Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Book Club: Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child : Don't let them solve problems

Once again, for Cindy's Book Club Party.  I don't know why you're reading my post when you could be reading hers or those of the other participants ... 

Esolen titles this chapter "Keep Children away from Machines and Machinists" but I think what he is talking about are problems and problem solving and personal interests.

When we are interested in something, there will eventually be a problem.  A problem that could be solved.  Who will come up with a solution?  Someone interested in the subject of the problem.  And not only the professional, but the hobbyist.

Esolen talks a lot about machines in this chapter and the interest people have, in the past, had in them.  How boys, particularly, used to try and rig things up so they did what was wanted.  But why did the machine exist in the first place? To solve something.  How do we get the coal over the mountain? How do we transport information over large stretches of land in a timely manner? How do we bridge the Tiber?  We invent machines, some simple, some complex.  By encouraging children to use, destroy, abuse, break apart, figure out machines, we give them the tools to create new machines to solve today's (or tomorrow's) problems.

I was impressed that his discussion of blueprints was included and that it was more than putting machines together, but introduced plot summaries, and garden planning, and architecture as problem solving techniques.  I was pleased that canning and sewing and creating the beautiful and orderly (whether art or music or decorations for the home) were included in a chapter on solving problems.  Problem solving without a well thought out plan (or structure) may cause more problems in the long run.

All of this preparation for problem solving creates people who are self-reliant, capable of caring for themselves and their families.  Expertise, (etymology: the sense of a "person wise through experience") whether amateur or professional, gained from helping other experts or following the lead of other experts means one doesn't need help to solve problems. I appreciate that the hobbyist or amateur can be looked upon as an expert to learn from, and that a career in a certain field isn't necessary or even always desirable. 

Now the problem for me is reliance upon others to teach my children many of these things (piano, choir, sewing, art, etc ...) because I don't know them and can't hand them down.  This is part of why we homeschool ... so our children are equipped to teach our grandchildren.  So our children can have deep seated interests that they wish to explore.  So they can truly be individuals.


  1. Yes, problem-solving! That's what ties it all together. I knew I was missing the unifying point, and I think you nailed it. :)

  2. Hmm...I'm reading it because you approach the chapter differently than me, and make me re-think it in a different light. :) Great post!

  3. I agree that your point about problem-solving is a great clarifying point. I think it hearkens back to why we it is frustrating to have to teach math is such a hurry because the hurry cuts out the problem-solving act involved. Latin also exercises this skill.

  4. I was just talking to David about problem-solving today in temrs of him reading (sounding out a word and using context clues) and Jacob trying to figure out how to get down off a chair by himself. In theory, I like to let my boys be "hands-on" with lots of things, but in reality, I'm not sure I do aw well with that as I'd like. thanks for the reminder.


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