During our first quarter in this new Covid-19 school year we have had our handwork lessons online. With all things new there are always blessings and challenges. One of the challenges of doing handwork at home is keeping our materials organized. Many children have the added challenge of bringing their materials back and forth between two parents’ houses. This quarter my students have been creating hand sewn and embroidered, zippered handwork bags. The unique hand-crafted bags will create a special safe place for our handwork supplies for years to come. In Waldorf education the handwork curriculum is a fundamental cornerstone of learning. Through careful planning, design, and follow through with each step of our projects our students are building their will forces. A sense of accomplishment comes with the completion of each intricate piece. The use of color and natural materials fosters a deep inner sense of beauty. Fine motor skills, eye hand coordination, and connection between the left and right side of the brain are all strengthened. But as I reflect upon our students and their experience of this strange and unusual pandemic era we are currently living in; one particular blessing has become bright and clear. Nearly every time we pick up our handwork projects there are challenges to face and decisions to make. Threads will get tangled, knots will gnarl, and stitches will snag. But the question is, what will you do about it?
As Robert Frost said, “The only way out is through”. Handwork provides an opportunity to practice patience, focus, problem solving, and perseverance. We have an opportunity with every tangle to pause and take a deep look at each individual thread we have stitched. Where did it come from? Where is it going? Is this stitch what I had intended? How can I back up, untangle, and try again?
Teaching online has also given me a unique opportunity to reflect on how much I actually HELP the children. Now that we are online, I am not able to reach through the screen and untangle a knot for my students. But what I can do is teach my students to believe in themselves, to believe in their own power to untangle any knot that life may bring. It was hard at first. But now I see that for many children, distance learning has given them a newfound sense of self-confidence.
Handwork is about fostering initiative. We never give up! We breathe deep, and we work our way through it. And when the tangle is at last smoothed the feeling of triumphant joy reminds us all: there is nothing we cannot do if we truly put our hearts into it!