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Creating a Culture of Handwork in a Montessori Environment

Because I have been working on my Handwork Album for the last few years, I am constantly trying out new crafts. I often share them with the children, without really giving a lesson and soon find that everyone is doing them.

If children see you enjoying Handwork, they will enjoy Handwork. If they see you running into problems, and then pushing through and producing something you are proud of, they will push through their own difficulties and create something they are proud of too.

My community has a strong culture of Handwork, but I know that this does not naturally grow in every learning environment. In my last post I talked about How to Fit Handwork into the Montessori Environment and promised to write a more in depth post how to create a culture of Handwork in your Montessori community.

Last week I wrote a complete post explaining How to Create a Culture of Handwork in your Montessori Environment over at Trillium Montessori. Feel free to pop over there and have a read. Of course the ideas I have discussed there are not exhaustive, every community needs to find its own ways of working. Here are a few more thoughts to help you build a culture of Handwork in your community:

Use Small Moments

Encourage children to keep their Handwork beside them all the time so that they can work on it in small moments. If a child needs help with their work, but no adult is available, they can simply fill the time with Handwork. This prevents them becoming bored or disrupting others and makes good use of their time. When you come out of a lesson and see a child has the checkerboard laid out in front of them but they are working on their embroidery, you know they need some help.

When you approach, have a brief chat about the child’s Handwork before you look at the task they are struggling with. Notice how even their stitches are or discuss a colour choice before suggesting they put it away and show you the other work they have out.

Use Handwork to Build Community

Handwork is not just something to build into you community, you can also use it to do the community building. One of the joys of the Montessori class is the mixed age groups and the expectation that the older children teach the younger ones.

I teach a 9-12 class and we often receive visitors from the 6-9 classes who need help with their Handwork. They know the older children are experts who love to share their knowledge. They come to my class when they have broken a thread on their weaving or dropped all the stitches off their knitting needle and my students patiently show them how to correct the problem.

Let Handwork also be the basis for your Grace and Courtesy work as the children learn to support and guide each other.

Educate your Parent Community

When children first come into my class, they do tons of Handwork. The spinning wheel, loom and sewing machine captivate them. They see the beautiful shelves full of fluffy wool and colourful threads that they just can’t wait to get their hands on. They immerse themselves in texture and colour and creativity.

Even after the children have been in my class for some time, many of them still do a LOT of Handwork.

Just as preschool children will often only talk about what they ate for lunch when their parents ask them what they did at school today – my students talk about their Handwork. This is not because it is the only thing they do – it is because it brings them the most joy.

To a parent, particularly one who has not had a Montessori education themselves, this can be worrying. Without an understanding of the history, geography, biology, language and maths that is tied into Handwork lessons, it would be easy to worry that all the children do all day is knit.

Communication with your parent community is key. Send out a newsletter, have an information evening or do whatever your school usually does to share philosophy with families. Feel free to use any of the information on this blog if it helps - you can find explanations of why Handwork is so important here. Email me if you come up against tricky question – I’ll do my best to help!

I’d love to know how you incorporate Handwork into the culture of your community, please share what works for you in the comments section below.

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