Last night, over a bowl of hot & sour soup and a plate of BBQ noodles at a local Chinese restaurant, I asked Patrick and Alex “What would you like to learn next year?” They both looked confused; and I realized that this is a new concept for them. In the world of a normal American grade school there is limited opportunity to follow one’s interests. It is a necessity in a world of prescribed curriculum and a classroom with 30 children. I’m not criticizing the dedicated professionals that come to school every day with my children’s best interests in their hearts and minds. However, I do think it is very hard for an institution like a school district to quickly respond to the changing needs of the modern world.
I believe the most important generic skill one learns during their full-time-student years is how to be an excellent learner. The world of science and industry is expanding the frontiers of their disciplines at a relentless pace in all directions. Even today, I believe that being a good learner is a foundation skill that is required for one to consistently succeed. I also believe the need to be an excellent life long learner will increase every year. Add to that the amazing global availability of information, and I anticipate that whatever our kids do as a day job in 8 or 10 years, they will need to keep learning to stay relevant.
So, back to the Chinese restaurant… I thought Patrick (being an 11 year old boy) might come up with something like “weapons of the world” or “the coolest volcanoes in the world” – but he was in a more serious frame of mind and suggested Math and Geography. BORING!!!! After a little brainstorming we came up with another idea of “fishing around the world”. I thought Alex might come up with “The cutest furry animals in the world” – but she just shrugged and kept eating her soup. We will keep brainstorming.
Two resources we found to help planning:
The CA state curriculum guidelines for 5th & 6th grade, weighing in at 120 pages each http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/cf/grlevelcurriculum.asp
A reading list from a family that traveled around the world with grade school age kids a few years ago http://www.360degreeslongitude.com/katrina%20book%20list.pdf