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.

Friday, January 03, 2020

thrift and thrive

Etymology of Thrift

From Middle English thrift, thryfte, þrift, from Old Norse þrift (“thriving condition, prosperity”). Equivalent to thrive +‎ -t.[1]

"His thrift can be seen in how little the trashman takes from his house."

A friend of ours brought our dog Rosie a Christmas gift of two new balls. Rosie already has a dozen or so, but even dogs respond to the glory of new things. Her old balls lose interest in comparison to the new. And so when it comes to our human worship of new things, perhaps we can see it as something normal, even for animals. Rosie will glory in finding a new stick. We and the whole world would be better off being modest in our consumption of things. Thrift, and thrive. There's a connection between the two.

We are at great odds with the former Soviet Union, as Russia attempts to rekindle its old glory through alliances with some pretty mean folks. Those who mis-remember the past are destined to repeat it. The US and Russia had an opportunity to get things right back during the time of Gorbachev. But we saw the events of Glasnost from irreconcilable angles. Reagan claimed that we had defeated the evil empire and offered Americans the glory in being the "only remaining super power." Russia, on the other hand, chose for a time to see the break up of the Soviet Union through a more noble lens while Americans were content to watch Russians fall into abject poverty. It was like the situation at the end of WWI when the Allies withheld support for the German people preferring to watch them suffer. Hitler and Putin are woven from the same cloth as are others in the various "evil empires."

Aren't we having fun now?

Tensions with Iran will divert attention from the impeachment of Donald J. Trump. But in the meantime, I continue to set up the new wood studio at the Clear Spring School. The benches are in place, and we have new shelving for student work. We'll begin moving cabinets today from the old shop to the new.

Make, fix and create.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Happy new decade.

A line from an earlier presidential debate was, "it's the economy, stupid."  As we enter a new decade let's remember that the real economy is not something you can measure in dollars and cents. As we enter an election year and a new decade, we'll hear a lot about the economy — how it's doing. The more important question is "How are we doing?" The stock market seems OK these days. The lives of the common folk maybe not so good.

In the meantime, I spent parts of the last three days clearing hog wire and barbed wire from our woods. The wire had been there for generations and had become broken and trampled into the soil. Parts were covered by leaves and downed trees. I chose to remove it because it was well within our property lines, and presented a hazard to dogs and wildlife and to my own enjoyment walking in the woods.

Making my local world a better place by removing old wire from the forest is not something that the powers that be would consider a contribution to the economy.

I live in a small town that thrives due to the number of persons who volunteer and do things for each other without payment changing hands. Just like pulling wire from the woods, volunteers make things better for all even though none of their labors would be measured in "the economy."

Let's get this straight. Thrift is a good thing, as is conservation, as is volunteerism, as is caring for each other. Obsession with "the economy" is dumb.

A friend Larry sent me this photo of a gift he made for one of his great grandchildren. He told me that he has seven grandsons and great grandsons ages ages 3 months to 8 years, and being retired at last, he plans to spend time with each of them in the wood shop. What can be more joyful than that? The photo shows a "busy board, one of 4 that Larry made as Christmas gifts for great grandsons.

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