The Countdown to Maker Faire Bay Area is On!


Basic Self-Reliance/Maker Curriculum for Kids

Basic Self-Reliance/Maker Curriculum for Kids

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.

104 thoughts on “Basic Self-Reliance/Maker Curriculum for Kids

  1. Steph Sicore says:

    Great idea and congratulations! I love finding other parents trying to teach methods of self-reliance to their children. We have a blog built on the same foundation and it has not only been fun keeping it (when we weren’t overwhelmed with another new baby!) but fun watching the “wow” moments during the learning process :)

    While I don’t think that skinning and taxidermy are necessary skills to learn, I believe they are worthwhile if your children show an interest. We exposed our kids to taxidermy with help from our elders:

    As for guns, they are a way of life in our family. Every Fall there is hunting just as there are seasons for fishing. So we are teaching our children what we were taught, and so far, they realize guns have a usefulness that ends with hunting game for food.

    I’ll be checking back to read more. I’m always looking for more learning ideas, myself–anything to keep them away from screens and monitors as much as I can ;)

  2. Michelle Chin says:

    Thank goodness my father taught his daughter (me) most of the things on this list (including how to handle a firearm though I choose not to own one).  A LOT of adults I know could benefit from spending some quality time learning each of these.

  3. IllOgical42 says:

    My kids are scouts, so yes, the institute Scouting still exists. It’s funny to see you’ve made a list that shows a large similarity to our own. One difference is that my list is not limited to scouting activities (got that base already covered). So here are my suggestions:
    – learn how to learn
    – how to keep a positive state of mind
    – (logic) reasoning 
    – basic human and group psychology 

    – basic self-defense

    – expressing yourself in at least 1 foreign language or dialect
    – Personal privacy on the Internet
    – Recognize (TV)advertisement and it’s intentions – you cant start this one soon enough!
    – Self care
    – Etiquette in a multicultural society – I’m learning a lot on this one too
    – I’m still a little unsure whether I should add the entries “learn how to argue” and  “the art of persuasion (” as they are probably going to be better at it than me ;)
    – No fire arms, since these are illegal

    BTW I try to incorporate everything on my list in regular activities, while playing, while doing or just as a single casual remarks during conversations, to get the maximum of “knowledge transfer” as possible.

    It would be interesting to see which techniques everyone uses for this knowledge transfer & their respective success rate.

    1. Daniel Kim says:

      You hit a really important point. Being able to control oneself, maintain a good attitude, show equanimity in the face of disappointment and work well with others is very important.  A little neglected, perhaps, in the discussion of ‘self’ reliance, but “no man is an island”.

      To tie in with the tech-orientation of our community here, it is important to be aware of the importance of preserving one’s good name by not posting stupid screeds or improper photos on one’s Facebook.

    2. Stopher says:

      Those additions are spot on. I think the several ideas you have all written are exactly what one needs to have completed with your child by about age 14.

      I would however add that it is woefully inadequate for an 18 year old. There are all kinds of things kids need to grasp before age 18 that are really too exhaustive to explain here. As a high school teacher, I’m afraid I have to spend an unreasonable amount of time trying to get some of these other critical bits of information into the 14-17 year old mind and boy it is a daunting task. For the 14-18 year old, you must add the fundamental issues and consequences with sex, alcohol, drugs, friendships, respect, consequences… Man it just goes on and on. A lot of it can be done with modeling proper behavior, but nothing beats a frank, open discussion with your kids about these hard hitting topics and your personal expectations.

      The only part I will reflect on and add is that I see many parents have the attitude at age 14 that their child can poop properly, shower and dress, and prepare a meal when parents aren’t around. –I’m done with the parent thing.

      At the critical point when the kid brings home an “F” in a class OR starts hanging around the wrong crowd OR gets into some trouble, the parents throw up their hands and abandon all attempts at parenting. Instead this is the moment that IF YOU WILL FOCUS on the last, most critical moment in your child’s development, your kid can become a productive, helpful member of society. If not, they usually head down the long dark slide into becoming a worthless nere-do-well. I have seen it thousands of times in my career with lazy parents that should be jailed for not bothering to take kids from that critical age of 14 to 18. Make no mistake. 14-18 is as important as age 1-4 and you can’t be a lazy parent because they can walk across the street on their own.

  4. Kieran Hartnett says:

    How to cook a meal, basic nutrition, and how to eat both healthily and cheaply; also how to count calories and control your weight.

