Forget SAT prep tests and expensive, six figure earning tutors like those hired by parents of private school students in NYC to assure their kids get the highest possible scores on tests and college admission exams; here is my list of absolutely essential ‘skills’. Call it my life-learning curriculum if you want to, but you won’t find it in any textbooks.
1) Respect: Specifics would include being on time to appointments; if you are late it is disrespectful to the person you are meeting. If you are running late, pick up a phone and call to let them know. If you need to cancel an appointment (I’m thinking playdate, movie outing, etc but in fact this applies to any type of appointment), don’t wait till the last minute to do it. If someone invites you to something, whether by phone, text, email or Facebook, answer them even if the answer is ‘no thanks’. It is rude and disrespectful not to respond.
2) Generosity: Being generous includes compromising with friends and not always insisting on getting your way. It can mean sharing food or offering assistance, whether on the playground or carrying things home from an outing.
3) Independence: Learning to do for yourself. Boy is this an important one! We’re not talking about daredevil stuff here, just common sense things like finding your way around your neighborhood(and eventually your city, state, country and world) or knowing how to cross the street safely on your own. This can also include problem solving; how to fix that toy when it breaks or how to build a prop for a game or a video skit.
4) Creativity: This goes along with independence. If you always depend on others to provide entertainment or exercises for your mind, your creativity goes into permanent hibernation. So creativity requires unscheduled time on your own. (which you are more likely to get if you can be independent.)
Numbers 3 & 4 were nicely illustrated in Lenore Skenazy’s blog entry today, which went like this:
Dear Free-Range Kids: We picked up the book Reaching for the Moon by Buzz Aldrin at the library earlier in the day. When I got to page 8, I couldn’t believe what I read:
Determination, strength, independence – those were the qualities I worshiped in my favorite movie hero, the Lone Ranger. I went to the movies every Saturday, and sometimes I even snuck in through the fire escape when I didn’t have the money to buy a ticket. I felt just like the Lone Ranger the day I set off to ride my bike across the George Washington Bridge to New York City. Ten years old, I pedaled twenty miles down unfamiliar roads and busy streets, past neighbors and strangers, out into the unknown. Just like the Lone Ranger, I didn’t need help form anyone. It took me all day, but I found the way and did it myself.
Pretty inspiring! — Melissa
Lenore here: Sure is! May I add that at a conference on play that I attended, I heard from Stuart Brown that NASA and the Jet Propulsion Lab were baffled by some of the brainiacs they were hiring to replace Buzz’s generation. Yes, the new hires were brilliant at equations and engineering, BUT they lacked a certain agility when it came to real-world problem solving. How did NASA and the JPL solve their OWN problem? They started to ask, in job interviews, about the applicants’ childhoods. Had they tinkered as kids? Built things on their own? The ones who had were the ones who got hired. So “free-time” when kids are just goofing around, making stuff, turns out to be of FUNDAMENTAL importance when it comes to succeeding in the “real” world. And beyond.– L
5) Motivation: This comes to us when learning is organic – when we have an interest and are able to follow it. The interest itself can come from anything. In Maya’s case, she never had an interest, really, in learning Spanish until we spent time this winter in Costa Rica. That lit the spark of motivation for her, and she loves, loves, loves the Spanish class she is taking as a result. (You don’t have to travel to other countries to find motivation – it can come from anywhere about any subject.)
Speaking of Spanish, today was the Spanish “Fiesta” for Maya and all of the other students taught by her teacher Ana. They are all at various levels and don’t all take class together, but they are all fellow homeschoolers. This group photo is great. Ana is in the middle of the back row and her mother, visiting from Argentina, sits next to her.
That’s it. Those are the life skills most lacking and most in need, in my opinion. How best to attain them? Not with expensive tutors, that’s for sure.
Have I mentioned a little thing called life learning?