I was terrible at drawing and sketching so I would have liked to have been given the opportunity to try other art forms and media.) I guess that would have taken too much time and been too difficult to grade for exams.

It wasn’t until I had children that I had the desire to get involved in handicrafts. Prior to that, I’d never thought that I could. After all, my grades in art were dismal, weren’t they? I loved the idea of passing on something made with love, by hand, to my children.

So, I tried overcoming my fear of failure and my tendency to overthink things and plunged into craftdom by embarking on a few simple embroidery projects. I’m not what you would call competent and I don’t have the time to be more committed, but I find joy in trying and I think that is what matters.

I want my children to have skills which would serve them well in their adult lives, skills that would bless not only their lives, but also that of others. There is a quote by Charlotte Mason that struck me:

The points to be borne in children’s handicrafts are: (a) that they should not be employed in making futilities such a pea and stick work, paper mats, and the like; (b) that they should be taught slowly and carefully what they are to do; (c) that slipshod work should not be allowed; (d) and that, therefore, the children’s work should be kept well within their compass.
~ Charlotte Mason, Volume 1, Home Education pp 315, 316.

I’ve been thinking of appropriate handicraft ideas for my children… projects that they can easily manage and which they can further develop. I’ve been so inspired by sisters like Fruitful Fusion, Kate and Umme Yusuf. In shaa Allah no more waste and creating of futilities! Here are some I’ve come up with:

  • Baking and cooking – We’ve been cooking together almost everyday and as a special `Eid celebration, I’ve taught them a simple baked pasta recipe today!
  • Cross stitch – Mars has done a few and can read the patterns well. Bear is working on a sampler.
  • Long stitch – Bear is slowly working on a small project
  • Sashiko – this would be particularly good for beginning embroiderers I think as the stitches are easily executed.
  • Embroidery – there are primitive/country designs that are easy for young ones to tackle. I made a simple pattern for Bear to tack.
  • Braiding and macrame – Mars has made a few friendship bracelets… things get a little messy and tangled though!
  • Knitting – Mars has learnt this from her grandmothers! I’m still talking about learning how to knit :P For shame!
  • Crochet
  • Woodwork – I would love to bring in a carpenter to teach my kids!
  • Beading
  • Felt projects
  • Mending, repurposing and refurbishing clothes and other things – I think as Muslims, we would do well not to waste

What handicrafts have you taught your kids?