This topic was something I was planning to write this Holy Week but it didn’t happen. Then, a question posted by one of the moms in our homeschool groups asked about it just today and I said to myself, “There you go! Write about it.”
Having two daughters, one is 18 years old (technically and officially an adult already) and the other turning 16 soon, the life skills I taught and am still teaching them are probably more household-related and about learning how to be domesticated. But then again, I don’t think these skills are gender-biased and I honestly think boys and sons are not exempted from these life skills and should learn them as well.
When and how did or do I teach these skills to them? I can classify them into two major occasions: (1) when we do not have a household helper and (2) when THEY really have to be the one to do it themselves and not me. You’ll understand what I mean as I list them down.
(1) The life skill that would probably be easy and the first to teach would be CLEANING UP their study area or whatever place they used to work, play, or do some activities. This started early on when the were still in traditional school and continued when we shifted to homeschooling. I believe it was also a way to teach them boundaries in their work spaces and where they are allowed to freely work within those boundaries. Providing them various storage spaces and organizing materials (in fun colors, all kinds, shapes and sizes), I would say, helped a lot in making them cooperate. This skill or chore eventually moved up to cleaning up their own rooms, and although their way of cleaning up is not the same as mine (Believe me, we still argue about this often!), they now KNOW when it is time for them to do some cleaning and organizing. At least I do hear it now from them, “I need to clean my room” or “I’m going to clean my closet and take out clothes that don’t fit me or I don’t use anymore”. I used to do this for them but not anymore. Making them clean up their own study/work spaces or mess would benefit them most especially because they themselves would know where their things are kept since they were the ones who put them away after use. No blame game which could spark a fight or tension in the house (unless Mom asks for something and they couldn’t find it!)
(2) CHANGING THEIR BED SHEETS, BLANKETS, PILLOW CASES
When Arielle and Kayla got their own separate rooms, which is both a privilege and responsibility, they also had to be the one in-charge of changing their bed sheets, blankets, and pillow cases. I was going to say “MAKING THEIR BEDS” but this is still actually a work-in-progress!
(3) CLEANING THE BATHROOM including TOILET
When we do not have any helper, our girls had no choice but to help in cleaning the house and they had to clean their side of the house which is their bedrooms and bathroom. I remember fondly that they actually enjoyed the house cleaning chore one time when they were younger because they thought it was like being “Annie”, the musical!
(4) PRE-HANDWASH their underwear. I think I taught them this when they were going through puberty and when they both finally had their menstruation period. As girls, I think it’s but proper to give their own undies a pre-handwash before finally putting them in the laundry basket or before our household help gives them a final wash. And it would, of course, be better, if they know how to fully wash their undies themselves.
(5) LAUNDRY – Again, during the time we didn’t have a household helper with us in the house and couldn’t find someone to stay with us, we had to do our laundry. Back at my own home, we’ve always had a “labandera” to wash our clothes. I wasn’t used to doing this chore so we ALL LEARNED it together. We all figured out which ones would go together in one batch and in the next. Separating whites from coloured ones, putting delicates like underwear, bras, and socks in a mesh bag, turning them inside out; how to operate the washing machine and dryer, where and how much detergent and fabric conditioner to put.
When our daughter moved to Hong Kong, one of the skills I crammed in teaching her was READING FABRIC LABELS. I almost forgot to tell her to read the labels on her clothes before shoving them in the washing machine and dryer, to avoid shrinkage and unwanted damage. By learning this, she also learned to read labels before deciding to buy a piece of clothing. Will this be washer-and dryer-friendly or do I have to handwash this? Aside from the price, I think this has become of one of her deciding factors when buying clothes. With her very busy schedule, handwashing, of course, would be more time-consuming for her and would mean another chore requiring extra time.
Confession to make: I don’t know how to iron and so, this is one skill I wasn’t able to teach or haven’t taught our girls.
