Tools Trump Toys!

A few weeks ago, my then-ten-year-old son sent me this email:

(I purposely did not correct his grammar and punctuation errors so that you could know it is authentic. We can work on those later.)

Hi, how are you doing? I am doing good. I want a bird (chickadee) cake for my birthday and strawberry ice cream. I  want to go swimming and roast hot dogs on the fire and have watermelon for lunch on my birthday.

Here is a list of present’s:
Drill
Drill bits
Saw
Nails
Screws
Garden tools
Clippers
Love, AJ

Well, my heart smiled, and I immediately sent it to Grandma so that she could share my enjoyment, as well as have a list of birthday suggestions. Then, I studied the list more and began to wonder, “Are these gifts normal?” Do most soon-to-be-11-year-olds wish for clippers, drills, and garden tools?

We have boys. Pretty much from the time they were able to recognize a saw, they used sticks to make pretend ones. You know how it goes: a simple stick can transform into a chainsaw, a sword, or a violin bow, just as quick as the imagination changes gears. I don’t say that this is unique to boys; they are just what I have to observe. I’ve known little girls to turn a cell phone into a pretend ultrasound probe and scan their daddy’s belly. Kids just make up pretend tools according to what they are exposed to, because they want to do “real things.” In fact, if you stop to watch little people, many of their games are attempts to copy what their adults do frequently.It’s no wonder, then, that in our family, when our oldest boy turned nine (a few years ago), he scrimped and saved his dollars to purchase a used lawnmower, so that he could be just like his daddy, who ran a lawn service. Sure, he liked playing with Legos like most boys, but he mostly saved those for the winter months, when he had to be cooped up inside anyway. He always had a desire to do something useful — build something, make something, or try to figure out how something worked. He led the way in the “Tools over Toys” philosophy that we have preferred since we began our family.

We have never been opposed to toys, but as children grow and multiply, so do their toys! I began to inwardly groan whenever holidays and birthdays rolled around, because really, children don’t need as many toys as they generally have. They are hard to keep organized, and easy to lose. Thankfully, our extended family has been very respectful in the types of toys shared. As time has gone on, and especially since we are gearing up for a move into smaller living quarters, I have seen our boys begin to evaluate more closely their possessions. Suddenly, we all have to prioritize, and only the most important items get to go along with us! I’ve seen many toys go out, and we have shifted to the new era of Big Boy Toys.

Big Boy Toys are those that men and boys alike appreciate: power tools, ratchet sets, etc. Once every three weeks or so, my boys will convince me to take them to Harbor Freight Tool Store. I’m afraid I go into that store like my husband would enter a Hobby Lobby — dragging my feet and groaning to myself. I set a timer; otherwise, we’d stay for hours! One reason I go is the very reason I hate to go — I know that a good percentage of what’s sold, or given away for free, in that store is going to be a disappointment. I hate to see good money used up on trifles, but once I’ve stated my opinion of the necessity of some of the freebies, I hold my tongue. Time does teach lessons here — those “free batteries” let you down just when you are getting ready to take that great shot of the eclipse; the “free” headlight really doesn’t provide enough light for your trail; and you can only use so many amazing grabbers! So, the lessons learned by purchasing or acquiring cheap stuff is a good one, better taught by experience than by parental advice. Our sons are slowly learning that there is quality to be found, but they may have to wait, pay more, or both, in order to find it.

Transitioning to real tools instead of toys will likely happen naturally, if the conditions in the home provide opportunities to learn to use them. A girl won’t desire her own rolling pin and apron if she never gets a chance to try out making cookies or looking through cookbooks. Boys who never get to see under a hood of a car will learn to assume someone else should fix the car instead of jumping right in there to see what’s wrong. But, I was very glad last week with my just-turned-11-year old! We were in town, and my father asked us to drive a homeless man to my parent’s house where we would eat together. Dad and our other son jumped into Dad’s truck and took off! Well, my car would not start, and the man in our car was elderly and had crippled hands, so I knew he was dependent on us. Our youngest hopped out, flipped open the hood, and proceeded to tap the battery; then when that didn’t work, he dug out the jumper cables from the trunk and helped the other man who stopped to help us. I felt very proud that our sons had learned some basic lessons (informally) under the hood. It’s because Daddy has allowed them to watch and help that they feel confident to at least try some basic repairs.

