How We Homeschool – Part 5: The Joy of Crafting

Crafting is a very important part of our homeschooling. It helps develop hand-eye coordination, and manual dexterity. We’ve also found it’s great for creativity and science exploration. Almost any subject can have crafting in it – good for busy fingers and visual-spacial learners like C.

The Craft Cupboard

The Craft Cupboard
We have always had lots of craft supplies around the house – but they were always packed away and not easy to find and access. So I rearranged everything and made a ‘craft cupboard’. Everything has a container (scrounged from around the house) with a label. That makes it easy for C to find the craft items he wants, it makes it easy to clean up afterwards as everything has a place. And it also has the advantage to making it hard for J to get access to stuff – they all have lids! With the cupboard, crafting becomes a lot easier for everyone.

Mr Maker
A favourite show in our house. Mr Maker has given us all great ideas on what to make – and what we can use to make stuff. It’s a really inspiring show that actually propels kids away from the TV! Surprisingly, C has never made anything exactly from Mr Maker – but has used his ideas as a springboard for his own creations.

Adam Savage as a Maker Inspiration
Mythbusters has been quite an inspiration for C. Mythbusters are always making something – usually to test an idea. He has used the ideas from various episodes to make:

Pompom Cannon

A pompom cannon – which is a firm favourite with his sister, J. This one came straight from the spud cannon myth. He designed this one himself, including selecting all the components and how they would be used. When it didn’t work quite as expected, we tweaked the design a little (mainly with the addition of more electrical tape!) and then it worked perfectly. Even J could load it, and would wander from person to person to get each of us to fire it.

Design-wise it is simple to make:
* One long paper tube,
* One short toilet roll,
* A thin plastic cylinder for blowing air through,
* Lots of electrical tape.

Tape it all together as shown. Make sure to leave a way for the air to go from the blowing tube into the main section. Tape up the rest. Pompom’s are loaded in the front, and blown out by puffing air through the bottom. Hours of pretty darn safe fun.

Toy Water-slide

A ‘scale’ water-slide – This one I didn’t know about till he was half-way through the design process. It comes straight from the water-slide myth.

He created a ‘base’ of a paper slide, taped together into one long piece. It was designed to be attached between the washing machine and the bath, with a dip in the middle. We then went through a process of experimenting and design tweaks. When the Wallace toy kept falling off, C designed barriers for the side. When it wasn’t slippery enough, we added a layer of garbage bags. And then water, and then detergent.  And then our mini-Wallace buster stand-in was deemed too pointy – and was replaced with a ball! This lead to all sorts of lovely discussions on friction vs. gravity, and what was needed to make the ball travel back up the other side. Lovely.

3D Printing and the Saga of the RepRap
This is one that is a work in progress. As an idea, it is really great, and we have enjoyed watching all the videos on how it is done. In practice, it has been a little hit-and-miss. Mainly miss. We were starting with a Mendel RepRap that had confounded the two previous owners. We had lots of fun figuring out the wiring, but then … we hit the communication wall. Despite trying with 2 different computers and 4 different operating systems, we have been unable to talk to the RepRap. So this is an experiment still in progress…

Parents as Role-models for making
One of the most important things about encouraging kids to make stuff, to be creative and confident in turning their ideas into reality … is to be creative! We try to be a maker house as much as possible. From trying out new recipes, DIY’ing around the house, to my own little sewing corner. I’ve been making and designing sewing projects for years. Some simple, some not. I’ve even been able to interest C enough to learn the basics. BTW fleece is an awesome fabric for kids to learn to sew with – it does not fray!

One of C’s Many Photographs

DH has had more luck in interesting C in his hobby – photography. He has a Deviant art page, and helps C with learning how to take pictures, and how to spot a good picture. C has started to agitate for his own art page, so it seems to be working.

Letting kids make their own design mistakes
Lastly, one of the most important aspects of crafting is allowing kids to make their own mistakes – and then learn how to turn those mistakes into a new cool design. Resilience and an ability to be content with what you have made, not strive for an impossible level of perfection are vital. To know when a mistake is an opportunity, and when good enough really is OK. This is a work in progress in our perfectionist household. But we get there, project by project.

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