This past year has been challenging, to say the least. For those of us with children, there have been additional struggles due to the necessity of school closures or balancing childcare while working from home. The costs associated with this have already disproportionately affected the financially strained middle classes. Needless to say, these issues have been met with very little government support or guidance.
In the absence of the financial advantages of the wealthy, we must use our creativity and intelligence — academic and emotional — to create positives from this difficult time. As such, many of us are recognizing that it may be more appropriate for our kids to spend this time away from the classroom engaging with more practical life lessons.
This raises the question of what types of skills are best to teach our children at this time. What lessons represent both practical value and are achievable without specialist instruction or equipment? Let’s delve into what can help our children grow through this pandemic toward becoming capable, proactive citizens.
One of the advantages of kids being at home is the opportunity to use the operation of the home itself as a learning tool. While school can do an excellent job of providing some personal and social education, many kids still go into the real world without a practical knowledge of how to keep a home in order. Sure, they’ll learn a lot from trial and error when they get their own places. But now is a great time to teach them some abilities that will stand them in good stead.
Alongside their normal chores, show them that when something in the home goes wrong there isn’t necessarily a need to call out a professional. Teach your kids the early warning signs of potential damage to the property. Introduce them to the sounds that could indicate a leak in the water pipes or whistling in the windows that could suggest worn weather stripping. Give them the freedom to get hands-on in the repairs, but give them the guidance they need to stay safe while doing so.
Among the most important skills that you can teach your kids from home during this time is self-sufficiency. This doesn’t just mean the physical repairs, it also about the economics of running a home. Give them some insight into the costs of your home, and how you build a budget accordingly. Introduce them to accounting software and apps you use to keep everything in order. Show them that the costs of running a home might seem overwhelming, but these economic strategies help to make it manageable. This not only improves their practical math skills but also gives them insight into the not so obvious expenses— taxes, utilities, savings — that help to keep home life sustainable.
The world isn’t completely cut off to you and your children. There are still opportunities for you to safely explore what the outside world has to offer as well as teach them more about the tools they can use to discover the world. For older preteens and teenagers, diving into the finer points of owning a vehicle can be a fascinating and practical experience.
Vehicle maintenance can double up as a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) lesson and provide practical skills. Let kids get their hands dirty as you show them that there are aspects of a car the owner can take care of themselves to ensure performance and safety — not to mention save money. Talk them through the theory behind the features of the car — the internal combustion engine, the brakes, even how tire wear can affect adherence to the road. Then work together to change spark plugs, replace brake pads, and top up fluids. This approach helps to give them context about why they’re taking these actions.
If your child has reached an appropriate age, this can also be the perfect time to begin teaching them how to drive. When the roads are quiet due to most people being busy at work, this presents opportunities to help them build their confidence and knowledge behind the wheel. Discuss the common habits that can result in distracted driving and why they can be dangerous. Help them to understand that cell phone use, eating or drinking, and fixing your appearance have no place while in control of a vehicle. This will help them to become skilled and responsible drivers.
Health and Wellness
This year has highlighted just how important it is to understand our healthcare. Not only does health education improve our own wellness, it also puts us in a better position to make decisions when challenges such as this pandemic come along. Alongside the specifics of hygiene and sanitation both inside and out of the home that are common in our current crisis, there are other practical lessons to learn.
The fundamentals of first aid are valuable parts of a practical education. There will likely be times in your kid’s life that they will either be subject to or in the vicinity of accidents, and they mustn’t have just the skills but the confidence to respond. If you are unable to teach them how to dress wounds or perform CPR, there are organizations — such as the Red Cross that provide online and in-person training and support materials.
Beyond emergency scenarios, this can also be a great time to give your kids an awareness of their general health and wellness. Teach them about exercise routines, and how to plan and cook nutritionally balanced meals. Don’t ignore the importance of good mental health habits, either. Teach them how to include meditation and mindfulness as a part of their everyday routine. Show them how to responsibly recognize, assess, and handle the negative stimuli present in the media, and our society in general.
Academic classes are far from the only valuable form of education. During lockdown, parents have the opportunity to pass on practical skills to their kids that they may not have the chance to gain in school. Not only can these lessons fit around parents’ already busy schedules, but they can help their children develop into better-rounded, capable people.