Stuck inside? Learn something new

And make it a family affair. Here are suggestions for family learning

And make it a family affair. Here are suggestions for family learning

January 27, 2006|by KRISTIN WILSON

Genevieve Wyant stopped to inspect her great-great-niece's knitting project.

With much patience, she points to the knitting needles, "See, I keep telling you pearl has to be up on top," says the 87-year-old Hagerstown woman.

In Wyant's dining room, four generations of women are busy working on their knitting and crocheting techniques.

The craft has been passed down in their family for at least five generations, says Cathy Artkop, 50.

Wyant learned how to knit during World War II when she was in her 20s. She remembers knitting sweaters, caps and mittens that were sent to servicemen overseas.

Artkop learned to knit from her mother and grandmother who used the hobby to make household decorations and blankets for others.


Now, Sydney Frazee, Artkop's granddaughter, and Wyant's great-great-niece, is learning the craft and she's passing it on to some of her friends and her mother.

"The cool thing is I can go to school with little (crocheted) flowers on my bag and everybody else wants to know where I got (them)," she says. Sydney, 13, an eighth-grader at Clear Spring Middle School, enjoys learning how to knit and crochet accessories, bags and scarves that are popular right now.

She also enjoys learning more about knitting while spending time with members of her family.

"We all just give each other a call when we need a pattern or need to know something," Sydney says.

Sydney taught her mom, Samantha Frazee, 35, how to knit and the two work on projects in the evening together.

"I'm still learning every day," Samantha Frazee says. "(Sydney) is a very patient teacher."

Cold outside; learning inside

Knitting isn't the only activity that families can learn together.

The winter months can provide the perfect time to learn something new when family members find they have extra time indoors.

To get serious about learning something new, Diana Williamson, mother of five and a home-schooling instructor, suggests setting aside time during the day or throughout the week for each member of the family to work on a hobby or a new skill.

Her family found it valuable to give children a time to pursue their own interests outside of games, sports and academics.

Williamson's children each picked an activity about which they wanted to learn more. One of her kids decided to learn how to juggle, another learned how to ride a unicycle. One of her sons taught himself German by listening to language tapes and following instruction books. While the kids pursued their interests, Williamson took time to work on poetry or another hobby.

"Because (the children) have things that they can do, they feel quite confident," Williamson says. "They can be an expert on something that nobody tells them they have to do."

Although family members are learning separately, they can come together and share their discoveries, new knowledge or skill.

"Let (the kids) do something for a while and then come and show you," Williamson suggests. "You can get into it together."

When Williamson's youngest son was a toddler, he was fascinated with bugs. So Williamson took her son on "bug walks," allowing him to explore and look for insects. When he found one, he placed it in a jar for further study.

Back at the house, Williamson and her son looked up what kind of insect they found and learned something more about the creature.

Ideas for fun, learning

Learning inside the home can happen at any time, but beating the winter doldrums might provide extra incentive. Here are some ideas for higher family learning:

Learn to play a musical instrument

John Darling and his son, John, of New Market, Md., both received guitars as Christmas presents in 2004. They tried to learn to play their instruments by following an instructional DVD, but didn't get very far.

They decided instead to take group instruction classes together at Frederick (Md.) Community College.

The class turned out to be a bonding experience for the father and son pair, Darling says.

"It was just one more common link that we had," he says. And it was a different kind of activity than playing catch or working on merit badges in the Boy Scouts.

Through the class, Darling had a chance to teach his son the value of learning something new and sticking with it. He also showed his son that people can learn at any age.

The duo encouraged each other to practice and started learning Christmas songs to play for the rest of the family.

Tony Driebelbies of Frederick, had a similar experience with his 11-year-old daughter, Megan. The two took two semesters of guitar lessons through Frederick Community College.

"We enjoyed it right from the start," Driebelbies says. "(Megan) said to me before, the best thing about it was being able to do it with her dad. It was just us being able to go and learn something new."

Candice Mowbray, guitar instructor for the Darlings and Driebelbies, says she's had several father-daughter and father-son pairs learn to play the guitar.

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