Washing machine puzzle
Well, my family's shared puzzle this week is the washing machine, which locked shut after completing a cycle 2 days ago and still refuses to open. We googled and found this great site containing problems and advice for fixing domestic appliances, did some print-outs and there it sits in the kitchen:
for people spend to spare minutes working on it, either separately or together but spontaneously, just to pass the time when they happen to be in the room, until it's fixed.
I like it better than a jigsaw actually, because it's a real life puzzle and one in which we have more of a vested interest in solving (to liberate the clothes trapped inside and enable us to wash more).
It's a brilliant educational project. What are we covering, in Eduspeak? Design Technology, Mechanics, Electronics, IT, Literacy, Group Interaction, Social Skills... probably more if pushed to include it on an education report ;-) It also has the added bonus of saving us £hundreds in both plumbers' services and college tuition fees. So if we manage to get it working as well, it's an all-round winner.
The best kind of practical learning happens through necessity as part of normal healthy functioning family life. Another example happened last night: we were writing a shopping list and Lyddie said she wanted fish, but we were all too busy (on the washing machine puzzle mainly) by then for someone to break off and write it down for her. So I shouted the letters and she wrote it herself. Her first writing! She got her fish too.
I remember from my school days a certain feeling of pointlessness. We were learning to read, write, do maths and science etc., but as abstract exercises these thngs don't mean very much. However, remove school from the equation and add in the factors of a fixed washing-machine and some fish and suddenly these lessons become real, worthwhile, interesting and fun.
It's also much more satisfying to fix your own washing machine than it is to sit like a helpless baby waiting for a professional washing-machine fixer to come to the rescue.