When focusing on skills like using an analog clock, writing by hand, and counting coins, there is more going on than what meets the eye. We can heighten children’s sense of awareness and help form their future character by teaching them skills from the past. Mastery of ‘old school’ tasks helps to increase children’s conscientiousness and their attention to detail.
Telling time doesn’t necessarily scream ‘critical skill’ unless you are talking about telling time on an analog clock. Although analog clocks are visible in many day-to-day settings, few children understand how to use them.
This makes sense considering digital clocks are a prevalent part of modern culture. Every cell phone has a digital clock, as do most cars, computers, and personal fitness trackers. Regardless, I argue we should teach children to tell time on analog clocks. There is serious value to reading analog time. Telling time from an analog clock helps children to understand time itself. Digital clocks encourage children to see time from a linear point of view. Whereas, analog clocks provide a concrete picture of an abstract concept. This visual representation of time helps develop children’s understanding of time lapsing.
Another abstract concept that is considered an ‘old school’ concept is the ability to count money. The easiest way to make the concept of money concrete is to use actual money with and around children. (I know, it’s an obvious idea but I don’t usually carry cash or coins around, do you?) We live in a digital age. Between different money apps and plastic cards, most of us don’t have a reason to carry or use physical cash.
Unlike adults, children need opportunities to connect the dots by knowing and understanding that a ‘dollar earned is a dollar saved.’ We happily buy our three-year-old a toy cash register with plastic coins. We don’t make the bridge from handing our children toy money to handing them real money.
Trust me, I am not being hypocritical. I, too, have gifted my children money by digitally dropping it into their accounts. Granted, what I should be doing is handing them physical cash to deposit on their own in person. Counting coins and handling money is an old school skill that is important to master. Children need to handle money between their fingers if they are ever going to learn to handle money.
It is no secret that writing by hand, particularly in cursive, is going out of style. Of course, keyboarding, texting, and dictating through digital devices are a daily part of life. But as a parent and educator, I can attest that writing by hand is one old school skill children should develop.
Research supports that there are countless benefits of writing by hand. It is a concrete way to build your children’s mental development and character.
Researchers claim that typing, printing letters, and writing them in cursive activates three different portions of the brain. For your children to have fully active brains, they should do all three.
Writing by hand takes time and forces children to concentrate on both thinking and doing. It encourages them to slow down and combines mental exercise with physical coordination. This ‘old school’ skill needs to stay in style. It helps children reach their full potential and is for sure a keeper.
Being Happy Being Alone
Another concept that seems to be disappearing at a frantic pace is the gift of autonomous happiness. I am talking about a child’s ability to be happy and satisfied in the absence of other people or digital devices.
Children readily amuse themselves with external sources of entertainment but can they amuse themselves on their own accord? One dad claims, “If a child learns from an early age that he can be happy by himself, playing, reading and imagining, he has one of the most valuable skills there is.”
Autonomous happiness is powerful. It is a solid skill that should be developed.
(It is also a solid reason for children to spend occasional time away from digital devices and forms of entertainment.)
So Are ‘Old School’ Skills Worth It?
I like my children to understand that quick and easy doesn’t always win the race. Sometimes slow and steady is the way to go. Most old school skills take time and effort for parents to teach and for children to master. I claim the payoff is well worth the energy: not only do children gain a strengthened sense of awareness and confidence but they also ‘win’ a new skill for their toolbox. Teaching children to master concepts that aren’t currently popular is ironically, ‘old school.’ (You might even say it’s the original multifaceted gift!)
Paige is the mother of three creative Little Women and enjoys spending time eating chocolate, watching movies, reading for pleasure, creating educational products, and maintaining her blog. Paige has a passion for helping students develop a love of reading. She has been a faculty member at Amelia Earhart Elementary for over seven years. She is a CITES Associates member of the BYU-Public School Partnership and a member of Provo School District’s Literacy Committee. She is an award-winning educator who enjoys mentoring interns and student teachers. You can follow her on Facebook and Pinterest.