Wednesday, June 23, 2021

day 3

This morning I have a helper teaching my kindergarten class at the Clear Spring School and I begin my third day of box making class at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. My students there are making great progress and each has a lovely box in the works.

I'm making a special box for the ashes of a friend, Roger Dale, who passed away in Wichita Kansas last week. Roger was an artist and a mentor for me and so many others. He had taught high school art in Bentonville and in Berryville and guided me in making my first dulcimers. He was a dog lover. We built an Olson Fast Fire wood kiln on his property near the White River and spent many hours putzing around together with trials motorcycles. I had no better friends than Roger and his wife Teresa and hold them both dear in my thoughts. The box for Roger's ashes has served as my demonstration box for teaching my students this week, a thing that Roger would appreciate, I'm sure. We know there are no firm boundaries between us. And when we say that someone lives on in our hearts, we know that to be the truth.

Today my students will begin putting hinges on their boxes and get busy on other boxes reflecting things they want to learn in class.

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

Monday, June 21, 2021

Investing in investigation.

A Stanford study has determined that high school students lack the digital skills to spot fake news. Adults suffer from the same malady, but I question whether the skills lacking are digital ones, or whether they are more closely related to failure to integrate what we can learn from engagement in real life with the digital world.

A friend questioned my use of the term "real world." But there is a difference that requires noting. 

On the internet, things are made to appear simple, when in fact, life is more complex and chaotic, and while we might crave easy answers, the truth requires investment in investigation. The cartoon illustrates the dilemma we face.

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

Kids need dirt and danger?

 A reader, Lisa, sent this link to an article in the Atlantic, "Kids need dirt and danger." It is a good read that challenges assumptions about what children really need. Do we script their lives for them, or do we prepare them for life?

Today I start a 5 day box making class at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts as we attempt to reassert normality in the covid-19 era. 

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

Saturday, June 19, 2021

returned to print

I learned yesterday that 2 of my books that F&W Publishing had allowed to go out of print before their bankruptcy and before the book rights were bought by Penguin Random House, have been brought back in print and made available on Amazon. One of these books is my first, Creating Beautiful Boxes with Inlay Techniques.

My 2nd book Simply Beautiful Boxes, was published in 2000. 

Another of my books currently managed and sold by Penguin Random House books is Build 25 Beautiful Boxes, a compilation of the first two books. If you want these books in their original form, buy them. If you want to save some money buy the compilation that includes almost all the contents from the first two books.

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

family style education

An interesting article about a return to the one room schoolhouse ideal for American education has been circulating through the Clear Spring School community, as we have embarked on our own path in that direction. As in many things, Clear Spring School has been ahead of the curve. The article in Forbes can be found here:

The notion of education taking place across different ages—where students are also teachers, and where team-based education proliferates—is indeed an exciting vision for the future. In fact, it’s exactly what happens in our modern-day workplaces and ideally in our democracy too.

And in our families as well. In an industrialized view of education, size matters and the tendency is for schools to become of enormous size in which the individual is marginalized. In the one room school house approach, families are involved and made important, and the learning is supercharged in all directions. 

One of the first truly progressive educators, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi described the formula in his books Henry and Gertrude, and How Gertrude Teaches Her Children. The relationship between children of various ages forming family-like bonds and through which the medical school model of see one, do one, teach one can be practiced is key. And this simple formula should prevail in all schools.

But then of course, to see one, do one, and teach one, requires that you have something to do other than sitting through mind numbing lectures or thumbing through books or what's online. That's where the Clear Spring School model has the opportunity to excel. We do stuff. Wood shop, music, art, sewing, the culinary arts and the bee garden all add substance and depth to learning and a means through which our kids can show one another and prove to themselves what they can do.

Today I'll be making a presentation via zoom to the Alabama Woodworking Guild prior to a class I'll teach there in August.

Make, fix and create.

Friday, June 18, 2021

giant sofa

Our giant Froebel blocks at the Clear Spring School are constantly being  rearranged by kids, usually as some kind of fort or obstacle course. The other day when I arrived on campus the students had built a giant sofa. This project required the collaboration of efforts by a group of kids working together. I like the way they arranged them with a means to climb up and I'm sorry I missed seeing them putting their sofa to use.

