Education and Survival - Merging the Two

In his book “One Second After,” author William R. Forstchen painted a well thought out picture of what life would be like in a post-EMP world. Faced with the sudden loss of power and everything electronic they depend on, the population of a small mountain town has to figure out how to survive. While many die, those that survive adapt, learning new skills and fending off a number of problems, including a large-scale armed attack.

Like most Americans, these people were totally unprepared for the crisis that faced them. They hadn’t educated themselves or their families on what to do in a survival situation. Nevertheless, with the aid of books and magazines found in the college library, they learned how to make use of the resources around them. But even, then, about 90% of the population died.

While the people were educating themselves in survival, they made a point to stop educating their children in normal academics. Both the public schools and the university shut down, setting aside normal education, in favor of more immediate needs. I think that was a mistake on their part, as full recovery of society would require that the next generation have the knowledge to restore the technology that is so central to our current lives.

Any disaster can be broken down into three parts:

  • The disaster itself
  • The aftermath
  • The recovery period

Ideally, at the end of the recovery period, society will have returned back to normal, or reached a “new normal” which is at least as good as the “old normal.” But that requires educated people who can make things work. So, while it’s important to educate our children on how to survive, it’s equally important to educate them for more academic pursuits, at least the ones which have a practical application in resorting society to some semblance of normal.

I must note here that much of our higher education today is focused on giving our children degrees in totally worthless fields. Likewise, much of our primary and secondary education is wasted on political correctness, rather than basic academics. Sadly, we’ve left the path of wisdom in this, wasting a large part of our education dollars and our children’s time. This isn’t the type of academic education I’m talking about; I’m referring to basic academics, as well as college degrees in areas which have practical applications in society. While advanced basket weaving might apply, things like women’s studies don’t; sorry to those who have such a degree.

Education is predominantly the parent’s responsibility, not the government’s. We’ve abdicated this responsibility, more for convenience than anything else. By turning education over to the government, we’ve saved ourselves the time and hassle of doing it ourselves. But in the midst of a long-term disaster, we can’t count on the government being able to provide that education. We’ll need to do it ourselves.

Educating Your Children on Survival

Waiting for a crisis to hit, before educating your children on survival is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. When that crisis hits, you’re going to have to switch over to survival mode in a moment. There may not be time to educate them. If they don’t already know what to do, the cost could be more than you’re willing to pay.

So, how do you educate your children about survival? First of all, we have to realize that there are two different types of survival that we need to educate them on; wilderness survival and what we’ll call urban survival. While there is some overlap, where wilderness survival skills are used in an urban environment, the dangers in the two situations can be quite different.

Wilderness Survival for Kids

I grew up in the Boy Scouts. Back then, scouting was all about going out in the woods and having a good time camping out. The Scout guide book was filled with skills that you’d need out in the woods, what we call bushcraft skills in the survival community. So, I grew up knowing how to dig a latrine, start a fire and build a lean-to shelter. Although we didn’t call it wilderness survival training, much of what we did actually fell into that area.

Sadly, modern scout guides don’t cover the same information and to the best of my knowledge, scouting groups don’t spend as much time out in the woods as we did back then. The skills which used to be considered essential for manhood are no longer taught and in fact are mostly ignored in modern society. Today’s man has been partially feminized and partially turned into a computer geek.

What’s funny is that in the midst of the man’s role being redefined by society, there’s a surge in interest in those very survival skills that once defined manhood. Guns and shooting skills are on the rise, as well as the very survival and homesteading skills that modern man has shunned.


So, if we want to teach our children those skills, the best way is to go back to doing what I learned in the Boy Scouts. That is to go spend time in the woods with our kids, teaching them.

Most kids love to go camping, fishing and shooting; so you’re probably not going to run into a whole lot of resistance in getting them to go along with your homegrown wilderness survival school. Just make camping a regular part of your family’s recreational routine, taking some weekends off to go hide out in the woods, honing those skills.

