It's not all about the money - FamilyEducation

It's not all about the money

May 21,2009
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

L. used to be my craft kid. He loved crafts when he was small and I loved coming up with new and stimulating things for us to do together. We have bins of craft supplies carefully hoarded from yard sales and thrift shops and craft stores. Because he was a first child, of course, I spent way more time with him doing crafts than I have with poor T., who also loves a good craft or two. Now that L. is 8 1/2 his interest in crafts has waned considerably. We still try and squeeze in at least one crafty activity each week, but L. rarely participates in the ones T. and I do together, and it's been challenging to find one interesting and "old" enough to draw him into the activity. Most of the crafty things L. and I do nowadays have more to do with science (making volcanoes, vinegar and baking soda rockets, balloon rockets, model airplanes) and sometimes it's hard to find activities for both the kids to enjoy. Having two kids 3 1/2 years apart and of two genders can be challenging. Last weekend we embarked on a long and daunting project, with less-than-satisfactory results, and learned two things along the way 1) not everything turns out the way you want it to and 2) sometimes the means to the end are more rewarding than the results. We tried to make our own money. Well, not REAL money, because that would be illegal, but we tried to replicate some of the processes of money-printing at home, and learned a ton in the process. Our goal was to go through the process of dying paper, and creating our own imprintable "stamp" from clay. Along the way we read articles like this one and this one, watched videos like this one. We did some reading on the Department of Treasury, and L. had lots of valuable input to offer T. on various Hardy Boys' escapades involving forgeries. First, we dyed the paper. L. came up with the idea of making our own dye out of green food coloring and water. We soaked the paper for a few minutes--you want to pick paper that's heavy enough not to shred when it's lifted out. If you soak the paper too long it will fall apart, but this presents a nice lesson on what happens to different types of paper when they soak too long. We dried the paper for a few hours on towels--when dried, the paper took on the right "feel" of real bills. This was our drying "factory" as L. dubbed it: Drying bills Then we made a clay brick and L. and T. each carved their own "money" patterns into the design. L. worked very hard and patiently on his, which was pretty remarkable because he usually gets impatient quickly with detail work. We used the type of clay (white) that hardens in the air (more waiting), and painted the tops with green paint, to make a stamp. The stampPatient L. Then came the moment of truth. We peeled back the paper from the clay with indrawn anticipation-filled breaths... The momentMoney? the results weren't so great, as it turned out. I could tell L. was disappointed. He's a perfectionist, and if a project doesn't come out exactly as he envisioned, then there is rarely a silver lining to be found, however hard we look. But I was proud of his work. We stuck through it from start to finish. We dyed our own paper using L.'s idea, and waited for it to dry; L. made a stamp from clay all by himself. T. helped cut out the paper. L. rolled it over the clay until it was covered in paint. He had a vision, and he saw it through. This was learning, I thought, at its finest--because education--no matter what form it takes--is so much more than results; it's about the process that goes into it; it's about green water, eager hands shaping clay, and visionary dreams in an eight-year old's ever expanding mind. And money making? Not so easy in the end, no matter how you try and do it.