Sometimes our children are singularly focussed on only their interest.  This leaves them less well-rounded.  Some schools stress only academics, again leaving their students less well-round.  Sadly, many schools have eliminated or reduced educational opportunities for music, art, home economics, and shop or trade classes.  These leaves students without learning some basic life skills that we learned while we were in school.  For some gifted children, their academic skills are so advanced that they look inept in other skills.  In addition, asynchronicity can affect them and also have them looking inept in some life skills.  All of this is further reason why we as parents need to teach our own children other skills beyond just academics. This means as parents, we need to step up to teach our children some critical life skills that they need beyond just academics such as money management, media literacy, gun safety, cooking skills, cleaning skills, finding a hobby, tinkering, and trade skills.

Money management. Money math is not taught in most schools.  The students who choose to take an economics course in high school may be the only ones getting real exposure to lessons on money management.  However, given the lack of savings by Americans and the exponential rise in student debt it is extremely important that all children get lessons on money management starting when they are little.  There are all kinds of programs and banks for teaching children about saving, spending and giving or donating.  But, money management is more than just giving children an allowance and having them allocate between save, spend, and give.  It is the active teaching them about debit cards, credit cards, checking accounts, savings account, and retirement savings.  Our son has been coming to our annual financial advisor meetings and hearing all the discussions on investments, life insurance, debt management, and retirement planning.  We have worked hard with him on understanding a need versus want.  If it is something he wants, he has to pay for it.  If it is something he needs and he can prove that it is a need instead of a want, then we pay.  There are also times we split the cost.  He also created a gift wish list of his wants for the extended family to consider for his birthday or Christmas.  The point is, he recognizes the differences between needs and wants and he knows everything has a cost.  We have been bringing him grocery shopping and putting him in charge of the calculator so he can calculate unit cost if the price tag doesn’t list it.  We have certain food items that we need specific brands but for others, we have taught him how to do a price comparison and to understand when buying in bulk is a better deal.  He has heard the conversations when vacation planning regarding best airfare, lodging deals, car rental deals, and the looking for free activities as well as places where our memberships have reciprocity.  We also talk to him about taxes (sales, property, and income) and every year we review our tax return with him.  We want him to understand all aspects of money.

Media literacy.  Media literacy is extremely important for our children.  They are growing up completely surrounded by social media and instant notifications.  However, there is so much information and misinformation that children (and adults) do not always know what is factual.  I previously wrote on the issues of media and news literacy and provided links to resources for teaching media and news literacy.  We need our children to understand the media that they are exposed to as well as learning how to make proper arguments and understanding logical fallacies.  With the amount of time our children are exposed to the screen with some form of media, it is important that they learn how to think critically and analyze information.

Gun safety. Gun safety is important for all people, but especially those living in America.  Given the current events, it is critical that we as parents have a conversation about gun safety with our children.  Not all gun owners are as responsible as they should be in storing their guns safely. We as parents do not know what is going on in another person’s house in terms of if guns are in the house, are they loaded or unloaded, are they locked, etc.  For those parents who do not own guns but are in areas where lots of people do own guns, it is important that your children know what to do if they see a gun when at a friend’s or different family member’s house.  Guns are not toys and this needs to be stressed to all children.  If they see a gun, they need to report it to an adult.  They should not touch it or pick it up.  There have been too many cases of young children and toddlers accidentally shooting a gun at another child.  Thus, it is important as parents that we have these difficult conversations on gun safety.  If you do not feel comfortable talking to your child about guns, there are numerous gun ranges that have gun safety classes for children and hunting safety classes.  Field and Stream, Safe Kids, and Kids Health have suggestions for teaching children gun safety.  The important part is teaching kids that guns are not toys, they should not touch the gun, and they need to get an adult.  And, if they see a child at school with a gun, they need to report it.

Cooking skills.  Some kids love cooking and eating, but some do not.  And, we all know the same is true for adults.  However, every child needs to know how to do basic cooking.  With many schools no longer having home economics class, some kids never even try to cook until they leave the house.  Instead, we as parents need to involve our children in meal preparation.  They don’t have to be expert chefs.  Every child before they leave the house should know how to make at least 3 simple meals, do grocery shopping, and meal plan. Knowing how to cook can save on food expenses versus eating out for every meal (I know adults who ate out for 2 meals a day).  Knowing how to cook can also help with being healthier.

