Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Why Children Should Be Taught To Sew

Just a recently there was an NPR broadcast on the president's daughter taking a "gap year" and the whole gap year program and how it got started. A mother stated that her kids were about to go off to college and she felt they were lacking in important life skills. Well, my thought was that teaching of life skills begins at home, but...

Once upon a time life skills were a given. You did chores at home, by the time you got to junior high school if you were a boy, you took shop class. If you were a girl you took Home Ec and learned to cook and sew (if you didn't already know how).

The article below, previously published in April of 2009 on a now defunct web site, starts off with a an account of another mother, this time with her daughter-in-law, addressing a very important life skill - sewing. There are a number of reasons why children should be taught to sew, and as I have addressed the most important of them below, I'll just add that today I'm no longer teaching and I spend a lot of time interacting with adults, young and not so young, who often leave me shaking my head in disdain. Life skills and literacy are disappearing rapidly and it's pretty sad.

Sewing is not a lost art, as some have claimed. If that were so, we'd all be naked. It's not a quaint, old-fashioned handicraft. It's an important life skill that everyone should be able to do, male or female, at least on a basic level.

Without further ado...

Why to Teach Children Sewing Techniques

I teach enrichment classes part time at a K-8 charter school. Last year the school's business manager stopped me in the hall one afternoon and said she had thought of me over the weekend. Her daughter-in-law been about to discard a throw pillow because of a ripped seam. She said she had taken the young woman by the hand and led her over to the sewing machine and taught her how to repair it, marveling at how it almost ended up in the trash.
Once upon a time sewing was considered a valuable life skill that was actually taught in schools. Thankfully that time is slowly starting to return to classrooms everywhere. My second grade students were thrilled at the opportunity to learn to sew as it meant they could potentially make all sorts of things, including their own unique clothing. A few were even dreaming of sewing up items to sell to make money!
It is an easy thing to teach children to sew and can be incorporated into math lesson plans. Before we started I gave my students a sheet of white copy paper and ruler and instructed them to draw lines that were one inch a part. I then gave them each a needle and colored thread so they could practice stitching in a straight line.
Next came the fabric some rectangular bits of upholstery fabric someone had given me that I really had no other use for. I never said what they were making and they all enjoyed trying to guess. They were shown how to pin the pieces together and then make a basic seam leaving a slight allowance. Almost all of them had to go over their seams a second time to reinforce them because their stitches were uneven and usually too long. Before long they had pinned and stitched three and one half sides of their rectangles at which time we cut up Mardi Gras beads to use as filler for the bean, that is bead, bags.
I ended class a little early so they could take their bags outside and toss them around. They learned the basics of a valuable skill that will serve them throughout the rest of their lives and experienced an increased feeling of self esteem and pride at their accomplishments.
Learning to sew by hand improves hand eye coordination and gives children a marketable skill they can potentially turn into income. It is a great hobby that allows them to create their own gifts and it gives them another avenue for self-expression as they begin to embellish and create their own clothing and accessories. Later, learning to sew with a machine takes all those other things to the next level where they can create more sophisticated projects.

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