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What should I teach to my future daughter?

by Anabel RC1 min read19th Jun 20207 comments

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Soon I will have a baby girl and I was thinking that the world is changing very fast and I want to be able to give her some bases for her to learn to deal with this civilisation. From a practical point of view.. i was wondering if I Should teach her some programming language... What skills does she need for what is coming? Ofc.. i will also do my best in terms of teaching her ethics, compassion and other values.. but I am talking about the hands-on skills that the new generations need to be able to develop.

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I suggest that you relax a bit. She's not going to be learning programming or anything like it for years, regardless. Newborns spend months to years just learning how to use their own limbs and process the information from their own senses.

And I've never heard any evidence at all that, say, programming, is particularly important to learn all that early in life. Manual/mental skills like musical performance seem to turn out best if started early (but not necessarily as a toddler!). Languages, too. I could even imagine that critical logical thinking would benefit from early exposure. But programming? That's something you can figure out.

In the long run, meta-skills are important... things that let you decide for yourself which skills to learn and learn them on your own. And things that let you evaluate both the truth and the usefulness of all the stuff that everybody else is trying to teach you. Beyond that, the more flexible and generalizable the better.

But the biggest thing is this: she's going to be her own person. By the time she's old enough to be taught the kinds of hands-on skills you're talking about, she's going to have her own ideas about what she wants to learn. "This civilization" isn't some kind of apocalyptic dystopia, and you don't know "what is coming". In all probability, it will all add up to normality. In all probability, she will muddle through. ... and in all probability, neither you nor anybody here can guess what very specific skills she's going to need. Assuming, that is, that human skills are even relevant at all when she grows up.

Please don't drive her insane by pushing "needed practical skills". Let her enjoy life, and let her learn by doing things that engage her. While you're unlikely to make a monster impact by predicting what she'll need in the future, you will definitely have an impact on her present, and maybe on how she sees learning in general..

I have a one month old baby girl. I think the most important skill I can teach her is how to learn. There’s of course a bunch of sub-skills there: beginner’s mindset, paying attention, research, asking for help, checking, etc....

To teach a programming language, I would recommend using a touchscreen device, because mouse is too complicated for little kids. Start with something that teaches the basics of interaction, for example Tux Paint (at 2-3 years). Later introduce Scratch (at 4-5 years).

In parallel, introduce math and reading. Math starts with memorizing "1, 2, 3, 4, 5" kinda like a poem, and later explaining what it means. When the child can count items reliably, ask "if I take 2 apples, and then 2 more apples, how many apples will I have?" (at 4-5 years). Reading... uhm, I suppose in English, that complicates things a bit, you probably want to use phonics.

When you got the prerequisites, show your daughter how to use Khan Academy...

...and that's as far as we got, so my advice ends here. Importantly, keep it fun, no pressure. On the other hand, as long as the daughter is interested and has fun, don't worry about whether you are "ruining her childhood" with too much knowledge. Actually, try to answer her questions truthfully using the language she understands, even when things are difficult to explain. (It is okay to say "I don't know", or only explain a part and say "and then it is more complicated".) This is how you teach the implicit lesson that curiosity is okay, and things are not mysterious.

It is difficult to predict which skills will be useful in 20 years. Maybe it's better to teach things that you understand best; and later find tutors or online resources for the rest. My guess is that maths, computer usage (not necessarily as a software developer, but as a better-than-average user), and rational thinking in general will be useful. Also social skills, but I don't feel qualified to give advice on this.

For more ambitious parenting, you may like this: 1, 2.

Also, I hope you won't hate me for saying this, but cooking is a useful skill (for both genders).

I don't have kids, but if I had some, I would want to implement the "Hard Thing Rule" given by Angela Duckworth in her book "Grit".

It boils down to 3 rules:

  • Everyone in the family must do one hard thing, one thing that requires deliberate practice everyday. This can be yoga, programming, ballet, a lot of things really.
  • You can quit your hard thing, but only at "natural" stopping points (the end of the season, the end of the school year,...)
  • You choose your hard thing.

I really like this idea, because it teaches working ethics, grit and consistency in a way that respects individual differences.