  5. Jeremy Arnold says:

    As I am a gun owner my son will be taught how to be safe around and respect guns. Just as he will with knifes, chop saws and whatever other dangerous tools live in my workshop.

    Teaching your kids proper respect for firearms could easily save their life. They will know how to react later in life when their “mates” pull out a gun at a party or they (esp. in places with lax guns laws) come across a gun at a friends place.
    Trapping and skinning, I have done both, they are really not as practical skills as they once where to be honest. Here in NZ I would teach about poison baits (like 1080 cyanide) as they are in common use.

    What I would encourage is that they are exposed to gutting and butchering, a chicken or rabbit might be a good option. Get in contact with local hobby farmers if you are City based.
    I think it is good to understand that meat does not come from the local supermarket!

    To starting a fire I would add building a safe fire pit.

    Things I would consider adding:
    – How to use a two-way radio, (CB, HAM, etc.) phonetic alphabet and how to place an emergency call.
    – How to activate an EPERB / Emergency locator beacon.
    – How to use a GPS unit. (get a lock, mark way points, etc.) Geocaching?
    – How to put out fires (oil and electrical)
    – How to catch a fish
    – River crossing
    – Raft building
    – Cooking a Hangi! (or cooking on an open fire or even a BBQ)

    Thats all that comes to mind. BTW I spent my high school years in New Zealand Air Training Corps and I learnt much of this and many other useful skills!

  6. Charles Hollingsworth says:

    How to do laundry.  Both with and without machines.

    1. balloondoggle says:

      My wife would suggest that I still don’t know this one. I have a different opinion.

  7. Jeanette Kalb says:

    Firearm safety is a good thing to know; trapping/skinning animals is sometimes useful (urban deer eating your garden!) but check your local laws to make sure you don’t need a hunting license or similar.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Kids don’t receive much training in how to use tools, nor do they see much in the way of basic mechanical systems.  When I work with kids, I start by giving them older mechanical things to take apart.  I can’t ask them to build things before I do that.

    Oh yea, modern electronic devices are mostly useless for disassembly exercises.  No identifiable parts inside.  You want to give them an old lawnmower engine, or a wind up alarm clock – something with actual moving parts.

  9. James Patrick says:

    The last two should definitely be included.
    If they were to experience a natural disaster with no outside support, it would be extremely useful for them to produce their own food. I would add basic water purification and safe food prep.
    And they should learn ALL about firearm safety and how the various actions work. The last thing anyone wants is an inexperienced person picking up a gun and treating it like a toy.

    They don’t have to embrace hunting and firearms as a lifestyle, but if the situation calls for it, they should be able to handle both properly.

  10. Meg says:

    I’m a Guide leader – and that list jives pretty closely with what I like to see the kids know before they leave the program/ go off to post-secondary.

    I’d add

    – know how to use a washing machine and dryer, including basic maintenance and reading wash instructions
    – know how to use a GPS, specifically not trusting it too far (especially in urban canyon/canopy conditions)
    – know how to build a snow-cave or other winter survival structure
    – know how to dress for the weather
    – know basic food safety (preventing cross-contamination, etc)
    – know how to tell when a friend’s just passed-out drunk, and when they need medical attention (and know how to put someone into the recovery position)
    – know how to plan, shop for, and cook healthy meals

    And, although I can’t really teach it in the program (there are groups who have, but they’re usually rural), if I ever have kids firearms safety is definitely on the list, as are basic trapping and skinning (assuming the kids are of a disposition where trapping/skinning won’t, you know, scar them for life).

  11. Heather Drinkwater says:

    Use a fire extinguisher.  Practice on a pan of burning gasoline.

  12. Daniel Kim says:

    Kids need to know how to properly handle knives.  First, how to respect them as potentially dangerous but useful tools.  Second, how to maintain them and the need to keep them sharp.  Finally, how to use them to make a tasty meal.

  13. Kirt Stanke says:

    Not only are the Scouts still around, but they just celebrated their 100th anniversary.  The Scouting program relies heavily on great parents and adult leaders to give guidance and direction to our youth.  This list does mirror many aspects of the Scouting program plus many great additions.  It’s not difficult to get involved if you want to share this knowledge.  Contact your local Council and volunteer!

  14. Abend Haeker says:

    Other people have hinted at this with “Learn to learn” and “logical thinking”, but I think there is a vast toolset that falls under “critical thinking” that people are only exposed to through implication, and may never have any formal training in unless they go into certain specific, and in my opinion, critically undervalued fields.

