You're absolutely right, Jon, that I, and likely most, thought the post was going to be another back-to-school reminder about the importance of having laptops and how the latest mobile device can inspire new educational opportunities--not just serve as a vehicle for texting and downloading the latest music.
I think this is a great reminder to teach our kids those go-to skills that so many let fall by the wayside in our disposable society. My kids are heading back to school today--not to college, yet--but this is good advice we have already started on and will certainly heed the toolbox suggestion once we pack them up to leave the nest in another few years.
Jon, I had an experience similar to yours when I was young. We did all the home improvements at my house when I was growing up, even the major ones. My father worked at a government lab and many of his friends were engineers. We even installed our own central air conditioning (we had forced air heat already), down to pouring the pad for the compressor. I especially liked the wiring. We even repaired my sister's and mother's jewlery with silver solder (that was my expertise). As for cars, my brother and I had small British sports cars, so we could take them completely apart and put them back together again (usually with a few extra bolts hanging around). We started on my father's car, doing all the normal maintenance.
I have tried to teach my kids by having them help on projects at home. We have a John Deere riding mower. That is the only vehicle where we do all our own maintenance. It is simple, but fun.
So, I agree that this is a good thing to do. Even if they don't do all their own stuff, they can evaluate what is being done for them.
One of the most interesting aspects of your very instructive story, Jon, is the way the tools became a mechanism for helping your kids meet people and become useful in the college environment. This is no small benefit when your kids enter a fresh environmental where everyone is a stranger. Apparently, when you have tools, everyone becomes your friend.
This was a great gift to give to your kids as they head off to college, Jon. My dad spent time with me teaching me to use all of his tools around his workbench. He also was very liberal in letting me use his tools for whatever I wanted. I built tons of things, from homemade jigsaw puzzles to speaker cabinats.
Very timely post Jon. It's funny--I follow your advice myself, but I never thought to pass it on to the kids. When I move my kids into their dorm rooms, I always pack the tools you suggest (maybe not the solder iron). And I almost always use them. It's getting trickier lately though, with the "no holes allowed in the walls" rule that the schools are adopting. Those two-sided tape things just don't cut it.
Hi, Rich. I don't understand why dorms don't have some type of cove moulding along the upper edge of walls so students could use an "S" hook and hang things with wire. We ran into the same problem when our kids went to college--nothing on the concrete walls. The concrete was full of Teflon because nothing would stick for any time. ;-)
Don't do it. I own a pickup truck and ALL of my friends think I'm a moving company. Your kids should be studying but instead will be "helping" the others to repair everything from their cars to their stereos.
Hello, Rob. Students can always use their time-management skills and say, "I'm busy now, come back at..." A college education goes beyond studying and homework and should include some fun, whether playing a sport or helping someone troubleshoot a car problem. If you trust your friends and neighbors, let them borrow your truck and tell them to return it with a full tank of gas. You could mention it's only a quarter full now and it takes xx gallons (or liters).
I agree, Rich. Every time I've dropped one of my four kids off at college, I've brought my own tools to help them, but I've failed to pass the habit along to them. Jon's right: It's definitely in their best interest to give them the tools and aquaint them with the everyday chores he mentions.
The writer is spot-on about the social side of owning a good set of tools. More than once, I was addressed as "toolbox" and was happy to share my stuff or lend a hand. In a co-ed dorm this was a real asset and friendmaker.
This is a fantastic idea - and one that I will use with my three daughters.
Can't tell you how many so-called "technical" people I've worked with who've had none of the practical experience that comes from working with simple tools or being employed to perform simple manual labor. Those are the "techical types" that frustrate many of us because they have no practical common sense.
In many cases, I believe kids would get as much long term value from pounding a few nails, cutting a board, painting, soldering, or turning a screw as they do from having their nose in a textbook.
I did this with both of daughters that have gone to college so far and they had similar experiences. There was an untold number of things they needed tools for and having ready access to them, as well as knowing how to use them, was invaluable. Besides the "handyman" skills I have taught each of the kids, before I let any of them drive they had to know and perform a standard set of car related items. This greatly assists with remote diagnosis of problems and helps me figure out, for example, if it just needs a quart of oil (which they could do) or if I have to go and rescue them. Most recently one daughter became very popular at college because she had a set of heavy duty jumper cables that are long enough to reach from the front to the back of a car with a dead battery. Those jumper cables were constantly in demand. It seems like cars left in the parking garage for days on end without being started would not want to start. Having a set of long, heavy gauge set of jumper cables is required for every one of my vehicles.
Hi, Outback. Great story. Kids should know about the vehicles they drive and how to check oil and transmission fluids, collant level, and so on. Heavy-duty jumper cables--great idea. Maybe your comments will suggest some holiday or birthday gifts for new drivers.
With two kids in college and each having their own cars, it was a rule that they first understand oil changes, jumper cables and changing a flat tire. I wish I had also thought to arm them with a tool box as Jon's article summarizes, but I didn't. Even so, I think they would have "accidently" forgotten to pack it at the last minute, as they never really gravitated toward my engineering mentality. Their mentality was always, "Dad can fix it." This article makes me hope they are slowly realizing Dad won't be there forever. Great article, Jon, Thanks. A little tool box might be under the tree this Christmas,,,,
We bought my son a tool box for his first Christmas and have been adding a tool set every year. He's 10 now and starting to help with projects. He recently helped worked on the riding lawn mowers stuck starter solenoid and with replacing the slave cylinder on my car's clutch. He really enjoyed operating the clutch pedal as I bleed it.
Excellent. Kids enjoy working with grownups and they like to learn about practical things. It's also important to help them understand things like fasteners, cutting tools, adhesives and glues, and so on. That type of knowledge comes from working on projects. We also should let kids know that before they can do things well they first must have the fortitude to stick with them as they learn and when projects don't turn out as expected. We all went through that phase.
milld01, I did the very same thing. We have three boys and as soon as they turned 10 years old I bought them a tool box. I don't mean plastic tools; I mean real tools you can use to get a job accomplished. They have been adding to their boxes for some years now. The oldest is 45, then 43, then 33-- they all have their individual tools. Like you, I don't have an engineer in the family except me. (Feel like a failure here but that's how it goes.) I think this is a great idea and I'm really surprised more families don't do it.
The toolbox shouls also include a top-of-the-line Leatherman tool, a large and small pair of Vice-Grip pliers, one 13" "plumbe's special" slip-jhoint pliers, a rool of duct tape (make sure it actually sticks), and a can of WD-40. Thus equpped, the kids can do anything including assist McGuyver in defusing H-Bombs.
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