In so many ways, practical skills are not being passed on to the next generation. I’m thinking of skills like sewing, cooking, home repair, automobile maintenance, etc. When I consider these skills, I was taught a bit of cooking and the very, very basics of how to sew something onto a military uniform, but not these others. There are many, many more than the list I’ve given here, but it gives you an idea of what I’m thinking about.
I want to make sure my children have a wide range of practical skills before they go out on their own. As a result, in early May I decided that the two oldest, our boys, would start doing practical skills projects each month. I’m intentionally allowing that definition to remain broad. The idea is that by the 15th of the month they’ll get the books they need for the next set of practical skills they want to learn. I’ve chosen my boys because they are both teens. While we’ve been working on practical skills all along, it wasn’t with deliberate focus and intent. That’s the big difference. So they know they have to learn this practical skill and then, one month later, demonstrate it. We’ll do one a month, meaning by the end of a year they’ll have put their time into 12 sets of practical skills.
Son #1 – Origami
My younger son decided he wanted to work on origami. I know this stretches the definition of a practical skill, but I felt it was all right. The key is to get them actively learning about something they want to work on requiring hands on effort. Origami has applications outside of just folding paper. Origami promotes nimble fingers, making music play, working in miniature, and the like easier. This was his “text” for the month:
Since there were 200 models in it, we agreed that a satisfactory demonstration would be to have 50 complete. It was hard, but he pulled it off:
Son #2 – Land Navigation
My oldest decided he wanted to learn more about land navigation. He has probably taken an interest in this area because we’ve been geocaching this year. We looked at several books, but he decided on an old standby:
For his project, he wanted to demonstrate several techniques to find the North heading. These are primitive techniques using tools you likely have or can scrounge in a survival situation. This won’t get you a perfect North direction, but what it will do is give you some consistency in your heading so you aren’t walking around in circles. The first technique just uses something that can cast a shadow and an analog watch:
The second technique uses a trio of relatively straight sticks, one of around 3 feet in height. First, you see the shadow being cast and mark it:
Then you wait 10-15 minutes, see how the shadow has moved, and then effectively connect the dots. This gives you an approximation of North:
I think the first month went well. For the second month son #1 has gone with drawing dragons. He draws and sketches a lot, so this will be good for him. Son #2 has stayed with the survival manual and will be making tools from what you can find around you. Les Stroud would be proud.