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Life's Small -- and Big -- Lessons

Maybe it's because I grew up near and around water, but swimming is something I consider a "life skill." There's no question that the boys will take lessons until I know that they are strong swimmers. It's unthinkable to me that they not learn to be safe and strong in the water. I'm always amazed when friends are not solid swimmers. Even dear husband, who can handle the water, could use a few lessons by my former competitive swimmer/lifeguard standards. But obviously, swimming isn't the kind of life skill taught in school, though it's important all the same.

Other life skills that they'll learn as they grow up: How to cook a meal; how to do laundry; how to manage money; how to read a map; how to get along with different types of people and personalities.

Obviously, schools can't teach every skill to every child. Reading, writing, math -- those are the focus. Music, maybe. Art, sometimes. Sports, a bit. Tying shoes, not a chance. Computers, definitely.

What life skills do you consider important for your kids to learn? What do you do to teach them those skills? What skills get the short end of the stick?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  July 9, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Preschoolers , Tweens
Previous: The Debate: Teen Drinking | Next: Food Fear

Comments


Reading a map??? Every young kid now will have a navigation system in their phone, watch and car by the time they grow-up, maps will go the way of the 8-track!!

Important Life Skills to Teach: compassion, importance of education, soccer ;), sharing & financial skills to name a few.

Posted by: HappyDad | July 9, 2007 7:16 AM | Report abuse

I think one is teaching children that everything they do is a choice and regardless of the choice, they should accept the consequences.
So, they should stop to think about the consequences before they take any action and if they choose something that is not the best choice, then they take the punishment and don't make excuses or expect someone to bail them out. In other words - be responsible for your own actions.

Posted by: Qwerty | July 9, 2007 7:38 AM | Report abuse

Hot topic for this SAHM! Parents are a child's first, longest-lasting and most influential teachers. Children watch what we do more than listen to what we say. As a former public school teacher, I cannot emphasize this enough to parents out there. Please remember that until teachers are paid a decent salary - across the country - the average child's education is likely to be just that.

Isn't it a moral imperative for parents to teach their children all life skills? Or to find someone elso who can? The school where I taught recently does have a survival swimming program for elementary children. However, I made sure my children began lessons before they even attended gradeschool. Morals, manners, money...again, children watch what we do, first. Most of life's lessons fall into place when you center them around loving (a higher power and) yourself and loving your neighbor, from room cleaning to picking up trash in your neighborhood.

That being said, I think the lessons that get the shortest end of the stick are: manners/compassion and the art of managing boredom (is it healthy for every spare moment to be filled up with organized sports, tutoring and/or video games?).

Posted by: LilMom | July 9, 2007 7:51 AM | Report abuse

I think it hilarious that someone thinks there is no need to learn to read a map because some electronic crutch will always be available. I guess if a child stays his life near a vehicle or can always has a GPS receiver that may be true, but there's something to be said about being able to figure out where you are on a map without having an electronic middleman telling you first.

Financial skills, swimming, basic first aid, how to relate to other people, cooking, driving (for teens obviously), and just basic personal responsibility are all good life skills to teach (by someone!) to children as they grow.

Posted by: John L | July 9, 2007 7:57 AM | Report abuse

I'm pretty sure tying shoes is even less a life skill than reading a map. Even adult running shoes now come as slip-ons.

School rarely introduces new concepts to my child--we're about 6 months to a year ahead in what we discuss and introduce to our child.

The important thing to learn in school is how to get along with people you don't much like.

The most important thing I have to teach my child is how to take care of himself. I'm not sure my son's friends are going to know how to do that.

Posted by: dynagirl | July 9, 2007 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Reading maps, bus schedules, etc. contribute to functional literacy. Why wouldn't you want this for your child, "HappyDad"?? In the end, a navigation system IS a map.

Maps offer all of the following:
**A cool way to plot a scenic drive in the countryside
**Understand topography for hikers, home builders, engineers, etc.
**Understand the world and its geographic and political boundaries.
**IMAGINE, what it's like at a big lake and DREAM, of new places to see and visit.

An electronic navigation system will help you get to where you KNOW you want to go. A map will help you discover all the alternatives, and understand that a world exists outside the line between Points A and B.

