The Handwork Curriculum at the Waldorf School of Atlanta is led by Lisa Roggow. Her loving care of the children is evident in these letters to parents of each grade.
Greetings Grade 5 Parents:
Welcome to the year of socks! Making socks in the fifth grade is a Waldorf tradition because socks contain a world of knitting know-how in a small package. For those of you who “speak knitting”, the following skills are addressed: knitting, purling, ribbing, stockinette, following a written pattern, working on four needles in the round, picking up stitches, shaping and creating curves. Basically, this translates to the following: if you can knit a sock, you can knit just about anything. Working in the round extends knitting into three dimensions – developing a spatial awareness that comes in handy during 6th, 7th and 8th grade as well.
We will start the year making a small gnome project. The gnome will be used as a swatch, which allows us to evaluate your child’s knitting style and decide what size needles they need – and how many stitches they will need for their socks. In addition, it offers a small sampling of most of the skills listed above. If your child does not yet know how to knit, we will take extra care at this time to make sure that the basic skills are mastered before beginning socks. There are several new knitters in the class this year, but we anticipate that, with some support, everyone will be able to complete this project.
The children will also make handwork books into which they will copy the patterns for gnomes and socks. Here they are exercising writing and copying skills, and later they will learn to follow the written instructions.
In order to complete this project before the year is through, I will eventually give the children the option of taking one of their socks for homework once they are firmly established in their work. Homework is not required unless it becomes apparent that an individual will be unable to complete their socks before the end of the year. Only one sock is allowed to go home at a time, in case the child forgets to bring it back and thus looses a week’s worth of class. Both socks are created simultaneously, so that they repeat a skill as soon as they learn it, reinforcing the lesson.
The children are growing in so many ways. The year long project is one way we meet their increasing maturity. Another is the double period. This year the fifth grade will have handwork once a week for a double period on Wednesday afternoon. Generally it takes a few weeks for the children to adjust to this novelty. We will be sure to vary activities during the first part of the year in order to help keep them alert during the long stretch. We have had one class so far, and the children were excited and eager to go. Ms. Bulmer and I are truly delighted to be working with the children- their enthusiasm and excitement is contagious.
Please note that this year the children are being offered a choice of yarn types. I am offering our traditional, gorgeous plant dyed wool/mohair blend. This beautiful yarn is very soft. However, it will shrink to the size of a toddler bootie if you accidentally wash it in warm water or agitate it in a machine.
Having destroyed many socks this way myself, I decided to offer a more hardworking alternative. Therefore, we are also offering a superwash yarn. This yarn can go through the washer easily, and will even survive the dryer without loosing wear-ability. It is made from wool that has been treated in order to prevent shrinkage. The superwash yarn is commercially dyed. I am allowing the children to choose which type of yarn they use. Should you have strong feelings in either direction, please speak with your child about his or her choice.
As always, if you should have any questions about the program, don’t hesitate to contact me.