(6) COOKING & BAKING – With cooking and baking come a whole list of other skills to learn. You have:
- reading and following recipe instructions
- knife skills
- how to operate the stovetop hob, ovens, and different kitchen appliances
- learning the terminologies used in culinary and baking
- proper plating (at least, knowing where to finally put or how to serve them) and proper food storage
I’ve written about this skill before where our girls learned from simple to more complicated skills in the kitchen. Kayla, our soon-to-be sixteen-year old daughter, was in most, if not all, of these blogs because she was really the one more interested to cook and bake when she was younger (while Arielle, our eldest daughter was probably, happily doodling in her corner :)) You can read about our Being Absent from Books, Culinary at Home, Baking as a Life Skill, Kayla being Our Junior Chef, and Unschooling Kayla. Now that Arielle is in college by herself, exposing her in the kitchen both as a fun and forced activity made her equipped with the skills to now live independently.
IMPORTANT NOTE: PLEASE. Teach your sons and daughters how to cook. How to cook rice in a rice cooker. How to brew coffee in a coffee maker. Believe it or not, Arielle had to teach her COLLEGE friends how to do these!
(7) TABLE SETTING
I’m not big on table-setting because it’s usually just the four of us on the dinner table and we don’t throw parties. What’s more important for me is they know how to help prepare the table and do a simple setting before our family meals.
(8) DO GROCERY
The grocery is another place where you could teach a number of skills to your sons and daughters. In the grocery, our “lesson plan” usually revolves around:
- needs vs. wants
- budget (Math lessons in here!)
- making healthful choices
- reading food labels
- weighing between price and nutritional benefits
- how much quantity to buy
The girls would often come with me to the grocery and so they see and learn every time from this chore or regular routine that I do. And since they’ve seen the products I buy in the grocery, there have been times that I ask them to get a few items by themselves when I can’t do it myself, when we’re pressed for time, or like when there’s no parking available!
The other thing I taught, or crammed in teaching Arielle rather, was KNOWING WHAT MEAT CUTS TO CHOOSE AND BUY for the recipes she intends to cook. I gave her a flier from Monterey Meat Shop which had an illustration where the meat cuts came from and did an extra research online since I also realized that she may not know the English translation of some meat cuts in the recipes which are written and which we are more familiar with in Filipino.
(9) MENU PLANNING
Ahhhh…I have another confession to make. This is one of things I dislike doing. Why? Because for me, it takes E-F-F-O-R-T to think about what you would cook for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day, and that’s 3x a week! I honestly don’t how I manage to hack this skill but somehow I do. When I do plan our weekly menu, what I try to keep in mind is to have a balanced diet and have our fill of vegetables during the week. I also distribute our beef, chicken, pork, fish/seafood menus during the day and week.
The one thing that goes side by side with our menu planning is learning WHAT TO DO WITH LEFTOVERS. This is also the time when the menu plan does not go as planned, which can be a good thing, because I don’t really like throwing away food that can still be eaten. So, we try to eat and finish our leftovers immediately or come up with a recipe with them.
One of the things I asked Arielle to put together for college is a binder of her favorite and easy-to-follow recipes. I found this article on the Ultimate Planner which we try to copy for her to bring with her to college but she eventually learned to plan her menu, do grocery, and cook as she goes. She learned to do all those on the fly.
You can read more about the skills, especially kitchen-related skills, that I taught Arielle during her gap year and before finally moving to Hong Kong here.
(10) OTHER KITCHEN CHORES
Now that I’ve covered cooking, baking, doing grocery, meal planning, the girls also learned how to help out in the kitchen by:
- washing the dirty pots, pans, appliances, dishes, utensils
- cleaning the kitchen counters
- throwing garbage
- replacing the trash bins with trash bags
- mopping the floor
(11) WATERING OUR SMALL GARDEN
We have a small bermuda garden which needs to be watered twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. An extra helping hand to do this when our helper is not around is much appreciated!
(12) WALKING OUR DOG
Same with watering our garden, walking our dog in the morning and afternoon is something that must be done daily and regularly. When our helper is not around and I’m already busy in the kitchen preparing our meal, then that’s when Kayla (in this case, it’s just Kayla since she’s the only one left with me in the house) does her share and responsibility. And this includes picking up our dog’s poop!
