Tuesday, November 6, 2012

constructive destruction

Yesterday I did not have any formal school planned: the kids were coming back from a sleepover at my in-laws, I had an ultrasound scheduled midday, and there was tae kwon do in the afternoon. I figured it is not worth fighting everyone to get those few pages of work filled up, but the kids had other plans. My mother-in-law sent over a few broken electronics, and they were eager to take them apart.

Here they are, sitting on the deck with three screwdrivers, undoing the screws. It is like advanced present unwrapping: you do not know what you are going to get. Yesterday they did not get too far, but it took them a good hour and lots of teamwork and taking turns to get the cover all the toy and to remove the batteries.

Today 6 yo was going to a Marine Mammal day camp for a few hours, run by a fellow homeschooler. This means a ten-year old girl, who is fundraising to go to a camp herself. 8 yo was sulking in the morning: he gets to pack his lunch, he gets to have fun, he gets to do cool things, while I am stuck here on a cold rainy horrible day and nothing good ever happens to me. This attitude gives me a bad rise ( until I pause and realize that there are plenty of times I feel like that too: oh, poor me, why me, why is this all happening to me?) Either way, I was not sure how much more of this moping I could take. Then I mentioned to my husband how today is trash pick up and could he put our old broken TV/VCR combo by the curb? And then I had an idea: I asked 8 yo if he would like to disassemble it instead. That turned everything around; the day went from horrible to great, there was eagerness to get work done, and he got to davening right away.

This is what 8 yo did today: finished Level 1 of Rosetta Stone, did a page of Lashon HaTorah, translated three pesukim in Chumash, learned letter "k" in script and did multiplication in math. Additionally, he drummed for half an hour, stood in line at the polls and helped me in the grocery store. 6 yo did these before his camp even started: a page of a new unit in Lashon HaTorah, HWT and math. All of this was done by 2:30, including lunch.

As soon as 8 was done, he went downstairs, lugged the TV by himself up the stairs, got the screwdrivers and went at it.

There were oohs and aahs when the cathode tube emerged. The boys fond the processor, the speaker and the induction coils in the motor. 8 yo disconnected the gears in the rewind/fast forward mechanism. I showed them the resistors and the capacitors. Everyone was busily occupied for nice long while. I just regretted that I do not know more about electronics to show them around.

Opening the cover
There is a large question on what motivates the kids: star charts, reward boxes, prizes, bribery. Most of these are materialistic rewards and are extrinsic. The parents and the teachers are reduced to the status of dog trainers: if you do this, you get that, and if you do not do this, you lose that. I see how it works, and I see that when you are at your wits' end, this gives you a way out. But can't we expect more from humans than we expect from dogs? Can't we find what makes humans tick, and feed into that?

freeing the cathode tube

playing with induction coils

Right now, taking things apart is that extrinsic motivator. There is a process of discovery, and channeling destruction, and surprise and applying what you know to a new situation. And my gut feeling is, this is what learning is truly supposed to be about. All those pages of work that were done in the morning, that are lying neatly in the boys' binders, they are nothing compared to what they took away from this old broken TV.

1 comment:

  1. Love it! We sometimes get things at Good Will especially for the kids to take apart (toasters, radios, etc.) FUN!