Freedom,  Learning,  Self-Directed Learning,  Teens

The Day My Teen Built His Own Computer

If you’re not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you’re determined to learn, no one can stop you. -Unknown

It happened. The Amazon cart filled with computer parts for well over a month was finally emptied. On his 15th birthday, the money he saved from summer jobs combined with monetary birthday gifts from family and friends was enough to fulfill the goal he set months ago.

What? An actual, working computer? But how?

These were absolutely my questions too. When he first started talking about the idea I remember thinking, “Yea. Ok.” Then I drifted off wondering many things…Am I going to need to hire someone? Am I going to have to take a class? How many manuals or videos will I need to watch to help him tackle this project? The reality played out very differently. He had it all under control. No computer expert was needed, because he was becoming knowledgeable with each video he watched. I didn’t need to learn anything to share with him because he was becoming more capable with each question he thought of and each answer he tracked down. He was making connections by talking to those who had built computers before. All he needed from me was the following:

-to listen to him

-to trust to him

-to watch videos when he asked me to

-to talk to and to share his excitement with

-to show absolute interest in his idea and profess my support

-to sit with him when we finally placed the order

-to give him updates on estimated package delivery times (because I was getting notifications on my phone and he was SO excited)

-to get out of the way



The last part, getting out of the way, is hard for many adults, especially those who consider themselves teachers or educators, but it truly is necessary. Because children who are able to pursue interests without constant adult meddling build skills, build confidence, and get to reap the sweet reward of setting and fulfilling a personal goal.

When all the parts finally arrived, I helped him clear the dining room table, he unpacked everything and got to work. He asked his Dad to sit with him and I could hear them talking and working together. I popped in every so often to document the progress and I couldn’t resist thumbing through everything and getting a glimpse up close of this Lego on steroids project. SEE! All those years of Lego play led us to this very day. How cool is that?!

No time is ever wasted in play.

Now he is enjoying a computer that wasn’t just picked off a shelf or chosen from Amazon or handed to him as a gift. He’s using a computer that took him weeks to research, months to accumulate the parts, and one night to piece together.

The beauty is not just the end result, but that his effort created something that will give him years of use and a lifelong appreciation of self-directed learning. Which I think is the ultimate birthday gift…to himself.