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Former MAKE staffer Stefan Antonowicz sent us this to post. He now has two kids and has been thinking about what is a good self-reliance/maker skill set to consider teaching his kids. He writes:

My dad and I were both Scouts, and I’d always assumed my sons and daughters would spend some time in one of these institutions to get the baseline skills they needed to be able to be fully functioning human beings. I began to wonder if the Scouts were still around in the same way I remembered them, and began to make my own “Maker curriculum” for my kids, in case we didn’t have access to the Scouts for some reason. I figured I’d share with you all and get your input — think of it as “home schooling” my kids in self-reliance. These are the things I’d like my kids to know before they hit 18 years of age:

  • CPR and basic first aid.
  • Know how to tie Basic Useful Knots
  • Know how to swim.
  • Know how to ride and fix a bike.
  • Know how a combustion engine works, how to change a tire, how to change the oil in their vehicle and properly dispose of it, how to jumpstart a vehicle, how to change the air filter.
  • Be able to build a fire (bonus points: build a fire without matches or a lighter).
  • Be able to set up a tent, build a lean-to, collect and purify water.
  • Be able to navigate with a map and compass.
  • Understand how the toilet works. Be able to fix and replace the basic components in the tank. Know how to shut off the water supply (for any piece of plumbing, including for the whole house).
  • Understand how the house electrical system works. Know basic electrical safety. Know where the breaker panel is, be able to flip a tripped breaker, know how to use a volt stick. Advanced: be able to replace a simple wall outlet.
  • Understand basic conditional logic in computer programming. Write a “Hello World” statement in one or two programming languages.
  • Understand basic sewing techniques, including the straight and whip stitch.
  • Know how to solder
  • Know how to safely handle fireworks, explosives, and propellants.
  • Know how to safely handle power tools. Know how to safely sharpen tools and knives.
  • Be able to identify the flora and fauna in our area. For the flora: know what’s edible and how to prepare it, and if necessary, the fauna, too (see below)

I left two things off this list that I’d like to hear how you feel, one I learned in the Scouts, the other I didn’t. Trapping and skinning animals — is it still something our kids should know? And the other is about teaching them about guns, gun control, and the safe use of firearms. What of these above skills have you taught your kids? What have I left off? Post up in the comments.

This post was originally published on July 28, 2011.

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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