Are our kids getting half an education?

Today I heard about some volunteers  who are worried about special needs kids not being ready for the trials of life when they get out of school.

They knew the kids were not going to go to college and get higher degrees and that they needed to get the life skills they are going to use to survive in the world now.    Basic skills like shopping and learning how to make change.  How to prepare food etc.

So here is what they did.

They got the kids together and helped them work together to make a shopping list.  Then they took the kids to the store and showed them how to shop.

Next they returned to school and showed the kids how to prepare the foods.

Lastly they set up a  temporary “store”  in the entrance to the school where they sell the items they prepared to parents teachers and other students.  They have to make change, and interact with adults and peers etc.

Well this thing has taken off.  It has not only become financially self-sufficient but they actually make about $200 a month profit which they give to charities.  The kids work together to decide which charities they are going to give the money too.

These kids are learning many different life skills.   Teamwork, writing, organizing, following a list, cooking, sales, basic business skills, interaction skills etc.  The kids are obviously at different intellectual levels so they all get something different out of the exercise but the point is that they are being prepared to live in the real world.  They are learning by doing.

This got me thinking about my own kids.  Sure they are learning literacy and mathematics, but that is not all that is needed to survive and thrive in the world.  I would love for them to be learning entrepreneurial skills.

So I’ve been thinking, what do kids need to be learning?  Here is what I think…

Arguably what kids need to be learning can be broken down into 4 categories.

  • Literacy
  • Mathematics
  • Life skills
  • Problem solving

Let me know if  you think I’m missing something important.   Can history fall under literacy?   Most education systems focus only on the first two.

Sure they are teaching kids to read and do math, but that is only half the equation!  The school systems we have now are still based on 19th century thinking with math and science on the top humanities in the middle and the arts on the bottom.

At one time this might have made sense but this “fact” based learning system no longer makes any sense.   All the information kids could ever need is at their fingertips.  They certainly do not need to be learning “facts”  Creative ideas, which are needed for problem solving are the golden tickets today.  And creativity is what was learned in the arts programs that are all being cut.

Learning how to synthesize information in novel ways.  Now that is something they need to be learning.  So most kids are only getting half an education in the school system.

This is one great reason to think about moving abroad for a while.  In order for kids to get the education they need parents are going to have to take matters into their own hands.  And with all the time constraints we have in life it can be hard to drum up any extra time, let alone extra energy to do this.

But living somewhere with 1/3 the living expenses frees up a lot of time and energy.  Time and energy that can be used to round out your kids education.   Try starting a new business in another country with your kids.  Then they will learn some real world skills! Plus you will forge a bond with them that can last a lifetime.  A bond that is hard to create in the pinball machine world that is shot at us in the US.

What are your thought?


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2 Responses to "Are our kids getting half an education?"

  1. Rob Wilson says:

    Agree wholeheartedly with what you say – good post! I’ve been telling a handful of high school grads that they ought to pursue some overseas travel and work before even thinking of attending a college factory. I believe that such experience might lead them to skip college completely (which I believe for many in the USA is a very good and wise thing) but I sure get a lot of empty stares and heads turning away. Starting a business, or holding multiple jobs in multiple locations over 3 – 4 years in foreign countries gives a far better education than the classroom.

  2. Thom Foolery says:

    It seems that they are learning in an integrated fashion. So instead of, say, working on math and then reading and then writing, all as separate(d) disciplines, they take on a project that involves all of these skills and more. The see how the different skills can fit together and they also have a larger context in which to understand “why” they need those skills in the first place. My daughter excels at school but also hates it, because of the artificial divisions between subjects and also because the “real-world” applications for all these subjects are left un-addressed. 

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