Fun…and maybe educational – Tinkering

When you homeschool, along with trying to remember the math you actually never knew, you are confronted with loads and loads of free kid time. Realistically, you can cover what kids need to know by the time they hit Grade 7 with about 2 hours a day four days a week. Which leaves a huge amount of time for other things. And the Internet, and the X-Box.

I have no problem at all with screen time. If anything my older son learns far more from the Internet than he learns from me. But, and it is a big but, watching Cracked twelve hours a day is not on. Happily, Sam likes “the News” and, more importantly, has discover the rich vein of handyman, fine woodworking, Mr. Fixit videos. My lovely wife no longer even bothers to ask me to fix stuff around the house – a skill I entirely lack – she goes right to her father (Mr. Household “to do list”)”s grandson. We are all much happier.

These days it is all about compressed air. When an 11 year old finds a free compressor you know you are going to be inflating all manner of things. The best part of the free compressor was that it was hand built about forty years ago. It was a straight plug in so it needed a switch. And so Sam found a light switch, an electrical box at the dump and got to work. (His poor mother is now riding her bike to the Oak Bay trash transfer station daily (about three miles there and back) so Sam can strip useful objects and cart them home. Susan does not go to the gym.)

I’ve had to lash out for a couple of fittings and an air hose – call it $20.00 – but Sam is a born, what? recycler, scavenger, McGyver? He calls guys up who are advertising air tools on UsedVictoria and convinces them that they should deliver their wares for, effectively, nothing. He adapts bits of old tubing and cast off pressure gauges to calibrate his primary pressure gauge.

“Dad, I’ve got an oil leak.” or “Mum, I have to drain the water.” are good for a couple of hours of tinkering.

Tinkering is a bit of a lost art. Figuring out how to get a good seal or the right fitting is not something you can teach. It is about exploration. Getting stuff wrong until you get it nearly right.

For Sam this is about the compressor. But it could just as easily be a radio or a bit of software.

Now tinkering is enhanced. Instead of having to rely upon your mechanically challenged parents for useless advice, you hop on Google and look it up. Compressor leaking oil, type in that search string for the wisdom of the masters.

Knowledge is changing very quickly. And the means to acquire knowledge are changing even more quickly. Teaching children you quickly realize that the general principles contained in a printed book are not nearly a match for specific, useable information which you can get on the net. No longer do you have to tinker blind, whether you are eleven or somewhat older, you can instantly find the exact information (and often a video) about what you need.

I can’t imagine schools in the conventional sense managing to last much more than a decade as anything other than baby sitting services – and, hey, I suspect there is an App for that.

2 thoughts on “Fun…and maybe educational – Tinkering

  1. Maikeru says:

    This weekends ‘honeydo’ list included replacing a dryer drumbelt and fixing a leaking shower control.
    Both jobs were made far simpler (heh, read ‘possible’) by viewing youtube videos detailing the steps beforehand.

    Emboldened by success, I also took on the challenge of replacing the kitchen faucet – without viewing a youtube video, or reading the instruction sheet.

    The hot water shutoff blew off during the faucet switch, creating a vesuvius of hot water erupting inside the sink cabinet, and turning the kitchen floor into a kitchen sink .

    Did I mention it was HOT water that I attempted to cap with a dishtowel, arrghhh, while the Divine Miss G ran around looking for the hot water tank shutoff ?

    Fortunately, the scene/panic will never appear on youtube.

  2. derek says:

    I’ve been training apprentices for the last few years in my trade (refrigeration). Something I have been trying to figure out is how to show them how tight things need to be. I forgot how I figured it out myself, probably in the way your lad is doing, by tinkering until it worked. You break something, oops too tight, you figure out how to fix your mistake, and don’t do it again.

    Lucky boy.

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