That was another part of my childhood, which served me well also. When I was about 10, my grandmother died, leaving my parents with a considerable amount of money. They used some of it to buy a 14 foot motorhome (considered huge in that time). So, every weekend from spring through fall, you could find us in the Colorado Rockies, camping, exploring and enjoying ourselves.

Of course, camping in a motorhome is nothing like camping in a tent, so we improvised. Rather than spend all our nights in the camper, my brother and I built our own shelters out of nature’s materials, started fires in the campsite’s fire pit and practiced the same skills that I had learned in Boy Scouts. Had it been intentional, that would have been a great survival school.

What I’m suggesting is that you make your camping intentional. Yes, it’s great to have a tent, sleeping bags, and a camp stove. But true wilderness survival meansgetting by without those things. So, when you go camping as a family, don’t depend on all that equipment, make do without.

Now, just for safety sake, you might want to make sure that you have a tent and some sleeping bags in the trunk of the car or back of the truck. But that doesn’t mean that you have to use them. Tell your kids that this weekend you’re going to build your own shelter, rather than use the tent. On another weekend you can tell them that you’re going to cook over an open fire. Pick a couple of skills that you want to work on each weekend and take your camping adventure without the commercial version of those items.

You’ll be surprised how much you can teach your children that way. As your children gain in skills and knowledge, you can put them in charge of various parts of your weekend camping trips. Tell one of the kids that they’re in charge of the fire for the weekend and that you expect them to use different fire starting technique each time they start it. Or tell another child that it’s up to them to teach the family how to build a new type ofwilderness survival shelter. Put someone in charge of water filtration, while another child is in charge of cooking.

The thing is, this is fun for kids. They’ll love getting out in the great outdoors and learning those skills. After all, it’s pretty cool to be able to show your friends that you can start a fire with steel wool or with nothing more than rocks. Kids like to learn those things and they like to show off their knowledge.

Shooting for Kids

An important part of teaching kids to surviveis teaching them to use firearms safely. I don’t remember how young I was when my dad taught me to shoot, but it was young. He had guns in the house and my mother insisted that he teach us to shoot, so that we would know about firearm safety. Even though she’s still a die-hard liberal who hates guns, she was smart enough to know that the best way to keep kids safe from guns is to educate them.


I began to hunt at 12 years of age. In Colorado, where we lived, you had to have a hunter’s safety certificate to get a hunting license and you couldn’t get one of those until you were 12. But by then, I had several years of shooting under my belt, mostly shooting with my dad’s .22 revolver. But I also had my own Winchester model 94, which I had practiced with.

The first thing to teach any child about guns is safety, just like when teaching adults to use firearms. Anyone who can’t handle firearms safely, shouldn’t be handling them. So, you start by teaching your children the rules of firearms safety, how to handle a gun correctly and how to tell if it is loaded.

When do you do this? As young as possible. That’s an individual decision that has to be made for each and every child. A lot will depend on the child’s personal responsibility and their understanding of what you’re telling them. There’s no reason trying to teach firearm responsibility to children who treat real guns as if they are toys.

Many children have trouble distinguishing between real and imaginary. They see puppets and cartoon characters are real, rather than something made up. This can carry over into their understanding of firearms as well, so you need to be careful about that. You especially need to be sure that they can readily identify the difference between real guns and toys. That’s not so easy with some, which look real, although they aren’t.

Once they have the safety part down, children as young as 7 or 8 years of age can be taught to shoot properly and safely. Start them off with something light, like a .22, so that the recoil isn’t a problem for them. Once they become proficient with the .22, they can move on to larger calibers.

Urban Survival for Kids

As I mentioned earlier, there’s a lot of carryover from wilderness survival to urban survival. So, a lot of the skills that your children are going to learn on your wilderness camping trips are going to work for urban survival. But that carryover isn’t really automatic. It will be necessary to experience how those skills are used in a urban environment, before they’ll truly be comfortable doing so.

This is easy to accommodate. Simply pick a weekend and shut off all power in your home (except the refrigerator). Tell your kids that you’re going to be camping at home for the weekend and that they need to figure out how to do everything without electricity, central heating and running water. Then, step back to watch them figure it out.