Cleaning skills. Cleaning skills might be considered chores by some.  I also know that there are some families who have maids and nannies which means their children never have to do cleaning chores.  However, once children leave the home, many do not have the money to afford a maid and some will still depend on their moms to do laundry.  This is why I have cleaning skills on the list of what every child needs to learn.  In addition, we don’t have a maid or lawn service company (a rarity where we leave).  These chores have to be done by us.  It is not that hard to teach a child how to use the vacuum, washing machine, dryer, and dishwasher.  In fact, my son loves to vacuum!  He knows how to start all of the appliances.  Because I use too big of a soap container, he can’t get the soap into the washing machine but he knows what settings are for bedding versus clothes.  He can transfer laundry for me and he can unload.  I admit he is not a good folder.  But the point is, he understands cleaning chores have to be done and he knows how to do the basic ones.  The goal is to get him to do these completely independently.  And the next step is to work on him doing the lawn maintenance chores.  Houses, clothes, and dishes do not magically clean themselves.  Children contribute to the messes and thus children need to learn how to help clean and maintain a house.

Finding a hobby or leisure activity. Many children are over scheduled.  They don’t have downtime and some don’t have any interests besides their academics.  Teaching children how to have a hobby and what a hobby looks like is a critical life skill.  Many adults work to support their hobbies and some have turned their hobbies into work.  Hobbies are important because it is usually something you enjoy and can be a source of stress relief.  Some hobbies involve a group and others don’t.  Hobbies could be craft related, sport related, flying, strategy gaming, reading, traveling, etc.  The point is, teaching children about hobbies and exposing them to various leisure activities can help them be more well-rounded and have an outlet for stress relief.

Tinkering.  Tinkering is a new part of education and is part of a bigger global community.  Some schools and libraries now have makerspaces that children and adults can use for making just about anything.  However, some children do not have access to these places.  This is where parents can come in to create opportunities for tinkering.  Although playing with 3D printers and CNC cutters is amazing, there are simpler ways for kids to learn tinkering.  Letting children of all ages take things apart and reassemble or better yet use those parts to make something different is a great way to allow creativity to blossom.  The point of the tinkering movement is allowing people to make things that solve a problem they have or just for the sake of making something out of stuff they have.  Tinkering can also be fixing or repairing what is broken to extend its usefulness longer than the typical buy-break-buy cycle than many people do.  Tinkering can also lead to art formation.  Tinkering on the cheap just entails having a simple tool set and cell phone repair kit so you can take about just about anything.  Then, let your child’s imagination and creativity go in terms of what they want to do or make with those parts.  There are also some beginner robot and Arduino kits and lots of online programs that are free or low cost for taking the tinkering to the next level of robotics and programming (Arduino, raspberry pi, launchpad, Adafruit, etc.).  There are also books that are available at many libraries: Tinkerlab, Invent to Learn, Exploralab, 50 Dangerous Things You Should Never Let Your Children Do, Maker Dad, The Big Book of Hacks, and Make: Tinkering (Make has a magazine and lots of books).

Trade skills.  Trade skills is a broad area but an important one, especially since many schools have completely eliminated these programs and every person depends on a tradesperson to keep their cars, workplace, or homes running.  Our children don’t need to know every single trade out there.  However, understanding what electricians, plumbers, woodworkers, and auto mechanics do is extremely important.  Knowing about the tools the trades use is helpful.  Regardless of where one lives there will be a time when something breaks.  When we call a repair person, it is the perfect learning opportunity for our children to see what they do.  In addition, learning some of these trades means they may potentially save themselves on future repair bills.  Having an understanding of how a car engine works and what is routine maintenance can help reduce auto repair costs.  Having just some basic or introductory knowledge could help when explaining what is wrong to the mechanic or repair person at your house and lower your bill because you won’t be billed for a service you didn’t need.  In addition, having some understanding of the trades can help build appreciation for those who do these needed jobs.  And, learning some of these trades can lead to some interesting hobbies, side jobs, or even future careers.

I am sure that there are additional areas that students can and should learn.  However, I picked these as the most critical due to seeing so many high school students and college students lacking these skills.  I have also heard from friends about the recent college graduates looking good on paper but lacking functional life skills.  I have heard and seen the college kid saving several weeks worth of laundry for their moms.  I have even heard some college students asking their parents to hire them a maid and increase their food budget for eating out.  We have friends who didn’t figure out balancing debt until they were in their 30s and we all know people who never get out of debt.  In addition, many current events highlight the need for our children to learn more than just academics and test-taking skills.  At some point, our children will have to live on their own and we all want them to be successful and independent.

This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop on “Beyond Academics.”  I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page and elsewhere for their inspiration, support, and suggestions.

Please click on the graphic below (created by Pamela S Ryan–thanks!) to see the other Hoagies’ Blog Hop participants, or cut and paste this URL into your browser: