I used to work for a before/after-school elementary school program. I was responsible for planning "projects" for the kids. It was amazing the difference in the attitude and enthusiasm of the children when we did more hands-on crafts with a real product as a result, instead of the stand-by coloring pages, collages, or cut and paste projects. I think their favorite project was when we sewed fleece pillowcases. The whole group (K-5th graders) all got into the project. Sometimes it was a chore to get all the students to sit down and work on that day's project, but this was an exception.
As I was reading from Charlotte Mason I was struck by her points about what makes an appropriate handicraft:
"The best handicrafts for children under nine seem to be caning chairs, carton work, making baskets, weaving small rugs, Japanese curtains [?], carving cork, sewing pretty samplers, easy needlework, knitting with big needles and coarse threads, etc.
The important things to keep in mind about children's crafts are that:
a. they shouldn't waste their time making useless things like paper mats, or models constructed from softened peas and toothpicks.
b. they should receive patient, thorough instruction so they know how to do the craft correctly.
c. sloppy work should not be allowed.
d. they should be given work well within the ability of their age range so that they are able to do it well and not sloppily."
Charlotte Mason in Modern English Page 315-6
I really appreciate point a. Children don't want to make something useless. The want to learn how to sew, knit, garden, scrapbook, etc. They want to learn the skills they see us adults using.
The difficulty with teaching the children real handicrafts, and what seems to deter most parents I think is point b. It takes "patient and thorough instruction" on the parent's part. Yes, it may take more time and attention to teach a child to knit instead of having them color in a coloring book, but remember the idea is to teach a life skill. That is Charlotte Mason's whole idea behind teaching children handicrafts- teaching them life skills.
When I was probably 10 or 11, my parents bought me a sewing machine. I attended classes at the sewing shop and joined the home school sewing club. Today I sew gifts, sell crafts online and even attempt to sew clothes occasionally. What a great skill, that I never would have developed without the encouragement as a child. It is hard to explain how relaxing and satisfying it is for me when I am immersed in a project. That is something worth sharing with our children.
I think what I like the best about this idea is that parents can share whatever craft and skill they enjoy. Do you like to garden? Help your child plan, plant, and tend to his or her own little plot of land. Maybe he can just have a pot on the deck of his own to care for to start with. Do you knit? Teach your child to knit a simple scarf. Do you love photography? Share that passion with your child. It might even motivate you to get back to your favorite handicrafts.
***************If you have trouble including handicrafts is your homeschool, I have put together kits to help you. All the materials and instructions are gathered together in one convenient kit for you to share with your children. I am actually even currently having a sale for my lastest kit. For more info see my posts here and here.