In the three years of my grandson’s life, he’s learned to walk, talk, feed himself, get undressed, and use the toilet. He can use a pencil, build Lego structures, ride a balance bike and a three-wheeled scooter, and throw a ball. What have you learned in your last three years?
“In this world you’re either growing or you’re dying so get in motion and grow.” ― Lou Holtz, American football coach
During research for my thesis, I encountered terms that describe human functioning. Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) include the basic tasks that contribute to minimal independence. Parents are children’s first teachers. It’s at home that we learn skills such as eating, dressing and hygiene. Most parents encourage mastery of using a toilet to leave diapers behind. Besides incentives of ease and expense, many schools require that students are potty trained. Children also reach an age where they insist on “Me do,” whether drinking from a cup, using utensils, or getting dressed.
A preschooler may be able to dress himself, but he can’t pick out the clothes to wear. She can feed herself, but she can’t fix the meal. These more complex skills are called Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs). They gauge a person’s ability to live independently and succeed in a complex world. IADLs include communicating and interacting with companions, managing finances, preparing meals, managing a household, and transportation (driving). Who has responsibility for teaching these skills?
Parents teach their offspring ADL tasks, while schools primarily concern themselves with literacy for citizenship, as “The evolution of education” post relates. Parents may teach bike riding and some high schools provide driver’s ed, informing about rules of the road and operation of a motor vehicle. But, is there a comprehensive curriculum of life lesson plans? What are essential life skills and how do parents ensure that their children are equipped with them?
Who encourages emotional intelligence so children learn how to treat others? What about preparing nutritious meals, menu planning and shopping? How do people figure out how to save and manage finances? During the government shutdown, commentary indicated that almost half of Americans were financially insecure without access to funds in case of emergency. According to the Wall Street Journal:
For many Americans, household finances remain fragile: 47% said they wouldn’t be able to cover a $400 emergency expense or would have to borrow money or sell something, and 31% said they went without some form of medical care in the last year because they couldn’t afford it.
Kids learn about math in school, even algebra and geometry. Do teachers instruct about functional finance—spending less than you earn, accumulating an emergency fund, saving up for a big purchase, and judicious management of credit? There seems to be gaps, in what essential information, what is learned, and who teaches what.
As we age, functionality may decline or disappear, interfering with our ability to live independently. Assessment of IADLs and ADLs is a status marker, indicating whether it’s safe for a person to live alone or how much help a person needs to function. The beginning of life has a steep learning curve. At the other end of the spectrum, skills may dwindle.
The world is complex, but if we’re not growing and learning, we’re dying. Use it or lose it.
This is part two of a multi-part series on education.
© Joan S Grey, 17 MAY 19
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