Skills Every Child Should Know

This article was supposed to be part of a blogtrain.  But, I missed the deadline.  However, links to other articles in the blogtrain are provided below.

There are many skills that children, specifically someone around the age of 12 should have.  It is not really fair to try and narrow it down to a short list.  Moreover, skills can be necessary in a regional sense.  12 year olds in Alaska need to know what to do when confronted by a bear.  That’s not the case down here in Texas.  Then, depending on your own biases, this list can come from many different perspectives.  The educator, prepper, homesteader, academic, etc…will all have different lists.   For the sake of this blogtrain, here is my short list:

1. Read with comprehension – If you can read and comprehend what you are reading, you can pick up a book and accomplish almost anything.

2. The ability to put in a hard day’s work –  Everything is so easy nowadays.  If many 12 year olds had to work from dawn till dusk, they would collapse in their tracks, partially from not playing video games, partly because they don’t know work like that.  But to be fair, many people would fall into this category too.

3. The ability to delay gratification – In our modern life, everything seems instant.  News, entertainment, food, answers, etc… can be found with a push of a button.  Because of this, we believe EVERYTHING should be instant.  We charge up credit cards to buy what we want NOW, when we should save up.  Learning how to balance a budget and your finances without charging up credit cards is definitely a skill.

4. Survival skills – At the very minimum, kids should know how to build a fire, find and filter water, hunt and cook small game, garden, defend themselves and use tools.   All of these skills and much much more were common place and common sense not too long ago. Again, years of ease in this country has many adults in the same place; not knowing how to do some of these basic things.

5. Critical thinking and problem solving – I will devote the rest of this article to this skill.

When I was younger, my family owned an electronic distributorship here in Houston.  When my uncle passed away, my dad gave up his own pursuits to come help my grandfather run the company.  I spent many days there, roaming through the aisles, getting into trouble and messing with stuff, I mean experimenting with stuff. 🙂  I would plug this thing in to that thing and switch out this for that.  My curiosity ran wild.

The employees encouraged me, all but my cousin. He was always telling me what I shouldn’t be doing, that I was going to break something, that this speaker was not the same ohm as the output, etc…  I learned to avoid him in my exploits.  I had ideas, questions and experiments that I had to conduct, always asking “what if” or “why does this happen?”

Fast forward many years and as a father, educator and assistant principal, I’m asking those questions of kids….getting them to think and problem solve.  However, it’s not as easy as just saying, “think critically about this subject.”   Kids need to learn HOW to think critically and problem solve.  Some kids are naturals, but most, need guidance.  I wonder what I might have been able to accomplish if someone was prodding me, guiding me to ask the right questions and giving me the tools to think at higher levels?

Being a Guide & Providing Tools

The role of ANY teacher should be that of a guide or facilitator.  Teachers should guide students to ask the right questions, so that they can come up with the answers themselves.  If we always provide the answers, the joy of self-discovery is lost and learning is boring and falls into the realm of “just push the easy button” again.  As students embark on the learning journey, they should be provided with a set of tools that help them along the way.

Basic Knowledge – Students need a basic foundational knowledge before they move to higher learning.  You can’t expect a kid to comprehend a passage when they don’t know alphabet sounds.   And this fact is important to keep in mind throughout all learning.  At some point, kids will be able to pick up a book and get the foundational knowledge they need to move forward, but everyone needs a foundation to start from.  So in every learning situation, the guide will need to ascertain or know how much foundational knowledge the student has or at least point them in the right direction to obtain that foundational knowledge.

Organize Your Thinking – As a Math teacher in elementary, my district expected everything to be learned in word problems.  We utilized a graphic organizer called a window pane to help students.  I wrote about it here in a previous article, but here are the main points.  You can also check out a video to go along with it.

·         The Main Idea – What is the problem asking?  What are you trying to solve for?

·         The Details – What are the important facts about this problem?  What do you know?  What is missing?

·         The Strategy – This is the part where you try to work out the solution by considering the Main Idea and Details.  You might be adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, measuring, etc…

·         The How – It is important to verbalize/write down how you solved your answer.  When you are able to verbalize your answer, you truly understand the problem and know that you didn’t just guess.  The How should link back to the Main Idea.

The fact is, this is just a process with a graphic organizer.  We do this all the time in many different disciplines, it just isn’t so formalized as writing it all down.  But it does help us get through some of those hard questions if you apply it.

Higher Level Questioning – Asking the right questions is imperative to critical thinking and problem solving.  There are basic “recall” or “knowledge” questions and then there are higher level questions – “evaluate,” “justify” or “analyze.”  Basic questions can be answered with the basic foundational knowledge that was discussed above.  Higher level questioning goes beyond the basic foundational information and asks you to “use” the information in some way.  You can find out more information about higher level questioning or Bloom’s Taxonomy here.

Breaking It Down – Putting it Together – One of the ways to think through questions is to break them apart to their smallest piece or put it altogether to see the big picture.

Building Thinking Capacity – Regardless of age, everyone should build their ability to think and reason.  In the past, it was thought that your brain was set in motion early on in your life.  Scientist believed that certain synapses were formed before two years old.  If you didn’t have those formed, or weren’t purposeful in helping your child form those “connections” then after two years of age, it was too late.

They don’t believe that anymore.  Scientist now believe that synapses can be formed as long as you are making connections/learning.  You can strengthen them by using them more frequently, or they can deteriorate if you don’t.  Check out this interesting video.