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

Thursday, June 17, 2021

experience in the real world

Yesterday I made a short presentation to our Clear Spring High School students on the Harbor Freight Fellows program that promotes internships in the trades. 

For much too long it has been assumed that students upon arriving at high school age would have to make a choice whether they were going to college or not, and that some would be directed into the trades, those being students insufficiently prepared or or unable to meet the rigors of academia. This was based on a model described by a known racist, Woodrow Wilson who as president of Princeton University had said: 

"We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks."— Woodrow Wilson

Wilson, as our American president, had signed into law the Smith-Hughes Act (1917) which funneled federal dollars into manual and industrial arts training, separating it from academics, thereby creating two tracks in American education, one "upper" leading to white collar employment and one lower, leading to servitude in the trades.

On the other hand, and as I attempted to explain to our students at the Clear Spring School, the education of hand and the education of mind are best not kept separate. They refresh and reinforce each other, a thing Wilson evidently did not understand.

In the early 1960's my mother who had been educated as a Kindergarten teacher in the 1940's decided to return to work and was given a job teaching in Omaha, Nebraska, on a conditional teaching certificate that required her to return to college to attain a 4 year degree. It was a challenging time for our family, with my mother teaching school during the day and attending college at night. It required my sisters and I to take greater responsibilities around the house, but it was an exciting time also due to the excitement my mother found in her studies. 

Her main competition for good grades were from the "Boot strappers" who having left the military were given the chance to attend college. She noted a marked difference between those students in class who had experience and maturity over those who were simply being shuffled forward through the process of getting their college degrees. Along with experience derived from their participation in the real world, the boots strappers brought seriousness and a deeper level of engagement to their classes thus raising the bar for others.

To make a simple point that has great value, getting a trade and learning from it is not a stopping point, but a beginning. Using the principles of educational sloyd as our learning model, we start with the interests of the child, move from the known to the unknown, from the easy to more difficult, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract, at each step building confidence and competence in the student. What you learn in plumbing has direct relationship to what you learn in physics, and what you learn in the wood shop can have direct relationship to every aspect of life. What you learn in mastering a trade can be utilized and leveraged in the quest for higher knowledge which is often not as high as one might hope as it is too often isolated in abstraction and fabrication of made up talking points.

For much too long the trades have been seen as a dead end, but as educators across the US began to insist that every kid go to college, we abandoned the most basic notion, that every child should be prepared for life. That involves (as Wilson suggested) fitting ourselves to perform difficult manual tasks, but also engaging at the same time in understanding matters of philosophy, poetry, religion, math, the arts and the sciences. The interesting thing that's been proven time and time again is that engagement in the physical world brings deeper understanding of all else.

When my mother returned to college to get her four year degree, our whole family was brought to an understanding, observing her model, of the value of life long learning and the joy that can bring. 

As I urged my students yesterday, I urge you all as well. Learn a trade and apply what you've learned as a starting point, not the end of your development. The illustration above is from Nääs, the home of Educational Sloyd where teachers were taught to educate both the hand and mind for the benefit of both the individual and society. Educational Sloyd training in the US declined  after Wilson's implementation of the Smith-Hughes Act, 1917, putting into law Wilson's ideal of maintaining society's separation into two classes.

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

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

camp stools and buddy bench

Yesterday we finished camp stools and a buddy bench in the Clear Spring School wood shop. The photo shows the use of Japanese saws to cut the tops of through tenons attaching the legs. Even the youngest were involved.

Today I have a practice zoom session with the Alabama Woodworking Guild for a Saturday morning zoom session and will begin preparing for a weeklong box making class at ESSA that starts Monday.

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

Monday, June 14, 2021

tour guide...

 This morning I played tour guide, taking Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist Rex Nelson to my favorite places in Eureka Springs, the Clear Spring School and the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

At the Clear Spring School, Rex arrived at my favorite time of the school day, recess when students are expressing great joy. At ESSA we had classes for adults in session. One was a life drawing class with Mary Springer, and the other, an enameling class in the small metals studio.

Rex writes regularly about Arkansas and we were planning to meet over a year ago, and before the Covid-19 pandemic shut things down across the state.

