The Biggest Lesson I Learned in 5th Grade Was How To Cross-Stitch

 I don’t remember much from that year, but this unlikely skill stuck with me.

Upper case alphabet and numbers in cross stitch.
Photo: NNehring/Getty

It's amazing the things we remember. No matter how many hours I spent memorizing multiplication tables, diagramming sentences, and unsuccessfully trying to remember the capitals of all 50 states, what I recall most from my childhood school days are the lessons that probably weren't in the plan. I'm grateful I can make a pillow, sew on a button, and identify nearly every breed of dog from Afghan hound to Yorkshire terrier, all of which I have to thank for these gone-rogue days where the plan likely took a sharp turn for one reason or another. Chief among these impromptu (but long-lasting) lessons was how to cross-stitch. For that I have my 5th grade teacher to thank.

I didn't grow up in the time of home economics, though Grandma was always quick to point out what a travesty that was, which is why spending any amount of time on something that didn't necessarily fit in with the core subjects was both unexpected and a welcome retreat for the brain-fried among us. I remember starting off slightly irritated, a bit impatient, and a smidgen confused with those first stitches. Our fearless 5th grade leader was relentless and unmoved by our waves of protest and defeated sighs. Instead she slowly peered over shoulders and managed to right our needles back on course when we thought all was lost. That first row of perfectly executed little x's was the sweetest of victories.

From there, cross-stitching soon became second nature and a respite at the end of a long math class or quiz on a particularly aggressive batch of vocabulary words. We would pull out our little cross-stitch kits during these times between the regularly scheduled programming in order to give our young minds a rest while making sure that old adage on idle hands never saw the light of day in that 5th grade classroom.

There was magic in the air that year. We had a little gated garden just outside the door of our room and that's where we set up fairy gardens. I'm sure we also had many a lesson in planting seeds, harvesting fruits and vegetables, and introductions to irrigation, but just like the cross-stitching—the fairy gardens are what I remember.

I'm not sure when the cross-stitching lesson hit the curriculum. I don't know if it required a late-night trip to the craft store to pick up needles, string, and a few dozen sheets of 14-count aida, or what the intended lesson—though I have a feeling it had something to do with patience and/or taking things one stitch (aka day) at a time—but I'll bet it likely stuck with far more students than just one. I'm forever grateful for the creative teacher who thought she would veer from the expected and instead fill her students' heads with fairy gardens and hands with cross-stitch patterns. Even though it was no home ec, I think Grandma would have approved.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles