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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