Lily slowly opened the door and stepped into the room. She let her eyes adjust to the dim lights before searching for the switch. Her son Jeremy stumbled in after her, arms full of personal belongings. This was his new home.
It didn’t take long to help him settle in. A 19-year-old bachelor doesn’t start with much. Lily’s heart was both sad and happy. She was so proud of him! Jeremy had opted for a trade apprenticeship instead of college, and she and his dad were fully supportive. He had such a good head on his shoulders and was a hard worker. Lily knew he would do well.
Jeremy visited his parents often. He told them that his job was going great and offered to take them out to lunch with his new credit card. He led them to his “new” used sports car. His parents were surprised but impressed with how well he was doing!
Unfortunately, the satisfaction of parental success was abruptly interrupted one Monday morning.
Lily answered the phone to hear a frantic Jeremy on the other end of the line. He was confused and upset. His bank account was negative, and his credit card had been declined at dinner.
She was shocked. How did this happen? Jeremy was such a good kid and a hard worker. How had his finances become such a mess over just a few months?
Jeremy experienced a part of adult life that his education had failed to address. Despite their best efforts, Lily and her husband had overlooked a crucial aspect of parenthood. They had trusted the school, and the school had let them down. Jeremy’s school curriculum never covered personal finances and budgeting, and now he was in a pickle!
The sad reality is that formal education doesn’t cover everything your kid needs to know. Parents like Lily trust their children’s schools to provide comprehensive education—which often doesn’t happen.
Common Education Gaps
“Though high school and college are excellent in teaching many valuable skills, our current academic curriculum doesn’t teach many aspects necessary to succeeding and thriving in life in general…and how to apply such abilities to real-world scenarios (which are bound to occur). And some of these skills are the most important skills that we will use in our lives, with the highest stakes.”
This summary from Successful Student offers valuable insights into some areas that may be lacking in your child’s education. Where will your daughter learn to change a tire? Who will teach your son how to file his tax return or write a check? Admittedly, there are gaping holes in the current education standards.
The solution? Parents must supplement their children’s education at home.
Check your child’s specific curriculum and talk with your child’s school to narrow down which topics you want to cover at home. Here are a few good places to start:
Our friend Jeremy experienced a lack of knowledge in his personal finances, which quickly escalated into an alarming problem. Chase the Write Dream offers an idea of some beneficial financial skills that many schools don’t teach. This list can give you a general starting point with your kids:
Teach your child:
- How to create a budget
- How to open a bank account and what documents might be required
- A basic understanding of interest rates.
- How to write a check
- How to complete a deposit slip and make a deposit (both check and cash)
- How money orders work
- How to shop around for the right bank and/or credit union
The fun doesn’t stop there! Once they’re on their own, your child needs to know how the tax system works, how to prepare and file their taxes, or how to find a trustworthy tax service. These are key aspects of financial responsibility that you might want to add to your new in-home curriculum.
One more crucial financial aspect is the concept of credit. Teach your kid how a credit score works, how to apply for a credit card, interest rates, and how to use their new currency responsibly.
Try it at home: One family I know uses tax-preparation software every year to do their own taxes. When their kids started earning money as teens, they simply began including them in the tax preparation process each year.
Once the kids learned the basics, their parents offered them a little money to help prepare the family’s taxes in the following years—and incentivize them to learn!
2. Time Management
Adulthood is a never-ending carousel. Whether your kid starts a job after high school graduation, heads off to college, or even gets married, time management will be an indispensable skill in their toolbox. The Huffington Post points out a few tips and tricks that you can pass on to your teen to start them out on the right foot.
To begin with, mapping out upcoming weeks can offer a visual of priorities and make sure that nothing important gets lost in the shuffle of life. We’re in the age of technology, so your kid can make that work for them through a calendar app! A knowledge of basic scheduling can help ensure that they don’t miss important dates or forget an appointment.
A pro tip for time management is breaking big tasks into bite-sized accomplishments. This practice can help focus your child and keep large projects from getting overwhelming. Also, teach them to prep ahead of time for the next day. There’s no need to rush madly around collecting this and that, grabbing notes, and reading papers on the way out the door.
With a little bit of organizational know-how, your teen can learn how to transform daily frustrations into peaceful routines. When there is “a place for everything, and everything is in its place,” life goes much more smoothly. And speaking of a place for everything, make sure your kid knows how to budget time slots into their schedule so that they have enough time for everything. Successful adults don’t routinely overschedule or underestimate amounts of time. This can help them keep from double-booking appointments, constantly being late, and running out of time in a day to accomplish that day’s goals.
Try it at home: Do you usually run the schedule at your house? Sit down with your student at the beginning of the month and talk to them about what’s coming up. Help them create a plan for daily routines, important appointments, and reminders. Then, put them in charge of reminding YOU about what’s scheduled for each day. (For example, “Remind Mom 45 minutes before basketball practice that I need a ride.”)
Is your kid more hands-on? A planner or calendar, fun-colored pens, and sticky notes are always a good idea!
If your family has a strong faith, your school probably won’t be as concerned about passing on that faith to your children as you are. Public schools and non-faith-based private schools typically steer clear of religious topics (except possibly in social studies or literature.)