"HappyDad", please reconsider what you posted, especially in light of what you pass on to your kids.

Posted by: Sakura | July 9, 2007 8:11 AM | Report abuse

When I was growing up in Arlington County, they actually did teach students to swim. I remember getting taken to the pool once a year during, I believe, 4th, 5th, and 6th grades. If my memory serves, we were taken on a Monday morning and they asked us to swim across the pool. The children that didn't pass "the test" were given swimming lessons each morning for the remainder of the week. By the time 6th grade rolled around, it seemed almost all the children could swim.

I believe learning how to swim - like learning how to read a map and how to drive a car - are true life skills in that they can truly save your life.

Posted by: Vienna Mom | July 9, 2007 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Money skills!! How to count back change if you don't have a cash register that will tell you what the change is. It amazes me at how many sales clerks cannot do that. If I give them $20.01 for something that costs $18.76, unless they put it in the cash register they can't figure it out! Also, how to estimate discounts and sales tax to know if you have enough money to buy something. I have been teaching my kids this since they started buying stuff with their own money.

Posted by: MDMom | July 9, 2007 8:25 AM | Report abuse

"Reading a map??? Every young kid now will have a navigation system in their phone, watch and car by the time they grow-up, maps will go the way of the 8-track!!"

I'm not teaching my kids math. There are calculators and computers now that do all the silly adding and subtracting.

Posted by: to HappyDad | July 9, 2007 8:29 AM | Report abuse

How to swim. The value of being polite and respectful. How to keep a secret. Why it's important to vote. How to listen. The value of travel. How to agree to disagree. The importance of family and friends.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | July 9, 2007 8:57 AM | Report abuse

I have to admit, I was a little concerned when it took my 10 year old son over 20 minutes to take the back wheel off his bicycle to change the tire. Obviously, the boy needs a little training with tools.

My 4 year old, having been put to task by his older sisters to stand up in a chair by the stove to stir in the butter, milk, and cheese for the macaroni said something really cute yesterday. "Eww, it sounds like all the noodles are kissing one another!"

Posted by: Lil Husky | July 9, 2007 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Ooops, what I meant to add to my 9:05 was that some of the most important things in life just can't be taught; for example, how to get other to love you for all the right reasons.

If a person feels loved, they are happy!

Posted by: Lil Husky | July 9, 2007 9:11 AM | Report abuse

How to say no to sexual advances.
When to say no to sexual advances.

How to use a condom for those times you say yes.

Karen Rayne
http://www.adolescentsexualitytoday.blogspot.com

Posted by: Karen Rayne | July 9, 2007 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Just a few things here...
-how to manage a household-- basic stuff like how to fix a running toilet or what to do if a circuit breaker flips (I know so many people who don't know this stuff).
-how to use basic tools to do household repairs.
-how to cook.
-how to balance your checkbook, and how to handle credit cards
-how to deal with bullies
-how to argue in a productive way
-how to take responsability for your actions

Posted by: va | July 9, 2007 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Just a few things here...
-how to manage a household-- basic stuff like how to fix a running toilet or what to do if a circuit breaker flips (I know so many people who don't know this stuff).
-how to use basic tools to do household repairs.
-how to cook.
-how to balance your checkbook, and how to handle credit cards
-how to deal with bullies
-how to argue in a productive way
-how to take responsability for your actions

Posted by: va | July 9, 2007 9:23 AM | Report abuse

How to do research, and how to differentiate a reliable source from an unreliable one.

How to view media with a critical eye.

Posted by: reston, va | July 9, 2007 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Learning that everyone has an agenda. Sometimes that agenda is good, sometimes it is not. However, if you can figure out WHY a person is doing something, you're halfway to figuring out the best way of dealing with them.

Posted by: Matthew | July 9, 2007 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Geography - perhaps related to the whole "reading a map" thing, but this should probably be taught both in school and through travel with family.

Code Switching - i.e. the ability to act/speak differently in different situations. To some this might be manners, but it is also about knowing that it is okay to relax and speak casually around friends, just not everybody.

"The Talk" - The birds and the bees, alcohol, and drugs. I certainly think younger (within limits) is better.

