At the end of January I started teaching Isobel, Stephen, and four third graders how to knit after school on Thursdays. So far it has been fun, a bit exhausting, and very interesting. Trying to explain how to do the moves that have been become so rote has been a good exercise for me, and the kids seem to be enjoying themselves.
I joined a group on Ravelry beforehand to get some pointers for how to begin. One great suggestion was to cast on and do a row or two beforehand (knitting into the cast-on row is pretty tough for a new knitter), so you can teach the kids the knit stitch right away. After a couple of weeks of knitting, we proceeded to the bind-off, which is really just knitting with an extra move. Then last week, once their needles emptied, I taught them how to cast on.
Honestly, when I learned to knit, casting on was the most difficult thing. For some reason I just didn't get it. I can't even remember what I did, but it was totally wrong. It took me about half a day to "get it". Luckily, I remembered this and told the story to the kids a couple of times, so that they would understand that it isn't easy if you have never done it before. And then, when you do get it, you've got it. Everyone managed to get it after some one-on-one time with me, both mirroring what I was doing and having me guide their hands to do it, and they all had that same "a-ha!" moment, which was fun.
Next week we'll give purling a try. And then we have a couple of weeks of Spring Break.
My plan is to felt all their swatches and learning "squares" so that we can't really see the wonky stitches and the times I had to decrease umpteen stitches to get back down to 20. Then we will give dyeing a try (or maybe dyeing first, then felting), and ultimately sew all our pieces together to make a blanket to donate to the Project Linus. That way all the hard work of learning to knit won't go to waste, but no one has to be reminded of the wackiness that is their first attempts at knitting. Plus, what would you do with a few wonky squares?
I started with a few skeins of Cascade 220 in Natural and a handful of bamboo US9 straight needles. I also have a bunch of the Pony kids' needles in US7 that we'll try next (there was a problem with the post, and the needles never arrived, so my LYS came to the rescue with the bamboo sets, but those Pony needles are great, since they are a little shorter and the two-color sets help distinguish what they're doing).
After that they will branch out into their own projects. A friend gave us some of her yarn from when she knit (she's a first grade teacher with a young child, so I'll cut her some slack ... for now), so we should have some fun options. Plus, we can dive into my stash (a little).
And, if you're ever feeling a little "stabby" about your knitting, as Bridget mentioned yesterday in the comments, wear some handknits to pick up your knitting students. Someone asked the kids what they were all doing together as we were leaving school, and they all proudly told him about knitting class and then pointed out all the things I had made. It was a very dear little ego boost for me on a grey day.