Even if you’ve carefully selected a private Christian or other faith-based school for your kids, no one is as invested in their spiritual development as you are. If you want your child to carry faith into adulthood, your influence will largely shape what beliefs they decide to adopt for themselves as they mature.
The internet is overflowing with faith-based resources to help you share your ideas of faith and morality with your kids. While you can’t—and shouldn’t—make them believe anything, your consistency, lifestyle, and thoughtful conversations can help them think through life issues through the lens of your family’s beliefs.
Try it at home: Want to pass on your beliefs to your kids? You should actively talk and read about your faith together—but first, start with yourself. Investing in your own soul will help inspire them to take your words seriously when you share with them.
4. Prepare for a Job Interview
Many schools address how to write a resume, but they often forget to teach students how to prepare for a job interview to give them the best chance to land that position. You should make sure that your kid has the basics down before they march off into the unknown.
Chase the Writer Dream suggests addressing topics such as appropriate attire for an interview and researching their prospective place of employment ahead of time. Your kid should know how to create a portfolio and even have a list of questions on hand that they can ask their prospective employer about the job and what it entails.
Try it at home: Act out a mock interview with your child, complete with interview questions, handshakes, and proper clothing choices. Bonus points for good eye contact and an engaging, interested attitude! Nobody wants to hire someone who acts like they don’t want to be there.
5. Home Economics
“Your son or daughter won’t be donning an apron during the school day anytime soon,” declares Reader’s Digest. “Cooking, cleaning, hygiene, and other family-oriented classes are few and far between at high schools around the United States. Some schools do still teach it, but the name has changed to ‘Family And Consumer Sciences’ or something similar, but not Home Ec.”
What used to be a staple class has largely disappeared from today’s school curriculum. Take a walk down memory lane and help your kid brush up on those home economics! As an adult, they won’t regret it.
Try it at home: Skills around the house aren’t a one-time lesson. Start as young as you can, requiring chores and expecting your kids to participate in cooking, laundry, cleaning, clothing upkeep, and any other job you wish you had learned when you were young!
One mom I heard of gives her middle-school children the challenge of shopping for groceries for a meal (within a set budget) and preparing that meal for the family. Of course, this was after having them help her in the kitchen for a while! This challenge is a double-whammy, covering finances and cooking skills!
6. Cursive Writing and Good Penmanship
For many, the ability to write in cursive form is outdated.
While it’s certainly not as chic as it once was, it’s still a good idea to be able to do it. The Federalist points out that writing cursive leads to reading cursive. In a professional context, this can be a beneficial skill as you decipher customers’ handwriting or read that cryptic note from your boss.
On a historical and civic level, crucial historical documents are written in cursive. With each generation, the ability to read and understand historical writing diminishes. This is not an art that should be lost.
Infobloom adds another argument for teaching your child good penmanship and even how to write correctly in cursive: “Since there is no need to pick the pencil up between letters, cursive writing is typically faster than printing. Handwriting is also very useful for situations where it’s either impossible or impractical to have a laptop handy.”
Try it at home: Make cursive fun! Treat it like a secret code to decipher…and maybe even turn it into a scavenger hunt. If your child can figure out the clues (written in cursive of course!), lead them to a treasure—like a much-anticipated prize or outing!
7. Skills for Success
Some life skills simply aren’t academic, says MumLyfe. They offer a list of suggestions for parents to teach their kids at home that they won’t learn from school:
- Positive thinking – be a problem solver, not a Debbie Downer
- Motivation – be a go-getter, propel yourself to achieve your goals
- Procrastination – understand that this is a temptation and have a plan to address it
- Passion – choose a life path that you’re inspired by, don’t settle for the easy route
- Critical thinking – is this logical? Can you believe everything you hear? How can you tell the difference between truth and lies?
- Conversation – jobs, friendships, and opportunities open to those who listen well and know how to keep the conversation flowing
Try it at home: Sit down with your child and write a list of good conversation starters and ideas for when the conversation slows down. People always like to talk about themselves, so arm them with a few good questions to get their conversational partner chatting.
Challenge them to strike up a conversation with someone new at school to practice their newfound skills.
Every adult deals with insurance—usually, many more types than we’d like! From car insurance to home or renter’s insurance and beyond, insurance is a big deal in the real world. Make sure your kid knows how to deal with this issue before stepping out on their own.
“Discuss the pros and cons of various insurance organizations, such as a Preferred Provider Organization, a Health Maintenance Organization, a Point of Service plan and of policies such as Whole Life, Term Life, and Long-Term Care insurance policies,” suggests PocketSense. “If possible, have your child research these insurance and plan types so your child can have an informed opinion about the pros and cons of each.”
Try it at home: Talk through a few scenarios (car damage, home flooding, or a health issue) with your child—and the potential costs with and without insurance. Explain how investing now can save debt and anxiety later on!
Launch Them Into the Future
Your child’s school prepares them with a basic academic foundation for life; it’s up to you to install the fixtures and appliances for them to function in the real world.
The extracurricular lessons you teach your kid will bridge the chasm between their formal education and real-life application. With a bit of forethought and some quality time together, you and your child can create a path to success despite education gaps.
It’s an investment they’ll never forget.