So, the key is to help your child continue to learn and think and build their problem solving capacity by putting their brain to use.

1. Play Chess – you can download free apps, even on your smartphone.

2. Play Thinking Games.  Stay away from Angry Birds!

                For Ipods/Ipads/Iphones

                For Android

3. Be purposeful and help them to learn something new and then practice it.  Just don’t do it for them.

4. Challenge them – Give them a scenario and ask them what they would do.  If it is possible, try out their response.

I often see parents give their child an Ipad so that they could play some worthless game or watch some worthless video. However, I have also seen the opposite.

I sat in a parent conference the other day with a parent who had two small children.  The parent had her Ipad and when she sat down she immediately turned it on.  “Oh, here we go – a Barney video,” I thought.  But I was surprised to see this little 2-3 year old playing a game where she was putting shapes and letters in their proper place.  She managed that Ipad like a pro!

In closing, let me just reiterate that learning and problem solving is a skill that needs to be fie tuned.  Parents who are purposeful can make a big impact on the child to help them navigate times where they will have to solve some real problems.

To view the other posts/articles in the blogtrain visit: Are We Crazy or What, Mom with a Prep and Palmetto Prepper.

This article first appeared on Ed That Matters.

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Todd Sepulveda

I'm the owner/editor of Prepper Website, a DAILY preparedness aggregator that links to the best preparedness articles on the internet. I'm also a public school administrator and a pastor. My personal blog is Ed That Matters, where I write about preparedness and from time to time, education. Connect with me on one of my social media outlets below.

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8 thoughts on “Skills Every Child Should Know

  1. Survival Blog

    I think one of the biggest things today that is really starting to be lost is putting in a hard days work. There are so many kids these days that are just babied and coddled that they never know how to do anything. There are many people that do everything for their kids because they are trying to protect them, but in the end they are just hurting them.

    One of the other things that we are losing is competition. Many schools and sports programs teach kids there are no winners or losers and this is just untrue in the real world.

    1. Todd Post author

      I agree with you on both of these. It’s pretty sad, but I’ve even seen parents feed their kids in the cafeteria!!!!! What is that?

  2. WomanoftheWoods

    Excellent list.
    Many parents have lost perspective. I had a new neighbor call child services when she saw my 9 year old son splitting wood for 8 hours one Saturday. They showed up on a Sunday at dinner time, Just as we were having dessert. They were very, very rude, and we were very, very polite.
    It seems that they thought we were punishing our son, and forcing him to work.
    The reality of the situation was my older son, who was 14, had the day off school on Friday, and decided to split wood for our furnace. He bragged how much he had done, and his little brother bet he could do more. His “little” brother was already the same size as him. My husband and I knew he could operate the machine, as he had helped for years. We were eating his prize for beating his brother by half again as much wood, a large apple pie with ice cream, when the “officers” showed up.
    We were “warned” not to let our young children operate farm equipment, and they asked where our younger children were. We did not understand, as we had no more kids, only the 2. They looked at my 9 year old son, who well over 5 feet tall and a large build, and said, and this is a quote, “I guess he is not exactly a toddler, are you sure he is only nine?” They actually asked me if I was sure of the age of the child I gave birth to!
    They left suddenly when my young son said he was not sharing his pie, as he had won it for very hard work, and if they were waiting around to get pie they would have to share his brothers.

  3. gorgmo

    So your kid was using a wood splitting machine and someone thought that was a disgrace? Imagine what they would have done had your kid been using an axe! LOL! If I caught someone letting their kid split wood like that, I’d have to shake their hand and congratulate them for being good parents!I pity your idiot neighbors when the SHTF!

  4. Sapper

    Must be in californicate or somewhere like that. Idiot child welfare morons show up at my house for some stupid crap like that I’d tell them to get lost until they had a cop and a warrant. Years ago we had problem with them over my teenage son. My ex in law called them. Told them what they were inquiring about is a parental judgement call and to get the hell out of my house. Never heard from them again.

  5. Stephanie Blue

    Excellent post. As a homeschooling mama, I strongly focus on several of the things that you mention. Our kids have so much knowledge at their fingertips. It is crucial for them to be able to think critically and assess all that they absorb. Being able to discern truth from fiction is huge.

    My 12 year old carries a pocket knife and knows how to use it. He couldn’t do that if he were in school. And, today, he’s off working with his father which he does 2 or 3 days a week.

    Such a great piece. Thanks.

  6. farmergranny

    Have to agree with all of you. As an educator, I have had parents feed the kids in the cafeteria, take off the kids’ hats, hang them up, hand in the kids’ homework. When I stopped parents from doing this in my classroom, they complained to the principal…luckily, she supported my stand. I stop “opening” and “buttoning/zipping” for my students – kindergarten, and they all seem to survive. They thrived on being independent!! As an incidental note, I hired my great nephew, age 21, to come help me on my acreage…a disaster. I could work harder and faster (67 yrs old) than this kid…he didn’t know how to pump gas, use a saw, operate a riding mower; wanted to have his meals prepared and handed to him. I could cut and split more wood than he could – ! He said it was “too hard”. I would demonstrate and work with him on a project (for example, weeding and mulching black berry patch) and then tell him to complete the job…in five minutes he was back saying it was completed….yikes, lazy, lazy, lazy! No skills whatsoever; these kids are in deep trouble.

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