I’m preparing a talk on paper sloyd that I am giving in June, and I can’t help but think about the fact that each time I mention it I get one of two reactions: a blank stare, which is most common, and a sheepishness. The sheepishness usually comes from CM moms who have heard of sloyd, but are either too confused or intimidated to try it. I thought I’d type out a bit about what sloyd is and how to start in order to ease the confusion and intimidation. It is really quite simple, but at the same time so foundational for geometry, measurement, and precision in math as well as the intellectual habits of accuracy, honesty, and diligence.
Now, I’ve written a bit about this before, and you’re welcome to check that out as well. At the time, I was teaching sloyd in a classroom environment at a Charlotte Mason school, but doing it at home with my kids isn’t much different.
What is sloyd? It is a Swedish word meaning the rough equivalent of handiwork. It is also a system developed by Otto Salomon that incorporated the use of paper, then wood, and metals. It was a staple in Nordic schools, and is still taught in that area of the world. Yes, all those articles about how schools in Finland are the best? The kids do sloyd.
Let’s not get put off by the idea of woodwork and metalwork quite yet. At first, it is as easy as finding paper that is a bit thicker than printer paper (though, printer paper will work in a pinch) and some other basic supplies – scissors, pencil, and perhaps some stickers or a hole punch if you want to decorate or hang up your creation. See, this is easy already.
Next, there is a book in the public domain that is worth printing called Paper Sloyd for Primary Grades by Ednah Anne Rich. I say print it, even though you could buy it printed for a reasonable price only because the one you would print at home is not compressed or stretched and so the examples print in the proper size. The copy I purchased has compressed the writing to half size to use fewer pages and so all the diagrams are now half as wide as they should be… which makes it a bit confusing. However, if your printer is broken and you know you’ll start in two days if Amazon Prime does the work for you, by all means just do that. Well begun is half done, after all and so it is better to start than to procrastinate because you need ink or you keep forgetting to print it.
Now, the beauty of this book is that it works for all beginners and it is fully scripted. The two keys to success I have found lie in these two important points:
- Don’t skip the intro. The intro holds all of the information you need as teacher. If you skip it, you will mostly likely not understand enough about the method to actually be doing sloyd and you’ll just be folding paper. Techniques are outlined well in the introduction.
- Take your time. 10-15 minutes is probably enough and it may take 6 sessions to get through the first project. That is ok. Learning to create straight lines, tiny pencil dots, and safe cuts is key to the process. Don’t rush through. All of this work now lays the foundation for future projects.
Now, try the first project out on your own using the instructions. See where you find the language confusing (if at all), and work through it on your own. The questions you have are often the ones your students will have too, so find the answers now.
It’s time. Bring in the kids. If you have kids middle school aged and up, your pace will be faster than with the 4th grade and under crowd. I find kids in 1st and 2nd grade need a lot of time. If you have a wide age range in your home, this is a great time to do one project with the older kids and allow one of them to teach the younger ones. They will learn it even better when they teach it.
Your first project will be delightful – it is an envelope. There is a scrap of paper left over that is perfect for making a note to fit in the envelope. It is not only a lovely creation, but a lovely gift and Charlotte encouraged handicrafts to be given away whenever possible so this fits the bill nicely. Kids will naturally practice on their own time as they want to send these envelopes to more siblings, friends, and family members. Let them play with the materials – different thicknesses and glossiness of paper, stickers to seal the envelope, and artwork on top if they’d like. This should be a delight to them and fully their own creation.
That seems like a good way for you to start, though I’ll be back with more on this topic soon. Would a video be helpful to walk you through the first project?