Dot Physics

Book Review: Made by Hand

I am not normally a book-review-kind-of-guy. However, in this post I will make an exception. My wife (who clearly knows me very well) bought me this book – Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World (amazon link)

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The basic idea of the book is to look at how the author (Mark Frauenfelder) started doing more and more Do-it-yourself type stuff (DIY). He goes through his efforts to grow his own stuff, raise chickens, build guitars and stuff like that. Very enjoyable read. It wasn’t so much about how to do stuff as much as it was about making stuff rather than buying stuff. (do I use the word ‘stuff’ too much?)

Near the end of the book Mark talks about DIY education. For kids, you could break education into 3 groups.

  • In school. This pretty much says it all – kids go to school.
  • Homeschool. This is a lot like school, but they do it at home. I have to say that I like homeschool. My wife homeschools our kids. Perhaps the biggest advantage in homeschooling is flexibility. The kids can do lots of different cool things. But yes, it is still kinda like school.
  • Unschooled. This is where the parents provide a safe environment for kids to play. That is it. Maybe the kids will play video games for 6 months straight. But the idea is that at some point they will get bored and do something useful. They may learn how to read when they find that they need it.

I would find this unschooled option to be difficult. I understand the idea and the philosophy behind it in that it really helps the kids be self motivated. To me, this is sort of like letting children choose their own foods. Oh sure, they are going to pick candy and ice cream for the first six months. But eventually, they will see that this is not good for them and they will switch to vegetables.

Ok, back to the book. Here is my favorite part. Mark was talking about some friends (Andrew and Renee) of his who unschooled their children. The question was: how would their kids get into a good university? Here is the response:

“Andrew said that when he an Renee had kids, they discussed the role formal education had played in their own lives and how it had affected who they were. “We are who we are not because of school but because of what we did with our lives,”…”

That is an awesome quote, and an important one too. Just because you go to some fancy school, it doesn’t mean you are necessarily going to be more successful (although you might have more social networking with influential people – but maybe that is sort of cheating). The opposite is true also, you can make any university or community college useful. But you (the student) have to make it useful.

In short – it is a good book. I recommend it.