by Eaman Elhadri
I had a strange dream about the letter R. It was chasing me.
The night before I was stressing about our homeschool and three R’s – reading, writing, and arithmetic (which don’t all start with R; scratches head), because, you know, I must be ruining my child!
That morning I brewed a (very) strong cup of coffee and was feeling down. Is homeschooling wrong for my child because he seems…bored?
That was a young Eaman. I went through a phase where I thought I needed to ignore everything and just focus on the 3 R’s. Boy was I…young. 🙂
Watch the LIVE video of me chatting about homeschool handicrafts!
Then it finally occurred to me that I was missing balance when it came to our homeschool.
That is not to say that the 3 R’s aren’t important, but I gave it so much importance that I forgot about relationships and other aspects of life that create a real education, such as handicrafts.
Pin this blog post so that you can refer to it later!
What are handicrafts?
The definition of handicraft is as follows:
Handicrafts are different than crafts (i.e. color a picture, cut, and paste). Some people craft for a living, so I’m not dismissing crafts as something important, but they aren’t the same.
For me the key difference would be that crafts have a recreational purpose, while handicrafts focus more on functionality. Handicrafts tend to use natural materials, while crafts use synthetic materials.
I started different forms of handicrafts when I was very young. I learned these lifelong skills at home, from my mama, may Allah AWJ Bless her, who took great pride in making things with her hands. MashAllah, Allahuma Barik.
When I started college, I lost interest in handicrafts and didn’t have much time for it as well. However, when I became a mother I began to turn to handicrafts (mainly when I was stressed, but didn’t realize it then) and rediscovered the thrill of such creations. Alhemdulilahi Rabil Alamin.
Today I’m going to explain benefits, tips, and ideas to introducing handicrafts in your homeschool!
You certainly don’t have to follow guidelines for handicrafts, however I like the concepts that Charlotte Mason put forward.
Charlotte Mason gave the following principles for selecting a handicraft:
- The children “should not be employed in making futilities.” In other words, make sure the project is useful; not something that you will throw away the minute your child is done.
- Teach the children “slowly and carefully what they are to do.” Allow several months to learn the skills step by step and learn them correctly.
- “Slipshod work should not be allowed.” Encourage careful work and best effort from the very beginning.
- “Therefore, the children’s work should be kept well within their compass.” Select a handicraft project that will challenge but not frustrate.
I prefer handicrafts that have multiple uses, from home to gifts to charity.
Work on handicrafts during read-aloud or Poetry Tea time
Once your child can independently work on a handicraft project, they can work on it during read-aloud time. Our read aloud time is during our Morning Basket time slot of the day.
Imagine starting the day with what you love, and then getting into what you don’t (math 😉 ) afterwards. I don’t know about you, but I’d be more willing to start my day if I knew it started with books and handicrafts!
I guess Mary Poppins was right after all. “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down…”
We read aloud a few books during Morning Basket Time. Anytime I read aloud, I like my children to keep their hands busy.
I know it seems counter intuitive, but children listen better when they have something in their hands. They can choose what they’d like to do, but I’m happy when they choose handiwork. 🙂
The benefits of handicrafts in your homeschool
Benefit #1 – Handicrafts remind us that education is a life
Charlotte Mason (on the topic of handicrafts suitable for children under 9) insists that handicrafts shouldn’t be futile activities simply designed to entertain children. Rather, handicrafts is real work that children are taught slowly and carefully over time.
Sloppy work and lacking skill are not synonymous. You will have quite a few less-than-perfect sewn pillows and bags around the house.
The goal is for children to improve at skills, such as measuring, marking lines, cutting, folding with precision, and stitching evenly.
We can’t expect this within the next few weeks, but we should have confidence that our children will improve over time. InshAllah.
Benefit #2 – Handicrafts help create good eye-hand coordination
Charlotte Mason emphasized the habit of observation, looking closely and carefully at something. Whether you’re a CM homeschooler or not, observation is a skill you want your child to have.
