By Leo Babauta
It seems that many parents here in the U.S. (and very possibly in other countries) are worried about how much their child is learning by a certain age. Does my kid know everything that a 2nd grader should know? Is my kid learning as fast as other 3-year-olds? Does my sister's kid know more than my kid does?
I think the traditional school system encourages this (there are non-traditional schools that break away from it). Schools have decided that all kids need to know X, Y, and Z by age 6, and then U, V, and W by age 7, and so on. How does this get determined? Who are these oracles of education who know exactly what our kids need to know by age 18, and can predict what the future will be like at that time? It's impossible. None of us could have predicted what 2013 was like in 1999, and we certainly don't know what the world will be like in another 10-15 years.
So I've stopped worrying so much about learning X by a certain age. I've also decided it's pointless to compare my kids to any other kids. What's the point? Life isn't a race. It doesn't matter who learns what by any age -- what matters is that we're preparing our kids for life, and that they have the tools to be happy and do what they want as adults.
That's what matters.
So let go of the worry that there are certain things your child should be learning. There aren't, really. Your child will learn what he needs to learn, from you, from people around him, from doing what he loves to do.
What does he need to learn? How about:
- How to learn stuff he wants to learn;
- How to pursue something he's interested in;
- How to deal with uncertainty;
- How to work with others;
- How to be positive, and to bounce back from failure;
- How to be compassionate;
- How to be OK with discomfort;
- How to have an open mind, be curious and seek answers;
- How to deal with stress;
- How to savor life;
- How to be good at change;
- The simple fact that he's awesome.
That's a good list, in my eyes, but there's no need to learn any of that by any certain age. There's certainly no need to be at any reading level by any certain age. I'd much rather my kids learned the above list than some list of skills and knowledge handed down by oracles of education. I think they'd be much better prepared for life.