Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Raising Kids for the New Economy

The economy is on many people's minds these days.  While we didn't originally homeschool for this reason, I am becoming more and more convinced that homeschooling will better prepare my girls for the future than public school would.  As a society, we've seen eras come and go, we've been through a colonial period and an industrial period and I really think we are about to see a new era evolve.  I believe it will be service-oriented (someone can't wire your home, take trees off your power lines or perform an operation on you from overseas) and I think it will also be innovative, creative, entrepreneurial and I believe people will need to teach themselves the skills they will need to know to continue advancing in their careers.

This Harvard professor talks about how technology is revolutionizing education.

I've been reading a lot lately about how it's no longer necessary for kids to memorize facts and dates and figures and formulas, they can look all of that up on their phone.  It's about thinking creatively and logically, it's about innovation and creativity.  After having my girls in public school for five years and now homeschooling for two and a half years, I can honestly say that I think home education is the best way to prepare children to think creatively and logically.  Preparing children for a test is shortsighted, it misses the mark and seeks to quantitatively assess a child's knowledge, not their ability to learn or think creatively.  In contrast, home education allows children to follow their own rhythm, to master skills, to think creatively and to have time to pursue the things that interest them.  There is no telling what a child may do with the skills learned through pursuing diverse interests either independently or as part of a group.

 We are living at a very exciting time.  Technology is revolutionizing education.  We have access to ipads--just this week my girls showed me a new game they played and loved that exercised logic skills, deductive reasoning and spatial relations.  We have access to TED Talks and Khan Academy, Braingymmer and Lumosity.  While I think it's important to expose our children to the concepts of science and the stories of history, I think it's at least equally important that they have ample time to explore topics of interest on-line.  I think it's also important to pursue as many rabbit holes as possible.  I think it is imperative to allow our children ample time to follow their paths of interest...even if those interests seem diverse and chaotic, because the skills learned may all come together in some amazing gestalt.

Before we made the decision to homeschool, I was drawn to interest-led learning; but when we finally decided to homeschool, I lacked the courage and my girls were so used to being directed that we required a transition period.  We have always followed as many rabbit trails as they wanted, but as we finish three of the four volumes of our history program and as the girls meet and exceed the goals I set for them, I am finding myself feeling that we need more time to watch TED talks, to explore Khan, to play around on Braingymmer or Lumosity; I am finding that I would rather assign my girls to research and write about any topic that interests them...or to make a poster or a vlog or a booklet or a PowerPoint presentation on any topic they choose.  By exposing them to different and creative ideas and ways of thinking, we are entering a new phase of their education...a phase that I believe will be critical to their success in our new economy.

In the late 1980s, when I was in high school, the blue collar parents in my town told their children to go to college, that was the key to a good life, they told us we don't want to break our backs for a living.  College is no longer a guarantee of success.  Don't get me wrong, I want my girls to go to college, but I also think we need to start thinking differently about blue collar and service occupations.  Your home can't be built or wired or plumbed from overseas; when crazy storms come and trees fall on your home or power lines, the guys who remove them don't live overseas.  These jobs can't be outsourced and we need to start re-thinking how we view them for our children's future.  I had said medicine as a given for not being outsourced to a friend, and while obviously surgeons can't be outsourced, my friend informed me that radiology and even some tests are being sent overseas for analysis.

We can lament about manufacturing jobs being sent overseas, we can complain about computer jobs being sent overseas and I will try my best to buy locally and I will sign petitions to bring more work back to the United States, but to prepare our children for the future, I think we need to face that there is a new era on the horizon, an era of service and innovation.  I think we need to think long and hard about how best to prepare our children for this and I think that may mean scrapping a lot of what we thought about education, embracing technology and giving our kids opportunities to pursue their interests and encouraging them to think creatively.

What kinds of skills do you think our kids will need to face the new economy?  How will we best teach them these skills?