What Do You Want Your Kids to Know?

Following up on this post, I saw a Marilyn Vos Savant article a few years back about, “What to Teach Your Kids Before They Leave Home.”

What To Teach Your Kids Before They Leave Home
By Marilyn Vos Savant
Page 20-21. March 25, 2001. Parade Magazine

What skills should parents teach their children before they “leave the nest”? Of course, qualities such as morality and honesty are of overarching importance, but my question is directed more at the practical skills that are important in life.
-Greg Banner, Bristol, RJ.

What a wonderful question! We tend to focus on skills children learn at school, but I think practical skills may be as important or even more important.
Greg Banner ­ a father of six and retired lieutenant colonel in the Army ­ added in his letter that his West Point graduating class of 1979 and their spouses had compiled, through interaction online, a list of practical skills parents should teach their children. It included such suggestions as: how to climb a tree; how to ride a motorcycle (before someone else shows the kids!); how to haggle with the toughest car salesman in town; how to handle firearms safely; how to fight fires at home; how to be a gentleman or a lady; how to dress for success; how to use birth control; and much more. My own suggestions are [below]. But I’d like your ideas as well.

Let’s take advantage of the vast experience of PARADE’s nearly 80 million readers and compile a comprehensive list.

– Cook ( don’t just open and pour!) a traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
– Wash and iron clothes without ruining them (plus, removing spots).
– Replace a button, baste a fallen hem and polish your own shoes.
Extra credit: Make a loaf of bread (without a machine) or bake a cake from scratch.

– Throw and catch balls of all sizes without breaking your fingers.
– Swim half a mile, tread water for half an hour, and float for an hour.
– Ride a bike with confidence.
Extra credit: Be able to get a kite up in the air, keep it there, and bring it back down in one piece.

– Hang a picture straight without making extra holes in the wall.
– Paint neatly, including cleaning up the mess.
– Know which tools perform what functions and how to use them around the house.
Extra credit: Sharpen a knife without cutting yourself.

– Hike with friends all day without getting lost, bitten, or covered with a rash.
– Bait a hook, catch a fish, reel it in, remove the hook, then clean and cook the fish.
– Plan and manage a weekend camping trip with friends.
Extra credit: Know enough about the wildlife in your area to recognize and feel like a friend to the animals.

– Type well with both hands in the normal manner.
– Set up your own computer system without help from anyone.
– Drive a car, including one with a manual transmission, and maintain it properly.
Extra credit: Change a flat tire.

– Create a budget. Note: It takes longer to earn money than to spend it.
– Balance a checkbook manually, even if you bank online.
– Maintain an address book and a personal appointment calendar.
Extra credit: Set up a filing system to keep all of the paperwork in your life in one place.

– Carry on a conversation for 15 minutes with a person you don’t know.
– Speak before a small group of friends for a few minutes.
– Tell a joke well enough so that everybody gets it and maybe even laughs.
Extra credit: Learn enough ballroom dancing so you can have fun at parties. (Trust me on this one!)

– Draw an illustration at least well enough to get your point across.
– Have enough confidence to sing aloud, even when everyone else can hear you.
– Know how to play a musical instrument well enough to enjoy playing in a group.
Extra credit: Learn how to take a decent photograph, so you won’t be disappointed later when it’s developed. For example, you can’t shoot
fireworks with a flash!

– Care for a dog, cat, or other animal, including when it’s sick.
– Baby-sit for children ranging in age from 6 months to 6 years.
– Aid elderly or handicapped people without looking superior.
Extra credit: Help a person in need without exposing either one of you to danger.

– Get around town on a bus, even if you usually walk or drive.
– Read a map, including road maps.
– Know what to do if you find yourself in a bad neighborhood.
Extra credit: Know which direction is north, south, east, and west (without a compass) whenever you’re outside.

– Play a team sport instead of just watching.
– Maintain a fitness regimen.
– Learn a game (like bridge or chess) you can play with friends for life.
Extra credit: Know how to ride a horse, handle a boat or enjoy a snow sport.

– Know basic first aid and maintain a complete first-aid kit.
– Know what to do if you get sick, especially if you’re alone.
– Know when to defend yourself; then know how to be effective.
Extra credit: Know CPR. The life you save may be your father’s or mother’s.

I couldn’t help but recall what Robert Heinlein, as his character Lazarus Long, said:
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

My brother-of-choice and I discussed what we would add to the list she printed. I can’t find my version now, but his biggest concern was more focus on interpersonal skills required for being a good partner.

What’s on your list?

Current Mood: 😕curious
Current Music: “My Father” – Four Bitchin’ Babes
Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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