    If I were to compose a curriculum on, effectively, how to be a rational, competent, sane human being, it would include, but not be limited to, introductions on these things:

    Psychology, both of the group and of the individual.
    Psychology provides tools for recognizing common patterns of behavior, understanding the ways in which people are biased and blind to those biases, and more accurately modeling, predicting, and controlling the behavior of one’s self and those around one. Knowing the cognitive biases present in individuals and our culture makes one more able to defend against the errors caused by those biases. Knowing one’s own functioning allows one to make those choices best suited to increase one’s own happiness and be good to others.

    Debate (AKA Forensics).
    Learning how to form an argument both enables one to speak persuasively and to understand and recognize when one is being lied to or manipulated. Properly participating in a debate requires listening, comprehension, insight, wit, civility, logical thinking, and articulate self-expression.

    Philosophy, especially ethics and governance.
    To me, the greatest gift of the study of philosophy is the understanding that things like society, government, and morality are just as much constructs as an internal combustion engine, and can be examined to determine how they work and how they can be improved. With that understanding, one can recognize that the institutions one participates in are not a fixed feature of the environment, and are amenable to change.

    Mathematical logic, statistics, and the scientific method.
    Understanding what the words “proof” and “theory” actually mean, how a proof is constructed, and how a theory is tested allow one to differentiate between what people think is happening (In light of both psychology and debate, this is a very malleable thing) and what is actually happening. It also makes people cringe when they read bad reporting about science, which is the appropriate reaction.

    Of course, if you actually teach your children these things, and they take the lessons to heart, they will be completely unsuited to interaction with institutions like the American court system and legislature, and likely unwilling to participate in American society, so you may want to throw a bunch of acting lessons into the mix.

    As far as non-meta-skills goes, I’d recommend a basic course on individual and family economics, so they don’t live beyond their means.

  15. Elissa Milne says:

    Having a working knowledge of how finance works will serve most people a whole lot better than being able to skin an animal. But maybe that’s just where I live. Apparently less than 10% of the population has a *foundational* (not advanced!) understanding of financial matters. This impacts on everyday decisions literally every day. And many a home mortgage might not have been foreclosed had the general population a better financial literacy.

    1. Stopher says:

      Amen. Too many kids have no grasp of how to retire as a multimillionaire with 2 thousand bucks a year. Living within your means is something 18 year olds MUST grasp.

  16. snarkyFish says:

    On the gun topic, if they’re in the house, or you want your kid to know how to properly respond when they’re encountered in some other kid’s house, yes, add it to the list.  

    If you don’t know anything about guns then teach them about how serious they are and that they should never be touched.  I feel it’s better for kids to actually know about them and demystify them though.  

    An unskinned animal is not potentially lethal, so.. that one’s safer to omit. ; )

  17. Stefan Antonowicz says:

    Hi guys!

    First, to my Maker peeps – miss you guys, too!  Knock ’em dead in Detroit!

    These are all super spectacular, thank you.  I’ve been updating my list like mad, but there are a few I wanted to call special attention to:

    Logical and Critical Thinking is the big one; thank you to all of you who mentioned this in some way.  I’ve been approaching things from a skill-based (“know how to do X”) rather than a foundational-based (“be the kind of person who knows how to do X”) mindset.  I can say personally that I have a … uh … “difficult” personality, especially when things get stressful; I’ve had to teach myself a lot of anger management and critical/logical thinking skills over the years (with mixed success).  It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, though – this is definitely something I’ll be including in my lessons for my children.

    And Charles Hollingsworth – extra special props for teaching them how to do laundry. I  never, ever, ever did laundry as a child or adult, and when it came time to do my first load I ruined my wife’s clothes.  I didn’t want to be some kind of sitcom loser dad/dude who can’t do anything right, so I (of course) hit the Internet.  I can’t believe it didn’t occur t me to put that on the list.

    Finally, thanks for everyone being intelligent and cool-minded about firearms.  They’re a reality in the U.S., and I think that being able to have safe, smart debate about their existence and use is a necessity. 

