Teach the children well

kids and their dog
My children at the beach with Angus our best dog ever.

I like an idea I read about in an article in the Wall Street Journal by Anthony De Leon.

Here’s the title and excerpt:

600 Kindergartners Were Given Bank Accounts. Here’s What They Learned.

How San Francisco and other cities are trying to boost financial education and college savings

Tierra Ferrand started saving for college when she was in kindergarten.

She and 600 other low-income public-school students in San Francisco were each given a bank account with $50 in 2011 as part of a program that expanded the curriculum from reading and writing to interest rates. Now 17 years old, she has more than $1,500 banked and is off to Grambling State University in Louisiana this fall. That balance may be small, but Ferrand and her mother, Aisha Brown, 44, said the account changed their approach to money and saving.

“Outside of this account, we don’t have other college savings accounts,” Brown said. “We don’t have those advantages that some other families may have.”

San Francisco’s Kindergarten to College Program, which now gives $50 in savings to every student, has 52,000 active accounts with a total balance of $15 million—$10 million of which came from deposits made by the students and their families. The program aims to be both financial education and a small start to college savings, and has been replicated in 39 states across the country. 


I’ve often thought there are many things we need to teach our children in school — or at home. I remember talking to my son’s fourth grade teacher.

“Can you give them a lesson on how to write a letter and address an envelope?” I asked. I discovered my son didn’t know where addresses went on an envelope. I was sure he wasn’t the only one.

That’s because kids use email and lost ordinary skills that we took for granted. Banking, savings, credit cards and compound interest are lessons that are being taught in some classes in San Francisco along with the $50 deposit into a savings account. I say “some” because in the article I learned that not all teachers use the savings account lesson plan. They said they were busy enough with existing curriculum.

Another thing I realized my son didn’t learn was how to pay for gas and fill up the tank. I homeschooled my daughter for middle school and I included lots of “adulting” lessons. I thought my son would pick up things naturally from observation. But he was always reading — every free minute — like on car rides. He was oblivious to the world around him.

Changing a tire is a skill my dad taught me when I got my first flat. Of course we have AAA now, but isn’t that a good thing to know how to do if you don’t have cell reception?

What other basic life skills do you think should be taught to our kids in school or at home?

I hope you’re enjoying my new M W F blogging schedule.

Teach the children well from Crosby Stills.

58 thoughts on “Teach the children well

  1. This article leaves a lot of unanswered questions, but to your question on what other basic life skills they need to learn? Laundry, cooking, and grocery shopping. The financial lesson you talked about should have been extended to teach them how much eating out, Uber eats, outside laundry services, and other extended services are actually eating into their budget.

  2. I really liked that about homeschool with the grands- we had the freedom but more importantly the time to incorporate life skills and deeper thinking/analysis into our study- I don’t think we can realistically expect much of those things are going to be taught in public schools- too many constraints and so it falls to home learning, and there are a lot of constraints there as well. I think there’s a big disparity between what should be taught and what will be taught by virtue of what is able to be accomplished in less than perfect (or sometimes even adequate) systems.

    • You’re right. It’s probably best left to learning life skills at home. But we had home ec in high school and learned how to sew, cook simple things, grocery shop and some basic budgeting. I wonder when home ec went away? Of course, it was only for girls when it should be for everyone.

      • I know when my kids reached middle school (junior high here) home ec had been transitioned into a co-ed class called life-skills and they did learn some basic stuff but not enough to function as an adult. I honestly think as a parent we sometimes believe our kids simply absorb info from the home environment, when the reality is they don’t- sort of like you pointed out with your son. Unless we make the effort to sit down with them they miss a lot.

  3. Like Deb, I think that these are all things that now need to be taught at home, unfortunately.
    My boyfriend and I talk about this all the time. There are so many things we had to figure out on our own, and it would have been so valuable to have been taught sooner. A few, off the top of my head:
    – personal finance (budgeting, compounding interest, value of a dollar)
    – how do do laundry (including removing various stains)
    – how to cook several basic healthy meals (including low-cost, dietary restrictions)
    – civics (Constitutional rights, citizens’ responsibilities, government structure)
    – marketing psychology (learn to recognize manipulation tactics in advertising, such as scarcity, anchoring, social proof, loss aversion, etc. to hopefully help control spending)
    – communication (listen to understand, debate, teaching on a topic – including appealing to different learning styles)
    – relationship advice (how to talk to the opposite sex, 5 love languages, what kinds of emotions they should expect when they hit puberty)
    – basic hygiene (deodorant, shaving)
    – basic maintenance (oil change, stitch up a tear, fix a squeaky door)
    – basic first aid (administer CPR, AED, SAM splint)
    – basic emergency response (how to use fire extinguisher, how to safely escape a burning building, etc.)
    – basic immune system care (importance of sleep and nutrition, supplements to promote quick recovery)
    – basic survival via backpacking trips
    – and just invite them to participate in whatever we’re doing that they are interested in learning about

