Life-ready / Whole-Child Education

Two long-term crises in the USA demonstrate how our educational systems are not preparing our children for success in life. The first is the obesity, diabetes and chronic health conditions epidemics, and the second is the personal income crisis. Our citizens should have been better prepared.

We can do much better at addressing these disasters and preventing others in the future, by integrating life skills and habit education more comprehensively and effectively into our curricula. Schools can help empower our children with the preventive mental, physical and social intelligence they need to proactively make better career, financial, health, civic, and other decisions.

To achieve this, we must move beyond traditional life skills education approaches, and way beyond today’s way-too-narrow K-12 education, in four fundamental ways:

1. Integrate life skills and habit education into the core curriculum. Life skills and habit development should be an important, applied component of the entire preK-12 instructional process. In turn, applied learning keeps students engaged in their learning. The potential synergies are compelling.


2. Teach a more comprehensive set of skills and habits. Students should not just be college- and career-ready, but life-ready. This means that all students should also be finance-, citizen-, and health-ready.


3. Change behaviors, don’t just provide knowledge. Unfortunately, knowledge alone often has little impact on financial, civic and health behaviors. Just as we insist that students learn critical thinking, not just facts, we should insist that life education improves students’ behaviors—what they actually do—not just their knowledge of what they should do.


4. Measure behavior change and new habits. To make sure that good skills and habits are developing, we need to assess that. We have a number of ways of doing so, including physical fitness evaluations, physical activity tracking, and nutrition behavior surveys reporting in the health arena. A whole-child report card for each school would be ideal.


5. Follow-through school-based education with on-going reinforcement later in life. The most effective way to reinforce healthy behavior for adults may be to provide financial incentives—including tax cuts, insurance premium discounts, and user fees—to behave more healthily, etc.


In addition to learning healthy behavior, our schools can educate our young citizens on how to find and keep a job, manage a household budget including the appropriate use of debt, live and work more effectively with others, become a better citizen, and other key life skills and behaviors.

By integrating life skills education into the standard curriculum, in a developmentally appropriate way, students also remain more engaged in learning—with less risk of dropping out.  They now understand better the relevance of reading & English, math & science, and social studies to their personal lives, as these subjects are connected with physical, health and arts education, active healthy living, personal finance, civic engagement, etc. 

What is more, among middle school students, PE is often the most popular subject, and in high school, sports participation is the most effective extracurricular activity for student retention.

Please see our latest slide deck and references for more details.