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

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Stanford 1996

Earlier today I mentioned a report on the radio on research that attitude going into a standardized test can adversely affect outcomes, particularly for minorities and for women. The ground breaking research came from Stanford University in 1996.

Not much new there in the last 25 years except that colleges, and universities have done little to nothing to remove the stigma for minorities and women concerning lower performances on standardized tests. Educators, administrators and parents remain fixated on standardized tests results. And standardized testing should be considered as yet another element of institutionalized bias against minorities and women.

We need to redesign education at all levels to bring about the purposeful integration of the hands. 

To become a licensed public school teacher in the US you begin by sitting in classrooms being lectured to for your first three years. Then and only then do you enter the classroom for practice teaching. 

In a program that understood the necessity of hands-on learning, your practice teaching would begin your first or second semester of college providing concrete examples to draw upon in your consideration of the abstract material presented in class. 

In med school instead of spending your first four years cracking the books and attempting to memorize information that's abstract given your lack of experience, you would start the practice of medicine as a nurses aid and work your way up concurrent with your classroom experience. Not only would you be learning from the concrete rather than the abstract, you would know that your own learning was immediately of value to others. You might even be able to offset some of the costs of getting your doctor's degree.

I can guarantee that properly designed programs in medicine and education would reduce the number of dropouts, and improve both  professions.

But then, what do I know about all this? I'm just a woodworking son of a Kindergarten teacher who became a proponent of Educational Sloyd. But if what I say resonates as true to your own experience, pass this along.

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

How to think outside your brain.

A former student of mine from Marc Adams School of Woodworking sent me this article from the New York Times, It suggests that we learn to think outside our brains. Makes sense, right? As a friend of mine suggested many years ago, "there's a real world out there." If we're not paying attention to it, we're really missing out.

But can you just think things through remaining inside your head? What a dumb place to  hang out.

I noted to my friend that I play a word game on my iPad and there are times when I get stumped. If I do something else for a few minutes or move physically to a new location in the house or on the porch, I look at the puzzle with fresh eyes and the missing word becomes clear.

In the old days when folks my age then were taking acid and dropping out, the guide words were  to pay attention to "set and setting." Set had to do with having the right attitude and support entering into the experiment, and setting had to do with dropping acid in a friendly spot that would support a positive experience.

To deny that where we are has impact on how we think is foolish.

I was listening to a report on NPR about how the right introduction to a standardized test can cause minorities and women to perform several points higher. Given the right verbal cues at the beginning of a test can equalize test results between races and genders. This calls into question, yet again, the ridiculousness of American subservience to the standardized testing industry.

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

Saturday, June 12, 2021

On the sanctity of all life.

We claim that human life is precious. Non-human life not so much. Yesterday I visited with a local farmer who raises chickens. They are delivered to his farm and six chicken houses 159,000 at a time as baby chicks. In 8 weeks chicken catchers arrive to gather them for slaughter. The chicken catchers grab them by the legs and pack them in crates for transport to the processing plant. Then they are killed, plucked, dismembered, processed into nuggets and fed to you, my dearest readers. So when it comes to the sanctity of life, it's best not to allow living chickens to enter into your thoughts.

One of the intended purposes of Froebel's Kindergarten was to bring children into an understanding of  all life,  so care for small animals was part of that process. And so I guess you can see why following Froebel's original vision of Kindergarten had to be abandoned: to make way for the industrial processing of kids.

In order to get chickens ready for slaughter in 8 weeks, the baby chicks are first introduced to just one end of the 42 ft. wide chicken house. An automatic feeder delivers an unending supply of feed. As the chicks grow, the length of the feeding area is extended again and again until reaching the end of the 300 ft. long chicken house. I forgot to ask what they do with the poop. Is there some way that they remove it during the 8 weeks? Or are the chickens you'll eat simply wading in it the whole time?

The farmer told me that if some of the chickens are not dying of heart attacks during the process, they are not feeding them at a fast enough rate. And so what I describe may seem quite normal to some and quite disturbing to others.

The world is a morally complex place. Learn about it.