  18. Anonymous says:

    Great list and some great additional suggestions from the comments above.
    I was in scouting for many years and my son is in scouting now.  I would like to add that if you live in a more urban area, knowledge of how to use public transportation is important…how to navigate subways and buses could prove extremely vital in certain circumstances.  I grew up and still work in NYC so this is a must have skill.  We live in a suburban, somewhat rural type area 60 miles north of NYC so we can be in the heart of midtown one day and be hiking in a state park the next.  Also, along those same lines…how to plan a long distance trip either by driving or using a variety of public transportation. 
    In addition to everything already mentioned I hope my son will learn…
    ·         How to paddle a canoe and if he ever find himself over turned and in the water how he can right the canoe and get back in.  Along the same lines…if he finds himself in water without a lifejacket how he can improvise a life jacket using his pants (and other water survival skills taught in scouting). 
    ·         If need be…how to cross a frozen lake safely and how to get out if he falls thru the ice. 
    ·         How to dress properly for cold weather exposure.
    ·         Have a basic understanding of weather systems, their dangers and how to prepare for a storm.
    ·         How to use a variety of hand and power tools.
    ·         Basic small engine troubleshooting and repair.
    ·         How to properly set up and climb a ladder.
    ·         How to grow a fruit and vegetable garden. 
    ·         How to cut and chop wood for fire use.
    ·         Learn how to use a variety of knives, saws and axes. 
    ·         How to use credit, its importance and its dangers.
    ·         How to save and invest. 
    ·         How to shop, cook and eat healthy.
    ·         The importance of regular exercise.
    ·         How to identify street scams and to protect himself from being taken advantage of, but at the same time being able recognize when someone genuinely needs help. 
    Most importantly…how to problem solve and improvise if need be, whether it’s with a home or car repair, in the wilderness or in the city or something a bit more abstract like troubleshooting a computer software problem. 
    Finally, to know the limitations of his abilities and to know how to seek assistance from others.

  19. ciphertext says:

    If you are to follow the Scouting (Boy Scouts anyway) motto: “Be prepared.”  Then you will find it useful to define the circumstances and eventualities for which you should be prepared.  Then, develop one or more tactics or responses to the situation (i.e. Event:  Lights go out –> Response:  Use emergency lighting candle.)  This should inform your decision for what skills it is necessary to acquire/teach so that the tactic/response can be implemented.  It might be useful to build a list (such as you have done) of “general” skills (those that can be used for a variety of conditions) and then refine it with “branches” of other more specific skills (unique for a given situation). It is worthy to note that there are a variety of “preparedness” skill sets that are transferable/portable across a wide spectrum of circumstances and eventualities.  Chief among those are:

    1) How to “think”.  Or, more specifically, how to avoid panic and the loss of cognitive output that panic entails.

    2) Organization.  Learn how to organize your tools, your thoughts, and your life.  If you are disorganized, you are unprepared.

    3) Implementation.  Learn how to “do” something to completion.  Do not simply start and not finish.  Be committed.  If you aren’t willing to commit to an implementation of a skill, you might as well not implement the skill.  

    As an example of my describe method, you  might consider a “loss of power” as a circumstance.  

    Loss of Power

    In which case, you have developed a few responses.  

    1) Use emergency lighting.
    2) Construct a “safe” fire.

    1)  You will need to learn how to use a flashlight and batteries.  
    2)  You will need to learn how to use candles.   
    3)  You will need to learn how to construct a safe, stable, fire.

    Notice, that you will still need to know how to “think”
    “Maybe the flashlights aren’t available, need to switch to candles, lanterns, or glow sticks, .”
    “The power will be out for some time, therefore, I need to work on building a fire.”

    You will still need to be organized, to make the situation easier to withstand.
    “The flashlights and spare batteries are in the emergency kit.  I’ll go get them.” 

    You could extend the required skill set to include:
    1) How to construct candles.
         a) What to use as a wax/flame inhibitor.
         b) What to use as a wick/fuel.
         c) How to effectively utilize the candle.
    2) How to use an ax or saw to obtain firewood.
         a) How to maintain an edge on the blade or teeth.
         b) What are the appropriate sizes of wood for fuel (kindling and burn logs).
    need to have emergency lighting available (candles, working flashlights, etc…) 

    I would recommend learning to use a firearm properly.  Appropriate understanding of how a firearm functions will provide you with knowledge for use in “defense” (i.e. protection from danger) and “offense” (i.e. obtaining a source of food).
    As a corollary, you should learn how to hunt and process animals for food correctly.  This will allow you to obtain meat for food and “leather” for shelter and clothing.

  20. BigA says:

    Two things here.  1)  What would you want your child (even as the grow into an adult) to know what to use in an extreme natural disaster. 2)  We do scouts but because of issues with behaviour, “religious” views, and limitations on training we use a very little known program called “Lone Scout”.  We occasionally link up with a troop for activities but are also able teach for  understanding and more completely (not just to get the merit badge).

