Wednesday, November 19, 2014

homeschool class 2

Today I held my second home school woodworking class in a 4 week series of once a week classes. The students are working on toy trains based on a model wooden locomotive I had available as an example. Each student is working out their own ideas, building upon what was shown to them.

One student also made tops, another button toy, and s pinning Froebel cylinder and base. Another student also made an airplane.

I was out of school yesterday due to a cold, and my lower elementary school students were excited to see me back at school. I'll make up their missed class time tomorrow. I know that other teachers may also find joy in their relationship with students. To walk into a classroom of first graders and to be greeted with unbridled joy is an amazing thing.

One of the great things about this homeschool class is that it fits with the philosophy expressed by Dr. Waldemar Goetze in Leipsig, 1883.
"We must be on our guard not to confound the interest which grownup people take in these things with that of children. Experience shows that boys work with the same pleasure at objects taken from school life as they do at those for home use. The point is to avoid setting work which they cannot comprehend, and to enter the circle of their ideas. The pleasure of seeing misconceptions born of word teaching cleared up by the contemplation of real things and by personal experience, and the happiness of being able to follow instruction with more intelligent understanding, are as great as the satisfaction of making objects for daily use."
Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

in the depths not the shadows of the soul...

The following is from the Pedagogical Seminary volume IX, an article written by G. Stanley Hall,
Where work that the boy has made himself with his own hands goes, there his interest follows. His reading is stimulated; the inner eye back of the retina is opened, and that priceless though semi-conscious education, which is by hints and suggestions and which is far more rapid and indelible than anything in the memorized and examinable region of the soul, goes on by leaps and bounds. Thus skill with the fingers is harnessed to development of the cerebral neurons, as it should be, and we are working in the depths and not the shallows of the soul.
Make, fix and create...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Quentin Hogg

Yesterday a friend of mine who teaches in the social sciences at the University of Arkansas mentioned the difficulty he has in interesting his students in history. It seems that with the rapid changes in technology the good old days were just prior to whatever model iPhone you have, be it 3, 4 or 5. But history can be a source of courage and inspiration, if only kids were made aware to take advantage of it. The following story is from Charles A. Bennett's History of Manual and Industrial Arts, 1870-1917.
On leaving Eton in 1863, Quentin Hogg, (1845-1903), an athletic young man of eighteen, accepted a position with a firm of tea merchants. As he went about the city, he came across many poor and homeless boys and his heart cried out in pity for them. But he was wise enough to know that, if he were to help them, he must first get acquainted with them and, to do that, he must first be one of them. So he bought a second-hand suit of clothes, such as was worn by shoeblacks, and a shoeblacking outfit. After office hours, he would “sally forth to earn a few pence by holding horses, blacking boots, or performing any odd jobs that came his way.” “He used to get home in time for breakfast, and, for some time, Sir James (his father) knew nothing of the two or three nights a week when his son supped on ‘pigs trotters’ or ‘tripe and onions’ off a barrow, and spent the night curled up in a barrel, under a tarpaulin or on a ledge in the Adelphi Arches, learning to know the boys he meant to rescue, making their life his life, their language his language, in the hopes of changing their lives.”
Hogg went on to found one of the first Polytechnic institutes based upon his experience earned as a shoeblack, part time of course as he also became wealthy in the tea trade.

In the shop  I have 120 boxes packed and ready to be shipped by UPS.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, November 16, 2014


This morning I was reading in Charles A. Bennett's History of Manual and Industrial Arts, 1870-1917 about the manual arts training movement in Germany. My reading in that direction was inspired by hearing from a manual arts (woodworking) teacher in New Zealand, who grew up in Leipzig and was familiar with some Sloyd models and with Froebel's Gifts. Leipzig was ground zero for the manual arts movement in Germany. But it was also a destination for British and American bombers during WWII so it is unlikely that the Training College for Teachers as shown in the photo above still exists.

Much of the movement at Leipzig revolved around Waldemar Goetze, and Der deusche Verein für Knabenhandarbeit, the German Association for Boy's Handwork. We need something similar today in the US, but for all children, not just boys.

I have been nursing a head cold (a thing that seems to have swept through school) and packing boxes for shipment to Little Rock prior to a big event that requires corporate gifts. (I will reveal no surprises before the time comes.)

