I am leery of people saying that kids need teachers. But here are three instances where I sort of like the idea.

1. Train kids for jobs that don’t exist.
Sixty-five percent of today’s kids will have jobs that don’t exist today. So there is little point in training them to do the jobs we can already do—after all, there will be an entire Gen-Y, aging workforce to take those jobs. It makes more sense to me to train for jobs that don’t exist, and the best path to those jobs would be today’s teen tastemakers, since they will be the future high-spending (or not) consumers and ladder-climbing (or not) middle managers of their time.

DIY.org is a site helps kids form lesson plans to teach other kids. You can learn about how to make a duct tape wallet. And there are 40,000 members. YouTube is geared more and more toward how-to videos. YouTube is a teaching tool to teach things we’d never dream needed teaching, which means it’s a great way to learn skills for jobs you can’t imagine will need doing.

If you free your kids from working on the things you think are important, it’s much more likely they’ll find the things that are important for their generation.

2. Put preschools in nursing homes.
As soon as I heard the idea of preschools and nursing homes combined, I loved it. Of course I think preschool is unnecessary for education, but I see how it’s a babysitting service we are not likely to give up. So, in that respect, I like that we are taking two populations that are deemed not useful enough to keep in the home all day, and we are making them useful to each other.

I remember how much I got from my grandparents and great grandparents and I see that today kids are largely insulated from the oldest members of society. I also see that when my kids go to the local nursing home to play music, the residents love to see them.

If both the children and the adults are going to be separated from their families, bringing them all together seems like a good thing for both groups.

3. Teach forging as a path to learning.
Foraging is the unschooling for food. Think about it: do you need a book in school in order for the book to be educational? No. So do you need food to be in a grocery store for it to be edible? Of course not.

So, teaching kids to pick their own food—in a park, on the side of the road, in the backyard—gives them a feeling of self-reliance and freedom in a way that teaching kids to pick their own interests gives them the feeling of self-reliance and freedom.

I love this new app for foraging. But the truth is that foraging is just like unschooling in that nothing happens at first. At first we don’t trust ourselves because we’ve been taught that someone has to do it for us, that we can’t decide for ourselves.

But I can tell you that after walking around our farm for five years, I’ve become comfortable serving weeds for dinner. Dandelions, pig weed, stinging nettles. And if I mix in some edible flowers even the boys will eat weed salad for supper.

17 replies
  1. KT
    KT says:

    I love the idea of foraging. We just cleaned out all the wild raspberry bushes on our farm and made jam. Blueberries are ready to pick and next will be blackberries. I love teaching my kids how to survive on their own, without the driven consumerism that… well… consumes us these days. :)

  2. Kina
    Kina says:

    I love foraging. My mom would take me into the deepest German woods to pick mushrooms and berries when I was little. Little side benefit of that: learning how to find your way back to a car after a 3 hour walk into nature without a compass.

  3. Jana Miller
    Jana Miller says:

    I love the idea of preschools in nursing homes but I think those little germ monsters will get everyone sick with older people having compromised immune systems. I did see an article on college students living /working in retirement homes. That makes sense to me.

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      I don’t know how true it is that kids are Petri dishes. I hate the saying but I think it may be true. However my kids don’t get sick much. It’s also true that I try to keep them on the less-than-sanitized end to avoid bath time fights and to avoid making them sickly? (Do you love my logic or what!? Haha).

      My kids are not sickly by any means. Though the oldest was sick continuously for the 4 months he was in daycare.

      Maybe we all share a similar microbiome and that’s why, Petri dishes as they may be, we’re not constantly sick. Which means that kids in a nursing home would make for a sickness bouncy house. But maybe with enough time together people would adjust and the emotional benefit would outweigh the cons.

      • Stephanie
        Stephanie says:

        Nursing homes are the Petri dishes and really nasty bugs are becoming more commonplace and outbreaks are almost unavoidable. I market physician services to skilled nursing facilities, so do know this as fact. I’d never send my children into one on a daily basis.

        • Karelys
          Karelys says:

          I’m sure there are different types. The rich people will pay for nursing homes that I can’t even afford as a vacation. And probably rich kids will be supervised by an enviable student-teacher ratio that hygiene won’t be an issue.

          The idea is worth playing with until it’s Doable.

          I live next door to my mom. I never thought in a million years I would. I had said so long ago that I would never live that close to family. But you know what? When we’ve been the poorest money-wise, the punch has been absorbed by the family support. So it’s a pretty communal living situation (hahaha) with plenty of privacy. I should’ve never said never. Because relying on each other has brought us further.

          Kids can learn a lot from nursing homes (not all of them have very sick elderly patients). And the elderly can benefit from the joy kids bring.

  4. Heather Bathon
    Heather Bathon says:

    This is a bit of a tangent, but it does have to do with where one is on the age continuum and the relative usefulness, by society, one is assumed to possess at that point.