Respect for the Law/what to do about the Law when you disagree with it - i.e. Just because you disagree with something does not mean that you can break the rules. This is also teaching that laws can be changed if the right route is taken.

Work Ethic - Or, more specifically, that in the real world you have to work hard to get ahead. Even people who don't actually have to work hard to get ahead could use to at least think they had to.

Posted by: David S | July 9, 2007 9:58 AM | Report abuse

The most important lesson is to teach life resiliency. They need to grow up realizing that life isn't fair, but they can strive to do their best. Next in importance is the ability to survive on their own if necessary: how to cook nutritiously, clean passably and be able to get their selves from one point to another (either driving & car skills, public transportation skills, or even cycling & walking).

Posted by: Barbara | July 9, 2007 10:00 AM | Report abuse

I never learned to swim and haven't drowned yet. We were never around water when we were growing up. Only rich people learned to swim. I've tried on two occasions since becoming an adult but never got past the shallow end of the pool. The terror of water is still there, so I just avoid going into the water.

Kids need to learn: Work ethics -- showing up for work on time, doing the work you're being paid to do, not sneaking out early or spending all day on personal phone calls.
Social skills: Chatting with someone at a social event, sending thank you notes for gifts they receive, offering to help someone who needs help like an elderly or handicapped person, getting along with someone whose ideas are different from yours.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 9, 2007 10:14 AM | Report abuse

To Sakura and others.....

The reading a map comment was meant to be sarcastic and funny. I don't think that always comes across in posts. Of course I understand the imprtnace of a map.

I guess I should have said I wasn't going to teach my kids to walk because of those new roller shoes that everyone has....maybe that would have been evident as a joke.

Posted by: HappyDad | July 9, 2007 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Yes to most of what has been posted AND
--how to pick a job that will be pleasurable, yet make enough to get by, because money does not buy happiness.
--how to resist advertising and not shop impulsively
--how to say no when they really don't want or don't need something being thrust upon them

Posted by: underthetulippoplar | July 9, 2007 10:30 AM | Report abuse

I never learned to swim and haven't drowned yet. We were never around water when we were growing up. Only rich people learned to swim. I've tried on two occasions since becoming an adult but never got past the shallow end of the pool. The terror of water is still there, so I just avoid going into the water.

Kids need to learn: Work ethics -- showing up for work on time, doing the work you're being paid to do, not sneaking out early or spending all day on personal phone calls.
Social skills: Chatting with someone at a social event, sending thank you notes for gifts they receive, offering to help someone who needs help like an elderly or handicapped person, getting along with someone whose ideas are different from yours.

Posted by: | July 9, 2007 10:14 AM

Didn't realize this was all about you foisting your inadequacies and fears on the next generation. If everything labeled "what rich kids do" is off-limits to your children, you are a pretty sorry adult to be in the village.

Swimming, how to use a compass, how to survive in the woods for 2 - 3 days on your own (otherwise known as put your food high in a tree and away from your tent so the bears don't have to kill you to get to the Snickers' bars), how to read a bus map and figure out public transportation in a city you're visiting -- these are fundamental survival skills we owe our kids.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 9, 2007 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Add How to make your decisions and how to live gracefully with the results of those decisions.

Posted by: Burke Mom | July 9, 2007 10:48 AM | Report abuse

I agree with swimming, politeness, on-time for work, etc. But to not consider constructivism as children grow and how what they learn today can be reflected on later in life to add to lessons and improve. And we can't forget how all learning fits with current standards both parental, cultural, and societal. My wife and I have begun to teach the twins lessons that they can use today and into the future. Raising children today is a competitive sport just like having a grand accessory.

Caret Class: How to tell a 2 from a 3 caret ring. Cuts and clarity what looks good what doesn't.

Find the logo: How to tell one logo from another and which ones have more value. We give three points for Prada, 5 for Chanel, 1 for the GAP, 2 for Phat Farm, etc. Besides teaching them how to identify who is hot who is not, they can add and subtract ahead of kids in their class. (Identifying a knock off as a logo you loose 5 points.)

