life lessons

A Different Kind of Learning Opportunity - They’re Still Learning

When an electronic item breaks in our house, I sometimes let the kids take it apart to learn from it before I throw it away or salvage it. They love to take things apart, see what’s inside and find out how things works. I must admit, I am blessed, my children love to learn.

The case on my son’s dynamo flashlight broke beyond repair and the crank no longer worked. So, I loosened the screws holding it together to get them started and then gave them a screwdriver and told them they could take it apart. They were quite happy about this and got right to work.

Crank FlashlightAs usual, I walked away to let them learn and discover on their own and then came back to check on them in about five minutes. I noticed one of them coming back to the table with a hammer. I was a bit surprised (mostly that they had gotten it so quietly by themselves). As any mother would do, I asked what they were planning on doing with the hammer. Their plan was to smash the flashlight with the hammer to see what would happen. My first thought was “No, that’s not how you learn!” Instead of saying what I was initially thinking, I realized that they haven’t really ever had the opportunity to smash something with a hammer before. They are boys and should be allowed to smash things once in a while just for fun since it is a part of the way God created them.

So as painful as it was for me to allow them to make such a mess, I told them “Yes” they may smash it, though first they must move it to a box on the front porch (to contain the debris and prevent damage to my table). I helped them move the flashlight, went over a few use and safety guidelines of hammers with them, and then let them commence with their plan.

They took turns jubilantly smashing the flashlight with the hammer for a while. After the case of the flashlight was smashed to bits, they played with the circuit board inside. Moments later, they excitedly came running to me to show me that they had figured out how to crank the flashlight and it was now working! Seeing as it wouldn’t crank before, this was quite the accomplishment! I took a few minutes to point out some of the different parts of the now working flashlight circuit board before they went back to play with it some more feeling quite proud of their accomplishment.

It amazes me sometimes how much children can learn from what seems like a silly experiment. My children were going to smash a flashlight with a hammer-not much of a science experiment. Yet, they learned so much because I was willing to let them try their own experiment their way. Learning may not always take the form that I expect. I will try to remember this in the future and consider objectively when they come to me with an unusual plan.

Please share an example of how your children have learned in an unusual way.

Don’t throw that away so fast: Junk is a Learning Opportunity

We had a broken shake mixer recently. We rarely used it and I didn’t really want it cluttering up my house, so I wasn’t too sad when it broke. I was going to throw it away, when I decided to turn it into a learning opportunity for my children. I realized that my curious children would probably love to see what’s inside it and probably had no idea how it worked. So I decided to let them take it apart. Now I have to be honest here, I didn’t let them take it apart right away. I actually saved it in the basement for about a month until a more convenient time.

Of course, safety comes first with any experiment. So, the first thing I did was cut the power cord so they couldn’t plug it in and accidentally hurt themselves. I told them why I did this and that appliances can be dangerous if not used properly. I also informed them that they were not to take mom and dad’s things apart unless we directly tell them to do so. I really didn’t want them taking the blender or oven apart and possibly hurting themselves in the future.

Then, I set them up at the table with an all-in-one screwdriver. I showed them how to use a screwdriver and how to change the bit. I showed them the difference between a regular bit and a Phillips bit. Then I told them to experiment and walked away so they could try it on their own.

I hadn’t allowed my children to take an appliance apart before, so they were a bit surprised when I not only allowed them to take the shake mixer apart, but told them that they were supposed to take it apart. My 3-year-old had a huge smile on his face and grabbed the screwdriver to get started right away!

After a few minutes, I came back to check on them. They were struggling to open the mixer housing, so I helped them a little. Then they went back at it, pulling it all apart and playing with it. When they started to get bored, I came back again and explained the basics of how a motor works. I’m talking real simple basics like the cord plugs into the wall and the electricity comes in through this wire here that leads to the motor here so when you move this switch here, the motor converts the electricity into energy that causes this rod here to spin which is attached to the beater here that mixes the shake. My children are young, so I just wanted them to have an intro into basic mechanics and electronics at this age.

As my children grow, I’m sure we will have another broken household appliance and then we will go more in-depth into mechanics and electronics and learn more at that time. I may have to do a little learning myself before I explain things to them. That’s okay, I like to learn. It’s one of the great things about homeschooling. When they are old enough, I can have them look things up themselves and then explain it to me to show that they understand it. Either way, we all learn together.

How have you turned a broken or obsolete household item into a learning opportunity?

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