With my children now 8, 6 and 2, I am just beginning to think about the more serious aspects of their schooling.  With two very different children — one who thinks outside every box to draw, construct, problem solve and engineer, and another who aims to do exactly what is asked of him carefully and perfectly — I find myself pondering, just what am I aiming for in my children? 

The child who thinks differently to imagine new ways of doing things and seems absolutely set on his own path?  Or the child who tries so very hard to do everything right and accommodate his teacher’s every desire for him?  Most importantly, what are the virtues being displayed and developed by each — and how can I best help each child as an individual? 

More broadly, exactly what does my child actually need to know?  I imagine homeschoolers come up against this question all the time — just what are my objectives here?  Many more of us have become homeschoolers this year, at least for short periods of time, so the question has likely been pondered by many more parents than ever before. The state curriculum is undoubtedly a politically contentious document. 

What was St Thomas Aquinas, one of the most influential thinkers of medieval Scholasticism, like as a child?  What was Einstein, the most influential physicist of the 20th century, like as a child?  I have no idea, but I do wonder if they might have seemed slightly “outside the box”.  It is said of Einstein:

“At the Luitpold Gymnasium, Einstein often felt out of place and victimized by a Prussian-style educational system that seemed to stifle originality and creativity. One teacher even told him that he would never amount to anything.”

Giving some insight into the jobs our children might find themselves doing, the World Economic Forum recently released its Future of Jobs Report 2020.  Key trends identified include automation replacing many human jobs, resulting in decreased demand for jobs such as accountants, factory and assembly workers, and administrative staff. 

At the same time, many more technology-related jobs will be created, such as engineering, cloud computing and content creation.  In particular there will be increasing demand for data analysts and scientists, AI and machine learning specialists, software and applications developers, and robotics and fintech engineers.

In 2025, analytical thinking, creativity, and flexibility will be among the most sought-after skills, according to the report.  Self-management skills, such as active learning, resilience under stress, tolerance, and flexibility were identified as becoming more important. The data was collected through metrics partnerships with LinkedIn and Coursera.

The report identified that upgrading the current workforce’s skills is important, and that governments need to address long-delayed improvements of education and training systems.  Remote working is also expected to become more prevalent, with 84 percent of employers set to rapidly digitalise work processes.  Perhaps, if managed well, this could be an excellent change for women (who often desire part-time, flexible work) and fathers who wish to spend more time with their families.

In a changing world, it is hard to keep up as parents.  It all depends on the teacher and school, but I can’t help suspecting that the state classroom, in practice, has as one of its most constant goals successfully managing a large group of children while their parents are at work.  In doing this, it is generally much more helpful to the teacher if the children stay inside the box, which may mean less opportunity for creativity and analytical thinking. In saying that, self-discipline is an important skill too. We can’t always follow our passions.

Ultimately, we want joy, purpose and virtue for our children. I don’t have all the answers on how to achieve this, but ensuring your child feels loved absolutely for who they are, and helping them to see others in the same light, is a start.

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...