Menu Moments: Ordering food at four-star restaurants. Don't assume we take them, we are not indulgent parents. We download the menus and all sit and practice. It so cool to watch them pronounce Seared New York State Foie Gras with Pruneau d'Agen
Rosemary-Apple Purée and Armagnac Sauce from Bouley. While there peers Jones for Chicken McNuggets my girls look forward to Serrano Ham, Parmesan Reggiano and 25-Year Old Balsamic Vinegar

Vacation Values: We go online and show the girls Rock Resorts in Caribbean staying at, Paris, Rome, etc. Each has a mini photo album (from downloads) that they can whip out with friends and parents to show where they have been and where they want to go.

Avoiding the Average: Just what it says. How to steer clear of those not quite there.

These are just some of the lessons we teach because we know it is a competitive world and you have to show you are more Tribeca then the next parent. What do you have children for if not to show off how great you are.

Posted by: NYC | July 9, 2007 11:02 AM | Report abuse

NYC, I am spitting out my coffee here. Stop, I'm begging you!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | July 9, 2007 11:06 AM | Report abuse

"What do you have children for if not to show off how great you are."

Soo true.


Posted by: Anonymous | July 9, 2007 11:13 AM | Report abuse

You white people are so funny. Teaching your kid "life skills"? Yeah, reading a map and learning how to swim are really important things that EVERY kid needs to learn. Pshaw! That's some serious suburban middle-class BS!

Why don't you add "learning the polka" and "using the right fork"?

I'm teaching my kid REAL life skills. Like how to get a job and be a man. How to avoid being forced into a gang. How to position your furniture so stray bullets don't hit you while you're sleeping. How to avoid teenage pregnancy.

THOSE are life skills.

But since it's summer now, I've tried to add a few funner activities. Today, we learned how to open fire hydrants on the street. Yesterday, I taught him how to steal power from ConEd.

Good luck with "dear husband's" swim lessons. Sounds just peachy keen!

Posted by: 'Hood Dad | July 9, 2007 11:45 AM | Report abuse

HUMILITY, above all, because it is the source of compassion, empathy, caring, and selflessness (the most important qualities you can help instill in your children).

Posted by: philadelphia | July 9, 2007 11:49 AM | Report abuse

To NYC-
I am generously assuming that your posts (today and others) are meant to have a sort of David Sedaris dark humor to them. Maybe they would in another context. They are like nasty little knives stabbing honest posters in this context, and make you seem quite hateful.

Posted by: NashvilleMom | July 9, 2007 11:53 AM | Report abuse

I'm teaching my kid REAL life skills. Like how to get a job and be a man. How to avoid being forced into a gang. How to position your furniture so stray bullets don't hit you while you're sleeping. How to avoid teenage pregnancy.


Well, a lot of white people seem to be born knowing those things, Hood Dad. (You started it.)

Posted by: Anonymous | July 9, 2007 11:54 AM | Report abuse

'Hood Dad-

Give me a break. Actually someone did say they would teach them how to say no to unwanted sexual advances and how to use a condom.

Since when did teaching your kid to "be a man" include taching him to steal city water and power?

You have access to a computer and the internet and time to blog during the day, so let's not pretend you are doing manual labor for minimum wage.

Posted by: NashvilleMom | July 9, 2007 12:00 PM | Report abuse

'Hood Dad

"I'm teaching my kid REAL life skills. Like how to get a job and be a man. How to avoid being forced into a gang"

Interesting that you think you can succeed where so many have failed...

Posted by: Anonymous | July 9, 2007 12:07 PM | Report abuse

I homeschool, so I have a huge advantage in teaching skills :

How to check/change oil in a car.
How to cook several meals, read a recipe, making a shopping list, grocery shop within a budget.
Have a job, keep a job.
How to talk to people--any people, all people.
How to question ads, political speeches, religious views, and most everything else.
How to be physically healthy; to exercise, to know what is healthy to eat.
How to do laundry, vacuum, make a bed, scrub a toilet, mop a floor, mow a lawn, iron a shirt.
How to tie a tie.
How to wear a suit.
Change a flat tire, tune-up a car.
Read a map, find countries on a map, measure distance and convert to time.
Eat different foods from different countries.
How to read for pleasure and self-improvement.
How to entertain one's self; without TV or video games.
How to take a chance, try something new, evaluate risks.
How to be socially active, how to choose a cause, how to involve oneself.
How to go past the "I care" stage into an "I do something" stage.
How to find compassion and kindness in oneself and others.
How to tell a joke, make someone feel welcome, and put a new roll of TP in the bathroom.

