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 (Transcontinental,
Woodworking Together: Projects for Kids and Their Families by
Alan Bridgewater, Gill Bridgewater (Tab Books, 1993)
Wendy Priesnitz is
Life Learning Magazine's editor, the author of 13 books, and the mother
of two adult daughters who are still living and learning without school.