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

Friday, June 11, 2021

A matter of surprise to some

Mademoiselle Albertine Necker de Saussure an early advocate of education for women wrote the following in the early 1800's with regards to the development of the child.
 "It is a matter of surprise to some, that children are satisfied with the rudest imitations. They are looked down upon for their want of feeling for art, while they should rather be admired for the force of imagination which renders such illusion possible. Mold a lump of wax into a figure or cut one out of paper, and, provided it has something like legs and arms and a rounded piece for a head, it will be a man in the eyes of the child. This man will last for weeks; the loss of a limb or two will make no difference; and he will fill every part you choose to make him play.

"The child does not see the imperfect copy, but only the model in his own mind. The wax figure is to him only a symbol on which he does not dwell. No matter though the symbol be ill chosen and insignificant; the young spirit penetrates the veil, arrives at the thing itself, and contemplates it in its true aspect. Too exact imitations of things undergo the fate of the things themselves, of which the child soon tires. He admires them, is delighted with them, but his imagination is impeded by the exactness of their forms, which represent one thing only; and how is he to be contented with one amusement? A toy soldier fully equipped is only a soldier; it can not represent his father or any other personage.

"It would seem as if the young mind felt its originality more strongly when, under the inspiration of the moment, it puts all things in requisition, and sees, in everything around, the instruments of its pleasure. A stool turned over is a boat, a carriage; set on its legs it becomes a horse or a table; a bandbox becomes a house, a cupboard, a wagon—anything. You should enter into his ideas, and, even before the time for useful toys, should provide the child with the means of constructing for himself, rather than with things ready made."
I was reminded yesterday of an interview on NPR with Yo-yo Ma, American cellist. It aired a number of years ago. He was traveling in China and when he played in a family home, the children began wrestling on the floor. When he would quit playing they would stop. When he would start playing again, they would resume wrestling. It seemed backwards from the common expectation that when a musician would play the audience would sit quietly and deferentially and listen. 

Can we put ourselves in the mind of the child and see things from a more appropriate angle? Music and the arts are the means through which we become participants in life. And for that reason should be dead center in their educations, not a sideline or sideshow.

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

Thursday, June 10, 2021


Yesterday was sawing day with our Rainbow group at the Clear Spring School, with the students introduced to the use of a hand saw along with the following poem.

Of all the saws I ever saw saw,
I never saw a saw saw like this saw saws.

We made small note holders using 5/8 in. thick spruce and clothes pins hot melt glued in place. You can be  sure parents will treasure these things that their children have made, and there's no better time to introduce woodworking in schools than in Kindergartens.

The process was as follows. I prepared stock in two different widths, 2 1/2 in. and 1 1/2 in. both 5/8 in.  thick. I made enough parts for me to have one to demonstrate making it, and one to excite student interest and show what the finished product would look like and how it would be useful. 

I made extra parts that the students could trace onto stock for cutting their own parts. They sawed and sawed, first one part, then the other. Next came sanding. To  assemble the parts, I drilled pilot holes in the bases so that the nails would get a good start. We clamped the top part tightly in the vice to hold it for nailing. We applied glue on the one end and the students hammered the parts together while I and their teacher held the parts in place. With the hammering complete I used hot melt glue to attach the clothes pins. With the assembly complete the students used markers to decorate their note holders and then wrote notes on 3 x 5 cards so they could be carried home.

I've begun gathering high definition images for my publisher to use in the publication of my new book. At some point in the next few weeks we'll begin the discussions for finalizing the name of the book.

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

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

on the subject of sloyd

I've sent pdf copies of my articles about Sloyd written for Woodwork Magazine a few years back to Quercus Magazine in the UK. My idea is that the subject of Sloyd has the potential of revitalizing education by putting it on a firm foundation of how we learn and grow. My articles had helped to reawaken an interest among woodworkers in Sloyd, a subject nearly forgotten in the US.

One of the things that I consider most important was that the theory of Educational Sloyd as taught by Otto Salomon spelled out a philosophy of learning and teaching that's relevant to children and adults alike, and that philosophy should infuse all of education. 

  1. Start with the interests of the child. 
  2. Move from the known to the unknown as the known provides the foundation for subsequent learning. 
  3. Move from the easy to more difficult as that provides a vector of development. 
  4. Move from the simple to the more complex as that broadens the capacity of mind. 
  5. Move from the concrete to the abstract, as the concrete provides relevance and provides a framework for reaching toward new notions and a basis for further testing and development which then requires a reinvestigation of the concrete.
This is not a difficult theory to understand, as it's a thing you can observe if you honestly observe how you learn and learn best.