That's a partial list :)

Posted by: Eve | July 9, 2007 12:13 PM | Report abuse

How about a high respect for education. This has to be done by example - and by pointing out the fun that can be had. Start reading to them at 2 months. When my daughter went to college registration for the first time she told the advisor she was interested in so many classes - which thrilled the advisor - they get tooo many "duh, i don know"

Another, teach diversity. This has to be done by exposure to it...a summer camp far away, take French or Chinese, travel, going to the country - or to the city. The US is so large it is easy to have a narrow view.

Posted by: sir_ken_g | July 9, 2007 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Eve

"I homeschool, so I have a huge advantage in teaching skills :"

What's the huge advantage?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 9, 2007 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I second Karen Rayne on the sexual stuff: teach your children the personal boundaries of their bodies, and the ability to say NO to anyone infringing on those boundaries, especially that it is okay to stand up to adults on this.

It might be considered a luxury, but some basic self-defense and mediation skills are great for kids to know (this can help with bullies, too).

Also, basic fire safety skills. How to get out of a burning house, what to do if you catch on fire, etc.

Posted by: CJB | July 9, 2007 12:25 PM | Report abuse

--Lose gracefully
--Admit you're wrong
--Be competitive w/o being a jackass
--Take and give a compliment
--Criticize and disagree respectfully
--Be fair, even when you don't have to
--Fry chicken

Posted by: White Guy | July 9, 2007 12:29 PM | Report abuse

CJB...you really think teaching your kids what to do if they catch on fire is an important life skill? What do you do? Leave your kids at home in front of the television all day with a book of matches?

If your kid can't figure out what to do if he catches on fire, perhaps he's a candidate for Darwin's Surivival of the Fittest?

Posted by: JoJo | July 9, 2007 12:31 PM | Report abuse

JoJo

"If your kid can't figure out what to do if he catches on fire, perhaps he's a candidate for Darwin's Surivival of the Fittest? "

There do seem to be a lot of retarded kids in the DC area...

Posted by: Anonymous | July 9, 2007 12:42 PM | Report abuse

one of my kids learned how to fix a toilet and how to install a doorknob in middle school this year. we put him to work immediately. thanks fairfax!

The discussion of swimming reminded me of a spell living in the Netherlands, where they have a LOT of water lying around and swimming is considered a survival skill, no question. Our kids finished basic swimming and we took them to the pool for their first swimming test, to find the place packed with families cheering on the little swimmers and grandparents toting video cameras to capture this important rite of passage. There was also a nice diploma. I thought it was a wonderful way to recognize some not necessarily athletic kids for learning an important skill.

Posted by: lurker | July 9, 2007 12:47 PM | Report abuse

What I taught my 12 yo son regarding sex:

1.Only poets kiss tell. Never talk about who you slept with your friends or anyone.
2.If you get a girl pregnant be man and step up. Don't blame someone else
3.If you force yourself on a girl and I find out I will cut your testicles off.

What I am doing to teach him about love:
1.How to wash, iron, and cook
2.How to shop, sew, and clean
3.Be independent

So when he marries it will be for love not to find someone to wait on him. Besides it annoys the heck out of women when men really don't need them to do that kinda stuff.


Posted by: Just Me | July 9, 2007 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Hey Eve (who has an advantage over the rest of us because she homeschools!),

You're spending your time teaching your kid how to check/change oil in a car, grocery shop, do laundry, vacuum, make a bed, scrub a toilet, mop a floor, mow a lawn, iron a shirt, change a flat tire, tune-up a car, and put a new roll of TP in the bathroom.

Your child seems to have a great diversity of modern-day skills that will certainly prepare him for the future. Have him call me! We're looking for a new houseboy to help out at the McMansion.

If not, he's sure going to make one lucky lady very happy someday. Kudos to you!

