In previous posts, we laid out our model of school-as-education:

Phase 1 was literacy and numeracy,

Phase 2 was core civilizational requirements and survey courses,

Phase 3 was core adulting requirements and self-study,

and went into detail about the core civilizational requirements of phase 2.

This post, we’ll dive into the core adulting requirements students will need to pass to graduate from our school. Students will likely take these classes around current high school age - think 14-17.

Core Adulting Requirements

What does it mean to grow up? To become an adult?

Every society of which I am aware has an abundance of coming-of-age stories. Children and adolescents go on some kind of journey, learn responsibility or self-restraint or to appreciate their parents, and return having grown up from the experience.

But while stories inspire us, they rarely provide actually useful, concretely demonstrated, and clearly explained life skills.

That’s what the core adulting curriculum is for.

What does one need to know to be a functional adult in this day and age? What kind of life skills are most useful? How does one develop emotionally beyond adolescence?

These classes won’t substitute for life experience or simple time spent living, but I think they can give plenty of students a head start on their journey.

Basic Money


People say that money can’t buy happiness.

Whether or not that’s the case, it is true that poverty can buy an awful lot of misery.

Learning how to handle money is one of the most important - and most neglected - topics everyone should learn. Not because money is evil (it isn’t), but because your ability to manage it has a powerful effect on your life. Whether you save for retirement, accrue consumer debt, or invest your money, the effect over time will exert a massive influence on your future.

In Order To Pass

To pass the course, students will need to take an in-person exam demonstrating understanding of:

  • How to use a bank, including savings and checking accounts, including interest
    • Example response: When you put money in a bank, you’re basically loaning it to the bank. You can always get your money back out, but the bank pays you a little for loaning them your money. This is the interest payment you get from a bank. A savings account is usually just an account you use to accumulate money, whereas a checking account is usually the place money will enter or leave your account from (like when you get paid via direct deposit or pay bills from your account).
  • Different kinds of debt, along with the interest payments on them and when they make sense
    • Example response: Debt is when someone else, like a person or bank, gives you money, and you repay them over time. You pay for this with interest, a percentage of the total amount of money you owe. There are several types of debt, including consumer debt, like when you buy something with a credit card, investment debts, like student loans (investing in yourself) or business loans (investing in your business), and long-term debts, like mortgages or car loans, which are used to buy expensive things and then paid off over a long time. The lower an interest payment on a debt, the less you’ll pay over the life of the debt. Broadly speaking, investment and long-term debts are okay so long as you can afford the payments and what you get in return is valuable. Consumer debt - credit card balances carried over from month to month - are basically never worth it and should be avoided if at all possible.
  • How to budget, and the importance of spending less than you make
    • Example response: Over the course of a month, you’ll spend money on various things. Rent is usually the biggest per-month expense, but total living expenses include things like groceries, car payments/gas, and voluntary expenses like Netflix accounts or going out to eat. Your usual monthly budget should always have you spending less money than you make, so that when you want to splurge or get hit with surprise expenses, you have enough money saved to handle it. (Students would demonstrate the ability to make a budget for themselves with practical numbers.)
  • The very basics of investing, including stocks and bonds, and how index funds work
    • Example response: A stock is a tiny fraction of a company, and gains or looses value as the company does. It can also pay a dividend, which is your fraction of the company’s profit (if a dividend is payed). Stocks can go to zero or become wildly more valuable than they started; returns are never guaranteed. A bond is basically a loan you’re giving someone else, so it’s got a fixed interest payment, the same as when you pay a loan. An index fund is a combination of stocks, so the gains and losses are averaged across all of them. This gives smaller but more consistent returns than an individual stock.
  • How taxes work, including income, sales, and capital gains taxes, and how tax breaks work
    • Example response: The government taxes your income. The more money you make, the more you owe in taxes; the higher your income, the larger a percentage of it is taxed. Sales taxes are applied at the register or on Amazon when you buy something. Capital gains are when you own something that got more valuable, like a stock, and a percentage of the increase in value is owed as taxes. There are also taxes for other things, like owning property. A tax break is a way the government incentivizes you to do something, e.g. buy an electric car, by giving you a one-time discount on your taxes for doing so.
  • What appreciation and depreciation mean, and why they matter
    • Example response: Appreciation is when an asset gets more valuable, and depreciation is when an asset gets less valuable. Things that tend to appreciate are often considered “investments”, like a house or stocks. These can go up in value over time. Depreciating assets, on the other hand, lose value over time, like a car that sells for less the minute you drive it off the lot. These matter in the sense that acquiring wealth is often about putting your money into assets that appreciate over time instead of ones that depreciate over time.

Basic Physical Health


Bodies are one of those things that everybody has, but never come with an instruction manual.

While our understanding of the human body is incomplete and every body works slightly differently, there are plenty of things we do know about health and the human body that can help people out.

