What percentage of your current working knowledge did you learn after school? Stop and think about it for a moment.

For me, it is almost all of it. We have all had to learn things related to work, home, and hobbies that we didn’t learn in school. Even most companies train employees after school for their particular jobs. A potentially shocking truth that we must recognize as we are educating our children is this:

We will not be able to teach all the knowledge our children will need for life before they leave our homes!

Okay, you probably already knew that. But does this reality actually influence your educational strategy? 

 We can help our children be prepared for life with these three critical skills:

  1. Research
  2. Critical Thinking
  3. Communication

Let me point out that while these skills are critical, they are not actually the most important way to prepare your children for life. I believe the most important way is to help our children grow in their spiritual life and character. We have other blog posts that discuss how to discipleyour children.

 

1. Research – You can teach your children how to learn on their own.

You can’t teach your child everything they need to know for life before they graduate, but you can teach them the skills for learning whatever they may need to know for life after they graduate. The wisdom and importance of gaining knowledge is emphasized in these proverbs from the Bible: “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13) and “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge” (Proverbs 18:15).

One of my sons wanted to learn about investing. However, this topic wasn’t covered in his high school curriculum and I didn’t really know much about it. Fortunately, that didn’t stop him. He began to do research and learned all about investing on his own. He has now invested some of his money and is already watching it grow! 

Most writing curriculum will include some great instructions for how to do research. Be sure you don’t skip those research assignments because your student (or you) feel overwhelmed by them. This is a critical skill for life! If you think your curriculum does not emphasize research enough, be sure to look for others that help your student with reading comprehension, finding sources, analyzing the value of sources, finding relevant information, and recording and organizing data effectively. For upper high school students, I recommend How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren.

 

2. Critical Thinking – You can teach your children how to think clearly and evaluate information and ideas. 

The Bible teaches Christians to think critically. We can see from these verses how important it is that we carefully evaluate the ideas we encounter.

  • “The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps” (Proverbs 14:15). 
  • “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17).
  • “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor 10:5).

When I taught public speaking at Appalachian State University, I taught my students how to build a deductive argument. I would often use the example of the abortion issue. Arguments from both sides often look something like this:

Pro-Choice Argument

  • Major Premise: Women have a right to control their bodies and choose how many children to have. 
  • Minor Premise: Abortion is an exercise of that right to control and choose. 
  • Claim: We should protect abortion rights.

Pro-Life Argument 

  • Major Premise: Taking the life of another human is wrong. 
  • Minor Premise: Abortion is taking the life of a human. 
  • Claim: We should stop abortion.

When we teach our children critical thinking, they will be able to understand how arguments are built and evaluate them, including the ones with which they disagree. We want them to be able to look at the arguments and discern which statements are true or false and if the logical connections between the statements are valid or not. 

It’s okay if we don’t know how to teach these things. All we have to do is make sure our children have the opportunity to learn them. Be sure to include a logic course in your curriculum plan!

 

3. Communication – You can teach your children how to communicate effectively.  

As our students learn how to acquire the necessary information and intelligently critique the ideas they encounter, we also want them to be able to engage in meaningful communication with others. This at least includes discussion. Be sure to include time in your homeschool for meaningful discussion of ideas that arise from their studies in history, literature, Bible, philosophy, etc. 

Beyond discussion, we want our children to be able to write and speak effectively. Most parents do not neglect to emphasize the skill of writing. That is great! But parents often neglect the skill of public speaking. There are some ways of doing this in your home, but I would also encourage you to consider allowing your children to participate in a speech organization such as Gavel Club or the NCFCA Christian Speech and Debate League. These are wonderful opportunities to receive training and practice and compete with live audiences.

Conclusion

I am not encouraging you to ignore the important areas of knowledge we usually include in our homeschools. I am, however, urging you to recognize the difference between knowledge and skill and make sure you are preparing your children for life with these three critical skills.