5 obsolete skills homeschoolers love to teach

As homeschoolers, we want to give our children the best of everything. That includes the best of skills they will never need. These are some of the most popular obsolete skills we still cling to in our homeschools.

obsolete skills

1. How to read a map.

Have you noticed that the gas station is no longer the local purveyor of all things geographic? You go in to grab a cup of coffee and confirmation that you are at least pointed in the right direction. Instead, you get blank stares from the attendant when you ask how to get to Highway 99. Even when, as it turns out, the gas station is actually on Highway 99, albeit by a different name. And when my dad asked for a map, the nice gentleman behind the counter said they didn’t carry them any more.

Now that almost everyone has a GPS, no one needs a map. Or a place to ask for directions.

The upside? When the Zombie Apocalypse comes, our children will be the leaders and the navigators. They can pop open those geography notebooks we made them keep and at least find north.

2. How to count money.

As our society becomes increasingly cashless, the concept of money is becoming more abstract. I still remember having a sales tax chart taped to the table at craft shows so people could figure the tax. Now, the poor cashier is lost if she hits the wrong key and is forced to figure out how to make change for $20. And don’t even bother trying to give her three cents because you want a quarter back or she may have to call the manager. I still wonder what the prevalence of credit cards has done to our children’s math skills. Gone are the days you could give your child a couple dollars to run to the market for you. Now, no one would let their kid walk that far unsupervised and fewer and fewer people have a couple dollars in their wallet, anyway. But this also means that kids are coming to school with no concept of money and few opportunities to practice adding and subtracting dollars and cents. Homeschoolers are a stubborn lot, however. Not only do we still teach about actual cash money, but some of us even teach our children how to count back change. Old school-like. Without a computer or a calculator!

The upside? When we have to rise up to defeat our technological overlords and destroy them completely, our children will have the novel idea of reintroducing actual currency to keep track of trade. They will all be bankers in the brave new world.

3. How to write in cursive.

Other than a signature, who writes in cusive anymore? Even schools are beginning to abandon it. Speed and beauty are no longer a concern in written communication. No one but us will ever read our scrawls, so why bother making it beautiful? Homeschoolers, however, still hold firm. Some of us even teach cursive before print.

The upside? Twenty years from now, our children will head the newly formed Document Studies departments at all the major universities. No one else will be able to read the things. All primary source document research will have to go through them.

4. How to write, well, anything.

OK, so forget cursive. Who really even writes anything anymore? It is all strokes on a keyboard or taps on a screen. You don’t even need to carry paper and pen to class, anymore. You just take notes on your laptop. When texting slang began seeping into academic work, I knew the simple beauty of the written word was in danger. Have you ever read any of Abigail Adams’ letters to her husband? They are beautiful examples of devotion, feminine strength and the letter as an art form. If she wrote today, it would read more like, “where r u? why u not write? dont frget. men r tyrants. ladies r not.”

The upside? Hundreds of years from now, history books will be written about life here at the beginning of the 21st century. 99% of all data will have been lost to the passage of time and the extinction of the devices it was created on. All that will be left will be the letters we forced our children to write and later stored in a shoebox under the bed. This will inform future societies’ views of an entire civilization after it has passed.

5. How to use a dictionary.

Whenever I asked my parents what a word meant, they told me to get a dictionary. I could get lost reading entry after entry. Now, the very future of the paper dictionary is in question. Everyone just looks up words on their phones. But the single response Google gives you does not invite you to linger and look at random words on the page. And you have to click to get to the word’s history. The convenient information put in parentheses can no longer be scanned and absorbed, but must be intentionally sought out. OK, so I was probably a strange child, but how many children today even know how to look up what part of speech “certitude” is? Or even care? (Unless, of course, they are homeschooled. In which case, they may reach for that massive 1828 dictionary so many of us still have . . .)

The upside? Our children are full of random information that almost no one knows anymore. Any time there is a lull in conversation, they can pipe up and say things like, “Did you know that the word “once” is actually a throwback to when English still had a genitive case?” Who said homeschoolers were weird? They totally had to mean it in the best possible way!

Do you teach any of these increasingly obsolete skills? Or do you have any of your own to add to the list?

