I've recently become a knitter. I suppose you could say I'm obsessed with it. I love everything about it, really. I love selecting yarns, I love looking at patterns, I love sitting and knitting. I think about knitting a lot, about what yarn might work with what pattern, whether I can do the pattern or whether it's too hard for me right now. I encounter many problems when I knit and I'm learning how to solve them. I love knitting and I love learning about knitting.
In a knitting book I was reading recently, I read about "process" verses "product" knitters. As you might guess, a process knitter really loves the process of knitting and is less concerned with the product - she might choose to knit something because it looks fun to knit, regardless of whether she would actually use or wear the item. A product knitter is more concerned with the end result and will forgo patterns for items she doesn't want. I'm a product knitter. I love to knit and learning is fun, but if I don't like the item, what is the point of making it?
A friend recently pointed to a similar attitude in my views about kids' arts and crafts. I have never been an arts and crafts mom. I hate those little "art projects" the kids make at Sunday school or elsewhere. The kids enjoy them, but I don't really see any point in a cotton ball covered "sheep." I see the utility of an activity to pass the time, but the item created? I realize that with kids' art "its the process, not the product." I understand that making the art is about developing dexterity and creating and expressing.
Sometimes I wonder why I'm a product person, is it inherent in my personality? It probably is, but I wonder how much school had to do with it. Learn something, take the test and get the grade, repeat. I was good at that and I liked it. Or maybe the reason I was successful in school is because I'm a product person. It does make me wonder about process people, I wonder if they tend not to be as successful with school because the product is less important to them.
One reason I love homeschooling is because the product aspect is removed in some regard. Even when there is an actual tangible product or project, doing it for the love of learning and not for a grade is a very different thing. So much of what I did for the first 20-odd years of my life was about getting someone else's approval. It's amazing to start doing things for no other reason than that you are intrigued by something. Really, why knit? I can buy lovely knitwear. I knit because I find the process interesting, because I like having my hands busy, because I like creating, because it's portable and easy to slip in here and there in a busy life of raising kids. Of course, first I have to find something I want to knit - but maybe I'm enjoying the process as much as the product.
Suzanne, 7, wanted to learn to knit, so I taught her the basic stitches and set her up with needles and yarn. I was just learning myself and I was very worried that my interest would be extinguished by her frequent pleas for help. I let her know that I would not be able to help her much because I had to learn myself. She tried, her stitches were really loose and not uniform and she kept dropping them off the needles. I tried to help her a little and I tried to figure out how to help her. Should I tell her she needed to keep the same number of stitches on her needles at all times or should I just let her knit away, dropping stitches and accidentally picking them up along the way? (I had a similar problem with teaching handwriting). I decided to ignore her - or rather, let her be. She gave up for awhile. But I kept knitting. I would get books from the library and read and knit and learn. After a few more months, Suzanne picked up the needles and yarn and tried again. She kept at it longer and put it down for awhile. I ignored her. She asked for library books on knitting and we got them. She read and practiced. Now, she can knit evenly. I'm so proud and impressed and relieved that my refusal to tutor her closely did not have an ill effect.
Even though I don't think I'm a good teacher, I'm always encouraged to see that my children can learn with what little I can give them. I can provide them with materials and resources. I can give them minimal instruction, but I can't give them a lot of oversight for fear that I will smother their learning under my perfectionism (just as I was afraid that my learning would be smothered by constant distraction and pleas for help). Since I can't quite let go of my perfectionism, the best I can do is step back and let them be. But maybe as a result of my knitting, I'll learn to loosen up a bit.
Marjorie is homeschooling her two young daughters, a second-grader and a kindergartner. Her family chose homeschooling without ever having sent the kids to school for the freedom it afforded them -- freedom from the school schedule and calendar; freedom to follow her children's interests; freedom from labeling and categorizing her children; and freedom from testing and homework. She enjoys volunteering with her state's inclusive homeschool association, knitting, shuttling her kids to playdates and a limited number of activities, and writing on her blog, unclimber