Julia has been sewing in her own for almost a year now. Mending socks and underwear in her own fashion. Using embroidery floss with needles and making designs. Collecting thread and needles. She has steadfastly refused instruction from me and from respite providers. Two days ago I showed her a YouTube video about making a simple skirt for an America girl doll. She wanted to do that. We fished material out of what is left of my sewing supplies and she cut the pieces she needed. She ironed the pieces. Then she learned to use the sewing machine. I explained and demonstrated and helped when thread was tangled or pulled or a few of the million other things that can go wrong when sewing. She sewed rows of stitches for almost 2 hours. I sorted sewing supplies and puttered around carefully containing the bubble of excitement that Julia may be interested in something that I am rather good at and don’t find the time to do.
We are both taking a break now. Perhaps we are done for the day. Her appetite whet. We could make the skirt tomorrow. It will come out crooked like all first tries. I have some doll clothes patterns from Cheshire’s days and the HP uniform pattern that I made for her Ivy last year. There are plenty of easy parts to do, plenty to cut and press, plenty to do together. The carrots are all in place.
She may be ready to learn.
This week I have been whining and complaining, mostly but not entirely to myself, because I have been trying to get Julia back into school mode and I feel like she doesn’t remember much of anything. We struggle over two step math problems and stumble over reading music. We have worked almost every day this summer on word problems and reading comprehension, using those things as grounding tools as we traveled and getting settled back home. I am tired of this work. So is Julia. She doesn’t want to do it and as I look at what we’ve done I don’t see much progress.
Two days ago, frustrated more with myself than with Julia, I changed direction. We have precious few weeks left in this summer. Julia wants to read and play cello. To that we will add some sewing, some cooking, art projects, being outside to hunt bugs, pull weeds, bike and perhaps even canoe.
During today’s sewing lesson, Julia learned to iron and sew straight lines on the sewing machine, she measured, pinned and cut material, she figured out a “how much more” problem to have the material strips she needed. She was focused and worked carefully with very few impulsive decisions.
All of this impossible two years ago. Most unlikely last year. I must laugh at myself– laugh because if I think too long on this, I would cry about what I don’t know about teaching Julia. My talk is about shaping education to her needs and style, but my behavior approaches the parent trying to mold her in such a way so that she can pass as typical. And when I pull myself back. When I just stop. When I take that breath, the perfect morning of learning appears.