A Day in the Life of a Homeschooler: Young Makers and Young Apprentices

When I was young, I loved to make things and do things. I had––and still have––a great passion for adventure, creativity, and learning. Each summer I shipped off to nature camp for weeks of canoeing and candle making. As a student at Bennington College in Vermont, I still have the opportunity to pursue such creative endeavors, though I still felt that I wanted more from my hands. Besides playing instruments, writing, and taking photographs, my hands yearned for even more exercise. And so I decided to make the trek from the rolling hills of Vermont out to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to learn a few things––and perhaps teach a few things.

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Christine shares her passion for needle felting with the Young Apprentices.

In my time here in Colorado, I spent a number of days at The Living Arts School’s Homeschool Programs––the Young Makers and Young Apprentices. Each day was a new adventure. Every afternoon we greeted each other in a circle to check in and to discuss the activities for the day. Both the Makers and the Apprentices were wildly enthusiastic to make, explore, and frolic with the chickens or collecting firewood outdoors––or as Young Apprentice, Maisie says, “chasing firewood and collecting chickens!” The first day I attended the Young Apprentices program, we were visited by Christine Summerfield, a skilled needle felter. “Needle felting is like water color painting––with wool!” as Christine explained. With a variety of fibers, one may “paint” an infinity of scenes. Christine guided us through the process of felting a wintry snowman scene. She demonstrated the use of the felting needle and the art of experimenting with the fibers. “Your fibers may be layered or swirled to create new colors,” Christine demonstrated. When poked with the felting needle, the fibers are threaded and secured though the base material. Felted projects may
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detail to his Scottish snowman.

be used for a variety of purposes––to brighten a room, to frame on a wall, or to use in the kitchen as a trivet. One Young Apprentice, August, experimented with a variety of colors and felting techniques to felt a Scottish snowman playing the bagpipes! Another Young Apprentice, Juliet, made a fluffy snowman with a teal scarf. The possibilities are truly endless. Each day that I visited the folk school, I left feeling inspired by both the curious students and Tzuria, the Homeschool Teacher. One of the Young Apprentice’s favorite outdoor adventure games to play is “Camouflage.” In Camouflage, one Young Apprentice is appointed as the designated Watcher. The Watcher stands in the center of the hollow cottonwood tree and counts to thirty while the others scramble to find a discreet hiding spot within the boundaries of the cottonwood grove––but they must keep at least one eye on the Watcher at all times. The Watcher’s goal is to closely observe the surrounding environment to find their camouflaged subjects. In this sense, the game is an exercise in close observation from both the Watcher’s and the Camouflagers’ perspective. I vividly recall the joy and excitement of running behind the trees, through the field, and beneath handmade stick forts. To be a child again––to frolic in the sun in the cottonwood grove––is to act without inhibition and to see without preconceived notions. It is this creative vision I believe the folk school aims to foster.
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Jewelry making with Tzuria.

Each of my visits with the Young Makers was also a joyous adventure. One day, I began my afternoon with the Young Makers in a game called “Pass the Stretch.” In this activity, one Young Maker is appointed to invent a unique and silly movement that the others then copy. The role of the designated movement leader would then be passed to another Young Maker in the circle. After jumping, spinning, stretching, and rolling, I felt energized and ready to concentrate on jewelry making for the rest of the afternoon––or unless until it was time to venture outdoors for snack time!
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Soap making with Tzuria.

As a practicing herbalist, Tzuria enjoys sharing her skills and passions with the Homeschool Program––and her passion is infectious! After venturing outdoors with the Young Makers one afternoon, Tzuria taught the exciting practical craft of hot-process soap making. We began by slicing pieces of goat’s milk soap that we then heated in a large pot. For color and scent, we added pieces of rose hips to our mixture. Tzuria then poured the mixture into soap molds to which Young Maker added a variety of essential oils of their choosing.Through teaching crafts such as these, I believe that we can foster a sense of creativity, patience, and self-reliance in children and adults alike.
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Fostering a sense of creativity and self-reliance.

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Silk screening flags for our school garden.

Each venturesome day also allows for self reflection. The day is effectively scheduled to include each step of the creative process––from the initial inspiration, to the making, and to reflection. At the beginning of the day, we gather in circle to check in with ourselves and with each other. We’ll often play an exciting game or frolic outdoors with the chickens to get our blood and creativity flowing. Then we’ll begin our hands-on activity for the day––from needle felting, soap-making, storytelling, silk screening, to songwriting. As the afternoon winds down, we will regroup in our circle for tea, journal writing, and story time. This relaxing and nonjudgemental space allows for both solitary and collective reflection. Post by Jacquelyn Alpine, Intern from Bennington College in Vermont

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