Learning by doing

It seems not that long ago that whenever my middle child would want to build something it really meant that I would be the one building it. His first Lego sets were built by me, and he didn’t even watch. But as time went on he started paying attention. Before long he took over building the Lego sets himself.

Of course that usually means they move on to more complicated stuff, and once again they turn to Dad to do the hard work. It’s easy to get discouraged and think they aren’t really learning, but they are.

This last weekend I had a lot of work to get done in the yard. But my son wanted to build his rocket for the cub scout Space Derby coming up in May. It’s crazy expecting a kid to wait three months before building something. They can’t wait that long. They want to build it now, and then play with it, and by the time May gets here they’ll have the poor thing worn out. But I digress.

He was determined, so I finally let him do it . I told and showed him what to do at each step as we glued the two balsa-wood halves together, shaped the wood with a wood rasp and file, smoothed it, sanded it, added the various parts, and finally painted it. It really didn’t require much effort on my part–he picked up each step pretty quickly. I was able to get my work done, and he was able to get his rocket finished. His satisfaction is that much greater for having done the bulk of the work himself. Other than showing him what to do, all I really had to do was cut the slots for the fins and hanger–and that only because the knife was sharper than I was comfortable with him using.

I’m proud of him. It’s not the roundest rocket by any means (but it sure looks better than the “flying ice cream cone” I made when I was his age), but it looks good. I believe he has a gift for using his hands to create what’s in his head. I need to learn from this project and give him more opportunities to do things himself. He’s getting old enough and mature enough to pick it up, and he’s smart enough and talented enough to think of new ways of getting things done.

It’s fun watching your kids grow up, mature, and learn to do things for themselves. It’s immensely satisfying knowing you had a hand in that. Watching them understand something and start improvising and improving on their own is a source of pride. I have very talented, very intelligent children. Sure, they don’t always apply that intelligence in directions I would like (ie. learning to stop picking on one another), but they are very capable children. It’s an awesome responsibility to teach them.

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2 Responses to Learning by doing

  1. Dan Stratton says:

    Well done! That’s how Dad taught us. Now look at all the things we can do. One thing he taught me especially well was to read the instructions – by not reading them hImself. I learned how to just jump in and figure it out as I go, too. He had a knack for that.

  2. Thom says:

    I know we gave Dad a fair amount of grief for his inattention to instructions, but truth be told, he got it right much more often than not. Still, I’ve learned to read the instructions when I have them, question them when they don’t make sense, and improvise when they aren’t clear or are missing. And, of course, I’ve learned to build many things from scratch with no instructions at all. Dad was good for helping teach us not to be afraid to try things.

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