With the worldwide pandemic, many families around the world are trying their best to support their children’s online schooling or homeschooling, taking over many new roles and responsibilities. And it can be tough. Right?
Erin Fleming, an unschooling coach shares with us an example, how she used a cute monster easy sewing project for her family of five to learn without the curriculum.
I hope her story is as inspirational for you, as it is for us.
Erin, what kind of learning is unschooling?
Unschooling is a style of learning that is based on children’s natural interests and curiosities. That means, there isn’t a curriculum to follow and most of the learning happens naturally through curiosity and exploring the world around us.
I live in Canada where I am an unschooling and parenting coach. In my province, unschooling has been growing in popularity for years. With a worldwide pandemic, many families around the world are trying to get their heads around how learning might happen without a curriculum now too.
How did your family decide to use an easy sewing project for learning?
My oldest two children have been into hand sewing for about a year. When I saw these cute sewing patterns that combined hand sewing and machine sewing, I asked my kids if they would like to give it a try. And they said yes!
Why did you choose SewToy’s cute monster for your first project?
Looking at the patterns on Etsy, I became SewToyDesign’s 100th Etsy store follower. Maja offered me a free pattern in celebration! Lucky me!
Maja was very helpful and when I said that I had three children, she thought the monster pattern might be a great choice because of our skill level and because there was lots of room for the kids to individualize their creation. She was right!
How experienced are you as a sewer?
Now, I wouldn’t consider myself to be a sewer. As a beginner, I have made some simple, seriously flawed Halloween costumes and family Christmas stockings but loading bobbins with thread stresses me out!
This project was going to be a learning challenge for me as much as the kids! I like it so much when we all get to learn together. Learning doesn’t stop at a certain age – there is just so much for us to learn in the world and feel curious about it!
How did you plan the sewing project with three little ones at the same time?
I decided to split the project into 3 days:
Day 1: gathering the materials and reading the instructions,
Day 2: cutting the fabric and completing the monster face,
Day 3: machine sewing and stuffing.
Often when I am coaching families who are new to unschooling and homeschooling, the day can feel long and unstructured.
That is why I suggest having 1-2 anchor activities per day to give your day flow and rhythm. For instance, we used this sewing project as an anchor, dedicating a couple of hours each day to completing it.
What did your family learn with this project?
On the first day, gathering materials, I took my middle child with me to the fabric store.
I would have taken all 3 children but with coronavirus in my area, they want to limit the number of people in the store. I brought my middle because she likes math and colors and textures. I thought she would appreciate the experience the most. As we picked materials, we talked about prices and money and measurements and she saw the women in the shop using estimates and meter sticks and she measured a few things herself.
SewToyDesign’s instructions were very clear and the suggested materials were forgiving. I was thankful for that because, despite the clarity and easy material, we still made mistakes!
What did you learn from the mistakes you made?
I think for me, there were moments when I needed to slow things down a bit more.
When one kid needed help and another kid was two steps ahead and I found myself jumping back and forth and not always checking the instructions. I relied on my memory and intuition and as a beginner, I just didn’t have the skillset to do that well!
Other mistakes were related to the kids developing their sewing skills.
If I were able to work 1:1 with each child, we might have had fewer mistakes but the nice thing about having 3 kids is that sometimes I am unavailable and they often end up problem-solving on their own or helping each other.
So although one of my daughter’s monster eyes has a lot of big stitches right through the eyeball, I look at that and remember my son trying to help her figure out how to navigate a mistake without having to cut her thread and start again.
Yes, there were definitely moments of frustration and a few uh-oh’s but we worked through them all. Those mistakes remind us of our learning path. We feel proud of them.
Will you use more sewing projects for learning in the future?
Overall, taking on a larger project was a confidence-building for all of us. My kids could see how their hand sewing could be used to create, not just to mend.
That was especially inspiring for my middle child, who is quite artistic and now has lots of creations she wants to try next. It is so cool to see the kids full of joy and ready to jump into another project!
Which sewing project to choose?
The skill might be your starting point. Do your kids enjoy sewing or working with their hands? To families that are trying to think of activities to engage in that involve learning and creating, this is a great option.
Sewing the cloud, sun, or star can be another expression of their interest if, for instance, they are into weather systems or the solar system. Looking over SewToy’s patterns online, there are some really cute options that might also serve as inspiration.
Sometimes kids wish to create as a way to connect to others. Creating a gift for a friend or family member is also a lovely reason for taking on a sewing project.
Where to start?
Start from a place of inspiration and enthusiasm. That will give you enough drive to get you through the moments where things get tricky.
As I mentioned, even with a solid, clear plan, there still might be some moments of tension, confusion, or mistakes. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just part of figuring out something new!
Learning leap between where you were and where you could go sometimes involves discomfort. We had so many feelings involved in learning.
My kids certainly saw me experiencing curiosity, frustration, and joy as I learned and created. Consequently, I hope that by expressing my feelings without judging myself for my mistakes gave them the safety to fully embrace their feelings and mistakes. In this project and beyond!
This little monster turned out to be just right for us.
It gave us enough challenges to leave us feeling inspired and confident to try something new when our monsters were complete.
What is the biggest beauty of learning through family projects?
Definitely connecting across the shared challenge, where feelings of inspiration, curiosity, frustration, and joy can be shared.
We’re all learning and growing together, and learning is meant to be an embodied experience. With time together at home, we can create beautiful learning opportunities to build tangible skills and emotional resiliency!
Erin Fleming lives in Ontario, Canada. She unschooled her 3 children and supports parents who wish to facilitate learning without a curriculum through her work as an unschooling coach and parenting coach.
She can be reached at: