Last October, I made a rather rash decision. I don't know what I was thinking, really. As a recovering do-all-the-things addict, I thought I had outgrown my incessant need to crowbar one more thing into an already packed schedule. I'm clearly still strung out on the drug of hustle.
In my defense, however, I thought that since I was giving myself a whole two months to complete the task, it would be more than doable.
Have I mentioned I'm just a tad bit delusional? I'm working on that.
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But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's rewind and begin at the beginning.
Last October, I picked up my crochet hook. Now before you give me the old side-eye and move on assuming that this little diatribe won't apply to you, please hear me out. This wagon train will eventually reach its destination.
First, you must understand just how finite my crafting attention span has been since having kids. I have started many-a-project over the years...scrapbooks, quilts, scarves, cards...and have amassed an elaborate hoard of tools, supplies, and good intentions.
At one point, my husband even cleaned out a small room for me and unpacked my piles so that I'd have a space entirely dedicated to creating and have no excuse but to sit down and actually finish a craft. Any craft. And while I did put the final touches on a handful of projects that I had started in that little paradise, more often than not, it was where most of my creativity went to die.
Projects sat unfinished. Half-baked. Buried under a big pile of what-was-I-thinking.
But this past October, I dusted off my crochet hook.
I had learned to crochet when I was a little girl. But, in the thirty-plus years since making my first chain, I had completed only two-and-a-half crochet projects. That's it.
Needless to say, my crochet skills up until that point were mediocre at best. I could make simple chains, double-crochet a row or two, and fasten off. But to say that I actually knew how to crochet was a gross exaggeration. When I sat down to create anything, it was a bumpy and awkward work. The kind of mess only my mother would applaud, and only when she was on cold medicine.
But in October, I found a free pattern to make a cute coffee cozie, enlisted the help of my best friend whose current super power is making Granny Squares, and mustered up all my determination to make myself a coffee cozie OR ELSE.
The only problem was, the pattern I had picked out required a new-to-me stitch (knot? loop? pattern?...I'm still not quite sure how to talk crochet.)
Somehow, by just simply going in and out of the yarn with my hook in different directions, a beautiful basketweave pattern would miraculously appear....or so the delightfully optimistic lady on youtube said.
I crocheted, un-crocheted, and re-crocheted for three days trying to turn one jumbled mess of mustard-yellow cotton into something that slightly resembled a coffee cozie. I'm not exaggerating. It was pure amateur hour over here. By day four, it was done. And by done, I mean that I was done. I wasn't going to crochet another stitch. Ever. I scrambled up on my momentary platform of success, stepped back to look at my completed cozie, and in a moment of unexplainable fancy decided that I would make 36 more exactly like it.
Thirty-six. As in THREE DOZEN.
Christmas was fast approaching and I knew that I'd need some kind of small gift for my children to give to each of their Sunday School teachers as a thank you for all their service throughout the year.
Here in the tundra when temps hover in the negative numbers most winter days, what could be better than a handmade coffee cozie hugging a hot drink? (In hindsight, I acknowledge the special kind of crazy lingering just behind that well-meaning Rockwell painting. In fact, I'll lay it out for you in simple English. The reasons I should not have made 36 coffee cozies were three fold...
1. I did not know how to crochet.
2. I had no time to crochet.
3. I did not know how to crochet.)
But, I gently pushed aside all logic and began.
I front-posted, back-posted in bed.
I front-posted, back-posted in the car.
I front-posted, back-posted while sitting on the couch.
I front-posted, back-posted for nearly a month and at the end of all the madness, I had very little completed cozies to show for it.
And so, I front-posted, back-posted every single day until mid-December.
It was a slow climb. I'm a slow learner.
I think I un-crocheted more cozies than I completed. But somehow, I crawled my way to the finish line...scratching and clawing my way at times. The funny thing is though, eventually, the repetitive doing, and doing, and doing became easier. Simple really. By cozie number 19, I could front-post, back-post with authority. When I made a mistake, I didn't waver. I didn't pack up shop and quit. After all, I had made so many foibles honing my craft on the front end of the-crazy-little-crochet-plan that in time, I could quickly amend and reboot. As my collection of cozies grew, so did my crochet confidence.
By the time I fastened off cozie #36, I found that I not only knew HOW to crochet, but also that I loved it. I instantly began planning my next project undeterred by the ghost of unfinished-projects-past.
Front-post, back-post...the repetitive doing day-in and day-out had taught me how to crochet well.
But, that's the way it is with learning. All learning.
Repetitive doing...diving deep into one area of study...giving yourself a gracious space of time and resolve...is what brings about mastery.
I see that in my kids every day...especially my son. At seven, he has created a portfolio of award winning pencil sketches and has the ribbons to prove it. He's not a child prodigy. And he wasn't born with mad art skills. He's just an ordinary boy with extraordinary resolve to keep doing, and doing, and doing until mastery.
Last year, when we saw him take an interest in sketching, The Hubs and I purchased a light pad for him for Christmas. The Hubs is a professional artist and knows from experience that the only real way to learn how to draw is to practice tracing real works again, and again, and again until you can create them yourself.
Doing and doing and doing.
So for months, my son traced pictures of giant squid. Nothing else. Just squid. We had read about them in science that year and he took a shining to them.
He traced squid in bed.
He traced squid in the car.
He traced squid while sitting on the couch.
Eventually, he could practically draw a lifelike squid in his sleep. He won ribbons at the fair. He impressed little old ladies at the grocery store. He wowed the other artists at my husband's office.
He drew squid.
That was it. Just squid. And slowly over time, with much doing, the squid-mastery gave him the confidence to try drawing other animals. Fish, at first. Then birds, and horses, and even spiders. He became an expert of nature art and can now pretty much draw any animal under creation.
He kept doing, and doing, and doing. He focused and resolved. Instead of casting his net a mile wide and only an inch deep, sampling and surveying all-the-things, he chose to master one. Just one.
And so it goes with our homeschooling. Front-post, back-post homeschooling changes things. That focused kind of homeschooling changes things. The type of learning that requires doing, and doing, and doing creates deep layers of knowing and discovery and changes things.
So, it's Ok that your son reads that Farmer Boy book for the fifth time, or your daughter watches not one, but all eighty-three ukulele videos on youtube, or your whole family ends up camping in that volcano unit in science for the entire school year. Because that level of front-posting, back-posting will steer their learning to confidence. And inch-by-inch, stitch-by-stitch, they will not only learn HOW to crochet, sketch, fill-in-the-blank, but they will also learn to love it. They will learn through mastery.