Today I'll introduce my Kindergarten students to sawing wood.

Make, fix and create.

Monday, June 07, 2021

proof, it's an open and shut case

I have long pointed out the ineffectiveness of lecture-based teaching methods. Research from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences should nail the coffin shut on lecture based teaching as a form of educational abuse. Not only do lectures bore kids and dull their interests in schooling, they are a failure at getting good results. 

In the meantime, if you want to follow this blog via email, there's a link below to have the blog delivered by This is a replacement for feedburner, a program that will no longer be supported. If you are already a subscriber, will continue delivery to you.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise


There are two types of sloyd or slöjd, that practiced at home as a component of daily life, and that practiced in schools as an essential part of education. Hemslöjd, or home sloyd refers to the practice of crafts in a family setting, and is a vital means of passing Scandinavian culture between generations. Educational sloyd is a means of supporting the education of the whole child, stimulating the relationship between mind and body, thus invigorating both. The sloyd knife is a symbol of both types of sloyd for it was a tool useful in home crafts, and also in the education of each child.

When I visited Sweden in 2006 for a conference and made a point of visiting Nääs, Otto Salomon's teacher training school for sloyd, I was surprised to learn the full range of educational sloyd. Of course there was a wood shop for teachers to learn to teach woodworking to kids but there were also a gymnasium and fields for athletics. Sloyd was not just for the education of hands and minds, but the whole body as well. And for teachers, there were lectures preparing them for a deeper understanding of progressive educational theory and techniques. The photo shows a slightly younger version of me standing in the classroom where thousands of teachers were taught to teach woodworking to kids.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, June 03, 2021

W.S. Merwin

These are two important poems by W. S. Merwin:

Native Trees:

and Trees: 

One of the very special things about working with wood is the way it connects us so seamlessly with our natural environment. It provides an interpretive framework for examining the forests that surround us if we're lucky,  or that once surrounded us if we are not. 

Native Trees addresses the child's natural curiosity about the forest in the face of parental ignorance and disinterest. Trees is simply a celebration. 

There's a sycamore tree convenient to our student's path between classes. Its limbs are at the right height for our younger students to "grab aholt of" and hoist themselves up. One of our second grade students, new to the school this year proclaimed, "this is the first time I've climbed a tree!" Can there be any single learning lesson more important than that?

I look out on a foggy morning. The air is perfectly still, with not a single leaf turning or lifting in the still air. You might miss an understanding of the life that lives within.

My thanks to Barbara for sending links to the poems.

Today in the woodshop my students will be working on camp stools and buddy benches and getting to know wood and the story it tells us about ourselves.

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

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

pencil holders

Today in the Clear Spring School wood shop my Kindergarten students made pencil holders as you can see. Each is personalized and decorated.  

During the month of June I have a mixed age group in the wood shop with students first through 10th.

The editor for my new book is almost ready to submit her version of it the publisher.  It is a long wait for me as it gets put into final form. It should be available to readers in March, 2022.

The pencil holders are an easy thing to make and the drawing showing the parts and their dimensions is shown on my blog. The teacher cuts the parts and sets up the drill press for drilling the holes. The student assembles the pencil holder following the teacher's guidance using nails and glue after first sanding and drilling the holes. The teacher must hold the top part in position on the drill press while the holes are drilled and using a cordless drill to make pilot holes helps to get the nails in the right position and to guide them in straight.

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


Tuesday, June 01, 2021

can you guess?

What is it? Can you guess? One of my first grade students made it. Can you put your mind in the eyes of a child, and consider the things that a child might consider important, and then understand the need to create representations of those things?

This of course, is a lego block, a bit larger than most, held together by glue and tape. But it's a thing that one of my students conceived and planned the making of.

In modern life, even the toys children play with are designed and made by others, cutting off from the child the natural progression of things, from easy to difficult, from known to unknown, from simple to complex and from concrete to abstract. But these are not just the principles of educational sloyd, they are also the map describing the journey of growth, for the child and for ourselves as well.

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