What Should Children Learn?

Back to the basics

What Should Children Learn?
Encourage children to write often, whether it's letters to family or stories they invent. (Sakkmesterke/Shutterstock)
Barbara Danza

If you’ve ever taken a look at the typical course of study today’s school students are required to complete, you might assume that the collection of subjects, the order in which they’re taught, and the resources used to teach them are the result of great study and research by the best educational experts in the land. You might also presume the goal of the current educational strategy is to provide students with the tools, skills, and knowledge necessary to reach their greatest potential.

Is that the case, though?

Today, students throughout their academic careers take courses such as “English,” “Social Studies,” "Earth Science,” and “Pre-Algebra.” Increasingly, the study of the great works of literature, music, art, and even grammar are being deemphasized. Kids are being handed a high school diploma, in too many cases, without a fundamental grasp of history, basic communication, or any clue about what humanity’s greatest cultures, thinkers, and artists ever offered the world. Further, they are imbued with a character ethic that, unless overridden by their family’s influence, might hinder their ability to thrive long-term.

So, what should children learn?


First and foremost, a child should be taught to read competently, speak clearly, and write skillfully. In the elementary years, this can be achieved by offering them a feast of good books while exploring, as they get older, the ins and outs of phonics and grammar. They should be encouraged to write frequently—in a journal, in letters to family, in stories they invent, with chalk on the sidewalk.

Proper handwriting, both in print and in cursive, should also be taught. Putting pen to paper evokes a different depth of thinking than typing or texting does. Further, many historic documents were written in cursive. We shouldn't lose our ability to read them.

As kids advance academically, they can tackle more advanced writing projects, learn to verbally present ideas, and understand increasingly challenging texts. Individuals with solid communication skills have everything they need to learn anything they’d like.


One of the greatest benefits of studying math—besides the practical application it offers for a future engineering career or household budget—is that it teaches you to think logically. Those students that can excel in mathematics should be encouraged to do so. The trend of removing advanced placement programs in some schools will greatly stifle such students.

Beyond math, of course, is the formal study of logic. If you’re unfamiliar with the study of logic, it’s worth noting that a typical school curriculum is almost completely devoid of this very important piece of education. Logic is the study of reason and teaches one to consider arguments and ideas rationally. A logic student learns to identify any existing fallacies or false premises.

If we’ve learned anything these past few years, it’s that the ability to think logically and critically is essential. There are a number of formal logic programs on the market today targeted to homeschoolers, but appropriate for anyone wishing to fill this void.


The way history is typically approached in school is both boring and disjointed. Fundamentally, history is a story. It begins as far back as we’ve been able to see and continues on up to today. It's exciting and entertaining—full of human feats, creations, discoveries, and lessons. Teaching history should be simple and fun. The best way is to teach it in order, like you would any story, starting at the beginning.
If you want to know how most schools’ strategy for teaching history has fared, talk to a few teenagers about, say, what the Declaration of Independence says, who fought in either World War, or what the impact communism has had on the world. The consequences of a society ignorant of history aren't small.

The Arts

That the arts tend to be the first subjects on the chopping block when school curriculum changes are mandated is heartbreaking. Throughout the world, different cultures have contributed extraordinary artistic accomplishments—gifts mankind should treasure. Whether in the field of painting, sculpture, architecture, music, theater, dance, literature, poetry, or any other form of artistic expression—the beauty, goodness, and inherent lessons imbued in the study of the arts is immeasurable. Children should be surrounded by the very best of humanity’s creations. With today’s technology, it’s easily at our fingertips.

Talent Development

Every student is blessed with his or her own individual strengths and talents. The school paradigm leaves little room for the recognition or development of any ability on an individual basis.
If students are to reach their greatest potential, however, it’s precisely these blessings they should be given the space and resources to develop. Whether he or she is a budding writer, scientist, artist, lawyer, teacher, CEO, craftsman, or plumber, individual strengths should be maximized and allowed to flourish.

Moral Character

The most crucial and fundamental aspect of a good education is the instilling of good moral values. Students must be able to discern right from wrong. They should uphold the truth, discern the truth, and be truthful as they go about their lives. They should work diligently, take responsibility, and be willing to sacrifice for what is right. They should care for their families, friends, neighbors, and communities. They should have compassion for others. They should respect their elders. They should aspire to be as good as they can possibly be.

A child should learn to be an educated person of high moral character. How blessed society would be with such students.

Barbara Danza is a mom of two, an MBA, a beach lover, and a kid at heart. Here, diving into the challenges and opportunities of parenting in the modern age. Particularly interested in the many educational options available to families today, the renewed appreciation of simplicity in kids’ lives, the benefits of family travel, and the importance of family life in today’s society.