    I’ve homeschooled my 13 year old daughter -“G”, for 3 years now. The first year and a half was spent figuring out how to do it – how to get along, how to manage expectations of each other, etc. During this period, G. joined a local running group and started to spend time learning more about things she’s interested in – interior design, organic food, animals. (Not animal welfare necessarily, just ‘animals’.)

    Two’ish years in, we started running into some of societies roadblocks having to do with age.

    G. likes to run. She got strong enough to want to run a half-marathon. I did some research on the pros and cons of running that distance at her age and could find nothing that convinced me it would harm her. She wanted to do it and trained hard for it. I assumed it was a matter of personal choice, and didn’t find out until signing her up for her first race, that no one under 16 years can participate in a half-marathon on the record. She ran the race as a ‘bandit’ – a non-registered runner.

    As for the interior design, organic food and animals, businesses can’t legally hire her for even menial work, and unless one has an ‘in’, won’t use her as an intern either. Shelters don’t allow 13 year olds to interact directly with animals.

    I know there are work-arounds and options for all these things. I’m not outraged. But, I do think it’s a false societal assumption that a 13 year old is deemed competent to babysit legally, as if babysitting is an inherent skill humans possess, whereas working in a store part-time or playing with shelter animals are activities that demand 3 years worth of greater maturity before a kid can be of help.

    Labor laws protect the young and vulnerable, but like public schooling, are a one size fits all solution that prevents kids from learning and contributing at an age when everyone might benefit.

    As we branched out of

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      I hear what you’re saying.

      I don’t know where you live but it’s worth looking for those “ins.” The office where I work has hired two 16 year olds. They’re still in high school and only work part time while in school but full time in the summer.

      One of the girls is a pleasure to watch. I wasn’t nearly that confident when I was sixteen but she runs the office. I’m excited for what this opportunity means for them. Our team is very tight knit and accountable to each other. Overall, an amazing experience. And I don’t think of their youth when I see them. I know I can rely on them for help.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      A few suggestions:

      Can she participate in local school athletic programs? Or a local running club? Maybe try meetup.com. My son has run in kid and family marathons.
      As for animals, are you near any farms? Have you tried fostering animals? Dog sitting/walking, cat sitting, chickens as pets, etc. Horse riding?
      And for interior design, does she follow any designers and/or their blogs? She could learn CAD online and run her own blog about design. Post youtube DIY videos of her redoing her room with design boards. I’m sure there is a real estate agent that would let her tag along for a day too, if she wanted to see what it’s like to sell homes. Same for a local interior designer. She has to email and ask and then ask the next person when they say no. Maybe at this point have her to research these things so she can take initiative and figure out what works and where she wants to go with it!

      Good luck!

      • jessica
        jessica says:

        Oh sorry I didn’t see that she is in a running club already. Maybe check the local gyms for running events.
        As for the shelter, do you have more than one? I don’t have pets but I take my kids to the local shelter to play with the cats and dogs. We’ve also visited two others in the Austin area. That must be a particular policy for that particular shelter. I don’t think that’s the norm.

        • Heather Bathon
          Heather Bathon says:

          Thanks for all the ideas – I’ve never heard of meet up and will check it out!

          More generally, I think homeschooling – doing something out of the mainstream – has made me more aware of mainstream ideas and assumptions, not less aware. We’re now bumping up against them more than ever.

  5. Karelys
    Karelys says:

    Penelope, I’d like to dedicate time to talk about training for jobs that do not exist. You touched on it a bit a while back but I think this needs to be a recurring theme.

  6. Amy A
    Amy A says:

    Adult day cares for seniors (complete with shuttle service), as well as intergenerational/multi-generational day cares, already exist.

    As far as preschoolers attending care *at* a nursing home, I don’t know how likely that would be unless the money and city approval were there to build an addition for the multi-generational day care. And then each resident/family would have to foot the additional bill for extra care/day care program (complete with its own senior-friendly equipment and nurses’ aids).

    I work part time at a nursing home. It is like pulling teeth just to get the nurses’ aids to pick up their assigned resident from bingo. So indeed the daycare would have to be a separate entity from regular nursing home.

    • Amy A
      Amy A says:

      Oh and it is highly unlikely the nursing home staff would be willing to deal with another state inspection in addition to the nursing home inspections they so dread. This is another reason why daycare being a separate entity is more realistic.

  7. gordana dragicevic
    gordana dragicevic says:

    I teach foraging. Sometimes people come to workshops with their kids. On several occasions I had the kids’ parents and relatives thank me later saying that their child is happily eating fresh greens for the first time ever! Apparently “hunting” for the greens themselves made all the difference, not just being served something ready-cut that came out of a plastic bag. One kid would even take a flash light to the garden in the evening to pick his weed salad for supper…

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