a small shift in my thinking has happened this year. i used to not countenance hands-on activities much. did you really need to make a salt dough map in order to understand the Nile delta? or build a pyramid out of sugar cubes or (god forbid) actually mummify a chicken? read + talk about the books, look at some pictures, maybe draw a bit yourself, and call it good. i still think that’s the basic outline.
but handcrafts have a way of making space for just the sort of talk that brings the learning to life. as we set to work on our lapbooks or models or coloring sheets, we gather at the table. the work keeps us gathered long after the last bit of the story has been read. the work creates a shared experience that makes conversation easier and family culture richer.
our usual work is coloring together: the supply list is basic and the mess factor low. just now we are wending our way through redemptive history on the way to Easter with the Jesus Tree. but the children also often draw + narrate the stories again, make models, play dress-up. although i model this quieter, more contemplative side of learning for them, these are their projects. they aren’t required, but rather spring up out of their own response to the stories that we share.
often we are in such a rush to learn, that we can’t savor the goodness of actually learning. what’s the good of learning math facts or phonics? they’re stepping stones that make further learning possible. but that’s not all they are. creating together helps to quiet the nervous we’ve-got-to-finish-this-book-before-June part of me. it helps us celebrate our learning. it makes time for connections to be made. connections between all the facts they’re learning and connections between all of us.