  21. Anonymous says:

    Nice list!   This should be a basic list of Maker Skillz for any member, regardless of age.
    I like the critical thinking exercises in cypertext’s comment. 
    Also Elissa Milne’s comment about basic Finance, and numerous comments on laundry and Putting Out fires, and basic cooking and cleanup skills.

    I;m not sure the cold weather skills are all that relevant to all readers daily lives. We do have some snow here – at the 10kft level. Mostly these environmental skills should focus on LOCAL climate (eg how to deal with a rainforest and/or desert conditions for us here on Maui) but also include other extreme conditions people may encounter on travels.  Saskatoon folks may want to learn tropical skills.

    Basic Swimming is on the list – some basic survival techniques at least (treading water, simple strokes). Too many city dwellers never learn.   Snorkeling and freediving are also very useful skills (fun too).  Scuba — eh. for the more advanced learners definitely.

    Canoe paddling? well all forms of boating (sailing, power, surf) are good to have in the skill set. Be aware that there are very different types of canoes and paddling. Long distance ocean canoes (learning now) are very different from the canadian canoes I learned decades ago.  Windsurfing & Standup Paddle Board should be on the list for advanced folks (come visit us and learn :-)

    As for guns  — a gun safety class and a day on the range using handguns, shotguns and rifle should be available, at least to give a well rounded person the basic knowledge of what NOT to do.

    Skinning animals? I’ve never learned but as a wise man once wrote….
    “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.” R. Heinlein

  22. vrimj says:

    I would love to see someone start a co-ed geek scout chapter with the goals of teaching these kinds of skills.  I can’t support the boy scouts and these were not skills that were taught when I was in the Girl Scouts.

  23. Dominic Muren says:

    So many great ideas. My main suggestions are slight modifications of existing ones:

    1) Know how to deal with poisonous plants/animals. What to avoid, and antidotes (plantain for bee stings, dock for nettles) if they are available.

    2) How to grow a vegetable garden, including knowing the difference between annual and perennial crops, and how to save and start seed.

    3) How to make basic tools and materials from what they find in the woods. Cordage, container or basket, and rock on a string (using a monkey fist knot or net bag).

    This last one is mostly to get them thinking about where stuff comes from, really; It ain’t Target.

  24. Anonymous says:

    How to make rice and beans from scratch.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I would add a basic understanding of materials and there properties( plastics, wood, metal, concrete, plaster, clay, and methods for construction. Mechanical fasteners and application of tools and torque. Glues, adhesives, bonding, rivets, hardware,
    Best Practices using any tools hand or power. How to read universal instructions. difference between AC and dc current,

  26. Anonymous says:

    Another one to add would be the giant category “Weather.”  I’ve trained as a storm spotter here in SW WisconSIN and it’s helped me plan ahead in my everyday life.  I’ve also taught myself many of the tips here:

    Small things like knowing that strong smells can sometimes be an indicator of a low-pressure system are great things to know, especially combined with other signs, like birds flying low (after the bugs which fly lower in low-pressure areas).

    Old-timey wisdom can show your kids a certain reverence for the past, too.  :)

  27. Julian Leland says:

    This has been touched on by other posters, but I think one of the most important things you can teach someone is how to get the information they need to deal with a particular problem, and to recognize when they need to get that information/how critical it is to have it. For me, this is the essence of self-reliance – I don’t know how to clean and load a shotgun, launder some types of clothes, or how to manage an investment portfolio, but I have zero doubt that I can find the information and/or people that I would need to accomplish these tasks, quickly and efficiently. Furthermore, I can also evaluate with (pretty good) accuracy how important it is in each case to get the necessary information/how careful I need to be when getting that information. 

    Consequently, don’t just teach your kids skills – teach them how to obtain those skills for themselves, and how to expand them. I’m a huge fan of all the suggestions I’ve seen here (seriously – I haven’t seen a single suggestion that I disagree with), and I DO think there are some skills that need to be learned and practiced regularly enough that they’re automatic (first aid, survival, self-defense, street smarts, etc. – basically, emergency skills). But ultimately, it’s the ability to get the information that you need, on your own, that makes you truly self-sufficient.

  28. Vicki Kaiser says:

    @ vrimj Does your area have 4H?  I myself am a girlscout dropout for those exact reasons.  In 4H I learned sewing, woodworking, cooking, nutrition, camping, gardening, electronics, animal care, public speaking, finance, business and people management… the 4H office is an amazing resource with kid and noob-adult friendly pamphlets on how to learn and teach just about everything.  They often offer training classes or can point you to enthusiastic experts. 
    In the summer, 4Hers can enter their projects in the county fair to have them judged so they are rewarded and can learn from their work.

