Grit Blogs > Back To Our Roots

Teaching the Future Generation: Part I

Traci N SmithToday’s children are not being taught any kind of survival skills. Even in the cities. I know adults who can’t count change, who can’t write checks, some who can’t even pump their own gas or find their way home without help. We are setting ourselves up for disaster. Even if there is no zombie apocalypse or disease epidemic or any other apocalyptic disaster, there are still natural disasters and crises and other situations where you need basic survival skills. And no, using computers and cell phones are not considered survival or even basic skills!

I conducted a Facebook poll and asked, “What are the Top 5 survival/life skills you think are essential for children to learn?” Below are the results.

Survival Skills Results 

And the basic skills that came up during the discussions were as follows:

Basic Skills Results 

So much of today’s society lives in cities. They have the freedom of going to the store to buy their food. Throw it in the microwave and push a few buttons to cook it. Push a button and the furnace or air conditioner kick on to regulate the temperature. The city provides water for you, all you have to do is pay a bill each month and turn on the faucet. Pay the electric company and you have all of life’s modern conveniences at the push of a button or the flip of a switch. Who needs survival skills, right? According to the folks I polled on Facebook, the Top 5 survival skills that children today are lacking are: the ability to hunt/fish/trap, fire building, knowledge of how to find and maintain a safe water source, finding or building a shelter, and weapons proficiency and safety.

There are children who have no idea where bacon or hamburger comes from. They don’t know where eggs or milk come from. They have NO IDEA about their food sources. Farms and farm animals are foreign concepts to them. I’ve met adults who are the same way. They couldn’t tell you where their food came from. For all they knew, bacon came from the bacon factory. You could tell them that you get bacon from a cow and they would probably believe you. It’s sad how disconnected we have gotten as a society.

What happens when the power grid goes down? And yes, it HAS happened and, yes, it WILL happen again. What happens if a tornado hits your area? Or a hurricane, flood, any natural disaster? What happens if you break down in the middle of nowhere and can’t get to civilization for a day or two? Or go for a hike and get lost in the woods? Around here, I think what we might run into is getting snowed in so we can’t get to the store to get more food, the power lines go down and the water pipes freeze. What happens then? Most of today’s society would be in a state of panic!

How Googling Has Replaced Needle and Thread 

How Googling has replaced needle and thread, courtesy

From the Facebook poll, the basic skills that children today are lacking are: work ethic, self-discipline, basic money skills, compassion and creativity.

I have personally run into issues teaching Critter Girl these skills. I developed a chore chart when she was 3 years old. It had basic everyday things on it that she already did, such as making her bed, picking up her toys, not back-talking, etc. She got a sticker for each thing she completed and 1 sticker = 1 point. I believe there were about 46 different things on there. Some were “bonus” items that we were working on, which meant that they were skills that she got bonus points for if she completed them, but if she didn’t there was no penalty. For each disciplinary action (spankings, timeouts, notes home from school, etc), she lost points. At the end of each week, we totaled her points. What point bracket she was in, determined what reward she got. When we showed her dad, he told me that I was “being too hard on her. She’s only a little kid.”

It made me wonder, WHEN do we start teaching them responsibility and chores then, if not when they’re little? Do we wait until they’re in school? My daughter started school at 2 years old. They expected her to be potty trained, well-behaved and to listen. If she didn’t show respect to teachers and other students, she was put in a “self-control chair” (time-out). If she didn’t follow directions, same result. Same for hitting, biting, getting out of her seat, etc. If she could follow the rules at school and had an achievement chart at school, then why not have one at home? At what point did it switch from being the parents' responsibility to teach their children to being solely the teachers?

My answer to teach my children the skills I feel they need to know is to homeschool my younger children. I can teach them math and science and animal husbandry and work ethic, self-discipline, money skills, and all the others using practical applications for everyday life. I don’t want my children to get into a situation where they can’t take care of themselves. I want to live the homesteading life where my children learn all the basic skills hands on.

Critter Girl will be 5 in the spring, and she already knows that the chickens need fed every morning and every night. The dogs need fed every evening. She knows how to do dishes by hand, and is learning to cook. She knows about loss and where her rabbit or chicken meat comes from. She does basic addition and is learning subtraction. She can write her name and read some. Some of the skills she has are definitely thanks to her school. But the rest, we have taught her through everyday life. This approach may not work for everyone. But it’s what works for my family.

When it comes to education ... there's no school like home!

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The results of my original poll really made me think. Do we teach our children these things? How? Where? I know that a lot of students in the schools around here can’t do most of these things. How do we better the next generation? I went back to my Facebook page and asked those questions as well. There were some surprising answers; some that weren’t so surprising.

  • “It all starts with the parents. If you want your children to learn something, you can’t entrust that to someone else to teach them. Schools have a different belief on what kids should know.” –Robert P.

  • “We stop expecting teachers/coaches/daycare workers to teach our kids and we get off our asses and do it ourselves. I get furious when people talk about things that should be taught in school, but they don’t bother teaching their children manners at home. My kids have been processing deer since they were 4 years old. People flipped their lids when they saw the pics of my tiny daughter with blood all over and a smile on her face. She knows where her food comes from though!” –Kalyn R.

  • “It all starts in the home. You need to be able to understand and practice the bottom ones to be able to succeed at the top ones. Most parents are becoming very lazy wanting to have their children being taught by teachers, movies, TV, and video games. I understand people have to work but that is no excuse. Basic skills and survival skills have gone down the toilet and its only because society has let them.” –Kym O.

  • “I think it has a lot to do with the activities that the parents include them in. My step-kids both know how to fish and are learning gun safety right now. We take them on camping trips several times in the summer, and they learn about fire safety and how and where to start one. They both know how to dig a 'cat hole' to bury their waste in the woods. They can spot mushrooms, but we’re still working on teaching them which are edible and which are not. A lot of survival training is just going out to the woods and showing them how to do things.” –Ashley E.

I would love to hear your opinions on this topic! What are some things that you are teaching your children so they are better prepared to survive in this world?