In our homeschools, one goal is to graduate our children with the knowledge they will need to do practical work once they leave our supervision. So, practical training is vital to their success in life. There are many recommendations in the Spirit of Prophecy about practical training. We have been reading through the book Education, and the chapter on “Manual Training” is very useful for this topic. A few nuggets that I dug up are these:

“When children reach a suitable age, they should be provided with tools. If their work is made interesting, they will be found apt pupils in the use of tools. If the father is a carpenter, he should give his boys lessons in house building, ever bringing into his instruction lessons from the Bible, the words of Scripture in which the Lord compares human beings to His building,” Child Guidance, p. 356.

“Your means could not be used to better advantage than in providing a workshop furnished with tools for your boys, and equal facilities for your girls. They can be taught to love labor,” Healthful Living, p.137.1.

“While attending school the youth should have an opportunity for learning the use of tools. Under the guidance of experienced workmen, carpenters who are apt to teach, patient, and kind, the students themselves should erect buildings on the school grounds and make needed improvements, thus by practical lessons learning how to build economically. The students should also be trained to manage all the different kinds of work connected with printing, such as typesetting, presswork, and book binding, together with tentmaking and other useful lines of work. Small fruits should be planted, and vegetables and flowers cultivated, and this work the lady students may be called out of doors to do. Thus, while exercising brain, bone, and muscle, they will also be gaining a knowledge of practical life,” 6 Testimonies, p.176.

This sentiment is voiced from several individuals that have experience in educating children. One is Dr. Raymond Moore. He recommends a balanced approach to education, with three areas comprising most of the student’s education: work, service, and study, in equal proportions. Here is his counsel on what will help a child to learn practical skills:

“Instead of toys, give them tools (kitchen, shop, yard or desk), encyclopedias, magazines; use libraries, etc. Don’t be shocked at their interests, even if they are guns or motorcycles! From these they can learn chemistry and physics (internal combustion motors), economics, math, history, geography, languages, cultures, and manual skills (at local repair shops or in home businesses). Girls are usually a year or so ahead of boys, at least until late teens.

“The ‘antennae’ sprouting from the brains of most students are blocked by mass-education’s cookie-cutter substitutes for life that destroy creativity. Kids come out uniform-sized cookies, or sausages.”

You may read more about this tried and true approach to education at the Moore Foundation.

As I was gathering my thoughts about this post, I stumbled across an excellent article here (No Greater Joy).  It has been years since I have read any of the material from No Greater Joy, but in this article, Michael Pearl shares his perspective on why many young people, boys in particular, drift away to an aimless life. He believes that, “Boys have a greater need to explore, invent, achieve something objective, conquer, and compete. They have a need to be meaningfully engaged in pursuits that yield objective results, like rebuilding automobiles, painting a house, cutting firewood, building something that others will admire. They are little kings looking to build a kingdom and furnish it. Idleness (including entertainment) breeds self-loathing and wanderlust.” And also, “The child who is not needed as part of the team will gravitate toward loyalties outside the family.” In other words, our children absolutely need to not just feel needed, they need to know they are needed! It reminds me of another page from Child Guidance that says we need to “let children feel that they are part of the family firm” (p. 126).

A couple of years ago now, my husband did a mulch job for some neighbors. The boys sometimes go along to help out, but this time they didn’t. But, for some reason the gentleman gave my husband a little extra money, designated for the boys, so that they could each purchase a little something. The funny thing was that, when we trekked out to Wal-Mart to buy their gift, they each chose a garden tool! I drove them by the neighbor’s house for them to show him what they had chosen with their money, and imagine his surprise when three young boys marched up to the front door with rake and shovels! He exclaimed, “What’s this? Are you coming to dig a hole?” They simply told him that the tools were what they had chosen with his money. He really did scratch his head over that one, but several years later, when he needed someone to cover his lawn for a few weeks, he gave the job to the boys with the garden tools!

So…we can encourage our kids in the areas that they have an interest, and if we help them to build up their stash of tools appropriate for the task, they will not only be better equipped, but they will also sense that they have our support.

