What Do Homeschoolers Need to Know About Engineering?

Engineering skills are incredibly valuable to employers, but both homeschools and public schools barely cover the subject. One of the key principles of the Destination Method is to Teach Marketable Skills, so we regard Engineering as being equally important to more traditional subjects like English, History, or the Humanities.

Why Study Engineering?

Engineering is, quite simply, the best paying career path available. According to the Federal Reserve, engineers just out of college (between 22 and 27 years old) make an average of $60,000-$68,000. By the middle of their career (age 35-45), they make an average of $90,000-$110,000.

Of course, money isn’t everything, and not every student will want to be an engineer. That’s okay. Engineering is about much more than people often assume:

Engineering is the ability to clearly define a goal, make a plan, and execute it effectively.

Even if you’ve never thought of yourself as an engineer, you probably use engineering skills every day in your personal life. Whenever you plan your daily schedule, prepare your child’s curriculum, or carefully make important life decisions, you’re using engineering! Whether your student becomes an engineer or something else entirely, these skills will dramatically improve their ability to achieve whatever they want out of life.

Because engineering is such an important skill for everyone, it is crucial that young engineers-to-be get some early practice.

Like any major school subject, the study of engineering can be divided into several smaller topics. We strongly recommend you help your child learn something about each of the following engineering topics over the course of their K-12 education. If you don’t know where to start, don’t panic! In future posts, we’ll give you much greater guidance about how to teach each of these topics, even if all of this is new and unfamiliar.

Mechanical Engineering

Florian Lindner (User:SuperFloh), CC BY 2.5 [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Mechanical engineering is what most people immediately think about when they hear the word “engineering,” because it can involve working with gears, levers, and pulleys. This topic includes the design, construction, and testing of complex mechanical gadgets.

Mechanical engineering is a great way to introduce students to engineering, because the basic concepts are not too difficult for a young child to grasp.

Electrical Engineering

Alexa Tasoula, CC BY-SA 4.0 [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Electrical engineering involves designing, building, and testing electronic devices. This includes everything from the wiring in your house to design of computer chips.

There are some fantastic resources for teaching electrical engineering to children, with Snap Circuits being among my favorites.

Fluid Mechanics

Sarah E. Crawford, Catrina Brüll nee Cofalla, Benedikt Aumeier, Markus Brinkmann, Elisa Classen, Verena Esser, Caroline Ganal, Elena Kaip, Roger Häussling, Frank Lehmkuhl, Peter Letmathe, Anne-Katrin Müller, Ilja Rabinovitch, Klaus Reicherter, Jan Schwarzbauer, Marco Schmitt, Georg Stauch, Matthias Wessling, Süleyman Yüce, Markus Hecker, Karen A. Kidd, Rolf Altenburger, Werner Brack, Holger Schüttrumpf, Henner Hollert, CC BY 4.0 [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Fluid mechanics is arguably a part of mechanical engineering, but it’s important enough we think it should be mentioned separately. This topic involves the study of how fluids move and behave.

If that doesn’t sound very important to you, consider just a few of the things people trained in fluid mechanics are needed for:

  • Dams
  • Boats
  • Submarines
  • City water systems
  • Sewage systems (you really don’t want to experience what happens when these fail)
  • Household piping
  • Air circulation systems (in homes, on airplanes, in spaceships, etc.)
  • Acoustics systems (stereos, theater halls, etc.)
  • Hydraulic machines (including many important construction machines)
  • Etc.

Civil Engineering

Alex Needham at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Civil engineering basically means any sort of engineering needed to help build or maintain a city. This includes the construction of roads, bridges, power lines, water systems, and other key infrastructure. It sometimes involves architectural work, such as ensuring buildings are safe and well-maintained. Civil engineers are also responsible for urban planning, which includes making large-scale plans for how a city should grow and where things should be built.

Aerospace Engineering

Apetrov09703, CC BY-SA 4.0 [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Aerospace engineering involves the design, construction, and testing of aircraft and spacecraft. Increasingly, this includes working with aerial drones. For kids who are interested in space, learning about the history of spaceflight is a great way to get them excited about engineering.

What About Other Types of Engineering?

Geralt, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Engineering is a broad field, and the summary here can’t describe every kind of engineering in detail.

In particular, the fields sometimes known as computer engineering or software engineering are an extremely good path to a fulfilling career. So good, in fact, that the Destination Method considers them an independent subject: Computing. We’ll talk much more about these topics in the future, in a dedicated post.

Similarly, chemical engineering fits more cleanly into Science, where we’ll cover chemistry in great depth.

Expect More Engineering Help From Us Soon

We understand that this post doesn’t go into any detail about how to actually teach the above topics. Don’t worry! Future blog posts from Journey With a Destination will help you plan a complete Engineering curriculum.

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