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Gift 5 B

I am working on Froebel's gift 5 B. It involves half rounds (12) and cove cut blocks (8) used to form Romanesque architectural forms, columns and arches, in addition to  12 cubes and 12 quarter cubes. You can see that gifts in the 5 and 6 series are larger and more complex. This particular chapter will have 3 different sets of blocks, gifts 5, 5b and 6, each of which can be made either with hand tools as made by Froebel or with power tools, as were made by Milton Bradley and other kindergarten supply manufacturers. The cove cut block in the photo above was cut with a gouge and the half-round formed with a router, though it, too, would have been made with simpler tools in Froebel's day.

In either case, the idea here is that parents and grandparents might make the gifts for their own children, and that they, knowing the benefits of Froebel's Kindergarten would begin to expect much more from public education. Knowing where Kindergarten once fit in the education of our nation's children, educators and parents also are led to understand where manual arts fit in, and why they remain important to our kids. At Clear Spring School kids love wood shop.

If our preference is to develop a society of mindless consumers, by all means we are on the right track. But if we hope that our nation might be something more than that and that our children get the benefits of mind and character that engagement in creating useful beauty can provide, perhaps going back to Kindergarten would be the coarse we would choose for ourselves and our kids. A truly meaningful educational experience would start with what we can learn in Kindergarten and build from progressively following the theory of educational Sloyd: from the known to the unknown, from the easy to more difficult, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract, and all starting with the interests of the child.

According to the essay "Kindergarten Culture" in the Paradise of Childhood,
"Definite ideas are to originate as abstractions from perceptions. (Anshauungen, as the Germans say, meaning literally the looking at or into things.) If they do not originate in such manner they are not the product of one's own mental activity, but simply the consent of the understanding to the ideas of others. By far the greatest part of all acquired knowledge with the mass of the people, is of this kind. Everyone, however, even the least gifted, may acquire a stock of fundamental perceptions, which shall serve as points of relation in the process of thinking."
So what is truly involved when a child is engrossed in the process of making a beautiful and useful object, or an adult, for that matter, spends time in the wood shop? Are we not aligning ourselves (even if unconsciously) with the most basic human impulse? that to:

Make, fix and create...

Friday, November 14, 2014

amazing dunderheads

As some of you may remember, I have been trying to stop a 345 kV extra high voltage power line from being built through our scenic village in the Ozarks. The application by SWEPCO and the Southwest Power Pool has been delayed for months due to our opposition and to us having proved that they failed in proving need. The power company must be granted what is called a CECPN, or Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need in order to be awarded the power of eminent domain to destroy our lands.

Despite the delay, AEP, the corporate mother ship of SWEPCO is now claiming on their website that the CECPN has been granted by the Arkansas Public Service Commission. Either they are lying to impress investors, or they are true and most amazing dunderheads. In order to witness their stupidity, go to this site, and click where it says "Shipe Road - Kings River Transmission Project." The ill-conceived project is intended as a means to carry windpower eastward to the TVA, but is being rationalized as providing "reliability" to the local area, even though it would provide 4 times the power we currently use.

In the meantime, I am preparing to ship orders, cleaning the wood shop, and returning to my work making, photographing and writing about making Froebel's Gifts.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, November 13, 2014


At the Clear Spring School, students are studying weather and meteorology. In science lab they have been making various instruments and testing various soils, sand, water, and soil covered by fake snow to record the amount of solar radiation they absorb from heat lamps.

In wood shop, we've been making hygrometers based on the difference in expansion and contraction of wood, long-grain vs. cross-grained. The idea is that if you glue cross grained wood to a strip of thinner long grained wood, it will flex as it expands and contracts, acting like a needle on a dial. The woods used (elm and walnut) are very responsive to changes in relative humidity. One of my students noted, "mine's all bent." "It is supposed to be," I assured her.

As the relative humidity climbs, the assembled piece straightens or may even curve upwards. As the humidity falls due to changes of weather, or due to heating or AC, the  "needle" will curve downward. By using a professional level hygrometer to do our calibration, we will have made some useful instruments and will have demonstrated a property of wood: that it expands and contracts in response to changes in relative humidity across the grain, but not in length. That is a crucial thing to remember when designing furniture or even boxes from solid wood.

Make, fix and create...