    I was taught gun safety from a fairly young age, and while I don’t own a gun I think it’s incredibly important that children learn gun safety,and particularly if they *could* have any kind of access to a firearm.

    I’ve read a lot of good suggestions, I would throw in
    1. basic finances (approximating tax, interest, sale prices and some simple budgeting),
    2. public speaking/presentations – like a cooking demonstration to a group of relative strangers.  Plan, practice, perform, clean.
    3. some kind of trip planning like a camping trip.  What food, first aid, utensils, water, etc to bring *and* carry as well as research regarding the trails, rules, dangers, weather forecast…

    Maybe catching and cleaning a fish, but unless you hunt regularly or the child expresses an interest I think I’m ok not knowing how to skin and clean other animals.  ^_~./.

  29. btoblake says:

    I love this list.  

    – Teaching a few basic memory tricks will make teaching everything else on the list easier.  I was taught rhymes, acronyms and free association in middle school, and I found them useful right away, so the skills stayed with me.  

    – I would probably teach gardening instead of trapping or hunting.  It teaches several of the same things.  Both get your hands dirty and teach you that food doesn’t come from a factory.  However, gardening can fit into any home with a sunny window, and may help your kids cut their grocery bill for life.

    – Learning programming is a good skill, and a neat way of peeking behind the curtain of a tech world.  Could I suggest that the second Hello World should actually be a personal website?  This skillset can be learned quickly, can be used just as fast, and can lead into some good programming projects.  

    – The people suggesting basic personal finance skills are right on the ball.

    – The people suggesting basic self defense skills are also right on the ball.  

    – If you want your kids to succeed in their careers, there are a couple of social skills that will make at least as much difference as all of their studying in school. Teach them to introduce themselves to new people, and handle conflicts, and get them used to doing both. Both skills really smooth career roadblocks.

    – One good dinner recipe – If a teenager is comfortable with the basics in the kitchen, they are free to learn as it interests them.  These are the base skills that set the foundation.  (boil water, cut safely, measure a cup and a teaspoon, cook a meat and a carb, recognize cooked food, read a recipe, deal with one mistake). 
    Of course, you can start teaching cooking to kids.  As soon as they know how to clean up spills, they’re ready to learn to measure, roll, toss, and mix.

    If teaching cooking wasn’t already a big job, I would be tempted to include two extra lessons the same day (The aforementioned use of fire extinguishers, and treating minor cuts and burns).

  30. Renda Luvaas says:

    Teach the little sponges everything you can. This must be done BEFORE they reach the teen age years and they “know everything”.

  31. Glenn says:

    Any adult should know how to care for an animal including humans.  I think there is not much real need for learning to skin them.

    Maybe how to trap/relocate an animal safely.

    How to assess safety and security in any environment and correct safety issues.

    1. Anonymous says:

      If you’re trapped out in the wilderness for whatever reason, you’d have to trap, kill, and prepare your food, and so a source of protein would be necessary.
      (Tofu doesn’t run wild anywhere), and protein from forgeable plants is energy consuming to scavenge so vegi/vegans would have to reconsider their diet or possibly suffer from any number of alilments that could hamper their chances for survival.These include but are not limited to edema, weight loss, loss of skin pigmentation (burns easily in the sun), skin rashes increasing the changes of infection, general weakness and lethargy, muscle soreness and weakness, cramps, slow healing wounds, cuts, scrapes, and bruises, bedsores or other skin ulcers, difficulty sleeping, headache, fainting, nausea and/or stomach pain.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Regarding teaching your kids basic programming by having them write a “Hello world” program: As a professional programmer who has taught entry-level programming in college, I consider “Hello world” to be a bad entry point for teaching programming. Programming requires understanding of three stages of action: input, process, and output. An ideal first program makes use of all three of these stages; “Hello world” only deals with one – output. So the first program I got my students to write was one I call “Addemup”: Get two numbers from the user, add them up, and output the result. This I’ve found is the best way to help the students understand the fundamental principle of input, process, output, and it also familiarises them with variables – another fundamental of programming. The pseudocode looks something like this:

    Output “Enter a number”; //Output
    Input A; //Input, A is a variable, a labelled storage box for the input value
    Output “Enter another number”; //Output
    Input B; //Input, B is another variable.
    Let C = A + B; //Process, we perform arithmetic addition of the values in A and B and store the result in C.
    Output A ” plus ” B ” equals ” C; //Output

    I told my students that if they can do this, they can do anything they want the computer to do, because they now have the foundation upon which every computer program is built.