It won’t take long for the kids to start adapting their wilderness survival skills to your home. You might end up with a lean-to in the living room before it’s over, but they’ll quickly see that the things they’ve been learning apply at home, just like they do out in the woods.


But that’s not all you have to work on. Finding resources in an urban environment can actually be much harder than in the woods. You can’t count on deadfall branches for firewood, nor can you go fishing in the creek for breakfast. As part of the “game” tell them that all stores are closed and that they’ll have to scrounge for what they’ll need. Go with them, just to make sure they don’t do anything like destroying the neighbor’s dog house.

Scavenging is an important urban survival skill, so you can make up games where they have to scavenge necessary items for survival. In some cases,those items would require stealing things or breaking things that aren’t family property. So, instead of requiring them to bring back the item, have them take photos with their phone’s camera instead.

If you start gardening and keeping chickens as part of your urban prepping, make those family activities. Children need to learn about animals and plants anyway, so that’s a good opportunity to teach them some valuable life skills. It just so happens that those life skills are good ones for survival as well.

Finally, you’ll need to teach them about OPSEC. That’s more important in an urban setting, than it is in the wild. You’re not going to have many people who are looking at your well-fed family and wondering where you’re getting food from, if you’re living out in the woods somewhere. But you probably will have a lot of people who are looking at your family and how healthy you are, if you are bugging in, rather than bugging out. OPSEC will be a critical part of reducing your chances of receiving an attack.

Educating Your Children in the Midst of Crisis

You’ll be able to do a lot of your children’s survival training before a survival hits, but there will probably be gaps in that training. Those will have to be filled-in by actual practice, as you’re surviving the disaster and its aftermath.

Don’t feel bad if you can’t teach your children everything they need to know, before a disaster hits; everything you tech them will be beneficial. Keep in mind that you probably won’t know it all either. So, in addition to what you learn before the disaster hits, make sure that you build a good survival reference library, so that you have the necessary information to use in training yourself in additional skills, as well as continue training your children.


But there’s also the other side of educating your children, that of continuing their academic education after the disaster hits. If the worst thing you ever have to face is a hurricane, that won’t really be much of an issue. The schools will be reopened within a couple of months, at the most. So your kids will be able to continue their education. At worst, they’ll lose the year that the disaster strikes in and have to graduate a year late.

But what about a situation like we see in “One Second After?” They shut the schools down in that story. While a year without school isn’t going to destroy society, going a generation without educating our kids academically will eliminate any chance of restoring society to where it was pre-disaster.

The answer to this question has already been given to us. In fact, it’s been handed to us on a silver platter. That’s to homeschool our kids. The homeschooling community teaches their children at home, actually giving them a better education, if not as politically correct, than what they receive in the public school system. The high parental involvement and great teacher to student ratio ensure that the children get an excellent educational opportunity.

My wife and I homeschooled our children and when they entered college, they were more than prepared. In fact, my oldest daughter took a class in her Freshman year that used the same textbook that she had used at home. She didn’t pay attention to the lectures, never opened the book and got 100% on every test. My son, who we graduated a year early, excelled in his education as well. Right now, he’s teaching himself everything he needs to know in order to get a Cisco certification in network design and VOIP.

Every bit of human knowledge is written down somewhere.  That means it can be learned by people who are interested. You don’t need a classroom to learn and in many cases, you don’t need a teacher either. With the right books and an interest in learning, you can learn just about anything.

I’m self-educated in a number of fields, including electrical engineering. Earlier on in my life, I worked 15 years as an electrical engineer, being employed by a couple of different manufacturing companies. While I don’t have an engineering degree, I was very successful as an engineer. How? Because I taught myself well, and was willing to learn whatever I had to, in order to get the job done.

Just as I did, your children can learn just about anything at home. Your job, as their teacher, won’t be as much to stand in front of the classroom, lecturing your kids on algebra, but rather to direct their studies and answer their questions. As such, it won’t take as much of your time.

