It’s true, you have the unique opportunity to shape your child’s education in a way that aligns with their individual needs and interests. In addition to academic subjects like math, science, and language arts, you can also incorporate practical life skills that will help prepare your child for success in the real world – skills that are hardly taught in traditional schools and seem to be overlooked in many homeschool curriculums despite being applicable to 100% of our children.
Here are some tips and ideas for integrating life skills into your homeschooling education for children aged 10 and under:
1. Start with basic financial literacy
Financial literacy is a crucial life skill that your child can start learning at a young age. You can start by teaching them the value of money and how to count coins and bills (be careful with coins, our 4yo swallowed a quarter, and that debacle spanned several days!)You should also use this opportunity to introduce them to basic financial concepts like saving, budgeting, and spending.
To make it more fun and engaging, you can create a pretend store at home and allow your child to “shop” for items with play money, or if you’re willing, take a trip to the actual store and buy some items for the sake of the lesson. Alternatively, we also sometimes use chocolate chips if the money is losing its luster, but expect the currency to be eaten at that point.
You can also give them an allowance and help them manage it by setting goals and tracking their expenses. Saving up for Polly Pocket was a thing in our house, and it also taught the kids what cheap junk some toys are, driving home the point that saving for a toy that breaks is an overall bad experience.
It’s also important to introduce the concept of debt. Sometimes, I will let the kids buy a snack under the condition that they have to pay me back when we get home, so they start to have an understanding that you can receive something before paying and have a debt obligation. It wasn’t a gift, it’s debt service!
2. Teach them to cook simple meals and snacks
Cooking is an important life skill that can help your child develop healthy eating habits and save money on takeout and dining out. You can start by teaching your child how to make simple meals and snacks, such as sandwiches, salads, and smoothies. Our 8yo has progressed to making pancakes from a mix, including operating the gas range, cooking, serving, and cleaning.
To make it more fun and engaging, you can involve your child in meal planning and grocery shopping. You can also teach them about nutrition and how to make balanced meals by incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetables. I tend to hyperfocus on what I know they like (strawberries, blueberries, avocado, mango) just for the sake of building positive associations.
3. Encourage them to develop time management skills
Time management is a valuable life skill that can help your child succeed in school, work, and other areas of their life. You can encourage your child to develop time management skills by creating a schedule or planner that outlines their daily tasks and activities. We used the little Garmin digital watches that had simple timers and kept track of how many “coins” they earned for good behavior. It worked well until the dog ate two of the watches, but the lesson of operating with a time constraint was not lost.
We’ve also used a magnetic, colorful planner or a whiteboard stuck to the fridge to help them visualize their schedule. I consistently ask them “how much longer before we have to XYZ?” which has been a tremendous help in giving them a sense of time elapsed.
4. Involve them in household management tasks
Household management is an important life skill that can help your child develop responsibility and independence: cleaning, laundry, trash, feeding the dog, and putting away school supplies.
To make it more fun and engaging, you can create a chore chart or a cleaning schedule that outlines the tasks your child is responsible for. We did this in conjunction with the fancy chore-chart watch which the dog ate (I’ve learned my lesson twice, but will I be insane enough to do it a third time?). You can also incorporate tools: a vacuum, dishwasher, and screwdriver, wrench, and pliers. If they can figure out how to beat Soda Jungle in Super Mario Deluxe, they can figure out how to use tools!
5. Help them develop communication skills
Effective communication is a crucial life skill that can help your child succeed in school, work, and personal relationships. You can help your child develop communication skills by encouraging them to express themselves clearly and listen actively. “Speak up!” and “Speak with purpose!” are commonly said in our household.
We’ve also gone out of our way to teach our older two the fundamentals of debating or arguing. It’s a genuine life-skill; being able to make an argument and defend it with logos, ethos, and pathos is a skill of the successful. If you’re not sure where to start, pick up a copy of Jay Heinreich’s “Thank you for arguing.”
6. Teach them basic first aid skills
First aid is a valuable life skill that can help your child respond to emergency situations. You can start by teaching your child basic first aid skills: band-aids, Neosporin, how to clean and dress a wound, and how to call for help. As they get older, teach how to perform CPR, and how to call for help in an emergency. We have a prepper in the house, so there are always tourniquets and dressings in our bags and vehicles.
To make it more fun and engaging (and sometimes disturbing, because that’s generally why you’re reaching for a tourniquet), you can use role-playing games to help your child practice their first aid skills. You can also create a first aid kit together and teach your child how to use each item. We each have fanny pack first aid bags; the kids are proud of theirs!
7. Introduce them to basic coding and computer skills
In today’s digital age, basic coding and computer skills are becoming increasingly important. You can introduce your child to basic coding concepts by using coding games and activities, there are lots of new “codebuilders” and Osmo games that teach block-based coding in addition to the originals like Scratch or Code.org. For us, this turned into a business we have been running for the last 13 years which allows us to work from anywhere and spend a lot more family time!
Integrating life skills into your homeschooling education for children can have a significant positive impact on their development and future success. By teaching them financial literacy, cooking, time management, household management, communication, first aid, and basic coding and computer skills, you can help your child develop a well-rounded skill set that will serve them well in all aspects of their life.
By taking the time to teach your child practical skills, you are not only preparing them for the future but also empowering them to become responsible, independent, and confident individuals.