It turns out that when Ben Franklin was young, he was a lot like my
10-year-old. At a young age, Ben was given some spare coins by some
adult relatives and used all of them to buy an obnoxious tin whistle
from an entrepreneurial neighbor boy. The tin whistle was so
irritating that young Ben's family loudly complained. When they
found out how much he'd spent on it, they acted the same way we did
when my boy sold his almost-new bike to the neighbors for $10.
Somewhere between the tin whistle episode and adulthood, Ben
Franklin developed his "A penny saved is a penny earned" persona.
So... I think there's still hope for my boy.
Ben Franklin was an aspiring writer when he apprenticed at his
brother's newspaper shop. His brother wouldn't let him write for the
paper, however. So he wrote under an assumed name, Silence Dogood,
and slipped his work under the door at night. His brother gleefully
printed the letters until he realized the identity of Silence Dogood.
My boy decided to write an entire newspaper for our family and
distribute it to the neighbors. His first and only newspaper
contained the headline story of our cat giving birth to three
kittens... six years ago. The only other item gracing his one-page
newspaper was a copy of a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. His
newspaper career lasted only about an hour and a half because he
quickly realized that he detests writing.
Ben Franklin was an inventor and a scientific achiever of his
age, yet he had only two years of formal schooling. I don't dare
tell my boy that little tidbit.
I think he would have admired Ben Franklin because he, too, is a
tinkerer, but so far, he has just enough knowledge to be downright
Ben's inventions were as diverse as they were practical. He
invented bifocals, an early electric generator, the Franklin stove,
the lightning rod and the armonica -- a musical instrument -- among
many other things.
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My boy is only 10, and yet he has invented an ATM machine out of
Legos. He just can't figure out how to get it to make money.
Last Christmas, he made a Santa Claus detector out of a PC and a
mini camera. It stopped working just when Santa was coming down the
He also developed an automatic toilet flusher out of scotch tape,
rubber bands and his Erector set.
And one of his favorite "inventions" was Jello popsicles made out
of, well... Jello.
I can hardly wait to see what he can do with an education and the
The key here is education. Ben Franklin might have flown a kite
in a thunderstorm trying to attract lightning, but he had thought
about the consequences and built in safeguards to protect himself
from certain death.
Flying a kite in a thunderstorm is definitely something I could
see my 10-year-old doing. The difference is that he would make the
kite string out of copper wire and hold on to the key at the bottom,
thereby ensuring a crispy end to his promising life.
If we can keep him out of trouble long enough to get that
education, you may one day see my boy's face gracing a piece of
[By LAURA SNYDER]
Laura Snyder is a nationally syndicated
columnist, author and speaker. You can reach her at
or visit www.lauraonlife.com
for more info.