For (not just) boys, the list is almost endless:

  • Garden tools
  • Saws, clippers, and pruners, pocket knives
  • Toolbox tools: hammers,wrenches, screwdrivers, tape measures, drills
  • Power tools
  • Photography equipment
  • Science tools: microscopes, telescopes, magnifying glasses, ID books
  • Rock tumblers, gold pans, metal detectors
  • Knot trying and climbing books, rope
  • Bike fixing supplies: tubes, wrenches, tire tools

For (not just) girls, all of the above, plus:

  • Kitchen essentials: small baking pans, smaller sized oven mitts, aprons, kid cookbooks
  • Knitting needles, crochet hooks, and yarn (Knitting looms are fun and an easy way to make hats and scarves.)
  • Sewing machine and fabric, simple patterns (Boys like this too! My husband always wanted a sewing machine until someone told him they were for girls. But…what about tailors?)
  • Hair cutting supplies
  • Books on wild edibles, compass

The list really could go on and on! I think the point is to get ourselves and our children into a mindset of learning useful skills, and to provide equipment and training so that they gain the confidence to pursue their interests.

Happy learning, and go find some tools!

p.s. The Lord tested me on this on the very next day after I wrote this article. We planned our “first day of school” for that day, only to find that my husband needed help on a project. I struggled, but realized we could be inside “doing school” with him needing help, or I could let the boys go help. I chose the latter, and what a blessing it was to see them working alongside Daddy — with their own tools! We can still maintain the balance of work/study/service. Some days are almost all books, and some are more heavy on the service or work. But, I would not trade the experience that they had working with Daddy — it’s real life, and he really did need them!

Resources:

  1. White, E.G. (1954) Child Guidance. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald.
  2. White, E.G. (1897) Healthful Living. Battle Creek, MI: Medical Missionary Board.
  3. White, E.G. (1901) Testimonies for the Church, Volume 6. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press.

Homeschooler to Entrepreneur Party Planner

Creating a Party Planner

Marla had always loved helping her mom plan family get-togethers and events. Her talents were a blend of organization, creativity, and artistic flair. She was 16 years old, finishing her homeschool 10th-grade curriculum, when a church member sparked her interest in a career as a party planner.

Sally was an adorable little five-year-old about to turn six. Her mom was talking with Marla’s mom about how to manage a party for Sally. She didn’t want to do one of the party’s at a local restaurant, especially since the guests, like Sally and her family, were vegetarian and tried to eat healthy. Marla remembers walking up as they were talking. She joined the conversation and injected some great ideas that were very intriguing to Sally’s mom.

After a few minutes of conversation, Sally’s mom asked Marla if she would be willing to help her put it together. She even offered her a small payment if she could take the time to help plan and also run the party. Marla was so excited, that her mom agreed. Looking back, she admitted she didn’t really give it enough thought, but it did work out well.

Planning the First Party

A typical almost six-year-old, Sally loved all kinds of animals. Marla and Sally’s mom agreed on a pet theme. Marla researched easy, healthy, vegetarian finger foods; put together a few easy game choices for young children; and designed the invitations. She asked her younger sisters to help with the games and decorations. All the details came together, and the party was a huge success!

After that day, Marla was asked to help others put together events and parties. She also helped with the church events. Although she made a reasonable income, her love of the planning and hosting far outweighed any monetary earnings.

During this time she remembers still thinking of taking some computer design courses and pursuing that career. She enjoyed computer design, but her favorite activities were still party planning and hosting. Her mom saw the excitement in her face each time she was asked to plan, and the energy she instilled into each event.

Planning the Future

Marla’s mom sat down with Marla one day to go through senior graduation ideas and future plans. Marla showed her the latest course information she had received. Her mom listened as she always did and then spoke. “Marla, have you considered your own business as a party planner?” That’s all she said, then waited for Marla’s response.

“Do you think I could do that? I mean, as a real business? I’d love to, but is it really a business?”

Marla’s mom was prepared. She showed her several other similar businesses and suggested Marla do a little research on the topic.

A Business is Born

Two days later Marla was filing the needed papers to make her business a reality. It was quick, very quick. But, in reality, she had been practicing for two years. Now that she had the focus directed at her future, she was ready to jump in.

