What Are The Three Most Important Things Kids Should Be Taught In School?

Macy M8 comments9619 views

Let me just take a swing at this from my non-school aged kid mom perspective ;-).

I know not everyone has it as easy as we do. Our kids are smart, all by themselves. Our three year old was doing basic addition and subtraction like a pro just now. So well that I was surprised and had to google ‘when kids start to learn basic math’. Most sources indicated that it is between 5 and 7. He learned to decode numbers though without the help of any text book because on some level, it mattered to him. I don’t think we have ever even worked on math with them outside of our day to day tasks. If one gets four gummy worms (errrr, raisins) you can bet the one that only got two will be mad though! So they worked out a way to express that via basic math.

I believe people of all ages have an internal drive to learn. Some more than others. While ‘ignorance is bliss’, learning is also contagious. When I figure one thing out I have an increased drive to figure something else out as well. The biggest piece of that learning seems to just be putting those opportunities in front of people, which school does well. Triggering that ‘drive’ to try is a little harder, and I think it starts at home, and early on!

The Foundation

I think the main ‘education’ happens before kids start ‘official’ school and comes from their caregivers. Not by what they say but by what they do. That is why I have set my career in architecture aside for the first five years of my kid’s lives. I believe these are the years when kids learn that they are supported, protected and that it’s okay to be inquisitive. It’s when they learn who and how to trust.

EVERYTHING we focus on right now is subjective. We teach how to be kind. A kind winner AND a kind loser because these are the facts of life. People are not always in control of what happens to us but we are always in control of how we respond. We struggle with these things because no one is happy to lose a game. We teach empathy because it’s an important life skill. If you can imagine how happy it makes your little brother feel to have finally beaten his sister at anything than it takes a little of the hurt out of the ‘loss’. We learn to celebrate with each other, all of the little things, because they all matter. I teach them that everyone has their own ups and downs we search for ways to get through even the worst of them. My hope is that teaching these things will prepare them to excel in school, and life, when it’s time.

Learning isn’t contained within school

I don’t believe school is the end all answer to learning. I find it a struggle to teach two people anything, I think it is unrealistic to expect one person to teach 30 kids anything. School can guide the process but I think parents must engage as well. A lot comes before school starts but then the bulk of it continues to be provided alongside of school. For example, I fully expect James and I will be Hazel and Miles’s main financial education providers. We’ll be the ones teaching them to sew, fix and build things. We will be at the table with them, text book open, teaching them HOW to decipher the letters now found in their number books and any other information the teachers give them. It will be a challenge for us to relearn a lot I think but our job, as I see it, is to teach them HOW to learn. School just gives them the opportunities to try.

So, what are the important three things.

(Sidenote: we are not decided that the kids will go to school in the early years, I believe that these situations can be provided for in other, potentially more meaningful ways…)

Things I would hope my kids would be taught in school:

  • Interpersonal relationships – or, ‘people skills’. I will continue to hope (even though I have a rational brain) that teachers will nurture these relationships in healthy ways alongside of their lesson plans. These are the parts that I cannot do at home. Teaching respect, arguing effectively, listening and managing feelings. This is a huge part of life that I would be hoping the school leaders would help nurture in my absence.
  • Skepticism – There is not much in the whole history of humans that couldn’t have been accomplished a different way. I hope to find a school environment that can teach what did happen alongside of it’s alternatives. Skepticism is a gift, a rather challenging one, but one that spurs critical thinking which is much of what life is all about.
  • Provide structured opportunities – School does placed people in situations that I can’t provide myself. Social situations away from mom and dad. I am doing my best to prepare them on how to have integrity, stay safe, be brave, not bully (or be bullied) and most importantly (to me) to always be kind and help each other. Schools provide a crucial role in providing opportunities and social situations to practice these life skills.

Your turn: What Are The Three Most Important Things Kids Should Be Taught In School?



  1. I think your list is great! I, too, have witnessed so much learning driven solely by my children’s desire to know things and do things. We are planning to homeschool, at least for a while, so I am always looking for those social opportunities for my kids to interact with others and learn from others while we come alongside and help them think critically about everything they are being taught. (I hope that skill extends to the things we teach them as well!)

    1. I think the biggest struggle is finding the time to do so much! It certainly seems easier to send them to a class room and hope they get everything they need. This parenting gig isn’t about being easy though… and that doesn’t seem better to me yet at this stage.

  2. You have a good handle on these things, I think. I would add:

    The skills to explore the first two

    I think persistence is something that is taught now, not innate in the way it used to be. Rather, persistence has been educated out of our kids with grades and one-size-fits-all classrooms.

    Similarly, curiosity is a great driver of education – learning something because you are curious (not necessarily because you need to know it to do something but just because you want to know it to, well, know it).

    And finally, kids need practical skills that help them develop the first two. They need to know how to study. They need to know how to filter information. They need to know how to organize their thoughts, either in writing or just in their brain. These executive skills are crucial and are rarely taught in school these days, or they are taught in a cursory manner and without much depth.

    I love what you are doing with your kids. Letting them drive the car of their own education is so valuable.

    1. You are my mentor in the way of my kid’s education, I eat everything you say up! Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words, they mean a lot to me!

      1. Shucks. You are doing incredible things with your kids. I think the student has become the teacher. 🙂 I am enjoying your journey. <3

  3. Diane Sawyer said (in a Masterclass on Oprah Winfrey Network) that curiosity was what kept her learning and interested. It also makes her interest-ING. So I agree with Suzannah. Persistence too! Persistence can help overcome fear of failure – or what other people might think of you or your endeavors – so that you can have an amazing life of your own choosing and design.

    I think your post is awesome and shows what a great parent you are and how grounded YOU are. Your kids are lucky to have you! I really love that you have the kids do service projects, even at such a young age. My parents instilled that gift in me, not just to do an annual service project or as a rite of passage, but to be of service to my community regularly. I’ve met some pretty cool people in the process as well as learned skills and grown as a person.

    1. Thank you for these kind words! I agree about being of service regularly! The pantry has been especially good for that because it is the first one we have done that isnt a one time deal. They kids get excited when we go grocery shopping to pick out new things that they think other people may need or use. The National Park tour has carried on in the ‘leave no trace’ and ‘leave things better then you found them’ Those are things already buried in Miles and Hazel’s mind. They repeat them often and clean up litter regularly. It is fun and important that these things get to build on one and other!

      And persistence is a big deal, I thank you both for bringing that forward!

  4. OOOH! YES, YES, YES! I’m a big believer in Leave No Trace. Thanks for teaching your kids appreciation of nature and respect for the experiences of other people who visit the same place after them. THAT is also something that carries forward in many areas of life. I think there’s a general lack of respect for others’ time, space, needs, rights, belongings, etc., in this world. All these things lead to good WORK ETHIC, which I also find sorely lacking in this modern world!

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