Manual occupation; work performed by the hand.
Work of the hands; product of manual labor; manufacture.
Work performed by power and wisdom. Psalm 19 (KJV)
I wanted to focus on handicrafts/manual work for older boys (about 10 -12 years of age and up) in particular here but I\’ll also mention a few things we\’ve done with younger ones.
Handicrafts such as crotcheting & knitting are good for developing fine motor skills and I did these with all the boys when they were younger. A couple of them also made wall hangings for their rooms which incorporated basic hand sewing & patchwork. I found the window of opportunity closes fairly quickly on these activities so sooner rather than later is probably better.
The wall hanging on the left was done by my at the time 14 year old boy. He chose the picture from a colouring book, printed it out, and using a rectangle of calico (homespun), he traced the picture onto the material with a pencil by putting them both up to the window. Then he got some iron on pellon and ironed it to the back of the outlined material and then back-stitched the outine with double stranded embroidery cotton.
He chose some scraps to do a border around it, used the sewing machine to stitch them on; folded the border and hand-stitched the border to the back.
To hang it up you can get a slim, straight stick or rod, attach it to the back with a couple of stitches and hang it on a hook.
Teaching them how to thread and use a sewing machine had them making dress-up articles such as Robin Hood outfits, pouches (money bags), capes and shorts. They enjoyed this for quite some time – this was their first taste of a power tool.
And of course, cooking. Two of my boys are very good in the kitchen – the other two are just happy to eat. Two books that inspired them to cook spring to mind:
How to Make an Apple Pie & See the World
by Marjorie Priceman
A young baker decides to make an apple pie, finds the market is closed and so embarks on a journey through Italy, France, Sri Lanka, England, Jamaica & Vermont to find the ingredients. At the end of the story is a recipe for making the pie and one of my boys still makes it even though he has outgrown the book.
The Redwall Cookbook
by Brian Jacques
Brian Jacques is the author of the Redwall series of books which our boys enjoyed around the ages of 9 -11 years. The cookbook still appeals for older ages.
In the Redwall stories \’the food has as much a part of the saga as the battle, the quest, the poems, the riddles, and the songs.\’
You can read about him here.
A book series for boys of about 8 – 12 years of age is the BushBoys
by James Tierney.
These stories are set in the Australian bush and include quite a bit of know-how on camping and bush skills. Here is the blog where you can view the books.
For the older boys I was pleased to find some out of print books online that I\’d seen at the library a while ago but have since disappeared. These books, the 10 Bushcraft Books
by Robert Graves are available here
and a PDF version is here.
An enthusiastic bushwalker, skier and pioneer of white-water canoeing,
he foresaw how a knowledge of bushcraft could save lives in the Second World War. To achieve this end, he initiated and led the Australian Jungle Rescue Detachment, assigned to the Far East American Air Force. This detachment of 60 specially selected A.I.F. soldiers successfully effected more than 300 rescue missions, most of which were in enemy-held territory, without failure of a mission or loss of a man.
An essential preliminary for rescue was survival, and it was for this purpose that the notes for these books were written. These notes were later revised and prepared for a School in Bushcraft which was conducted for nearly 20 years. As far as is known, \”The 10 Bushcraft Books\” are unique. There is nothing quite like them, nor is any collection of bushcraft knowledge under one cover as comprehensive.
These books seem to me to be a good substitute for Nature Study for Australian students using Ambleside Online in the upper years.
A quote from Book 9 in the section titled Weather Lore:
An infallible weather forecast, if a change of weather is coming up, is in the nautical couplet:
\”When the rain is before the wind, your topsail halyards better mind, But when the wind is before the rain, then hoist your topsails up again.\”
In plain words this says that when rain comes first without wind then expect a long period of bad weather with high winds and heavy rain. But when wind comes first and is followed immediately by rain, then fine weather will follow at short notice.
Many people are trapped by bad weather in the bush every year, and if they but knew of this simple weather sign they could be prepared, and get out to a position of safety before really bad weather sets in.
Another infallible weather signal is the appearance of cumulus nimbus cloud, a foreteller of thunderstorms. While a greenish light in the sky preceding a thunderstorm is an almost certain sign of heavy hail.
As our boys became more physically mature they became invaluable around the place. BB says that he wants them to be confident enough to tackle a job; to have a \’can do\’ attitude and be able to find out how to do something if they don\’t already know.
The internet can be a good resource. BB recently found a Youtube video to help repair our electronic washing machine – he watched it and then explained to our 17 year old what he needed to do & he then did the work and saved us a few hundred dollars.
When it comes to things like axes, electrical type work, chainsaws or other potentially dangerous material, obviously the level of maturity and in some cases, physical strength is a consideration.
Some things we\’ve done:
Electronic kits – in Australia Dick Smith sells kits to help you get you started
Old appliances for the boys to pull apart
Gardening – pruning, planting, weeding
Plumbing – replaced a large pipe outside, changed washers; fixed toilet cisterns
Home renovations – knocked out brick walls (great fun; huge mess)
Changing different types of light bulbs eg. fluorescent tubes
Sanding down wood
Bought old wooden desk & restored, stained etc
Read directions for new stove & showed mum how to use it
Chop wood, light fire
Built a computer; installed programmes
Senior First Aid course at age 14 (St. John\’s Ambulance – if you have a group of about 6 people you can ring them and organise a course)
Pocket knives & how to use them safely
Kitchen renovations – knocking out walls, painting, plumbing……..
Equal opportunity – girls get in on the action
Learning how to use sound equipment and recording music
For a number of years BB and the boys met regularly with 3 other homeschooling dads & their boys and between them taught the boys a number of skills using Contenders for the Faith – a Handbook for Young Men. They ranged in age form 6 years to about 17 years old at the time and they learnt some valuable skills.
Do you see a man skilled in his work?
He will serve before kings;
he will not serve before obscure men.