She used the savings from the previous events she had planned and put together a nice website. Business cards, flyers, and a few other essentials were also purchased. Her business was now real, and she eagerly began marketing.

Word of mouth and referrals from previous customers gave her a good start. Some weeks were busier than others. She used the open time to complete her studies and further research her chosen business. New ideas were as plentiful as her ambition.

Although she was quite organized, she found that she needed help with the business side of things. Tracking expenses, income, and such details were often set aside in favor of designing party favors and attending to party details. Her brother offered his assistance with that, and a team was created.

Marla loved the kids’ events, and also enjoyed those for adults such as wedding showers, baby showers, and birthday and anniversary parties. The variety offered her a chance to really stretch her talents, and she loved the challenge.

A Special Party to Plan

Her favorite event that she planned offered no monetary compensation, but created precious memories. Always close to her parents and grandparents, Marla was honored to be able to plan her grandparents’ 50th Anniversary party. Guests of all ages were invited and many came from quite a distance. It was her biggest event to that time, but also the most important.

Marla’s business will celebrate its first official year soon. She is making more money than if she had graduated with a computer design degree, and has not had to pay for college or tech school. Her enthusiasm and hard work have granted her many good referrals.

But, more importantly, Marla is using her talents to do what she loves, and helping others in the process.

entrepreneur partnership

Homeschool…to Entrepreneur Partnership

Many homeschoolers choose business over college. Homeschooled all his life, Stephen was not sure he wanted to attend college. He visited several colleges, spoke with recruiters and current students, took the ACT test in preparation, but was still not certain that life was for him.

His ACT scores were extremely high, opening up scholarship opportunities that would help pay for a four-year degree at some of the best schools. Still, he hesitated.

Jeremy and Stephen had been friends for many years; their families enjoyed social time together often. Jeremy, also homeschooled, had good scores on his tests. He had always just assumed that college was the next step, although he had no idea what he wanted as a career.

entrepreneur partnershipThe boys often helped others in their church and neighborhood with needed chores. They did lawn work, cleaning out garages, took care of pets while owners were away. They learned as they went; their customers were willing to teach them skills while getting help. Often they received pay, but other times they just did it to help out a friend. These odd jobs were just a part of their everyday lives; they enjoyed working, being busy, and helping others.

entrepreneur partnerIt was a cool September morning when their futures changed. They were helping Roy, an elderly friend of theirs from church. Roy lived alone now and often needed help with cleaning and yard work. They even kept his dog bathed and brushed.

While taking a break from trimming trees, the boys and Roy chatted. Roy remarked that he sure would miss them, their talks and their help, when they went off to college. They assured him that they would help whenever they were home. Then he asked the question: Had they decided what they wanted to do with their lives?

The boys were silent for a few minutes. Stephen remembers stirring his cider with the cinnamon stick, feeling awkward and not knowing what to say. He really had no idea. Jeremy broke the silence by stating that he guessed he would take his first two years in general studies to try to find what he wanted to do.

Roy explained to the boys that he had his master’s degree and was never against college, but for him, it wasn’t very useful. He had had the same problem; he didn’t know what he wanted to do, but his parents were able to send him to college, so he went. He majored in biology, planning to enter the research field. But, that just didn’t turn out to be what he truly wanted to do. Retired now, the majority of his life he had owned a small restaurant with his wife. While he didn’t regret his college days, he also didn’t find them largely beneficial.

Stephen remembers the question Roy asked them implicitly: “Have you boys thought about expanding your help business, rather than going to college?”

That one question led to many hours of discussions over the next few days. The boys had certainly been making a fair amount of money, even considering that they were only working a few hours each week. They relished the feeling of helping others, especially those that needed their assistance, like Roy.

entrepreneur partnershipBoth boys were hesitant to speak about the possibility with their parents. They knew that their entire families were assuming they were college bound. The reaction of their parents was a pleasant surprise. Not only did they express their support, but they also offered to help them set up a structured business plan. Stephen and Jeremy were business owners before they completed high school.

It helped that they had the support of family and friends. Having a small base of customers helped, too. Building their business slowly while completing high school gave them a chance to build a solid structure and create a good plan.

