The Skill You Need vs the Stuff You Know

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I've already shared about not knowing what a mandible is. I've said that you don't need to mind the gaps. I've even questioned the purpose of tests. So I wondered this morning: What difference does it make if your child can't finish the sentence, "Mary had a little ____?"

Sure, this is basic stuff. But so are John 3:16, the definitions of "trial," the number of laps that make up a mile (swimming and running), the conversion from Fahrenheit to Celsius, as well as the difference between the Mean, Median, and Mode... to name a few. In fact, libraries are packed with knowledge I haven't learned in my limited time.

So how do we determine "Core Knowledge?" What kinds of things will we decide belong on National Standards? What points of data are we certain everyone should know (and for how long)?

The answers to such questions are as interesting as they are important.

I focus on something else entirely. Rather than think about all the stuff I know, I prefer to focus on a much more important skill: learning. If I enjoy and am able to learn, I'll pick up the stuff I need to know. If I can make connections between the things I'm able to recall, I can build and grow from those lessons. And if I know where to find information and how to extract and hold on it, I can meet the challenges before me.

The stuff you know is important, to be sure, but the ability to learn is ever so much more essential.

Do you have a story of a time you didn't know something "everyone" knows?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

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  1. I'll never forget the day in 5th grade, sitting around the reading table. My turn to read came and I read the word "colonel" ... well, you can guess how I said it since I didn't know it. The other kids laugh. I wonder to this day if the teacher had taught that word when I was home sick, if I was daydreaming and missed it, if the kids who laughed were in a different 4th grade class and learned it there ... how did they know it and I didn't?!? I was a good reader!

    Also, how is it that I've made it this far in life without having all of the states and their capitals memorized, and often have a problem locating certain ones? Even though I'm currently attempting to teach these to my children (and learning them as I go), I don't consider it a failure if they don't know them a year from now. They are learning how to take a large amount of material, break it down into manageable pieces, find tricks for making it connect in their brains, and are learning to connect it all with the stories we are reading. That is what I call good schooling.

  2. Great example, Jane! I hear from a lot of avid readers that they know many more words than they can pronounce <smile>.


  3. MegAnn

    Reminds me of not knowing 1500 could be one thousand five hundred (how my mind worked) and fifteen hundred (how my 4th grade math teacher said it). I was often accused of not paying attention when in fact I was just lost in the wording!

  4. That's a great example, MegAnn! And, yes, I find I often tune out when I'm not familiar with a term. I'm trying to get better at having the humility to get clarification.


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