After 40 years of teaching and raising three children, I think a lot about what is important to teach our children. I know it is important to be exposed to a variety of subjects, but I also hope we spend time teaching our children life skills. We can often incorporate those skills into the core subjects. An example would be to have a gardening unit in a biology class to teach students about plant growth, the wonder of nature, and how to grow our food.
Remember when home economics and woodshop were standard classes? During the last five years that I was teaching, students often commented they wished those classes were still offered because they wanted to learn the basic skills those classes offered. I always like to ask what is the why in learning something and the reasons to teach courses like those two are still valid.
Our children need to learn the basics of finance and how to manage their money. Knowing the basics of sewing a hole in a sock or other article of clothing is still useful, and the basic skills of cooking will always be useful.
Why would someone learn woodworking? When our children are on their own, they will need to know how to make basic repairs or spend way too much to have someone else fix it. Knowing how to fix things around the house can make life a lot easier.
Everyone should know basic car maintenance. Teach them how to change a tire, check tire pressure, check fluids, and have a plan if they break down.
Self-defense classes should be required for everyone not only to learn how to defend themselves, but to learn how to diffuse a situation before they have to defend themselves, and to be aware of their environment. It is also an amazing workout.
Encourage travel because it is a fun way to learn about history, food, and culture in general. We can start to understand each other more if we experience other cultures and people. There are other cultures within our own country, so I am not only talking about travel outside the United States.
Teach politeness. It makes me sad when I encounter rudeness. Being polite is a basic form of respect and it requires very little effort, but it can make a huge difference in our interactions.
Encourage a positive attitude because it can change everything. It can attract both good things and people while negative energy can be corrosive.
Teach the power of curiosity. Let your children explore and ask questions. Give them opportunities to try new things.
Teach grit. We need to learn to keep rising back up after failure and realize that failure often makes us stronger. Being soft and coddled isn’t always the best.
Be a model for kindness. When each of my children was born I asked God to help me make them good people. I wanted to know that above all else they were kind.
Also, be a model of taking care of mental and physical health. Many of us take care of everyone else but ourselves. If we take care of ourselves we can do a better job caring for everyone else.
What did your parents think was important for you to learn? My mom wanted me to learn to swim and be physically active. I was determined to pass that on to my children as well. My dad taught me a strong work ethic, and he wanted me to treat people well.
Finally, I would say that it is important to be a life-long learner. Don’t ever think you are too old to learn something new. Stay curious and open-minded.
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