Posted by: Ivy Dad | July 9, 2007 1:00 PM | Report abuse

"So when he marries it will be for love not to find someone to wait on him. Besides it annoys the heck out of women when men really don't need them to do that kinda stuff."

Right! There are very few men who like to be waited on by women!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 9, 2007 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Manners and how to behave in public. Proper etiquette is woefully lacking among many children and is a skill that must be taught and practiced at home by parents.

Posted by: Sue | July 9, 2007 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Hey JustMe,

The houseboy employment offer is good for your kid too! Have him call me. Your kid and Eve's kid can battle it out to see whom I get to pay minimum wage!

Posted by: Ivy Dad | July 9, 2007 1:11 PM | Report abuse

The short list from my Spanish exchange students:

Play sports (good exercise), good eating habits, developing morals (combination of teaching and discovery), and how to act in public.

Sounds good to me...

Posted by: Spanish Exchange Students | July 9, 2007 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Show them how to "do the right thing"---even when nobody is watching. Show how to have integrity, and how to be an ethical person. Most people eventually learn the "chore" skills of life when they need to.

Posted by: Amy In Minneapolis | July 9, 2007 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Teach them that there's a difference between sex and love. A lot of adults haven't figured that out yet.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 9, 2007 1:45 PM | Report abuse

"Teach them that there's a difference between sex and love. A lot of adults haven't figured that out yet."

There's a difference?

Posted by: Jake | July 9, 2007 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Here's a good one - learning to tell time!

I know more than one teen/young adult that can only use a digital clock/watch. One went so far as to refer to the alternative as "circle time."

Posted by: shocked | July 9, 2007 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Some great skills. But my main priorites would be teaching communication skills and how to stay true to yourself.

Posted by: Liz D | July 9, 2007 2:09 PM | Report abuse

" know more than one teen/young adult that can only use a digital clock/watch. One went so far as to refer to the alternative as "circle time."


Yeah, and very few adults under the age of 300 can properly use a sun dial. What is your point?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 9, 2007 2:17 PM | Report abuse

You actually know a kid who called a clock "circle time?" Is he retarded?

Does he call the television "the magic talking box?"

Posted by: Ivy Dad | July 9, 2007 2:49 PM | Report abuse

To understand the term "Fortune favors the bold" in life.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 9, 2007 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Hood dad forgot one, how to watch out for the 50 and jump over a fence on a dead run..

Posted by: Anonymous | July 9, 2007 3:00 PM | Report abuse

pATRICK...I don't know about you but when I was a little kid, quoting Virgil was the fastest way to get an ass-whupping from every bully in school.

But if you ARE going to teach your kids life lessons based on Virgil's proverbs? I think I'd go with, "Each of bears his own hell."

Posted by: Ivy Dad | July 9, 2007 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Ivy Dad, You misunderstand. The quote is to be understood not quoted. The vulgar flipside of this quote is "don't be a pu**y". Surely you understand the value of that.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 9, 2007 3:21 PM | Report abuse

"Ivy Dad, You misunderstand. The quote is to be understood not quoted. The vulgar flipside of this quote is "don't be a pu**y". Surely you understand the value of that.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 9, 2007 03:21 PM "


ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Posted by: Papa Bear | July 9, 2007 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Based on all the suggestions posted by commenters today, I'm inclined to think that teaching your kid not to be a "pu**y" might be the best parenting advice yet!

The amount of time many of you are spending teaching your kids to be the next generation of domestic workers is frightening. I guess maybe it's true...immigrants really are taking jobs that Americans want!

Posted by: J-Dog | July 9, 2007 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Well, except for a few humorous (or sarcastic) comments, I thought everyone had good items on their lists.

Here's a few more for my autistic teen-ager:
How to deal with law enforcement, so they don't get freaked by his disability and use unnecessary force against him.

How to recognize and avoid the bad influences among his peers.

How to get through the grocery store without getting "stuck" because the florecent light flicker messes with his sensory systems.

How to and who to ask for help when he needs it / not to just "shut down" when he's stuck and can't solve a problem.

How to handle conflicts with littler people.
(Some smaller children haven't learned not to bully, yet, but it's not okay to put them on the ground and stand on their necks.)