Handiwork provides training for the hands to work in tandem with the eyes.
Benefit #3 – Handicrafts is an intentional way to slow down
The very nature of the act is a way of slowing down. It helps bring you back to the present moment.
You stop worrying about the future and trying to fix the past. You are in the here-and-now, which is a healthy place to be.
Benefit #4 – Handicrafts build self-esteem
Children are very happy to see something that they’ve made on their own and it will boost their self-confidence. InshAllah.
Benefit #5 – Handicrafts help develop fine motor skills
Repetitive, precise movements that are different for each handicraft are beneficial for building hand muscles needed for writing. Instead of forcing a young child to hold a pencil to write, teach her a handicraft and she’ll pick up a pencil when she’s ready!
Benefit #6 – Handicrafts build relationships
When you look back on your childhood, do you remember your math test or the time you spent creating with your mama or a special adult? I’m going to guess the later!
When your child learns handicrafts with you, that is intensive one-on-one time and one of the best ways to build a relationship with your child.
Although love can be shown with gifts, I believe love is shown best when you teach your child a skill in which the end result is a gift that they’ll have for a lifetime. InshAllah.
Benefit #7 – Handicrafts as an entertainment during the Coronavirus Pandemic
Quarantine plus cold weather can only mean more time indoors for many of us. It is the perfect time to start handicrafts, if you haven’t already.
Benefit #8 – Handicrafts are therapeutic
I’ve saved the best for last. Handicrafts focus on repetitive actions and a skill level that can always be improved upon.
According to the famous psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, this allows us to enter a “flow” state, a perfect immersive state of balance between skill and challenge.
Therapy that is cheaper than therapy – win!
Tips for introducing handicrafts into your homeschool
Tip #1 – Focus on one or two handicrafts per year
I’ll be the first one to admit that this one is hard! I struggle with this.
Here’s the thing – if you’d like your child to develop strong skills in any craft, it’s best to limit yourself to one or two handicrafts per year. Don’t worry, you can still do various small projects throughout the year. 😉
Tip #2 – Process over product…at first
It’s a good thing that process over product is finally a topic of discussion in education. It helps us live in the here and now…
That shouldn’t mean we skip teaching our children technique. This is a common mistake.
When I was in school (back in the dayyyyy 🙂 ) we learned technique in art as well as handicrafts. Today, the focal point is only on creativity.
Creativity is a goal, but it shouldn’t be the only goal. We want our children to develop skills that will take them beyond creativity.
Tip #3 – Offer real handicraft products/tools
If you offer your child bad quality handicraft products, plastic needles, and crappy fabric, they will have a difficult time learning anything. And with that difficulty will be a loss of interest.
Offer quality products. You can keep this affordable by saving scraps of the materials that you normally use and look for sales whenever you can.
Handicraft Ideas for your Homeschool
I used to think handicrafts only entailed sewing. I was wrong. The ideas are endless!
It’s a shame this life-affirming skill isn’t taught in many schools anymore-with even the most rudimentary skills, you can make your own wearables and gifts.
We love hand stitching! It’s best to start with hand sewing/stitching because learning to use a sewing machine is another ball park.
From my experience, stitching on regular fabric can be tricky. Use real wool felt or a wool felt blend to make it easier for your child.
I recommend using embroidery needles and thread with wool felt.
First, have your child practice sewing two pieces of wool felt together. Initially there will be inconsistently sized stitching and they will have trouble staying close to the edge without going off the edge.
Have them practice getting smaller stitches of equal size. Once they can do that, work on keeping the line straight.
Ah. One of my favorite things to do.
In a world where everyone seems to always be in a rush, it’s nice to slow down, relax, and not worry about creating a product, but enjoying a process. Slow stitching is perfect for this!
Don’t underestimate the ability of your child. I’ve seen focused, calm three year olds work with a real sewing machine!
