Andrew Pudewa, the founder of the Institute for Excellence in Writing (which is awesome, by the way), divides all homeschool subjects into content subjects and skill subjects. It’s a convenient way to think about the different things you help you children learn.
I have focused most of my attention on content subjects on this blog, such as discussing how to combine history with literature, art history, music history, etc. Today, though, I thought I would write a little bit about skill subjects.
If you think about it, most of the grammar-stage subjects tend to be more skill subjects with a gradual transition toward more and more content subjects and fewer skill subjects during the logic stage and the rhetoric stage, and for the most part that makes sense. There are a few skill subjects that most children aren’t ready for until a little later in their education, however. Here’s a list (you know how I love lists) of skill subjects that, while they have very little to do with a classical education per se, are still important for the children to learn:
- Handwriting – This one is obvious. Some people start with cursive, and I think there are some good arguments for that, but we start with print using Handwriting without Tears and then move to their cursive program. Apparently, most schools have stopped teaching cursive. For years, I too thought it wasn’t really important. The main reason I decided to teach the children cursive was so they could read Grandma’s letters, LOL. For one of my sons, however, it had the added benefit of giving him a fresh start with his previously very messy printing. I did find that it didn’t really stick until I presented the cursive in the form of a class, complete with dictating using the book. I chose this program because it’s easy to use and straight forward. It’s not the Palmer method–just a nice, clean, easy-to-read script.
- Typing – I think that learning to type quickly and accurately is really essential in today’s world. After trying a few different computer programs as well as the old-fashioned typewriter books, we settled on a program called Typing Master Platinum. It combines old-fashioned exercises with some rather entertaining typing games. The kids start out using it in for 30 minutes a day in 3rd or 4th grade and keep going until they can type 60 words per minute. It has worked well for us.
- Repair skills – Another thing that is really important in my opinion is being able to learn some basic carpentry, plumbing, wiring. and basic auto-repair skills. We are very blessed by the fact that my husband learned all of these and many more skills from his grandfather. The downside is that he doesn’t have as much time as he would like to pass the skills on. However, he does when he can. A really fun way to do this is to build a fort together. I actually think it’s a good idea for both genders to learn how to do these things. I don’t know of any way to learn in this case other than by being taught by someone who knows how, and I think like so many other things, skills build on each other such that eventually one is able to figure out how to do things based on what one already knows.
- Sewing – There’s something wonderfully satisfying about making one’s own clothes. At the very least, everyone should know how to fix a hem and sew on buttons.
- Computer skills – I recently read that, while we think of teens today as being very computer savvy, many of them only know how to do the things they always do, but they lack the ability to figure out new things on the computer. From installing new programs to learning some programming to knowing all the different programs in MS Office and Adobe Creative Suite, these are skills that are both practical and useful for future jobs.
- Running a household – It’s quite easy to overlook the skills required to run a household when we’re so busy teaching them math and science and literature and history and theology. I confess that I had so little interest in this as a child that I really didn’t have a clue how to do it when I got married. It still doesn’t come easily (which is why you never see pictures of my house in this blog :-)). I will try (no promises though) to post something soon about some different ways to divide up chores. The bigger your family, the more essential it is for everyone’s sanity that the children help out. However, even if you have a small family, it’s just as important for the children that they learn both the responsibility of chores and the knowledge of how to keep house from doing them. Their future spouses will thank you!
- Last but certainly not least is the ability to cook. For the last couple years, we have made one of the chores related to dinner being the “dinner helper.” That involves things like setting the table, but more importantly, it is a one-on-one lesson on how to cook. Unfortunately, only one of our 5 children is really enthusiastic about cooking, but my goal is for all of them to at least be able to feed themselves before they leave home.
- I’m updating this list to add a course in handling money as one reader suggested. We used Dave Ramsey’s video course for homeschoolers a couple years ago, and I think everyone gained from it–especially from the discussions that the video brought up in our home.
I don’t know about you, but for us time is always short, and it’s easy to lose track of some of these skills as well as others. What are some other skills that you think it’s important for your children to learn?