WFH Tip #1: Working at Home with Kids

Kids aren’t born knowing that they can’t barge in at any time when you are working. They see Mom and/or Dad at a desk typing away as an opportunity for grabbing our attention.

What is work?

Little do they know yet, that what we’re doing when we’re working is so much more than just sitting idly, staring at screen and randomly pressing buttons on a keyboard. They haven’t yet grasped what work is for grown-ups. To them, work is math assignments, cleaning their room, or sweeping the floor.

In this moment, when they want our attention, there is an opportunity to educate them and help them to develop an understanding and respect for our work time. It’s not effective to instruct them to “leave mommy alone when she’s on the computer” (honestly, when does this approach ever work?)

Sharing what you do

Instead, share your work with them. Share with them the tasks you do as part of your job. Let them know you meet with people all day, work on complicated reports, build software – whatever it is you do. Help them connect by keeping it at their level.

At some point, they’re going to calmly ask you the golden question: Why do you work? This is your opportunity (and possibly only chance) to share with them WHY you work – the basis for respecting your work time space.

Here is what I shared with my 8 year old in this moment:

I work because I like to help people learn how to share and teach each other (I help clients build Intranets for a living for those who don’t know) and in return, my company pays me for my work so our family can pay for the things we need – a home, food, heat – and yes, even Minecraft and Netflix. I do my best work when I have quiet and no distractions.

That helped her build an appreciation for what I’m doing and its importance to our family. It started a dialog over time about what work is, and its place in our lives, and life/work balance.

Keeping the calm

With many of you working from home alongside our children to help slow the spread of the pandemic – creating calm, cooperative, respectful environments in our homes is more important than ever. Turn the pandemic response into an opportunity for your family to grow together.

Creators Worth Watching: Clickspring

Makers are some of the most interesting people to watch work. The few that make the cut on YouTube tend to go the extra mile with the production of their videos. One of the things that creators discover fast is that there’s an opportunity to tell a story with their videos, which is what makes videos particularly interesting – and challenging.

Enter Chris and his channel Clickspring – a hobbiest clockmaker with a penchant for experimenting with his craft and creating really interesting videos along the way to document the process and share the fruits.

In this series, Chris walks through the making of a very intricate clock.

My fascination with Chris’s work tends towards the craftsmanship and creativity of his process – which he shares openly with each build. The impression that I take away is that the materials he uses – brass in particular – is a very unforgiving and soft medium. To work it into the shapes and purposes it’s to be used for seems to command a high level of patience. Each cut, sand, score, or bore operation is carefully sequenced and executed with grand precision.

The obvious next project for a master clock maker is an Antikythera mechanism replica.

So along with the craft of clock making, Chris is also an avid and talented videographer and editor. Each video on Clickspring is clean and has a high degree of professionalism that draws the viewer in deep into the piece that’s being built.

Before discovering Clickspring, I wasn’t well educated on what clockmaking involved. Now, through watching Chris’s channel, I’ve upped my game a little understanding more of the terminology, methods, and materials used in the ages old craft.

Some of the most compelling videos Chris has produced involve the smithing of his own tools.

Creators Worth Watching: This Old Tony

This Old Tony – Metalworking can be Entertaining

Metalworking is fascinating to me. Perhaps it’s because it’s something that I used to know so little about as a youth. Now that I’m older and YouTube is a thing, I find metalworking absolutely fascinating – thanks in part to the videos from This Old Tony. In most of his videos, the faceless Tony explains engineering, math, technique, and builds things. His dry brand of humor – which often includes clever camera and editing tricks to entertain the viewer – makes each video incredibly fun to watch. It’s a bit of a cult that follows Tony made up up of a lot of people who, like me, have no experience with metal working.

What you’ll learn from watch TOT is that you can solve most problems with a Lathe, a Mill, CNC Router, and a TIG welder.

I had no idea what a boring head was, what it was used for, or even why anyone would ever want to build one. But then, after watching this, I learned what a mills and lathe’s can do.

The series on building a Go-Kart takes you through building one from nothing, starting out with the good intention of using a chainsaw motor and quickly discovering the need for something a bit more, ahem, Skookum. (That’s Canadian slang for tough, powerful, built well, etc.)

After 100,000 subscribers, Tony revealed his face to followers for the first time. It’s also fun to note that he regularly includes other Creators in his videos – though it’s not always clear if these creators have endorsed their presence in these videos.

He’s done a number of collaborations as well. My favorite is the Pasta Machine rebuild for Alex French Guy Cooking.

Who knew that Cosine and Cosine error was so interesting? And now I want to make a Sine Bar…

So, being the “How does that work?” nerd that I am, I watched every video that lives on his YouTube channel over this past summer and typically watch whatever new videos he posts within hours (if not minutes) if it being posted.

Fair warning – you might get hooked on Tony’s style. It’s not as bad as it sounds.

Creators Worth Watching: Matthias Wandel

There’s a vast empire of creators and makers today that share what they do via online streaming video. The format of short videos sharing builds, how-to’s, and tool reviews is entertaining while also informative. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share my favorites in hopes that you too can find a few you like.

Matthias Wandel: Engineering made interesting

Watching Matthias develop ideas and execute is entertaining and validating all at the same time. The thought regularly crosses my mind “Yes! I think that way, too!” when Matthias is divulging his process for solving a problem. His channel has over 1.5 million subscribers and continues to grow, despite the bulk of his start happening when YouTube was a new Google acquisition and there was little competition at the time.

Matthias’s approach to solving problems with engineering is both practical and entertaining. You might find him picking hardwoods out of trash corrals at apartment complexes one day and programming a Raspberry Pi the next. My favorite videos are the ones where he builds his own bandsaw and invents a new woodworking tool called a pantorouter. And yes, I have considered purchasing his plans and building one.

What makes Matthias so incredibly interesting is his straight-forward, no-fuss approach to sharing his knowledge. No music, unnecessary CGI, sponsorships (except that one time with Dewalt that didn’t go so well) or gimmicks. You know what you’re in for within the first 10 seconds. Furthermore, Matthias has mastered the art of long form knowledge sharing through serial shorts on a particular subject – many of which develop over months.



The First Experience

Ask any craftsperson how they got into what they do. They’ll likely tell you a story that includes a moment where they spent some time with the craft hands-on and fell in love with some aspect of it.

One of my favorite memories early in my tech career was completing the ‘Hello World’ exercises for scripting languages that were emerging and shaping the tech landscape.

There’s a connection that happens when we have an experience that helps us contextualize something new being a part of our lives. When we execute our first line of code successfully or admire that the stool we just built, it builds confidence in the art form we’ve invested a small amount of our time in. It creates an experience to build on.