Recently I read a post from one of my favorite bloggers at Being a Mother Who Knows called "Lost Arts." It rang true for me, and I want to share some of my thoughts on "Lost Arts" here, because those are the ideas that fueled the creation of this blog. (The quotes by President Joseph F. Smith below are all from the "Lost Arts" post I linked to. Thanks, Deanna!)
How many of you, my readers, have grandmothers, great-grandmothers, or aunts and other ancestors who possess loads of homemaking skills that you lack entirely? I know I do!
When I was growing up, my mother did teach me several things-- sewing being the biggest one. She is an expert seamstress, and wanted me to grow up with that skill. But I know MANY women who have never been taught sewing skills who now want to try their hand at sewing for their families, and don't know where to start or who to turn to, in order to learn.
Yet, because of my public school classes, music lessons, and lots of outside activities, I never did learn how to cook well (other than baking cookies!), plan a menu, or how to effectively organize laundry and other homemaking tasks before I left my parents' home. There simply wasn't time in the day! I do remember asking my mother if she felt I should take Home Economics classes, instead of the other electives I was busy with (choir, drama, and art), but she told me that they wouldn't teach me beyond what I already knew. Looking back, I don't know whether that's true or not, but I do suspect she thought I knew more about homemaking than I actually did at the time.
Can anyone out there relate? I always wanted to be a wife, mother, and homemaker, but I was not prepared to run a household when the time came. It was quite astonishing to realize how many hours I had spent being schooled in things I would rarely use in my life, yet I had neglected to learn the most basic skills every adult needs for survival.
In this day and age, we have quite a different perspective of "education" than our fore fathers had. In the past, a person was "educated" in basic LIFE skills first, and in academics second. And then, of course, the academics they studied included things like classic literature, Newtonian Math, Euclidean geometry, spelling, Logic, handwriting, Shakespeare, and memorization. Subjects like "Social Studies" or "Health" were not part of the curriculum. What surprises many modern people, is that our ancestors had greater practical knowledge, AS WELL AS greater academic knowledge than we possess today."And here, also, a word to parents who have daughters. Are you fitting them for the practical duties of mother and wife, that they may in due time go out and make homes what they should be? Or are you training your daughter to play the lady by making them accomplished in flourishes, and expert in ostentatious embellishments?....We should not fail to insist that they shall to do the practical things, and they do not despise the common labors of life. Any other course toward them is an injustice to the boys and girls, as well as to ourselves and the community in general." ~Joseph F. Smith
I believe the key to all this gained knowledge lies in one simple word: WORK.
When life was tied inextricably to seasons, wasting time was not an option. Crops had to be planted, cared for, harvested, and then either sold or preserved. Households ran on the timing of the work outside, and hard-working husbands and children had to be fed enough to continue the work still unfinished. The woman who took hours to prepare food for everyone to eat did not waste time wondering whether or not she felt "fulfilled." She was just grateful to have food to eat, a warm home, clothes to wear, and people to care about.
Children were needed and welcomed as contributing members of their families. The work they did was important. And as they worked, they learned the skills their parents were both modeling and teaching them. School years worked around plantings, weather, and harvests-- not the other way around. In fact, school terms were shorter, and the students learned more difficult subjects in a shorter amount of months and years than today's children. (THAT'S a post for another day...)
Don't get me wrong-- we are sooo blessed to live in a time of such ease and prosperity! The most advanced technology in history exists in the homes of most Americans, and opportunities for self-improvement and learning are all around us. But if we're so prosperous, and have so much more leisure time than our ancestors, then why aren't we better able to care for our homes and families? Do we really know more than those that came before? Or could convenience and ease actually be handicapping us?
What are we teaching our children? Do they know how to clean up after themselves and their families? Do they know how to cook meals, plan menus, and purchase food? Are they able to care for their clothes by keeping them clean, washing them when dirty, and mending them when damaged?"I would like to say to this congregation, and to the world, that if I possessed millions of dollars I would not be satisfied or content in my mind unless my boys knew how to do something that would bring them in a living, how to handle a pitchfork, or to run a mowing machine or reaper, or how to plow the ground and sow the seed; nor would I be satisfied if my daughters did not know how to keep a house. I would be ashamed of my children if they did know something of these things... If we would devote more money and time, more energy and attention to teaching our children manual labor in our schools than we do, it would be a better thing for the rising generation." ~Joseph F. Smith
Your response might have something to do with how these skills are not really needed any more. With widely-available cheap food, inexpensive clothing, and time-saving appliances and cleaning products, extra work is unnecessary.
But, is work really UNnecessary?
I propose the idea that work is not just a good thing for us, but that it is VITAL to our very existence. When we perform needed, helpful work, we feel better about ourselves. We know that what we are contributing is important to ourselves and others. And it's not just an emotional sensation. When we physically work, our health improves. Our outlook on life improves. In fact, the brain literally releases endorphins into our systems that give us an over-all feeling of well-being. And when we work together as a family, we grow closer to one another in our relationships.
When we work for the things we have, we appreciate them more. We show our gratitude by taking care of our homes, clothes, and possessions.
To take this even further, when we perform honest, real labor, we are showing God that we are grateful for our blessings. We begin to recognize that we are merely caretakers of our blessings, and that everything good comes from our Heavenly Father. We come to understand what "stewardship" means, and we try harder to care for the gifts we are given.
Another blessing our ancestors enjoyed, was that they KNEW that their lives depended upon God. Weather can be unpredictable, seasons can be irregular, and circumstances are not always reliable. They knew they NEEDED God and His help to make it through the trials of their lives because they did not have convenience, government programs, corporate jobs, or technology to rely on. They were reminded daily that their best efforts were not always enough. They knew they needed help from above.
In the end, when we teach our children to work, we are also bringing them closer to God. And we need that closeness, as well. Are we leading the way?"I believe the morals of the people will improve as skill in workmanship and productive labors is acquired. Parents, too, will find it easier to govern and control their children, if these are trained in usual manual labor…" ~Joseph F. Smith
I can see I have room for improvement. I need to better lead my children in Work, Gratitude, and Stewardship through my example. What would happen across the world if we all made more of an effort to give our children these gifts? How much better would we connect to older generations if we asked for their help in learning and then teaching the "Lost Arts" of the past?
"That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.
To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works..." Titus 2: 2-7
If WE want the knowledge of generations before us, we need to ASK our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, neighbors and older women in our church congregations to teach us. We must recognize that we have much to learn, and then seek out the books, resources, and people who can help us. The potential for joyful contribution and collaborative work makes me smile.
That reminds me: I need to ask my Grandma what the secret is to making her light and buttery rolls. I'm sure she'd love to tell me.