After reading my blog yesterday, my wife suggested I write about why woodworking is a good skill for children. Why? Because it teaches them about hard work, problems, set-backs, and sometimes failure, and that’s okay. Not everyone is winner, not everyone is a Sam Maloof.
When I was a kid, life in America was very different. Only the champion winning team got a trophy. We had three strikes and three outs and keep score. Someone won and someone lost. If you were a lousy player and did not show up for practice, you did not get to play in every game. I worked hard and took a lot of physical hardship on the high school wrestling team, and I never got to start. But that was okay. I understood that there were guys in my weight class who were much better than me, and it was more important for the team to win, than stroke my self-esteem. Self-esteem was not a politically correct buzzword, thank G_d, when I was young.
Hard work, study, practice, teamwork and woodworking, all helped me develop self-esteem. Woodworking? Heck yeah! It’s not called “Wood-easy-here-is-your-prize”, it called wood “work”. Woodworking offers so many things to children. They develope; hand eye coordination, dexterity, learn math skills, a little biology and chemistry, art, patience, engineering, and self-esteem through real accomplishment. And as they get older they will learn such important things as; how to remove splinters, how to save all your money for a new tool, convincing your relatives and in-laws to buy your work, how to work in a freezing shop whilst keeping the propane heater pointing at your backside at all times, managing tool envy, and most importantly, facing the fact that you are human, and humans make mistakes thus, nothing is perfect.
When students work in my shop, they see other projects I am currently working on. Through their hard work, frustrations, (and boring sanding), they come to realize, how much work is really involved in woodworking. And when they see what I am working on, they appreciate the “work” involved with woodworking. Hopefully, one day, they will see a piece of impressive furniture and think, “Wow! That took a lot of work and skill to make that.” When they leave my shop, the don’t leave with a masterpiece and a three-foot high trophy. They leave with a piece that looks like a kid made it, but most importantly, they know “they” made it, and appreciate it for all the work that went into it. Now that builds self-esteem. On the last day of class they run to their parents to show off their work, I love seeing that look of pride and accomplishment in their faces. I can only hope that the skills they learn with me will be skills carry on throughout their lives.