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Students Should Learn Some Life Skills Before College

Among others, that means learning to balance a checkbook and wash sheets.

Yesterday, I received a stack of unopened mail that was forwarded to me from my son’s mailbox at college. They were all bank statements (balance = $25.00).  When I asked why he didn’t check his mail before he left he said, “Mom, nobody checks their mail.” (giant eye roll)

Of course! How prehistoric of me! I’ve had many college students I work with tell me they never check their email either, which accounts for the large percentage of college students who have no idea what their grades are at the end of the semester. This made me think about life skills.

When I was still a classroom teacher, there was a class at my school just for kids with learning disabilities (LD). About once a week, this class went on field trips throughout the community to learn life skills. They visited a supermarket, a bank, McDonalds, and so on.

Often a regular education class would accompany them as volunteers. The day my class went was the trip to the Dollar Store, right before Christmas. The LD students had made lists of family members for whom they wanted to buy presents.

In addition to the LD students, my students learned to calculate sales tax to make sure they had enough money to buy something, count their change, and make a list before going shopping. I learned the hard way never to take a 4th grade class where there are glass flowers and narrow aisles, but I always thought these trips were a great idea and should be incorporated into the curriculum for all students.

Now, I’m not addressing why high school graduates don’t have the skill set to make a grilled cheese sandwich, that’s a whole separate article. Since that ship has sailed by the time kids are of college age, I think we need to focus on getting them up to speed on various life skills before sending them off.

I propose mandatory hands-on classes they must pass, like doing laundry, balancing their checkbooks (online — I know they don’t have actual checkbooks), changing the cartridge on their printers, etc. There should be a test they must pass where they demonstrate life skills in real life environments, much like that field trip, before being allowed to check into their dorms.

Of course, that would require parents hanging around, which may impede the process since they may want to perform the life skills for their children (hint: that’s probably what got them there in the first place). To prevent this, parents should be duct taped to their hotel beds until their kid passes the test. 

I do know many parents who try to teach life skills to their kids. My boys have been doing their own laundry for years so I thought my son was all set in that area. I clearly forgot to tell him he needs to wash his clothes and change his sheets since they walked themselves into our washing machine when he got home.

Or, more likely, I did tell him and he just didn’t do it. It is my hope that teaching life skills before kids go to school may cut down on the 1,000+ texts in the first month asking why the bank says they have no money when they still have checks, if it’s okay to Febreze instead of doing laundry, and how to refill their acne prescriptions. 

Susan Schaefer June 10, 2012 at 08:20 PM
You are so right Saul! One of my biggest pet peeves:-)
Cornelius (Neil) Lynch June 11, 2012 at 03:38 PM
School can take on only so much of the slack that a home may have left unattended. In addition, any given child whether at home or elsewhere has to be tuned in to the message. One of my "learnable moments" came back in the late 1950s when my very generous teaching certificate (history major) opened the door to my being assigned to teach "Junior Business Training" to high school students. Holy Moley! I didn't even have a checking account. I learned fast; I had to. It was the one class I taught in my more than 4 decades of teaching when I could truly say, I learned more than the students. For some odd reason, the course was never again assigned to me . . . .
Malvi Lennon June 11, 2012 at 06:45 PM
I agree on teaching new classes such as business 101 since self-employment should be discussed with all students. I also believe in work experience. We had that at my high school (back in the Stone Age) and it worked well because students could earn some money, learn a work ethic and get a grade too. I believe in requiring an amount of community service hours (to be performed at venue of choice including church) to teach kids to become involved in their community. However, teaching a class on how to do laundry, make a sandwich, clean a room or change the linens? Common folks are kids this far removed from family life. Are they being raised in barns or households? Do they live in filth? Do they ever eat a meal at home? Do they see mom or dad cook or do household chores? Are they responsible to complete household chores before having any privileges? Is school required to take over all parental responsibilities? Is society responsible for providing for what is clearly a parental role? If the answer is yes, – we as a people and as a society are broken beyond repair –.
Cornelius (Neil) Lynch June 12, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Considering the infinite variety of American families, the answer to any of these questions is "Yes," as it would be when I was growing up in the 1930s and '40s.
Michele Sfakianos June 12, 2012 at 08:31 PM
I totally agree - hence why I wrote "The 4-1-1 on Life Skills". Every graduating senior should receive a copy!!

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