(13) FILLING UP FORMS, MAKING BANK DEPOSITS
One opportunity that probably made me teach them how to make bank deposits was when they had to pay someone for something that they bought from them. As homeschoolers, filling up forms is not something we are used to doing. So, filling up those bank deposit slips, counting the bills and writing them down into denominations, lining up and finally making the deposit with the bank teller (Aha! Socialization skill!) is important and should not intimidate them. It is also a good opportunity to teach them to deposit their own savings in the bank and how the process goes.
Now that Arielle is in college and living independently, she now sees how her cash flows. She now understands the need to budget her allowance properly, wisely, and how to be prudent in her spending. When she just moved in to HK, I had to do one more thing for her to help her track her spending. I made a spreadsheet for her so she can plug in details of her expenses in cash and credit card. Yes, she is a supplementary cardholder because we felt it would be best for her to have one as a backup. Since at that time, we haven’t learned yet what the requirements are to open a bank account in HK (which she had extreme difficulty with and still failed to open one later on), she needed to have both cash and credit cards with her.
The girls took sewing as their HELE and at one point, we were all classmates. It is one hobby that is nice to take up and definitely another skill worth knowing. Learning to sew was one of the fun learning experiences in our homeschooling and the girls even had a chance to model their creations and help others in need with this skill.
(16) TIME MANAGEMENT
As life becomes more serious, more demanding, and schedules more hectic and rigorous as our kids get older, they need to learn how to manage their time well. Arielle’s schedule as a freshman student is VERY HECTIC and she is learning to balance all the things she needs to do in school, at home (grocery, cooking, laundry), for herself (personal time alone, with friends, and with God during Sunday mass). On the other hand, Kayla is also learning how to do her academic requirements while making time for her golf training and tournaments. I can see both of them having a tough time but I can’t do these for them. They have to learn it for themselves.
(17) DEALING with OTHER PEOPLE
Dealing AND living with other people whose ways and lifestyle are different from hers is one of the first and the biggest lessons Arielle had to deal with in college. It was tough and it still is for her. But she’s learned to speak up, accept and deal with their differences, walk away if she has to and find a place to be able to do what she needs to do, be more patient and to exercise empathy, be flexible and yet, to do what is right. It can be frustrating and exasperating for both of us, and for me as well, as I listen to her stories, but again, this is something she can’t escape from and has to learn herself. She has to learn how to deal with different kinds of people and experience it herself.
I would also like to add that learning how to DISCERN PEOPLE who would be a good company or good friends is very, very important. This is where all your character-building lessons would come in later on and would be tested.
(18) WHAT TO DO WHEN TRAVELING/GOING ON A TRIP
I almost forgot about this! This is one life skill that was fun for me to teach and for them to learn. When we had opportunities to travel locally and abroad, it was good time for me to teach them about:
Arielle and Kayla were already able to join summer marine camps and travel by plane from Manila to Bacolod and vice-versa without us. When it was time for Arielle to move to Hong Kong and fly back to Manila during her breaks, she already knew what to do.
There are so many more life skills I want and should teach our daughters, and one of them is how to commute. But because of fear and safety issues here in Manila and in our country, Mike and I would rather drive or take them to where they want or need to go, pick them up and drive home together. Commuting in Hong Kong is easy and tourist-friendly as long as one knows some navigation and map-reading skills, which I’m glad Arielle has. Another skill I would want them to learn or develop is entrepreneurship and financial literacy. On the more mechanical side, I would also love them to learn how to troubleshoot a car, to at least know how to change a flat tire (that includes me, actually!). Lastly, we all need to learn or refresh on how to administer first-aid, how to put out a fire, and how to prepare for an earthquake and what to do when there’s an earthquake.
The young ones today would say, “How do you adult?” When they say that, they are actually referring to the many life skills that they all need to know to be able go through their daily activities, routines, responsibilities, and survive at the end of each day! Did you know that there’s now an Adult School in the U.S. that intends to teach grown-up skills to young adults??? We are indeed blessed and privileged to be able to personally teach our children and have that flexibility of time because the truth is, life is not all about books, school and academics.
What life skills do you teach to your children or have taught them? What other life skills do you think they should learn?