In Order To Pass

To pass the course, students will need to take an in-person exam demonstrating understanding of:

  • Basic nutrition
    • Example response: The energy you get from food is measured in calories (technically kCal, but no one says that). The amount of calories you need per day depends on your height, weight, level of activity, and so on. There are also different kinds of macro and micro-nutrients, and it’s important to try to get a good balance of them over the course of each week. This often means eating a variety of food types and avoiding eating too much junk food. It’s also true that diet can affect other parts of you - what you put in your body can have an effect on your mood, your sleep, and your bodily functions.
  • Basic exercise
    • Example response: Regular physical activity is vital for both physical and mental health. (Students will be taught a variety of exercises that can be done with and without equipment.) Flexibility and cardiovascular health are both important for avoiding injuries, especially in sports. When exercising, there’s a difference between the burn of exertion and actual pain - the first is good, while the second should be avoided.
  • Basic sexual health (This one’s got a lot of controversy to it, yes. Children still need to be taught about how babies are made, and unfortunately we can’t always count on parents doing so. I would imagine this particular section would be largely voluntary, in that parents would decide whether or not their children participate in it.)
    • Example response should demonstrate: An understanding of male and female sex organs and how they interact, an understanding of various kinds of prophylactics and why they’re important, and an understanding of how pregnancy happens. An understanding of sexually transmitted diseases. An understanding that so long as sex is safe, sane, and consensual amongst all parties, it isn’t for others to judge. An understanding that there are many ways of expressing gender and sexuality, and none are invalid, including the defaults. An understanding of biological sex-related health (periods, biological-sex related cancers, etc.)
  • Basic aging - what students should expect to happen to their bodies at about what ages
    • Example response: Puberty tends to begin around the early teens and involves hormones, body hair, and development of secondary sexual characteristics. Brain development tends to finish around 25, and until then decision-making and long-term planning aren’t fully expressed. Later in life, the body begins to function less well. You’ll recover slower from injuries, take longer to lose weight, and feel more aches and pains. The digestive system gets pickier. At old age you’ll get weaker and more fragile, and potentially lose motor and/or brain function.
  • Basic drug and addiction awareness
    • Example response: There are a variety of substances that affect the brain; some are legal while others are illegal. Alcohol, weed, and tobacco are all (to some extent) legal, and have various effects and consequences. All are best used in moderation, if one chooses to use them. Activities, like gambling and doomscrolling, can also be addictive because they activate the same responses in the brain. Generally speaking, if you find yourself not enjoying a voluntary activity but continuing to do it over and over again, especially if it has negative consequences for you and/or those around you, consider seeking help.
  • Basic diseases and public health measures
    • Example response: There are many diseases in the world, from communicable diseases like the common cold and COVID to genetic diseases like sickle-cell anemia or Parkinson’s. While there’s not much you can do about your genetics, many communicable diseases are preventable with the right vaccines and protections. Communicable diseases can be air- or bloodborn, or linger on surfaces. Communicable diseases tend to spread exponentially until herd immunity is reached.

Basic Mental Health


Minds are also one of those things that everybody has, but never come with an instruction manual.

Basic Mental Health isn’t about pathology or neurodivergence; it isn’t about what parts of the brain have what functions or the results of a single experiment run on twenty undergrads seventy years ago.

Basic Mental Health is about exposing students to habits and tools they can use to manage their emotions. It’s about giving everyone a foundation on which to build when it comes to operating their own brain.

In Order To Pass

To pass the course, students will need to take an in-person exam demonstrating understanding of:

  • Theory of mind and empathy
    • Example response: Other people have their own perspective different from your own. Everyone’s perspective, no matter how true it feels to them, is their own subjective perspective, and people can disagree on them. We should always try to extend empathy to other people and their perspectives, regardless of whether or not we think they’re wrong. This often means thinking about things from someone else’s point of view, or trying to put yourself in their place and considering how you’d feel if you were them.
  • How to process strong emotions
    • Example response: Strong emotions are never inherently negative. We can’t always control our thoughts or emotions; what we can control are our choices and actions. It’s best to hold space for our emotions, to try to process them in a safe environment, while not allowing them to make our decisions for us. It’s natural to feel a variety of different emotions strongly at different times, and even to feel multiple conflicting emotions at the same time. It’s okay. You’re always allowed, and it’s always valid, to feel the way you feel.
  • How to construct a sense of self/identity that is small but strong
    • Example response: Who you are is, for the most part, a choice you get to make. And not making that choice is, itself, a choice. What’s crucial here is to keep one’s identity small - to only really care about the core things you define yourself as, so that you can change and grow freely as your life goes on. These should be enduring traits and values, not fashions or fads or things you have no control over. This process can easily take a lifetime, but the story you tell yourself about who you are at any given time will have massive effects on how you live your whole life.
  • Brain malfunctions, from heuristics to depression
    • Example response: Human brains sometimes malfunction. Some of these malfunctions are the result of normal intuition being applied outside of its area of expertise, like the planning fallacy. Other malfunctions involve more core functionality, and can lead to what we call mental illnesses, like depression or bipolarity. Broadly speaking, we can address the former malfunctions by compensation for them, and the latter with treatment, including therapy and pharmacological interventions.
  • Happiness research and the hedonic treadmill
    • Example response: There’s a lot of research on what makes people happy over the course of a lifetime. One of the most consistent results is that it’s the quality of one’s relationships that winds up mattering the most. Many other sources of temporary happiness - wealth, drugs, sweets, etc. - suffer from what’s called the hedonic treadmill: in order to get the same amount of happiness out each time, you have to keep increasing how much you put in. This means that you should be careful not to pursue those things past the point of all moderation.
  • Delayed gratification and self-discipline through habits
    • Example response: Delayed gratification means being able to put off a reward in the present for a (usually bigger) reward in the future, and is a key life skill. The ability to delay gratification enables one to study for tests, stay in school for years to get a better job, save for retirement, and so on. It’s a part of self-discipline, the ability to control and direct oneself. Habits are a key tool to enable self-discipline and delayed gratification: humans spend most of our time just doing what we’ve always done, so by forming good habits you can make self-discipline easy.

