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The Lost Arts

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I was reading a book recently about frugal living (surprise!). While I can’t say that I relate entirely to the author’s perspective because he lives in rural Vermont and I’ve always lived in a city or suburban setting, I did find common ground with some parts of his book that I would like to share, primarily those pertaining to the skills that are lacking among our youth today.

I must admit that sewing is an art that I never quite mastered. My Grandma taught me some basic stitches, but they were mostly decorative embroidery techniques to keep me entertained while she worked in the kitchen. I know how to thread a needle and can do a decent job putting a button back on, but a sewing machine is a different animal altogether. This is a skill that might have been lost on me, but I really want my children to know how to sew (yes, my son, too!).

Another skill that has been intimidating to me, but that I would like my children to learn is how to correctly build a fire (either in the fireplace or outdoors). I want my children to have a healthy respect for fire and that means teaching them how to build and tend one properly. Once they know how to build one, they can then learn how to maintain it for cooking, heating, and generating light, especially during a power outage.

I also want my children to have a basic knowledge of woodworking. I don’t know if my daughters will get as excited about building things as my son, but if our economy ever spirals downward the way it did a few years back, they might be faced with the need to make repairs to their own furnishings in order to make them last a little longer. My father-in-law was a carpenter and passed down many of his skills to my husband. Just when I think something is broken beyond repair, with a few trips to the hardware store, my husband has us back up and running. I am always amazed at the potential he sees in things and how he is able to make them functional again.

Even baking bread seems like a relatively simple task, but not many people do it anymore because we can go to the grocery store and buy bread, sometimes just as inexpensively as if we were to make it ourselves. But, what are we teaching our children by doing that? Granted, I don’t grow or mill my own wheat and if we were to go back in history to our more agrarian roots, that was a skill that many families required in order to survive.

These days we’re not even teaching our children the basics in and around the home. We are losing the generation of men and women who didn’t have the option of going out and buying something new. Clothes were mended, furnishings were repaired, and the home fires were always burning. Food may not have been plentiful, but with a little resourcefulness, a loaf of bread could bring sustenance to those who might otherwise go hungry.

While I am grateful to the inventors of years past who have made our lives much easier, I think we should still be handing down certain skills to our children and not just relegating these skills to earning a patch for a scout project. Learning some of these skills helps them build confidence as they discover how much work is required to produce some of these things and that leads to a more grateful and appreciative attitude – which is also becoming another lost art!

“I recognized that there is nothing better than to rejoice and to do well during life. Moreover, that all can eat and drink and enjoy the good of all their toil—this is a gift of God.” ~Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

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