04 May 2020

Laying foundations

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Due to lockdowns across the world, many of us have recently begun home educating our children. Rupert Scott’s family took on the unusual challenge of teaching their children at home 15 years ago, which means they have had 15 years’ head start on a journey many of us are just beginning.


There is a common assumption that the best, and indeed only, way to learn is the way the education system teaches. Many people think that it’s impossible to learn at home, because going to school is how we learn. Well, the last eight weeks has probably strongly challenged or confirmed most people’s opinions on this matter! Rupert has five children, although he and his wife are still home educating the youngest two only; the eldest three are now aged 18 and above, and their eldest daughter is now teaching at university.


Growing in a trained manner

Rupert Scott advised: ‘Children learn whether you teach them or not. Of course, if you don’t guide a child and structure their learning, they are unlikely to go as far in life – but children will learn some things whether they’re formally educated or not’. The same can also be said of employees within the timber (or any other) industry. Like an apple tree, which will still grow but be more productive and fruitful if pruned and cared for – employees within the timber industry will still pick up some information but be much more fruitful if they have a structured learning programme running alongside their work.


Laying foundations

One of the most important foundations that we lay early on in teaching is language. As children there is a heavy emphasis on English and Maths, two subjects with their own languages that are vital to the rest of the curriculum. If a child struggles to grasp these, they will struggle to understand other subjects. Of course, there are additional languages and skills we learn as children – how to behave in groups, have conversations, or debate, for example – but knowing how to read and write and use arithmetic are fundamental to accessing geography, history, biology and more. Trying to understand these subjects without the necessary language will typically breed frustration and impact confidence.


This is similar to the world of work because every industry has its own language that isn’t simply picked up at school or home. If a person is enabled or encouraged to lay those foundations at work, that person is in a much better position to make the most of their working career in that sector. For example, if you learn all the terminology, definitions, and background to those terms as a woodworker, whether you’re selling, making or designing, you will be in a much better place to be fruitful.


Encouraging creativity

‘Home educating our children allows us to make creativity a much higher priority,’ Rupert Scott continued. ‘We want our children to be sufficiently good at English, writing and arithmetic – but we also want them to put more time into the subjects they’re naturally interested in, and to really exercise their creativity. Everyone is creative, but many of us have not really discovered anything like our full potential. Drama, theatre, art, and woodworking – these are all examples of creative subjects that have ended up with less time or emphasis in the school curriculum. But there are so many ways to be creative. Home activities like playing with Lego, drawing, paper crafts, writing stories or building tree houses are all great ways to exercise our creativity – which, like a muscle, only grows the more we use it.’


Creativity also takes many forms in business – it’s not just about painting or writing a poem. Marketing campaigns, installing a kitchen, planning an event, designing a building, improving a spreadsheet and putting together a seminar programme are all examples of creativity; many of us practice it on a daily basis. Business is about creating things and making things happen, often with seemingly nothing at the outset. And wood is arguably the greatest material for creating physical things, because it’s so versatile and easy to shape with just a few hand tools.


Here at TRADA, we are in the business of helping everyone design and make things out of wood. We don’t believe creativity is a “nice to have” bolt on; it’s at the heart of the industry, in everything we buy and do.


The importance of working with each person’s preferred learning style

The current school system is heavily skewed towards cerebral learners, but learning styles vary greatly. A child who learns best with their hands, for example, will likely learn more about calculating angles and trigonometry if they spent an afternoon in a workshop than in a classroom. This is for many reasons but it boils down to motivation: children learn if they’re motivated and hands-on learners particularly need to understand the purpose behind learning something in the first place.


Teaching alongside doing is, therefore, an essential part of education – particularly for those that prefer hands-on learning. Confidence is borne out of learning and putting that learning into practice – whether that’s an apprenticeship with a day release each week, or using their hands to understand how puzzle pieces of information fit together.


How we help at TRADA

To recap, the first stage of learning something must include laying strong foundations – which we help you do in the form of training courses and introductory documents dedicated to starting you off strong on your timber learning journey. These introductory training documents include our 63 units of Learning Resources, 18 straightforward Choose and Use sheets, and a number of preparatory Wood Information Sheets aimed at making topics accessible and explaining key terminology.


After all, you can’t discuss a topic concerning wood unless you grasp the terminology. In the same way, you can’t have a meaningful conversation in English if you speak only minimal English; you are limited to what you can understand of what’s being explained.


Once robust foundations are in place, they become the building blocks around which you order and file away additional information you absorb. This empowers self-learning because you then have the power to dig deeper on your own; good books, for example, are powerful tools which are well-ordered and well-explained, with good drawings to accompany key points. With strong foundations, you can understand what you’re reading because you recognise where the information falls.


TRADA has many publications, many of which are also available online to members within our Books Online area or available to all as purchasable hardback copies in the TRADA Bookshop. Marking up your own comments in the margins of a printed book helps most of us to learn and retain far better.


With TRADA resources, you can check stuff out at your own pace or use it as reference material. From inspirational case studies to detailed technical information, we have you covered. Plus TRADA has a dedicated technical helpline – your easy-to-access ‘tutor or mentor’, available to answer all your technical questions during usual work hours. If you need clarity on any of the information provided during the lockdown, simply email advisory@trada.co.uk and one of our technical team will call you back.


So why not get into the garage with your children and have a go at making something creative out of wood?


Rupert Scott is TRADA's Membership & Marketing Manager and is responsible for the strategic development and management of TRADA's membership strategy, events and exhibitions programme and marketing activities.


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