    So I would suggest, even if you teach your kids nothing else about programming, at least get them to write a program like Addemup that familiarises them with the fundamentals of input, process, output, and variables as storage boxes for data.

    1. Tommy Phillips says:

      The primary reason for a Hello World program is not necessarily to teach them how to write a program, but how to run a program they have written. Depending on the language and environment, running your program might be as simple as clicking a button, or it may involve steps such as compiling, linking, uploading to a Web server, changing environment variables, etc.

      Once you have Hello World running, then you can think about input, processing, interaction with services, etc.

  33. katalina schachtebeck says:

    before anything and what i found more useful during my hole life is the logic..
    my grandpa teach me how to play chess, puzzles, and a lot of logic problems at the age of 5.
    it develops the ability to learn everything else easily as you dont just memorice, but figure it out. observation is allso important.

    other useful skills are

    -proper handle of different weapons (knife, guns, axes,… etc)
    -identify if u can eat what u have in front of you (plants – animals )
    – make a tent or a refuge out of nothing
    -how to detect and avoid a danger situation.. specially on the forest.
    -not to cry, and complain, but to look for a solution (basic logic)
    -read n speak different languages
    -dont let others to mistreat them. (professors, other kids, neighbors, anyone.)
    -argue with bases, not argue just because they want.
    -climb and walk down a mountain, properly, with and with out the necessary equipment.
    – to say IM SORRY. and mean it.
    – to have a critical mind about everything.
    -properly pack your bag. only with the really necessary things.
    – use a radio, and fix one.
    -electricity (how to generate it, how to use it safely, fix any damage,..etc )
    -talk on a decent way, now what and how to say it. (specially how to say bad thing, making it sound good) very useful on class, with other kids.
    -play any instrument.
    – make soap, light, candles, out of things u can find in the forest. allso clothes.

    there are a lot ov things we must learn, but the most important ones are to learn how 2 comunicate properly, and how 2 survive when you get lost.

  34. Carol Kilgore says:

    I haven’t seen anyone suggest learning how to grow their own food. Being able to plan what is necessary for a balanced, healthy diet, and be able to plan a garden, grow the food and learn to preserve it would be a vital survival skill.

    Learning about computers is important but I have to wonder how many kids today would be able to communicate, calculate, and interact without technology. Learning to survive without any type of technology would be very important.

    Learning gun safety and shooting skills will be vitally important, if for no other reason than hunting food. Getting back to basic survival skills and self sufficiency is the greatest gift we can give our kids and grandkids.

  35. Joel R. Smith says:

    How to READ and DRAW a map.

    How to use a compass.

    Basic land navigation.

    Hunting, fishing, and gardening. When it comes to food, the more options available the better.

    Construction of temporary shelter

  36. Susanne says:

    I would add being competent around animals: dogs, horses, and the like.

  37. dalecallahan says:

    How to earn a living. Not just get a job, but how to do something, make money, and use that money wisely. All they are being taught in school is to work for someone else.

  38. Heath says:

    I’d add “build a shelf without power tools”…before I’d go to ‘learn how to safely use power tools’. It teachs you a great deal of respect for the power tools as well as forces you to really understand what the power tool is actually doing.

    I think every good maker should know the basics of welding. Hobby welders at home supply stores are remarkably cheap (keeping in mind the quality of course)…and being able to weld opens a whole set of possibilities.

    Honestly, mechanical drawing. If your high school doesn’t offer it of course. 30 years later, I still consider that class the single most valuable one I ever took high school.

    I’d pass on the gun. IMO, when he becomes an adult, sure…safety first-last-always. But now, if you’re the 1 in a 10 million parent of a child who f’s up and kills someone while holding a gun you showed him how to use, would you be able to live with yourself?

    I’d say gardening should be in there too. Being able to make a plant make a tomato is pretty rewarding IMO.

    and yeah, looking at others’ comments, Chess is clear up there too.

    and trapping and skinning? Fish, yes. Squirrels, no.

  39. Alan S. Blue says:

    One thing I didn’t see is what I’d call “Home Economics”.

    Covering the price differences between the various types of meal (scratch, boxed, frozen, pre-prepared, fast-food, the tiers of restaurants) is quite useful. Continue with pricing simple meals. This isn’t exactly ‘how to cook’, and actually ties into the (also missing) economics and finances section. This isn’t an area really explored in other avenues teaching “how to cook”.