While they offer basic help for all, they have since specialized in helping the elderly with whatever they need, including transport to shopping and appointments. Remarking that Roy inspired them, they feel that helping the senior citizens in their community is especially important to them, and they also donate time to helping those not able to pay whenever possible.

Now a legal partnership, Stephen and Jeremy have begun to hire others to help them as the business has grown beyond what they can manage full time. Other homeschool teens are now helping them part time, as they grow out their business.

Much happier to be building a business now, rather than spending time in a classroom, both boys remark that the best part of the business is that they are still helping others with necessary tasks and are able to make a difference in others’ lives.

 

Homeschool Fruits: Serenity

According to my handy-dandy dictionary phone app, serenity is “the state of being calm, peaceful, tranquil, unruffled.” It is a freedom of the mind from “annoyance, distraction, anxiety, obsession.”

This is totally you in your daily homeschool life, right?!?

There may have been a bit of sarcasm there. I know when my child still wasn’t reading at nearly nine years old, I didn’t feel particularly calm. The fact that he’s currently a grade and a half behind the rest of his studies in math…does not leave me feeling tranquil.

But, those are momentary emotions, and those emotions do not speak to the longterm truth of homeschooling: Homeschooling allows your child to complete his education where and when he or she is ready — not when the public or private school system dictates, not when Aunt Betty thinks it should be done, not even where any of your own preconceived hopes and plans have placed him. And, that is what brings the homeschool mom or dad the fruit of serenity.

This has been on my mind a lot the last couple months since my son hit his teens. In the elementary years, it seemed we had forever. Now that he’s a teen, I’ve had to remind myself that we still have as long as it takes.

As your child enters or nears the high school years, there is serenity, peace, to be obtained in remembering that homeschooling has so many more options than most of us grew up with in a school system.

Maybe your kid will be the one who homeschools all the way through high school, and completes it with a homeschool transcript, and takes the tests necessary to head into college. That seems like the preferred path to most of us, but don’t get nervous if you’re not sure your child is cut out for that. There are other avenues.

College often provides a base of learning from which you can choose numerous careers.

If he wants to try out an Adventist academy, he can. Many academies would be happy to work with you to integrate your child into their system. If that works out, super! But, here is the serenity of homeschooling again: If it does not work out, if for any reason your child does not flourish in that setting, all he needs to do is come back to homeschooling. There is no success or failure here; there is merely the option of a different path.

Another opportunity might be junior college. She may have finished her freshman and sophomore classes, but is becoming dissatisfied and anxious to “get on with life.” Numerous homeschoolers make it to about 16 years of age, and then decide to just morph into junior college. They may live in a place where they can get dual credit, or they might eventually have to take a GED, but at least they can get a headstart on college. Likewise, your child may not be headed for a four-year degree, but they might want to pick up some classes at the junior college to enhance their personal business plans.

An electrician is a skilled profession that will be needed even in times of poor economy.

If they’re of a more technical bent, they could instead look into the requirements for getting into trade school. Opportunities are endless. Sometimes those of us who took the college route get stymied thinking “whatever could my child do(?!?)” if they don’t have a desire for college. There is so much out there. I’m going to list a bunch here that helped open my brain’s horizons: web developer, electrician, plumber, health field technician, commercial driver, HVAC tech, heavy equipment operator, licensed practical or vocational nurse, medical laboratory tech, computer programmer, non-airline commercial pilot, network systems administrator, animator, electrical engineering tech, first responder like police officer or fireman or EMT, aircraft mechanic, architectural drafter, graphic designer, diesel mechanic, and probably many more than I could think of. Most of those require two years or less of training, and offer quite decent income.

Sometimes the key to Sabbath off in a manual labor job is proficiency. Unwilling to lose my husband’s skill (masonry), his company allowed him to take off Sabbaths when he refused after they initially requested Saturday work.

What about manual labor? Sabbath work requirements are often a fear, but there are jobs to be had where they are willing to work with your Sabbath-off needs, or even where they don’t usually work weekends. Here’s another list of possible jobs or areas for the child who needs to move or craft to be happy: track switch repairman (here’s an example of easy Sabbaths off, as railroad jobs often have weekends off), machinist, petroleum pump system operator, concrete, plant operator, construction, key holder, brick and stone mason, cleanup, iron worker, welding, and more.