Patching together scraps of fabric to make a blanket may have been born out of necessity, but it is the act of quilting – gathering the materials, plotting the pattern, and stitching them together-that continues to make this needlecraft so compelling.
Perhaps the simplest of needlecrafts, embroidery is also among the oldest. It is also one of our favorite handicrafts.
Start off with a sampler/kit OR do what we did below!
When we first started embroidery, I purchased basic embroidery supplies and we practiced basic embroider stiches while watching this awesome YouTube channel !
The image describes character + results. Hehe 🙂
The point? Slow and steady kiddos. Slow and steady.
Knitting can be habit-forming-in the best way. It’s blissfully portable and wonderfully relaxing.
If you’re already an avid knitter, this isn’t news- and yet you may still have a container or box stashed with half-made cardigans and other projects. Pull them out and finish them.
Allow your child to observe you and then teach her the steps.
I love the idea of handicrafts without tools and especially those that keep little hands busy during read-aloud time!
Here are some ideas to get you started.
Guess what. You don’t need a loom to weave! Try sticks, cardboard, or even a tree stump!
I’d like to teach my children macrame but I need to practice and work on it myself.
My youngest child’s needle felted Kabah above was a Hajj themed handicraft.
These needle felted planets were felted for our solar system unit prior to Ramadan.
The needle felted flower was a summer time craft by my youngest child without assistance or guidance from an adult. MashAllah, Allahuma Barik.
Wet-felted acorns is one of our favorite Autumn crafts! The tops are real acorns by the way.
Here is a great intro to wet felting!
My children aren’t as interested in crochet this year, however it is a wonderful handicraft for children!
Here is a (cute) intro to crochet!
One of my kiddos made clay beads and then turned it into a necklace.
I love this blog post about jewelry making!
Making a simple bird house is a nice start to woodworking!
Here are some other woodworking ideas for kids with my favorite being the Little Free Library!
This is the most helpful post I’ve found on woodburning so far. I’m hoping to try this with my eldest next year. InshAllah.
The super talented Jean Van’t Hul has an amazing blog post on print making!
We’ve made various books over the years. I love Ana’s simple book making tutorials!
The lovely Rachelle has an awesome post on making paper with kids!
I have to admit. This is my reaction when I think about wax around the entire kitchen –
But…it is really gratifying and worth it in the end. Perhaps do it outside. 😉
The lovely Jamie has a written a beautiful blog post on candle making with kids.
This moon phase wall hanging was created as a Ramadan/Solar System handicraft activity.
And if you thought the list would end, oh no my dear friend
- Tin punching
- Paper Dolls – Hannah, the creator of Nature’s Art Club, was kind enough to offer this course for free.
- Baking + Cooking
- Card making
- Metal stamping
- String art
- Hand spinning
- Yarn dyeing – a mess free solution!
- Latch hook – this cutie will teach your cutie
- Cross stitch
- Soap making – the lovely Bar from Art Bar does not disappoint! Learn how to make rainbow soap!
- And the list goes oooooooon
Frequently Asked Questions
I know nothing about handicrafts. Can you please recommend someone that can teach my child?
I’m having trouble finding time for handicrafts in our homeschool. What should I do?
Get rid of the busy work and you will find more time for handicrafts. It also helps to have materials ready and on hand. My couch is overtaken by handicraft supplies as I type this. 😉
The last thing you need to know about handicrafts in your Muslim homeschool
- You are giving your child a real gift when teaching them handicrafts that will bless them for a lifetime!
- Enjoy this time with your children. Learning a new handicraft together, even if it doesn’t go that smoothly – and maybe especially if it doesn’t – is the stuff of memories.
- I invite you to come chat about handicrafts in my private facebook group!
Looking for Islamic resources that include handicrafts? I’ve created two!
- Muslim Morning Time Menus for Muslim Families – includes calligraphy
- The Happy Hajj Guide – includes painting