My nine year old son and I have been working through an electronics kit. He is catching on and taking an interest. Two weeks ago I went into the garage and flipped the main bank of lights for the workbench and nothing. The switch died. I decided to replace the switch and stopped — let's turn this into a lesson.

A day later I called my son into the garage and asked him to turn on the bench lights — "Dad, they don't work!" "Son, I want you to replace that switch, it's broken." At first his mouth opened to say something, then he started looking at the switch and the conduit coming down to the switch box. I gave him a screwdriver and the lesson started — off comes the plate and then — Stop! We now must turn off the power — you know from the electronics kit — the battery. I had him turn off the breakers to the entire garage. I asked him to plug in a tool near the switch and then to turn it on — "no power," he said. "Good, the power is off, it's safe to work on the switch."

It was fun to watch him struggle with the screws and the wires, helping him here and there. He replaced the switch with a new one, and then I had him use some electrical tape on one of the wires since it was too close to the metal box side. I tightened all the connections and showed him how to final tighten things without overdoing it; and then he put the switch plate back on."Crawl up there and put each breaker over now." He did each one properly and then jumped down. "Now try the switch." "It works!" A big smile!

I reiterated lessons from the electronics kit: the circuit, the battery (power source), the switch, etc. The big learning was that electricians need dependable and heavy duty flash lights because they are always working without power! He goes into the garage now and flips "his" switch. Sometimes he asks me how "his switch" is holding up. Moving from the lab to the real world — like trading, testing an idea with real money versus theory.

I am amazed at what kids can do! I opened the fireplace door the other day to put in a log — my son said "Dad, don't turn your back on a fire like that — keep one eye on it while you get the log." My jaw dropped — did I teach him that? if I did I couldn't remember! I was always leary of electricity as a child because my parents told me to stay away from it — it's dangerous. I decided to teach my son to respect and understand things like fire and electricity. I want my son and my daughters to understand not only higher education but also real life skills and challenges.

I can't tell you the number of times I should have included one of my kids in a chore or a lesson and didn't because of time or just being too tired. I employed some of Vic's smarts this year with my son. No TV, videos, or video games Monday through Friday, only on weekends (and that is limited — just to the point where I am not hated). Not only did he excel in reading, he is number one or tied for first in accelerated reading. Now he wants to own and collect books. This week he begged me for a book collection to buy scholastic book club through his school — I gave him the money and he wrote me a thank you note. I gave him a chore list today for payback, "no problem" he said.

TV and I would include any video/computer screen outside of school related is toxic to children (in general) and too many kids rot in front of these screens. My son asked me today what I thought about the future regarding books. I told him something I read here on the DailySpec — that bookstores may be out of business in the future and that books will be on hand held electronic devices. He said "Dad, that's bad — what happens if you drop the electronic reader and it breaks — you lose all the books. If you drop a book you can just pick it up and continue reading." "That's right," I said and we continued driving to his last basketball game for this season not saying much else as the rain backed up the depressing thought of books' going dinosaur. 


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