Here’s a short list of general life lessons that I’ve noticed kids learn when working with wood.
The List of Woodworking Lessons that Last a Lifetime:
1. You Get Out What You Put In
Many kids are given a lot these days. A lot of;
- Things to watch on TV and YouTube
- Games to play on their devices
Yet, many feel bored
It’s not because there isn’t plenty that they can do, but there is no meaning behind much of it.
They can’t seem to see the relevance of the ‘thing’ in relation to their life. The toy is a plastic widget that they thought they wanted, but really means nothing to them, so they lose interest.
When a young person does woodworking, they need to put in some effort. Their arm gets sore from using the saw, or they made a mistake on their work.
All of a sudden this gives what they are working on some character. They can see themselves in it, it becomes relevant to them and because of this they become more interested
2. If it is to Be, it’s Up to Me
My wife works long hours. So on the weekend when she takes the kids to the shopping center, she buys them a toy. She does it to keep them quiet.
Many of us get stuck in this kind of cycle. We are busy trying to do everything, the kids need attention and we think we can trade our money for their need (and some peace and quiet)
The unfortunate part is that it does work…
But it’s not a great lesson.
Woodworking tackles a child’s need for attention a different way. Instead of having you and the toy fill the need, woodworking teaches your child to work to fulfill their need. And hence learning some independence and that they can, with effort, learn to take care of their own needs.
3. Having Patience is Usually Faster in the Long Run
In woodworking, things usually have to be precise. Sometimes you can get away with some sloppiness but usualy things need to be just right.
And to be just right, you need to think about them beforehand, and ask yourself, what is this going to look like? Once you know, you start the process.
Even though it seems slow this step is crucial. Because without knowing what you want, you will be driven by other things…
- How to do it faster
- With extra bits you originally didn’t want
And once the dust settles you see that what you wanted to happen didn’t actually happen because you did all this other stuff. And prioritizing things that aren’t necessary.
If you know what you want, you can afford to be patient. That is a lesson I keep learning from W
4. You Can Only Focus on One Thing at a Time
Making a box is a semi-regular occurrence in woodworking. There are different types of boxes I make with students in the shop (pencil box, jewellery box) but at their core they are the same. Two sides, a front, a back, a top and a bottom.
But the lesson comes in how do you put it all together so that it’s all square, flush or even, there’s not glue everywhere and any moving parts (such as a sliding lid) still work?
Especially since you can only put the nails in one by one?
The answer (no prizes for guessing unfortunately) is by doing it one piece at a time
Getting one piece right and then moving onto the next one
If you’ve ever been woken up in the middle of the night by the thought of something you forgot from the previous day, you know where this lesson is coming from.
5. Honesty is the Best Policy
It’s hard to hide with wood.
Some kids will ask me about short cuts or secrets when we are doing a project but I always seem to disappoint them when I say that there really isn’t any.
In the workshop, the kids who usually finish first tend to have the best work. The ones who take longer usually have ‘more character’ in their work. (A nice way to say that their work isn’t square, and it has more dints, loose joins, etc.)
This is a inverse of what can happen in other classrooms, and other areas of life.
In this way, woodworking teaches to do the job right the first time. Not only will you get a better job, but it’s faster.
Kids who are doing similar things (like using a saw, mallet
6. The A
ppreciation of ‘Things’
These days we live in a ‘consumer society’. We buy something, use it then discard it. We don’t think much of what is in it, or what has gone into making it.
Woodwork gives some of that appreciation and understanding to young people.
It allows them to look behind the packaging and understand more of what is involved in what they are using. Not only how it works and how it was built but also introduces the idea of where things
7. You Can Create Your Own Solution
In the workshop, resourcefulness gets thrust upon you.
It’s this way because you typically get stuck and need to find a way out. And because you are in control, you need to invent that way out yourself.
For example; You are gluing up and you need to secure your work at a particular angle, or maybe you made a mistake with your cut and now you need to fix it.
Looking at the work, you can see how a young person’s mind will instantly start thinking of solutions. With some prompts, they can start looking for answers in their environment. Maybe a clamp, maybe nails, maybe masking tape…
On another note being able to competently use tools to make things, woodworking also gives young people the skills they need to create their own solutions. And think twice about the materials and things around… (What else could they be used for?)
8. Good Things Don’t Come Easy
Building something nice takes time. You can’t rush it.
And if you do rush it you can see the consequences every time you look at your work.
Sometimes I find projects in the bin in the shop. After pulling them out, finding the name and thinking about the reason, it isn’t usually because the student doesn’t want to take it home. It’s because they aren’t happy with their work, and they don’t want to be reminded of it.
9. You Can Do Anything if You Put the Work in
Many kids when they come to the workshop don’t believe that they can make what it is we are making.
It’s a niggling doubt that they have when they start.
And this doubt is not only reserved for projects in the woodworking room. It’s tasks students need to do in other subjects such as learning more complicated formulas and theories, reading (and finishing) books, studying for tests as well as completing assignments.
Woodworking helps kick start their self-esteem by taking them through a project start to finish. And showing them what it takes to finish something they thought was daunting (And that it wasn’t that bad in the first place)
In this way, woodworking teaches young people that they are ‘capable of producing the desired result’ (which is self-efficacy). And they can have confidence that if they put the effort in, they can finish what they are doing.
Woodworking has been around not only because it’s practical but it’s also a great medium for teaching life and other lessons to young people
And it’s easier to get started than you thought. I have completed a video program that walks you through how you can build your very own Monster Truck
All the best with your Woodworking