Make It & Mend It: Real Life Learning Opportunities
By Wendy Priesnitz
Taking part in the DIY movement with your
child provides real-life learning opportunities for both of you.
We all know that there are many things not learned in schools, from
empathy and creativity to budgeting and having a conversation. One big
set of skills that’s overlooked in schools and in our consumer society
in general is what’s involved with making things from scratch – as well
as maintaining and repairing such things. Many commercially produced
items are designed not to be repaired by the user and others are
designed to quickly become obsolescent (either unfashionable or
non-functioning) in order to sell new ones.
The increasingly popular do-it-yourself (DIY) movement is
counteracting that problem. Many products can be made from scratch or
repaired. And increasing numbers of people are doing just that – if only
because economics require it. DIY is also better for the environment,
can often produce better quality, and induces a feeling of pride and
sense of accomplishment.
The trouble is, because most of us went to school, few of us learned
the necessary skills. But it’s not too late to learn them...along with
your children. Building a bookshelf or fixing broken household items
with your child is one way that you can offer him real-life learning
opportunities. At the same time, you’ll be modeling learning – either by
taking courses or consulting books or the Internet. Sometimes, your
child will know about things that you won’t, and will be all too happy
to share her expertise. And, in that case, you’re providing her with
practical experience in leadership and confidence building.
Tackling a DIY project if that’s not your normal way – especially
with your child watching – can be scary. So start slowly, say with a
simple board-on-brackets shelf or by darning your sock holes or
repairing a bike tire. There are lots of books available (from repair
manuals to the “Complete Idiots” and “Dummies” series), and plenty of
helpful information on the web. (See the “Learn More” section.) Don’t
hesitate to seek help from friends or family because these can be great
multi-generational projects. Some of us are braver than others about
opening the back of a computer, and some more knowledgeable, so working
together can help build confidence in our abilities. And besides,
combining repairs with socializing will help everyone and provide your
families with some fun times.
Encouraging and helping each other to build stuff and repair broken
belongings while having fun is the impetus for a growing number of
groups and community locations around the world. Variously called “maker
faires,” “hackerspaces,” “fixer collectives,” “repair cafés,” or “fixerspaces,”
they are often offshoots of tool libraries, which are popping up many
communities (often affiliated with regular libraries). Although these
groups tend to attract adults, younger people are usually welcome, and
Make magazine’s Maker Faire project has spawned a Young Makers program.
An Internet search or a visit to one of the websites below should
help you connect with collaborative makers and fixers in your area. Or
start your own group: Get together with a couple of friends and their
kids, and start creating, learning, building, and repairing.
New Fix-It-Yourself Manual: How to Repair, Clean, and Maintain
Anything and Everything In and Around Your Home by Reader’s Digest
(Reader’s Digest Books, 2009)
Hand Mending Made Easy: Save Time and Money Repairing Your Own
Clothes by Nan L. Ides (Palmer/Pletsch, 2008)
Canadian Living Create, Update, Remake: DIY Projects for You,
Your Family and Your Home by Austen Gilliland, Karen Kirk
Woodworking Together: Projects for Kids and Their Families
by Alan Bridgewater, Gill Bridgewater (Tab Books, 1993)
is Life Learning Magazine's editor, the author of 13 books, and the
mother of two adult daughters who lived without school.
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