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When my children were young we had a designated Craft Box. Into this box went empty paper towel tubes, clean styrofoam trays, sheets of felt on clearance at the fabric store, empty cereal boxes, paper that had been printed on one side and was no longer needed, plastic bottle caps, pictures from greeting cards, and lots of tape, glue sticks, safety scissors, a paper punch, and felt-tip markers.
From this box arose imaginative machines, original artwork, cardboard costumes, and an entire civilization for dolls—including dwellings, store contents, clothing, and even currency.
Creating something of your own from the pieces that you have is a valuable tool for self-education. As with the other five tools we have talked about, a key is to have a mind that is engaged and active. Creating something of your own encourages that focus on many levels.
Tool #6: Create Something of Your Own
You may think that you know the vocabulary, but the test is whether you can put words together to correctly communicate what you want to say. Create your own sentences.
You may have learned some crochet stitches and techniques, but the proof is shown in your using those parts to make a blanket or potholder. Create your own project.
You may be able to calculate someone else’s math scenario, but you will know that you have really grasped the concepts when you can come up with your own scenario. Create your own life application.
You may know how to mix colors and some brush-stroke techniques, but using those tools to create your own artwork demonstrates the depth of your knowledge. Create your own artistic expression.
You may have memorized some information, but your mastery will improve as you seek to communicate it to someone else in a way that they will understand. Create your own lesson.
Charlotte Mason encouraged her students to do all of those things. She recognized the vast amount of learning involved in creating something of your own: you evaluate the knowledge you have gained, mix it with other knowledge you already have, envision the new entity you want to bring about, brainstorm what pieces will be needed to get there, determine how the pieces will need to fit, engineer the pieces as imagined, problem-solve with any pieces that don’t work the way you intended them to, look for additional knowledge to smooth over the rough parts.
Creating something of your own requires much more mental effort and engagement than simply copying what someone else has done. As you go through the mental process, you develop a better mastery of the material you are working with and discover what areas may need more mastery.
“There is no education but self-education and only as the young student works with his own mind is anything effected” (Vol. 6, p. 289).
Think of a gourmet chef putting together an original entree. He has a firm grasp of the types of food, the interplay of spices, the techniques of food preparation, the knowledge of chemistry, and he can use all of that knowledge as he needs it in order to accomplish his goal.
Such a challenge is personally fulfilling, but it also puts his knowledge to the test. If some part of his idea does not turn out the way he hoped it would, he now knows what area to turn his attention to and revisit or learn more about.
Creating something of your own from the pieces you have is a valuable tool for self-education.