    And the kitchen is just a start. Wandering through the bathroom and explaining the various chemicals, safety (don’t mix ammonia and bleach!), and proper care.

    1. Stopher says:

      Amen. I teach high school physics and chemistry and you CAN NOT believe how many kids do NOT know that about ammonia and Bleach. That is something I have taught my 8 year old.

  40. Ellis Wood says:

    Hi Gareth! Nice work. I hope you enjoy the time teaching your kids the things you have learned. I always found the BSA Merit Badge system to be interesting little looks into different careers. The many suggestions in these comments are covered in those merit badges. And you can check out the booklets in your library plus there are some great resources online. Help your kids enjoy the things they learn!

  41. Duncan Bayne says:

    Nice curriculum. I’d definitely put firearms back on the list – I’m actually about to start my application for an Australian firearms license, specifically so that I can teach my children to shoot, hunt, dress game, etc.

    Not only are they essential skills to have, but I think it’s important for them to learn that meat doesn’t “come from the supermarket”; they should learn how to hunt humanely, and realise that their choice to eat meat means that other animals must die.

  42. Johenix says:

    “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, devise a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, give orders, take orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyse a problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” “The Notebooks of lazarus Long, Time Enough For Love” by Robert Anson Heinlein

    Any books by Daniel Carter Beard (or his sister) are worthwhile, as are Elsworth Jaeger’s “Wildwoods Wisdom”, Tom Brown jr’s “The Tracker” (and woodcraft handbooks), “Bushcraft” by Richard Graves, and most of the books by the Craighead twins, Frank and John.

    I thought the “Lone Scout” movement died in the U.S. in the 1930’s.

    Look for the Four Leafed Clover of the “4-H” Clubs (“3-P”s in Italy, something else in South Korea.)

    Some churches back “Royal Ranger” programs- I don’t know much about them.
    The Scouts seem to have become lawsuite shy since the 1960’s. Thus the older “Boy’s Life”s available in line are better than the current BL’s.
    Crystal radios are a good start to electronics, and get a good, cheap digital Volt Ohm Amp meter ot two (under $10) and old Radio magazines on CD/DVD (“73 Amateur Radio Today” and “Ham Radio”) as well as “Mother Earth News” on DVD.
    A good Morse Code program can have the kids teaching each other the code, The U.S. Ham test is less than $20, and 1 watt CW trancievers can be had for less than $30 per band. Any books by Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke are worthwhile while the hundred or so Anchor-Doubleday Science Series from the late 1950′ to the 1970’s are treasures.

  43. jon says:

    I would echo Dale above… kids from 14 to 18 should learn to earn money through some sort of business activity. NOT just getting a job, but thinking up some product or service that will add value to someone else, going out and marketing that idea, selling to the person who will buy, and then delivering the product or service, while making sure to make a profit.

    It’s similar to going to a butcher to learn that meat doesn’t magically appear in the supermarket. One learns appreciation for the effort and sacrifice. Your child may not want to be in business or be an entrepreneur…and that’s ok (just like they may not want to butcher their own meat), but they will have an appreciation for what it takes to create a business and make money seem less mysterious.

    Besides, while their parents are providing for them, it is the best time (lowest risk) to try business ideas and fail toward success.

  44. Chris says:

    Great list. I’ve been thinking along the same lines for my sons (adding some of my own badges as well). The scouts have two (optional) firearms badges; they would need to learn gun safety while earning those badges. I think it’s important that they learn how to care for and understand the dangers of firearms. Even though a lot of people give guns a bad rap, you have to reasonably conclude that, most likely, none of those people ever learned about gun safety in the first place.

    I’d skip the skinning and tanning, that’s kind of creepy in today’s world.

    I agree with your quote about getting “baseline skills they need to be able to be fully functioning human beings”. Scouting is a wonderful way to instil those skills.

  45. Bram says:

    I did not see it mentioned in previous comments. Everyone should be taught about Newton’s Laws of Motion and the Six Classical Simple Machines. Understanding the most basic principles of force and motion will serve you every day of your life. Ignorance of it (especially how simple machines modify force and movement) can lead to comedy, disaster, and death.

    If YouTube videos are any indicator it appears there are many people who have little understanding of such basic concepts.

Comments are closed.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn
Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 30% off early bird ticket sales ends August 31st, 2023!

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Prices Increase in....