I'm sure I'm forgetting other useful skills that don't come naturally to autistics and others with social/developmental deficits. This is just a sampling of what we're thinking about currently. Job and life skills are critically important, and can be desparately difficult to master.

I still get the shakes thinking of him in 2nd grade running in circles in the school's driveway - heavy construction equipment for pavement repairs, and the noise from the diesel engine combined with the back-up beeping drove the poor kids bonkers. And the teachers and prinicipal weren't prepared for the kids to be overloaded, even though this was a special education class that had children with a wide range of disorders and disabilities. Today, he'd walk back inside the building with his hands over his ears, which isn't exactly ideal, but at lease he won't be at risk of being run over!

Necessary survival skills (or luxuries) can be so very different for different kids in different environments.

Posted by: Sue | July 9, 2007 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Here's another: don't refer to the developmentally disabled as "retarded". It's insulting and makes you sound as though you were born in 1920 and raised by wolves away from civilized folk.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 9, 2007 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Let me poise this question if parents teach by example what do you think our children would learn from reading these comments?

Posted by: Just Me | July 9, 2007 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Independence and self-confidence.

They tie together, and can help a child learn so much more and be prepared to tackle so many things that will come their way.

Posted by: HRR | July 9, 2007 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Let me poise this question if parents teach by example what do you think our children would learn from reading these comments?

Posted by: Just Me | July 9, 2007 04:43 PM

That a well-placed period or comma can, from time to time, make all the difference in communicating one's message.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 9, 2007 6:20 PM | Report abuse

What's the problem with the use of the term "retarded"? The word retarded just means slowed. It was the original PC term to replace such things as "moron", "idiot", and "feeble-minded". How is "developmentally delayed" really any better than "mentally retarded"? Is it that "retarded" now has a similar connotation as "idiot"? If so, won't "developmentally delayed" eventually also have the same connotation, and be replaced by some new PC term? (It seems this has already happened with use of the term "special").

Posted by: serious question | July 9, 2007 6:39 PM | Report abuse

The advantage in teaching life skills while homeschooling is:

1. More time with my child
2. Life skills are part of every day
3. Life skills are incorporated into learning throughout the day.

When he was in school, he was gone for hours at a time. He'd come home, then spend another hour doing homework, then maybe play outside for an hour, then dinner, then shower, then off to bed. Maybe an hour in-between to just spend time together. Not much time to read a book for pleasure, or get laundry done, or much else.

Now that he's home, academics simply don't take as long--a one-to-one ratio keeps learning focused--and other skills are just part of the day. He has time to make himself breakfast, he can take a break and do a load of laundry, plan a menu, etc.

Before, the bus picked him up at about 7 am, brought him home at 3ish. Now, he doesn't spend the time on the bus, waiting in lines, waiting for the class to settle, waiting to switch classes, etc. So an advantage is time.

And, life skills are easiest taught when actually living them, as opposed to learning about them in a theoretical sense. So he does laundry on a regular basis, cooks meals on a regular basis, has time for daily chores, has time to curl up on a couch and just read. Not as a special activity, or one done after everything else is done, but as part of the natural flow of life. Because he is home, this is easier to incorporate throughout the day.

He won't have to worry about getting a job cleaning up in a mcmansion: he doesn't think that having a mcmansion actually is a worthwhile goal in and of itself, he doesn't look down on others who may not have one, and if he does choose to work in one, he'll do without being ashamed of it.

I'd won't mind him being a happy and honorable man who cleans houses and also makes his wife feel loved and lucky. I don't think that's such a horrible thing to be, considering many of the alternatives. In fact, teaching a man to be a good husband is another life skill that I didn't mention before.

I mentioned homeschooling as an advantage in teaching life skills, for the reasons above. I apologize if this made others feel threatened in anyway, or implied that it was an advantage in other contexts.

Posted by: Eve | July 9, 2007 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Let me poise this question if parents teach by example what do you think our children would learn from reading these comments?

Posted by: Just Me | July 9, 2007 04:43 PM

I'm with the 6:20 pm commentor. If there's one thing that we CAN teach them, it's how to read and write properly. Aside from JustMe's inability to use a comma correctly, he not only confuses "poise" with "pose" but also clearly has difficulties using the conditional subjunctive.