    • That is a great list that covers so many areas of life. Thank you! I didn’t realize how much I didn’t teach my son until he went off to college. For example, with his first paycheck working in apparel he spent his pay on a dress for his girlfriend and a fancy dinner out! I was better with my daughter. And the three years homeschooling gave us more time.

      • I can imagine as a parent, you hope the kids just observe and figure things out, but I guess some things need to be explicitly laid out!

      • It’s surprising what they don’t learn. I guess we’re all different in what we pick up from observation — or not observing.

  4. Gosh, I hear you about the ‘how to address an envelope’ business. It was all a mystery to our daughter…bizarre, antiquated until I broke down the steps for her when she was away at college and clueless. I love your question about ‘what else’? The first thing that came to mind is the admiration I have for teachers who hold students accountable for writing…and not in abbreviated text-speak with too many acronyms and zero punctuation. I know a few educators who’ve just given up and it makes me sad. Casual conversations have their place…but they’re no substitute when more formal writing is called for. 🤣

    • I had no idea teachers were giving up on formal writing! That is so sad. Effective communication is vital in so many jobs. You reminded me of when I sat on a scholarship committee for high school seniors in Palm Springs. We interviewed candidates from three high schools with difference socioeconomic demographics. One school prepared their students on how to dress, to have clean nails (without chipped polish) how to look us in the eye and give us a firm handshake. What a difference we felt when we interviewed the girls at that school, although it was in one of the poorer areas.

      • I don’t think all have given up…but in some subject areas there can be slippage…less writing required and more of a focus on discussion boards and online learning and corrections to grammar, etc. are falling away. I get it – it’s a lot of work but I’m still a believer in standards – no matter what the vehicle for expressing. And yes! Providing support to those who need it about all the other ways in which we’re judged — appearance, handshakes, eye contact AND how we present ourselves in writing. I’m with you! 🥰

      • It’s a changing world! I remember my daughter telling me that I shouldn’t punctuate my text messages. She said ending a sentence on a text with a period was “aggressive.” 😅 I’m a believer in standards too, especially when it comes to the written word.

      • LOL — I’d forgotten that one! Yes! I’ve heard that, too. A period…aggressive? I’ve heard my generous use of exclamation points and emojis is annoying to ‘the younger’ but I don’t care. 🤣

      • I’m laughing too! I also use too many exclamation points. The owner/editor of SwimSwam would also respond to my emails and story submissions with as many exclamation points as I used. 😂

  5. Boys were taught woodworking—girls got home ec, now, left to the moms and dads to teach, if they ever do. I spent hours crocheting an antimacassar out of thread—the other girls were assigned the arms—I got double duty with the back of the sofa—this from a skinny, old fashioned teacher who informed us that at the ripe old age 13, we should all be wearing foundations. That probably says a whole lot about my age, eh?

  6. That has been one of my pet peeves since my kids started going to high school. Where are all the domestic skills being taught? I would much rather have had the home ec type classes being taught in school instead of pushing toward higher education all the time. I agree that balancing a checkbook and learning how to fold clothes, etc are things that can be taught at home but sometimes kids will listen more if it is coming from a teacher. They can tend to ignore what’s coming from mom and dad. They hear “wa, wah, wha, wa, wha, wha, wah” if you know what I mean.

    • You made me laugh with the “wha wa whas.” It reminded me of Charlie Brown. It would be nice if kids learned some life skills at school, because not every parent is going to take the time either.

