I'm married to a genius.
I showed my wife this thread and she told me about when she was in school, and "all the girls had to take cooking and home economics while all the boys got to take shop," (her words.) According to her, the teacher had them take the thread and bobbins off of the sewing machine, then take a regular piece if lined paper, and "sew" along the lines in order to teach them how to sew a straight line, and control the machine. Once they got proficient at sewing a straight line, they graduated to "sewing" curves and other shapes that they drew on sheets of blank paper. She said that they just put the piece of paper on top of a piece of cloth so the feed dogs would have something to grab on to. Then they just ran it on through the machine and used the holes left by the needle to judge how accurate they were sewing. Sounds brilliant to me!
Thanks for the advice, folks. I'm ordering a manual for the machine so I can get it set up and running. Then I'm off to learn how to use it.