Did you just read those last two paragraphs and think they mostly applied to boys? Nope. There are opportunities for your girls, too. Check out these articles to see how women are flourishing in nontraditional trades.

I don’t know what my child will decide to do. He’s not very hip on college right now, but that could change. He might decide to take some basic business classes and operate his own business. He’s a bit of a geek, so I don’t see him spending a lifetime on the construction scaffold, but on the other hand, he might spend summers learning masonry from his dad, and have a needed skill to fall back on no matter what his final career choice is. Or, he might decide to become an engineer or some other school-centric profession, and just take as long to get there as he needs — which could be extensive if current math efforts are indicative. LOL.

There’s no rule that your child needs to finish high school at 17…or 18…or 19…or 20…or period. The serenity fruit of homeschooling comes from knowing that we are allowing our kids to take the path that will best fit their God-given talents and abilities, even if it’s not the path we envisioned.

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you,” Isaiah 26:3 NIV.

~

“The Holy Spirit produces a different kind of fruit: unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You won’t find any law opposed to fruit like this,” Galatians 5:22,23 VOICE.

Homeschool to Entrepreneur Writer

The love of reading

Katie is the youngest of four children, all homeschooled by their mom. From the time Katie was a baby, she loved books. Her older brothers and her parents read to her every day. Bible stories and Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories were among her favorites. She also loved stories about animals, as well as children’s books such as the Dr. Seuss books.

As her reading skills grew, so did her love of reading. She loved the internet, as it gave her an endless amount of material to read on all subjects.

young-girl-computerDuring her younger years, Katie also discovered she enjoyed writing as much as she loved reading. Although she was quite adept at most of her school subjects, she wrote with great enthusiasm. Her mother noted that whatever Katie’s future held, her writing skills would be a huge asset to her. As a teen, she explored possible career paths, most of which included college. Her mom helped guide her, but Katie was not yet sure what direction to take.

The skill becomes the career

While on the internet one day reading some blogs, Katie came across a blog on how to become a blogger. She searched for more information on blogging, then on other forms of writing. Her mom said that Katie was so immersed in what she was reading that she didn’t notice the time. When her mom came in the room to remind her they needed to leave for the youth group meeting, Katie could not stop talking about what she had discovered.

Katie’s mom laughs that Katie didn’t seem to stop for a breath the entire drive to the youth group meeting that night. Her excitement over her new-found career path just seemed to bubble from her.

Katie spent the next couple of days on career exploration centered on an online writing career. She discovered that while blogging was certainly a good possible choice, many other options existed, too.

College at least delayed

Katie decided that she would try a career in online writing before considering college. Never excited about spending time and money on college, she felt an enthusiasm for being able to jump into a career without that expense. Some of her friends encouraged her to consider college now, with them. But, her path was different.

Fast forward two years

While some of her friends chose local or distance colleges, others chose vocational schools, and still others pursued jobs, Katie poured herself into writing. She began with writing articles for others, usually at no pay. She was just gaining experience. Soon, she had offers for paid content.

teen-girl-computerAlthough she already had a computer and basic necessities for writing, she used her income to purchase a few more necessities, and even invested in an online freelance writer course.

One of her favorite memories is when a few of her close friends came home on break from college. While they were quite happy with their chosen college route, Katie’s writing career truly impressed them. She showed them her office, a remodel of her schooling area, where she was able to write. When the reunion was over, Katie quickly made notes about the stories they told of their college experiences. She used those notes to write more freelance articles for pay!

Freelance Entrepreneur

Katie did not truly make much of a profit the first year, as much of the small amount she was paid was reinvested. But, before her college-educated friends received their bachelor’s degrees, Katie’s monthly income was quite impressive. She has decided that the freelance entrepreneur lifestyle is perfect for her, though admits it would not work for everyone.

She credits her homeschool years and the freedom they allowed her to pursue her own path. While she might have found this path from any education, Katie believes that the encouragement from her mom and dad, as well as the homeschool education, helped her refine her career choice. She states that without the reading and writing through the years, her life might be quite different.

Katie recently started writing a book, in addition to her content writing. Now engaged, she plans to continue her online business when married, too. She is sure that it will allow her to homeschool their own children in the future, too.