Kids learn a lot at school. Reading, writing, math, science and social studies are just the basics. Then there’s PE, Computers, Art and a foreign language for many. By the time they’re done with high school, they’re armed with a wealth of information. And yet, precious few are ready for the real world.
High school graduates are old enough to clean up after themselves and prepare a meal independently, yet most have barely any experience doing so. They have never sewn a button back on to a shirt, or cleaned their own toilets. They don’t know what to look for when renting their first house or buying their first car. They have no experience with important paperwork such as that required to open a bank account or to change their mailing address. Theoretically, homeschooled children are at an advantage because they are exposed to these tasks a lot more than their counterparts who go to school. However, unless parents take an active approach to imparting life skills to their children, they will find that their adult children aren’t ready to lead an independent life.
But where should you start? And how do you teach kids the important skills they need for the real world? Every family may have different opinions when it comes to the details, but here are some broad guidelines that will help you get started.
- Personal hygiene and grooming: Your children are ready to start taking care of themselves by age 3. Encourage your little ones to brush their teeth and wash their face on their own, but be sure to stay with them and show them the proper way to do these tasks. You can also get three-year-olds to dress themselves with help from an adult. In a year or two, your kids will be ready to do these tasks independently. By five, they should also be able to choose their clothes themselves. By eight, kids should be taking care of their personal hygiene without any reminders. If you find your kids slacking on personal hygiene, there are many fun books that you can consider to remind them of the importance of combing, brushing and bathing on a regular basis. By twelve, kids should learn how to iron their clothes. With these skills, high school graduates should be able to dress up and groom themselves for formal occasions such as a job interview.
- Cleanliness: It is important to start lessons in cleanliness early on, and teach your kids to keep their surroundings clean on a daily basis. Get your three-year-old to assist you in putting toys away. At this age, kids are also ready to take on simple tasks such as putting their used clothes in a laundry hamper and taking their used plates to the kitchen sink/dishwasher. Over the next few years, have the kids take on additional tasks such as wiping counters, clearing the table after a meal, making beds and assisting in putting laundered clothes away. By nine, your kids are ready to fold clothes, wash dishes, use a vacuum cleaner and sweep and mop floors. In a few more years, kids can start using the washing machine and dryer on their own. Many homeschooling families struggle with getting the house clean on a regular basis. Assigning chores and printing chore charts help a great deal. Ensure that each child has a list of daily tasks that stay the same, and a list of weekly tasks that are rotated.
- Finances: Learning to deal with money and manage finances is an essential skill for young adults, and one that can be learnt early in life. Your child will begin learning about money in first grade, and you can begin lessons in practical life at about the same time. Allow your young learners to count out money for you at the grocery store. By third grade, they can start going to the store for you and paying for their purchases without help. If your kids play pet games like Neopets, encourage them to get involved with monetary tasks in the game such as setting up a bank account, investing in stocks and running a store. This will give them a deep understanding of the economy that is hard to teach any other way. It will also teach them about important aspects of managing money as an adult. Give them pocket money and have them buy the toys they want out of their own money to teach budgeting and careful spending.
- Food and nutrition: Help your kids learn what goes into their daily meals by involving them in your kitchen chores. Get your seven year olds to assist you in simple tasks such as measuring out ingredients, stirring and pouring. Teach them to make no-cook dishes such as sandwiches without help. By the time they’re ten, they’re ready to follow a recipe and prepare a simple meal. You can also get their opinion while planning meals for the week and encourage them to take into consideration the ingredients on hand and nutritive value while making their suggestions. In a few more years, they can plan meals, create grocery lists, go grocery shopping and cook the entire meal independently.
Obviously, this list is far from complete. Think about the other skills you want your kids to have by the time they’re adults and then go about giving them the experiences they need to develop those skills. It’s not going to come to them any other way!
Corinne Jacob is a wannabe writer who is convinced that kids learn best when they’re having fun. She is constantly on the lookout for new and exciting ways to make learning an enjoyable experience. Corinne loves all things that scream out un-schooling, alternative education and holistic learning.