Saturday, January 25, 2020

simple progress

We're making progress in organizing the new Clear Spring School woodworking studio and clearing out the old space for it to be assigned to other use. We hope to be out of the old shop next week.

We had a very pleasant book signing this week for Not Dead Yet. Despite it being a rainy, cold night, a number of copies were sold and signed by the authors attending.

I showed some of my students this video: and now they all want to be youtube stars. They want me to do some more brief videos. Perhaps that can happen if they can work quietly while the camera is at work. In the meantime, some of my younger students are excited to learn how to use various tools for the first time, and to be trusted to do so.

My new to unreleased guide to woodworking with kids is now in layout and the first draft is nearly complete.

Make, fix and create.

Monday, January 20, 2020


Yesterday as we were finishing up our box making class at ESSA, students gathered tightly around my workbench to assist, encourage, and share tools. I was reminded of my first, second and third grade students doing exactly the same thing.

Schools regiment learning. Learning at its best is not regimented. It is responsive to the needs and interests of the individual. That's what public school administrators could learn if they were to attend one of my adult woodworking classes.

I was worried at the beginning of the day that my students would not arrive at the point of putting hinges on their boxes. But they did. Each had hinges, and check chains installed and a bit of finish applied. It was a great class with each student learning, applying personal creativity and helping each other.

I'd walk into the room and hear them laughing with each other. All schooling could be like that, and the expression of joy should be one of the most important measures of educational success.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

day 3

We are ready for day 3 of an adult box making class at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. We've made small lift lid boxes, larger lift lid boxes, and today will make hinged boxes with floating panel tops.

The photo shows play with pulls.

On Jan 22 the local contributors to Not Dead Yet will gather at Brews for a 6 PM book signing and to offer readings from the book. Like most of my writing, I offer some how-to. In this particular case, the how-to is not about making things, but about making a better life.

What we learn in life is more meaningful, more effective and more fun than being "schooled." And that raises the important question, "how can we make education more meaningful, more effective and fun?" Real life offers the solution. At the new Phyllis Poe Hands-On Learning Center at the Clear Spring School, we have cooking, sewing, woodworking, dance and art, each of which engage our students in real life.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

at work in the new studio

Yesterday we began woodworking classes in the new Clear Spring School woodworking studio. The larger space gives us better organization with will lead to greater learning. It is a very happy place, complete with an elf door made from clay by a friend, Karen Overgaard. The elf door is to assist entry of creative spirit into the wood shop. Will it work? Of course.

I thank assistant Curtis and maintenance supervisor Jeremy, for helping with the move.

Better organization will also make things easier for me. Today I'll have Kindergarten students and upper and lower middle school classes.

I'm grieving the loss of a very good friend Michael, to pancreatic cancer. I'm thankful to have had time this summer to visit with him, share and express our love for each other, and to have had the opportunity to make a box to hold his ashes. Michael's plan, worked out with his grandsons and granddaughters is that when his ashes are buried, the box will become the place where dad jokes are kept. I hope that some of my love will be held there as well. Whether open or closed, a box we make with our hands, can express things.

I'm preparing for a three day box making class at ESSA that starts this Friday. Seven students are enrolled and due to last minute cancellations, there's room for two more. Join us. You can register at

Make, fix, and create.

Friday, January 10, 2020

the relevance of sloyd

Yesterday I met with staff at the Clear Spring School and mentioned Sloyd, the system of woodworking education from which I draw inspiration. I also received notice concerning a paper published in Sweden by Marcus Samuelson on following and leading in a Sloyd Classroom.

When Educational Sloyd was first developed in Sweden and Finland, children were generally homogeneous in their prior experiences. For instance, children growing up on small farms all had the experience of whittling with a knife, even as young as 4 or 5 years old, and all came from common backgrounds and domestic situations with all mothers working in the home.

So it was relatively easy to set up a course of training in which all the kids in a class and of the same age would go through the same exercises at the same time and share a common interest in the work. That's not exactly the situation today. Some parents fill their children's lives with technology. Some fill their children's lives with rich experiences. Some parents may face such challenges of family survival that they have no resources for either.

These days, children starting out in any field of subject will be all over the place in level of prior experience upon which to base further study, and all over the place in terms of interest, also based in large part upon prior experience. And so the first principle of educational Sloyd, that of starting with the interests of the child takes on even greater relevance and importance today.

It would seem improbable today for academic educators to arrive at the conclusion that there would be anything of importance that they might learn from manual arts. That was also the case in the early days when school administrators insisted that there was no time for concrete learning, that hands on work took too much time away from necessary academic pursuits. The truth is that when a proper foundation in reality is secured, academic subjects are made easier, their relevance is better established and the kids are refreshed and energized to actually learn in short order.

We now have the new woodworking studio at the Clear Spring School, in our new Phyllis Poe Hands on Learning Center, ready to classes to begin in the new semester starting next week.

In the meantime, educators would sere themselves well by learning the basic philosophy of Educational Sloyd. Start with the interests of the child. Move in close increments from the easy to the more difficult, from the known to the unknown, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract.

Make, fix, create, and allow for all children to learn lifewise.

Monday, January 06, 2020

to witness joy

Just as our dog Rosie exudes and exhibits joy when running with a friend, Patrick in our local dog park, joy can be observed. And the same witnessing of joy in schooling could be established as a routine priority. It should supplant other forms of assessment, for without joy in learning, what the heck have we done to schools or to kids.

Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among teens. Joy is one of the ways to fix that.

Today in the new Clear Spring School wood studio we've begun hanging pegboard for storage of tools. We aim to simplify by putting less used tools into deeper storage, while pegboard will hold more commonly used tools more readily at hand.

Make, fix and create. Joy follows forthwith.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Season's greetings.

My wife and I received a lovely card from friends like one we receive from them each year at New Years. Like the others from years past, the message, always the same on the front though each time in a different lovely hand set font is simple and printed in old style letterpress on a near ancient printing press. It says, Peace.

The message inside this year is a bit more complex. On the upper fold hand set type says, "If you cannot find peace in yourself, you will never find it anywhere else." — Marvin Gaye

On the lower fold, it reads, "Our wish to you and your family is for great art in your home and well printed books in your book shelves. Please support your local artists and craftspeople in the coming year."

May I offer the same wish and request for you, please?

There is no better formula for building community and culture than what's offered here.

The photo shows the new Clear Spring School wood studio as it begins the process from chaos to creativity.

We can build a culture in which people find purpose in service to each other and the attainment of higher standards. You can call it artistry or craftsmanship.

Make, fix and create.