Trust The Children

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Ben and the Quad- A Lesson In Self Directed Learning

I am normally a busy guy. Demanding businesses, international travel, church duties, scouting, large family, gorgeous wife and personal time demands. About 4-5 months ago, my church duties came to an end and a new assignment hasn't been forthcoming. So the question was, would I use the spare time in meaningful self directed activities or just allow other things to expand into that slot? This blog is part of that answer. Working with the boys to build a shop to re-build a Piper Cub is another. Beginning writing little vignettes for my children, "Stories From My Life" is another. I haven't done too bad actually. In fact, I could get used to this. So I think I am passing the test. Given time, I can decide to fill it up with meaningful activities instead of waste it. In other words, I have a full catalog of things I would like to "do when I grow up" and know how to take advantage of the "seasons" of life to get them done. So what does this have to do with Ben?

About a year ago or longer, Ben noticed in our neighborhood a used, beat up, 4 wheel off road QUAD that was for sale. Finally his brother Sam suggested he stop and talk to them about it. They promised all kinds of parts for free, and if not for free, a place to get them cheap. Ben believed them, forked over the cash. Buying it was lesson 1. Believing them on the parts and wheels was lesson 2. Of course they never came through and Ben was back to work, earning the money himself to buy the parts he needed elsewhere. The entire Quad experience has had additional interesting twists and turns. A kind of "Adam/Garden of Eden" experience. You know, the "innocent losing innocence and coming to the truth" kind of experience. The rest of this "self-selected, born out of his own curiosity" home school class he experienced , was truly a magnificent example of self directed home school learning. After math lessons (most of the time after completing lessons anyway), Ben took the machine apart, all over our garage. This, of course, was a temporary thing. Getting the parts to make it run would only take a few days and the garage would be ours again. At this point Cyndy and I joined Ben in this special classroom. He was building in the garage and learning, we were getting used to the cold walk to the cars. Of course we said yes, and of course we still don't have the garage back. But that has been ok, and here is why.

Ben has researched on the internet, called and talked to any toll free number he could. He found local owners of similar 4 wheelers, visited machine shops, learned about 2 cycle carburetors, rebuilt the brakes, dismounted all 4 tires, sold them and purchased used/new ones by dismounting them from the rims and remounting the replacements, by hand. Well the list goes on. More reading, more phone calls to people who know. And all of this with but a few words of encouragement from me or Cyndy. Although at one point I weakened and purchased a few parts he needed on Ebay and gifted them to him for Christmas. The point is, he got the beast running. He got it all back together. He even put new jets into the cylinders, whatever jets are, because they bored out the cylinder for a larger piston. And it is running. Kick start it and it is running. They can ride it up and down our private drive. It's running! There has been no end to the reading, the questions asked of more knowledgable mentors, the putting together and taking apart, the conversations with adults, the trial and error. The frustated nights going to bed and not knowing where to go from here to get it going.

There has not been one single moment of prodding from Cyndy or I. Yes, a few trips to shops and other places to make purchases. But this has been the baby of our 14-15 year old from the beginning with help from his brother Sam. The learning was complete with so many elements that have been so positive, for learning, self confidence, patience, and the pure joy of overcoming and succeeding.

If you know Ben, he has never walked with a swagger. He has never been anything but the best friend you could ever want to have. But there is a new light in his eyes, a new sense of the "world being his oyster". And for both Sam and Ben, after this experience they are just the right kind confident, the right kind of happy and have the right kind of respect for all the people (ie. resources) he was able to acquire help from, to make his dream come true.

Another example of self-directed learning coming from this humble, but excited home. Home schooling is working, and the Quad is running! And by the way, they are both the right kind of partners to have around when you want to build a Piper Cub. Stay tuned.


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