If you are a homeschooling parent designing a curriculum for your children, please remember to include life skills as one of their courses. I have met some brilliant individuals with multiple college degrees that did not know how to cook or do laundry. They could solve very complex mathematical problems, but did not know how to prepare a household budget. You do want your children to be prepared for living on their own, don’t you? Here is a list of some of the things they should know and be able to do. Some of these are mental skills, and some are physical.
1. Taking responsibility. I put this first because it is one of the least taught ideas in the world. Far too many people have never learned the concept that their actions will always have consequences, whether good or bad. They readily accept the good, but when smacked in the face by bad consequences, they start making excuses which is basically blaming someone else. People who cannot take responsibility for themselves seldom develop the self-discipline it takes to live a stable life. Quite often they wind up living fearful and resentful lives.
2. Doing difficult things. This ties in with taking responsibility, but is somewhat different. It involves teaching your children to step out of their comfort zones to learn something new. As a society we place higher expectations on our babies than our teenagers. We expect them to learn how to crawl, walk, talk, use eating utensils, and use a toilet. What do we expect from our teens? Sadly, not much. I have found that when we do place high expectations on teens, they will rise to the challenge. If they do not know how to do something, but also know that you expect them to do it anyway, they will take that step needed to learn how to get the job done. This also teaches them how to earn respect and to develop self-esteem.
3. Cleanliness. This is basic. Start with making their beds every morning and putting their toys away when they are done playing with them. Insist that they put dirty clothes in the hamper – not on the floor. As they grow include them in the housework. They can dust and vacuum just as well as you. Do not allow them to dirty a dish or glass and just leave it on the counter until after dinner. It takes very little time to rinse it and put it in the dishwasher, or better yet, wash it and put it in the cupboard. Cleanliness should be a habit, but it won’t be if you do not insist on it.
4. Cooking. I think this is self-explanatory. We included this in 5th grade history. We required our kids to make a Thanksgiving dinner. My wife sat at the table and gave instructions, but they had to do the actual preparation and cooking. My son is now 25 and does the lion’s share of the cooking at his house. His wife is not complaining. My daughter doesn’t really like to cook, but she can, and that is what we were striving to achieve.
5. Laundry. How many times have you seen college kids bring a duffel bag full of dirty clothes home for Mom to wash? This happens entirely too often, and there is no excuse for it. Please each your children how to do their own laundry. An 18 year old is an adult and should be able to handle a simple task like washing clothes. Have you ever taken a load of clothes out of the machine and found a button lying in the bottom of the washer? Well, they also need to learn how to sew one of those back on the shirt from which it fell.
6. Car Maintenance. I am not talking about being a mechanic. Any person who drives a car should know how to check the air pressure in the tires and change a flat one. They need to know how to check the oil and how often to have it changed. This applies to girls as well as boys. Routine maintenance on their cars should not be left up to Dad.
7. Finances. Money, geld, the long green – whatever you want to call it, your children need to know how to do more than just spend it. Make this a part of their math classes. Teach them how to balance a check book. Explain to them how your family budget works. Where does the money come from, and how is it being spent. Is there a savings plan and an emergency fund. How do credit cards work? How are they different from bank loans? Don’t forget about all of the different types of insurance. What kind will they need, and what type to avoid. Lastly, let them know that taxes are inevitable and not likely to go away. This is a good time to teach them about buying what they need, and not necessarily what the want. Maybe they will decide they don’t really have to have designer clothes afterall.
There are so many life skills that we learn during our lives, and we don’t even realize we are learning them. By incorporating some of these into your homeschooling curriculum, you will be ensuring that your children will be more prepared to leave home than many of their peers. They will thank you for it. My kids do.