I posed this question to Hubbs this morning, because it was on my no-longer-teaching-but-will-miss-it mind: "What do you think are the most essential skills and knowledge that our baby's going to need in order to be a successful life-long learner and member of society?"
He paused, then made some goofy joke which I won't bother repeating. After a bit of thought, we both came up with this list (which isn't exhaustive but a good indicator of where our minds are at):
1) Balance in life - an ability to maintain balance between the physical, spiritual, emotional and mental components of her life through her use of time and resources to the glory of God; as parents, it is our job to help her maintain a good balance between being a student and an athlete, a humble servant of God and a self-assured new creation in Him
2) Health - taking care of her body through active living and eating healthy (and in moderation); we need to model this at home and it needs to be reinforced in schools that our bodies belong to God and should be wisely handled
3) Finances - the skills and knowledge to be able to be a good steward and fiscally responsible, giving and saving and spending moderately while avoiding debt; we think this is the job of parents, particularly since money matters are such touchy subjects that few agree on, and not something that is oft covered in provincially-mandated curricula. We need to teach her that everything we have belongs to God, and He is good whether He gives or takes away, but while He has entrusted something to us, we need to be responsible with it
4) Discernment - the ability to determine right from wrong (by God's standard), the ability to critically think about and evaluate everything she reads, and the wisdom to receive, reject and redeem certain ideas and messages from multimedia; this we feel to be the responsibility of parents more than that of schools, simply because we have a greater sphere of influence over her faith than school would, and we are called to train her up in the way that she should go
5) Research skills - the skill to locate information and analyze its reliability and biases; this should probably begin at home and be augmented by school instruction, and is probably best nurtured through active dialogue between us and her (meaning we have to be involved in her Google and online research too)
6) Literacy & Language - an ability to spell, to use words in multiple forms to communicate, and an appreciation for quality writing (not to mention an extensive vocabulary); we think that everything begins with language and this is something we need to nurture in the home through modelling a love of reading and immersing her in the richness of words spoken, written, and heard. Jesus is the Word, and God gave us language as a means to express ourselves in worship to Him (just as Christ's life was an act of honoring the Father)
7) Mathematical Relationships - an understanding of the concept of numbers and what they represent, and the relationship/interaction between numbers; again, this is nurtured at first in the home and then again in the schools as she reaches school age. Because numbers are a form of order that God has created for His world, every instruction on numbers is also a reflection of His character and sovereignty over creation (physics, chemistry and every other field inclusive). This is the "fear of the Lord (that) is the beginning of wisdom" which we hope to teach her.
Some of the things Hubbs & I noted about our list:
* almost all of these skills and understandings begin at home, and need to be cultivated at home; school as an institution is not yet equipped to fully deal with all of this learning although it plays a crucial part in supporting it
* few (if any) of these things are usually emphasized in the curriculum; often teachers (and I'm guilty of this too) are so focused on covering "content" and "information" that we lose sight of the bigger skills that need to be taught and nurtured
* most of these are skills and not factual knowledge (which anyone with Net access can Google nowadays), which means it requires continual practice and revisiting on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis
* everything comes back to God Himself. We need to show her who God is, and help grow her faith in Him and her understanding of Him.
By no means are we perfect. We are by nature sinful and imperfect beings who need to partner with the Perfect God in order for any of this to be even remotely achievable. May He give us the wisdom and grace to be able to raise her (and any of her subsequent siblings) up to be "successful," Jesus-loving, effective 21st century servant leaders.