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41 thoughts on “5 obsolete skills homeschoolers love to teach

    1. I could not believe how many gas station attendants did not know the area when we drove to central Kansas. I used to work at a Burger King off the Highway and we were supposed to study a local map when we had down time and have it ready when people asked for directions!

    1. It’s crazy. It’s like I didn’t even need second grade, except that I still teach my children (sort of – – they aren’t very good at it).

  1. I wasn’t homeschooled but my mom made sure we knew how to read maps, use dictionaries, and count change. I’m so glad she made a point of teaching us those skills because I still use them all the time.

    1. I do, too, but I think we aren’t long from a time when there are no physical dictionaries, maps are no longer published and cash is just an abstract term for the digital markers of our exchange.

  2. It is so important that our children learn these skills whether they are homeschooled or not. The world as we know it is moving from traditional learning and our children are not equipped with the skills they need for simple survival

    1. I still think they are important. That’s why I teach them, but there are more and more people who don’t seem to use them and I don’t think it will be long before paper maps and dictionaries are no longer even printed!

  3. I love the idea of teaching how to use a dictionary! I know that my oldest has used one but I don’t think that my sons ever have. Amazing what we lose as we go into formal schooling and they change things up. My oldest is coming home to school here but she will use an online program.

    1. Good luck with the online program! And yes. The education world is changing so fast. It isn’t all bad, but it is hard to keep up with.

    1. I don’t have one of those nifty phones, but I do like my GPS. I don’t have to pull over to figure out the map if I make a wrong turn!

  4. My kids have been learning about money and how to count coins in school. I had no idea that other schools might not be teaching this. I’m glad our school also still teaches use of a dictionary.

  5. I don’t home school but I’m glad that my children have teachers that make them get dictionaries. I’ll be teaching my youngest two cursive. My daughter now has a caligraphy book. These skills are still very needed in the world. I can’t stand when these young kids have to call the manager when I give them enough change to give me what I want though… Ugh!

    1. We love calligraphy here! No one is very good at it, but we really enjoyed learning about it and my children like writing with their calligraphy pens.

  6. Writing cursive is a dying art which is so sad. I know kids who can’t even read cursive writing. I pretty much only write in cursive.

    Learning how to count money and handle money is a very important skill that everyone should learn.

    1. Money is definitely an important skill, people just don’t handle it enough (and always have a calculator when they do) so they seem to have lost the art of doing it quickly!

  7. Understanding history and international politics without being able to read maps is pretty difficult. There’s a lot more to geography than getting from point A to point B.

    1. I very much agree. That’s why my kids have notebooks with map studies and we practice reading maps when we go places. But I can’t help but notice the rest of the world seems to be passing us by.

  8. At our company party this year they had a drawing for prizes. The DJ did the picking of names and announcing the winners. One name he picked was written in cursive and the poor guy admitted he couldn’t read cursive! He had to pass it off to someone else to decipher it .

  9. omg just today we were doing dictionary stuff with my son! And then he of course refuses to write anything by hand! I think i’ll stick to all the upsides. I have an obsolete to add, sewing by hand! My son was interested so I taught him. At least he’ll know how to resew a button?

    1. Yes! Sewing by hand . . . or at all seems to be an obsolete skill. I cannot make an outfit for as cheap as I can buy it, so what purpose is there, really? Except I still think it is good to know and I have taught my children some basics (that’s all I know, so we aren’t getting much beyond that!)

  10. My daughter is in her first year of post-secondary and she’s the only one in her classes that takes notes with a pen and paper. Everyone else types it on their computers.

  11. Even homeschoolers neglect the dictionary. Just today I was about to look up a word for my daughter in the dictionary and she was already reading the definition on the computer before I even got the dictionary off the shelf!

    1. My eldest’s favorite app on her Ipod was her dictionary. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I was glad she liked words, but I still felt like she was a traitor!

    1. Do you homeschool, too? Because I think we all love these skills. 🙂 I can’t help but notice that a good deal of the population seems to have lost these valuable arts, though!

  12. I am a rare book collector, I am extremely glad I learned cursive. The skill enables me to read inscriptions in old books and hand written letters.

  13. I do these things and preface it with saying, “When the grid goes down”. My kids just shake their heads.

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