The joys of teaching handwork

I love seeing the children in a completely new light in handwork sessions. Some children surprise themselves and their peers with their capacity to do intricate handwork and their willingness to persevere. This is a wonderful discovery!

I have also seen children bring the same process that results in them struggling in other classes, to handwork sessions. This then becomes a lovely opportunity to work with their habits and processes during handwork. The lessons learnt in handwork are so immediate and so practical that it is sometimes taken to heart more freely and easily.

In handwork, it is sometimes necessary to restart, sometimes necessary to work really slowly to stay aware of a pattern, sometimes necessary to sing the pattern to yourself and sometimes necessary to count. It is a privilege to see the different strategies the children employ whilst working their way through a project. Some are suggested and some found by an individual or group.

In a Waldorf school the whole class is usually busy with a specific handwork project at a given time. The power of this shared handwork class should not be underestimated – a beautiful stream moves everyone along whispering quietly, but confidently: “Handwork is enjoyable, doable, fun.” We are of course entering the stream that is humanity’s long history of creatively making objects by hand. It has a wonderfully familiar feel.

And oh, the joy when a project is complete and is just lying there beaming up at us. The die is cast – this child is developing a taste for creative, meaningful work in the world!

by Ester Ruttmann