You’re probably familiar with the three R’s of school – reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic. They have been around for over 200 years now, which suggests they may be in need of an update. I personally have a different set of educational goals: curiosity, creativity, communication, and compassion. With these four elements you give your child the tools to tackle just about anything in life, which is what we are ultimately trying to do by educating them. Let’s take a closer look at each element, shall we?
Curiosity. I just can’t say enough about the importance of this. If I had to order these concepts, curiosity would likely top the list. I recently shared Goalcast’s video of Neil DeGrasse Tyson speaking about retaining a child’s natural curiosity on the Extraschooling Facebook page. The video is well worth watching if you haven’t seen it yet. I want my son to always enjoy learning and push himself ever onward because of a question leading to exploration that then exposes ten more questions. I want him to know that the only bad question is the one not asked. I want him to want to experiment and attempt, no matter how many failures he might face, because the urge to discover is still so strong in him. I want the words “What if…” to be always on the tip of his tongue, with an accompanying gleam in his eye.
Creativity. There are many forms of this in the world. Creativity is the artistic spark. It is also the beginning steps of many entrepreneurs. It can help solve interpersonal or international problems. It can light the way when conventional methods aren’t helping something to be understood and can inspire someone in a rut. Having creativity in your back pocket is like having a survival kit in your pack. You may be able to get by without it on many occasions, but it can be your salvation in a moment of need. We all have times when we need to somehow make something out of nothing, and our creativity dictates the result; it is a quiet but vital tool to have at your disposal.
Communication. It is such a tricky thing these days. It seems like we communicate constantly, thanks to the internet and social media; yet at the same time that the quantity seems to have skyrocketed, the quality seems to be suffering. Grammar, punctuation, and spelling are often overlooked. Words are typed faster than the brain can think it seems, and things that would never be spoken in person are engraved in the cyber cloud. One-liners take the place of dialogue. Tone and body language, the nuances of communication, are lost. Now that we have mastered computer discourse, it is important to revisit real communication. I want my son to be able to articulate a well-thought-out idea: I want him to know how to research, discern the information presented, construct his own opinion, and be able to convey it in a clear and understandable fashion. If he has strong communication skills (which include the ability to truly listen to others – true communication is a two-way street) then he has the potential to move mountains.
Compassion. Again, if I were to assign rankings, this would be vying for the top with curiosity. We are in this thing we call life together, not a vacuum. We do not have to like each other. It would be great if we could at least understand each other. But it is imperative that we are at a minimum compassionate toward one another. From the beginning, he has heard me go on about the fact we are all different, and thank goodness for it. Our differences make the world a better, more interesting and vibrant place. Certain differences can make life very hard for some, and we need to always be cognizant of that and aim to find ways to better the society and world in which we share space. This extends beyond humanity of course; we need to practice this mindfulness in terms of our planet as a whole. I am grateful that I have a son who has a love of the natural world, and who early on latched onto the theme that some people may be one way, some may be another way, and that’s okay. There’s room for all of us.
So there you have it – my four C’s. The shift from the three R’s is necessary for me, because parenting and school is so intertwined; I am not looking to just help grow and shape his mind, but to help grow and shape his character. The two seem rather inextricably linked, so it makes sense to tend them equally and simultaneously.