No wonder his kids are going to end up being my houseboys!

And commentor SeriousQuestion, I totally agree with you. The limits of political correctness know no bounds.

Posted by: Ivy Dad | July 9, 2007 7:31 PM | Report abuse

I have a 2-year-old, and I hope to teach him the value of family in your life.

In my own family, my father and brother do not speak or see each other, and my parents are divorced. My mom and brother have a rocky relationship, and I have had a rocky one in the past with my mom (amazing how a grandchild can help things though!). Luckily my brother and I are close (although not geographically).

My husband's family, while they have their faults, are close, see each other often, and have fun together. I have always felt sad I didn't have a loving or close family. I hope my son will have that and value it, and then go on to create one of his own.

Posted by: Rebecca | July 10, 2007 2:48 PM | Report abuse

All kids should be taught to touch-type in school. My kid has the most awful finger-pecking and she's a product of the digital age.

Posted by: Sandy | July 16, 2007 7:39 AM | Report abuse

I Teach Swimming!! Almost 14 Years. I LOVE what I do!!! Yes swimming is a life skill. How many opportunities in life evolve around water, water ski, fishing, kayaking, surfing, boating, water park, to name a few. It is the one sport that you will be allowed to do when you have to go through physical therapy. One client 70+ years, she had never put her face in any kind of water not the shower, not a drop. It makes me feel very good to see her go the edge of the pool and jump in, recover and swim to the other end!!!
I have changed her life!! I have changed many lives! I have saved many lives!! agualobo@yahoo.com

Posted by: Big Up!! | July 19, 2007 12:24 AM | Report abuse

All of these comments, at least the serious ones, are examples of great lessons. I'd like to throw my own into the ring. This was mentioned early on, but I think it's a big one: driving.
Within the last month, Anna Quinlen made this the topic of her column in Newsweek, but all too often people say that the statistics in which 16-year-olds are shown to have more accidents mean teens should have to wait until they are 17 or 18 to drive. This is ridiculous.
We should put drivers' ed back in the schools, and not wait until 10th grade to do it. Start in 7th grade with lessons in road rules, reading signs and courteous driving. Make it a 9-week class or a single semester -- just bookwork and simulators, not actual driving. Or, if you don't want to dedicate an entire class, incorporate lessons into math classes, English classes and science classes.
I learned to drive at a very young age, sitting on my father's lap and controlling the steering wheel while he worked the pedals. I learned then what it felt like to operate a car, to control something that was much larger than myself. I got the same rush from driving that I did riding horses, because I knew that this huge machine, or animal, would respond to the slightest movement of my own body. It was a sense of control in a world where a 4-year-old has almost no control of the events that surround them.
By 13, I was driving up and down my aunt's gravel driveway, making three-point turns to do it over and over again while my mother sat inside and occasionally cringed because I was heavy on the gas.
At 16, I had a car that my dad bought me for $200, an 82 Honda Civic. It had a headlight that was held on with bailing wire and a twisty tie. If I had ever wrecked that car, my parents probably wouldn't have known it because it was already so dented and rusty. By the time I had my first accident, I was 21 and on my third vehicle. I was hit head-on by a stoned 20-year-old who had just gotten out of jail. But the accident was nothing compared to what it could have been had I not known how to maneuver the car and cause us both to impact on our passenger sides. And when I was rear-ended on a highway in another car, I knew to let off the break at the moment of impact, lessening the damage.
My 2-year-old now has a Power Wheels car and she's learning to steer, go and stop. I consider that little Barbie Jeep to be the beginning of a life of driving and learning the rules of the road.

Posted by: PracticalMom | July 19, 2007 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I agree with just about all of the household duties, but getting along with others, whether you agree or disagree, learning how to communicate, fairness, etc., but I would certainly add: RESPECT

Respect is necessary in order to achieve most everything that has been mentioned previously; that includes respect for oneself and others.

Also, what a child doesn't learn, he can't teach to others. Start early to show love, respect, caring, independence, living with consequences due to personal choices.

Posted by: Susan | July 22, 2007 12:57 PM | Report abuse

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