Basic Relationship Skills


Much of what actually happens on a day-to-day basis in regular life involves what we might call soft skills, people skills, or communication skills. Regardless of the domain, human interaction is the basis of all economic activity, which makes learning how to communicate effectively and navigate both personal and professional relationships a key skill for almost everyone.

In Order To Pass

To pass the course, students will need to take an in-person exam demonstrating understanding of:

  • How to communicate through the written word (texts/email/letters/essays), including how words can be misinterpreted, what to prioritize, etc.
    • Example response: Intonation and subtext don’t always translate well through text, especially short form text like email (or a text). In a professional environment, prioritize clarity over subtlety and try to imagine how you’d feel reading such a thing - is the message you want to send being communicated clearly with your words? How quickly will you have a chance to correct misunderstandings, and how forgiving do you expect the other person to be of them?
  • How to communicate when the relationship involves a power dynamic e.g. with a boss vs. with an employee
    • Example response: When you hold power over someone, you should take care to interact with them in a way that respects their autonomy while establishing clear lines between the two of you. Be careful and aware that your words and actions, if lacking in context or clarity, may be taken in any number of ways. If you’re speaking to someone who holds power over you, be respectful of that authority. You do not, however, have to accept that they are always correct, and can tactfully point that out if necessary.
  • How to resolve conflicts in a professional environment
    • Example response: Conflicts occur between people in all environments. In a professional environment, resolving a conflict can be done in a number of ways. If the issue is serious enough, bringing in external resources or mediators can be helpful. In other conflicts, especially ordinary disagreements, it can help to reframe the issue from a conflict - where two or more people are battling each other - to a more cooperative search for the best solution to the issue.
  • Exit vs. Voice
    • Example response: If you find yourself in an environment you believe needs to change, you have two options: exit and voice. Exit means leaving the environment: quitting the company, ending the relationship, etc. Voice means addressing the issues directly through stating them. Neither choice is more valid than the other, but it’s worth thinking through the pros and cons of each option in that situation.
  • How to be civil in disagreement
    • Example response: The world has a number of polarizing issues: politics, religion, etc. It’s okay - in fact, it’s arguably necessary for our society - to be civil and kind, even to people we strongly disagree with. Everyone deserves a basic level of respect and kindness, no matter how abhorrent their views may seem to you. It isn’t necessary for everyone to agree on everything, but it is necessary for everyone to remain civil with each other, so that the lines of communication remain open.

Basic Job Awareness


Going through the early years of schooling, the jobs children are exposed to can fit into two categories: those they see at school, and those they see through their parents/community.

This is a very biased sample: most jobs in the world are not at a public school, nor are they what one’s parents do. This is why far more children wind up in the same field as one of their parents than pure chance would indicate.

If we want to achieve some measure of equality of opportunity, it makes sense to expose students to as many different careers as possible. This will also help them decide on what kind of independent studies they want to pursue.

In Order To Pass

This course works differently from the others. No in-person exam is necessary; instead the school will host regular sessions for members of the community, parents, and other relevant adults to come in, talk about what they do for a living, and answer questions.

Passing the course would require attending some minimum number of these sessions.

Current schools do have some measure of this already - career days, parents talking about their jobs to their student’s class, etc. I think this should go farther, to become a regular (perhaps weekly) event that every student is invited to.

In the past, children weren’t sequestered in school all day, far away from the ‘real world’ where their parents worked. While I’m not suggesting that we return to those days, I do believe that the more interaction students have with the non-school world, the better prepared they’ll be to make the transition to it when the time comes.


The purpose of phase 2 is to give students a sense of the context of the world in which they live, but this isn’t sufficient to prepare them for that world. Knowing the context of their place in history and society still doesn’t give them a sense of how to act in that world.

This is the purpose of phase 3: to give students an awareness of the world in which they live and the opportunities in it, and an idea of how to act in that world. To teach them how to pilot their own life; how to make sense of their own minds and bodies and how to make both flourish.

After completing the curricula of phase 3, students should have a sense of how to handle themselves both inside and outside of school, and what a variety of different paths through life might look like.

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I like this. I think it would make sense to write a book based on this curriculum, and distribute it to students, and maybe invite them to discuss individual chapters.

Thanks! I don't know if I'm the person to write that book, but I do agree it'd be a good idea.