  7. The address challenge gave me a laugh. Over the weekend we purchased a user camper. I mentioned to the sellers we needed a bill of sale. Naturally to Google they went printed out a form and completely failed in their ability to write the sales price (in numbers and words). They could type it, but writing it was a challenger. They are college educated. I figured they would get the numeric sales price correct…. good think for decimals (LOL)

  8. I think many (most?) kids don’t learn important life lessons while they are young. I would hesitate adding many of these things to the teachers’ load, though, as they have a lot on their hands as it is. Also, with the fights already occurring at school board meetings, can you imagine what some parents would do if their little Johnny or Jane wasn’t taught a particular life skill in exactly the way they wanted it to be taught?

    I think parents should be responsible for most of these lessons. That they are falling down on that job makes me think that maybe they don’t have the time or resources (or interest, or ability) necessary.

    Maybe the solution is after school sessions that the parents could pick and choose from. Now, if only we could find the money to pay for that…

    • I agree that most of it should be done by parents. I found personally that I didn’t realize what my kids didn’t know! Things I took for granted they wouldn’t have a clue about. Another thing I think should be taught — probably by an employer — is how to count back change. Although mostly people use plastic. Maybe some of the skills we learned aren’t necessary today.

  9. What an interesting topic. I loved learning how to change tired from my dad – and you’re right – that’s an essential thing to know. My mom is an excellent pie maker. It’s a skill that I didn’t pick up but I’m hoping she passes it on to my kids!

  10. I was thinking recently that instead of so many useless poverty programs, they should give poor children a share of stock in a low risk company like Walmart . By the time they’re 30 years old, that stock could have a decent value . And if you teach them to buy more stocks, even better. $50 in a savings account is dumb. At least give them US savings bonds .

    • Good idea. I never thought of that and being married to a stock broker it makes total sense. How about a $50 share in the S&P? But it could give people ideas about Social Security 😳

    • Just yesterday, I read about a program that did just that… I believe in Alabama. Each young child had $50 put into an investment account, which grew to around $1000 when they graduated high school. Along the way, teachers might discuss compounding interest and such, using each child’s funds as the example. It sounded like it instilled some interest, understanding, and good skills.

      • That’s what the San Francisco program did and it spread to many other states. I think an investment in something safe over 15 years like SPY ETF would be good too. (suggestion above from PK Adams). I looked at a chart and in 1993 (on my son’s birthday) it was $44.94 a share. Today it closed at $459!

  11. Reading through this and the comments makes me realize I attended somewhat enlightened public schools. My dad and mom did teach me many life skills. At school, I had home ex AND shop class. There was “cooking for singles” (co-Ed) and a life skills class. Plus we still learned civics and excellent writing skills. Even driver’s Ed! In elementary school, we had savings accounts. Really. This is not a new idea, except they didn’t give me $50 to start with.🫤(Spellcheck thinks Ed is a guy and should be capitalized throughout this comment and it’s too much of a pain to fix it!)
    Also learned a lot at summer camps. I think it’s sad when children can’t get this type of learning at school or at home.

  12. I’m a big believer that home ec should be required again. They should be able to make at least 3 meals including breakfast. Sew a button and fix a hem. Know the difference between Philips head and flat screwdriver, plus basic home repairs or build flat pack furniture and hanga picture. Paint a room. Read an old fashioned map. Mail a package and address an envelope. Write a thank you note or business letter. Table manners.

  13. I’d like to see classes about mortgages and buying homes and interior design and home ec. Those topics are REAL and a little guidance early on could only help.

  14. Hi E.A. . . . popping over from Ally Bean’s blog. It seems like giving kids that bank account made a positive impact. How wonderful.

    Our kids are savers. Well, not our oldest. He has some struggles with dopamine which has lead to bad choices, but he USED to be good at saving. The rest of our kids currently work hard and sock their money away for college.

    You raise a good question. I do think kids could learn a few things at school that would help them in the long run. Most of the things that come to mind are domestic – sew on a button. How to do income taxes. I like Ally’s idea too . . . even my brightest kids have been surprised that we do not HAVE to live in our home until our mortgage loan is paid off. Mortgage related lessons and the benefits to buying vs renting would be useful.

    • Thanks for stopping by. I have two kids and the oldest is a spender and the younger one is a saver. Interesting how that works out. I like your ideas of income taxes and learning about real estate and mortgages.

  15. So much of schooling is a waste of time, in my opinion. Life skills like budgeting, managing stress and paying taxes should absolutely be included. Things like, how to buy a car, a house…how to pick a medical plan (not an easy task)…all skills you need to know. Also, credit cards. Teach about credit cards.

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