Essential & inessential knowledge

Been thinking a lot lately about the things a person needs to know in order to function in the world.   As far as I can figure it, these things boil down to a list of five:

1.  Reading

2.  Writing

3.  Basic math (add/subtract/multiply/divide/ basic fractions/money & decimals/percentages)

4.  Computer knowledge

5.  Basic social skills

Now think about your kid.  With very few exceptions, most kids, and especially kids who have been trusted to learn on their own,  have a good handle on these skills by the time they are 12 or 13 at the latest.

This means that everything else that is “taught” in school – all that stuff that is supposed to prepare kids for the “real world” – all of it is inessential.   Compound that with the fact that much of what is “taught” is of no interest to the child, and you have a recipe for stress and unhappiness.

Now, before everyone gets all defensive about the wonderful things their kid learns in school that they never would have been exposed to otherwise, let me mention that I did not say inessential knowledge was undesirable, just that it is not essential.   If your school offers chess and your child is wild about chess, that’s great.  They should definitely be involved in chess.   The problem is that in most schools kids don’t have a choice, by and large, about which inessential knowledge is available to them.

This is one more reason I love unschooling.   An unschooled kid gets to enrich their lives with learning of their own choosing.   Often their pursuit of something inessential leads them to master the essentials in very short order as a stepping stone to their goal.  They fill their world and their minds with knowledge they have sought out.   They can change their minds about what interests them most and try something else, with no worries that it will damage their GPA.   Or they can remain single focused about their passion and never be required to stop and put their attention on five or six other subjects about which they could really care less.

Think about that.  What could you achieve if given the same opportunity?

They can do all that, and more.


One comment on “Essential & inessential knowledge

  1. mrsculpepper says:

    I agree! I let mine stay in school long enough to get a good grasp on reading and math and then bring them home. I know they would pick that stuff up at home too but that’s just the way we’ve done it.

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