Next up in our alphabet-based exploration of what makes a Waldorf education unique...K is for knitting…and our handwork program in general. Handwork is one of the unique specialty classes offered in a Waldorf school. Developed to work in tandem with the curriculum as a whole, handwork strengthens fine motor skills and helps with hand-eye coordination, which in turn help students with writing, reading and math. Knitting, crochet, clay, woodcarving, embroidery etc., all contribute to the formative artistic foundations within a Waldorf education, fostering creativity, flexibility and independence.
Handwork is offered in kindergarten at Madrona School with some sewing and woodworking projects, but the program begins in earnest in 1st grade with knitting, providing a foundation for the rest of the program to build upon in future years. And, while students learn to knit, they come to see the beauty and utility that can be made with their own hands, simple materials and some perseverance. Often, the students will make something in this first year that they use everyday throughout their grade school years, like a flute case. Ask any older grade school student and they can probably remember what it was like to finally see their mistakes and fix them, to count the "mountains" in their knitted fabric, and the pride they felt upon the project's completion. There is a comfort in using something they made, even as they grow older and their skills improve.
For additional information, read Patricia Livingston's article "The Importance of Handwork in the Waldorf School", originally published in Renewal 9(1), 2000. Or see our blog post on handwork dated February 15, 2017.