Actually, homeschooling takes much less time than public education does, to teach the same amount of material. That’s mostly because there is a lot of wasted time in the classroom, especially in public schools, that you don’t need to waste at home. You already know if your kids are there, you don’t need to take attendance.

The other big time saver with homeschooling is that your children only need to spend enough time on the subject to learn the material. Every child has certain subjects at which they excel. They can work through those subjects quickly ,saving time, or use the extra time to go more in depth. Either way, once they’ve learned it, they can move on to something else. In a classroom setting, the class is held back by waiting for the slower students to get it.


The key to homesechooling your children is having that information. In other words, you need to build a librarythat you can use to educate your children. I would recommend that your library go far beyond the basics and include subjects such as mechanics, electronics, biology and other sciences. In addition, you’ll need books that are more practically based, such as repair skills and animal husbandry.

There are a number of companies which produce textbooks specifically for homeschoolers. While these are cheaper than college textbooks, you can still spend quite a bit of money on them. One option is to look for used books. There are used book sellers within the homeschool community, who sell textbooks considerably cheaper than the new ones. You can also find used books at local homeschool curriculum swap meets and sales.

Keep in mind that your library may be the only reference material your children have to work with. While there are public libraries all across the country, there’s no saying what’s going to happen to them. Ignorant people may burn the books in those libraries to keep warm, denying future generations of the knowledge in them. You just don’t know.

Nor can you count on the internet to provide your children with the information they need. In the case of an EMP or anything else that takes down the grid, there won’t be an internet to use. You may manage to save the books you have stored in electronic format, but the only ones you will be sure to be able to save are those which are printed on real paper.

Homeschooling your children offers them one other opportunity that public schooling doesn’t. That’s the opportunity to study more in depth. The reason that we graduated my son a year early was that we had run out of things we could teach him. He was already using college textbooks in his Junior year of high school. It made no sense to keep him at home, when he could go to college and start working towards his degree.

With a good library at home, your children can learn whatever they want or need. While it’s ultimately up to them to learn what they want, encourage them to study areas that will help with the rebuilding of society. No, it won’t be their responsibility alone, but it may be their generation’s responsibility. The more they know, especially about the skills that help restore the services we are all used to, the greater a role they can play in that process.

For this reason, it’s important to ensure that your children don’t shirk in their studies. Some children, like the cartoon character Calvin, don’t like to study. Encourage them and help them see the value of learning. Focus their studies into areas they are interested in, as that will help to motivate them.Make sure they learn the material, rather than just going over it.

One thing we did with our children was make them do work over, if it wasn’t good enough. In other words, if they came back with a paper that said that 2×2=5, we’d make them do it again. They’d have to work at it until they got it right. Ultimately, that’s a whole lot more valuable than just going through the motions and not getting it right.

A Word of Encouragement

You may feel that you are inadequate to teach your children. I don’t agree. Without even knowing you, I’m sure that you can teach your children what they need to know. I know this, because you already have. Who do you think has taught your children how to walk and talk and dress themselves? Wasn’t that you? Well, if you can teach them those subjects, some of the hardest we ever learn, then you can teach them the rest of the stuff too.

But what if you don’t know the subject yourself? No problem. You’ve now got a good excuse to learn it. Learn it alongside your child, teaching each other. The book is the expert, so you don’t have to be. All you have to do is make sure they learn it. That’s a whole lot easier than having to be the expert.

Your child’s education will determine what they can do in life. When it comes to survival, that’s literally a matter of life and death. Sounds like agood reason to teach them well. But make it fun; fun for both you and them. Learning is supposed to be fun, make it a process of exploration and it will be.

Dave Steen

About The Author: Dave is a 58 year old survivalist; father of three; with over 40 years of survival experience. He started young, learning survival the hard way, in the school of hard knocks. Now, after years of study, he's gray-haired and slightly overweight. That hasn't dimmed his interest in survival though. If anything, Dave has a greater commitment to survival than ever, so that he can protect his family. Click Here To Read More About Dave

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