The glorious days of summer are here! We’ve all worked so hard homeschooling for so many months, and now it’s time to rest, relax, and enjoy a few months off from work… right?
Maybe if we weren’t homeschool parents.
The truth is that while we do get a break from the quizzes, the textbooks, and the dirty looks from kiddos who hate math, there are still a lot of hours to be filled during the summer. One fun way to utilize the time and slip in sneaky learning is in teaching life skills for kids!
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What are life skills?
A life skill is any skill that’s needed to lead a successful life. As a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, I specifically focus on teaching life skills so that my children walk into adulthood able to take care of their families, homes, and other necessary things.
Here’s a shortlist of life skills to help you get the picture: baking, canning, gardening, changing a tire, changing the oil, lawn mowing, lawn mower repair, painting a room, refinishing a wood floor, doing the laundry, sewing a button, fixing a leaky faucet, first aid, making homemade essential oils, electrical wiring, building a treehouse, menu planning, budgeting, and even general house cleaning.
As you can see, the list could go on and on. It’s a good list, full of really important and necessary skills that our children should know before they leave our nest.
Prioritizing Life Skills for Kids
Summer break provides us the extra space in our schedule to make life skills training a priority! In many ways, all you have to do is think about the things you do on a regular basis and include the children whenever possible.
For instance, when you’re preparing meals, allow (or expect) the children to participate. Passing down the basic knowledge of just about anything is simple when your children regularly take part! You can also provide kid-friendly cookbooks or spice up the excitement with themed recipes. When your children are old enough and capable enough, make it their responsibility to prepare one or more meals each week.
As you wash clothes, do the dishes, clean the bathroom, or complete any other household chores, bring along one or more of the kiddos to help. Yes, it will take more time to get the chores finished, but your effort will be worth it in the long run. I promise. Once your children understand how to do a task, it can become a new addition to the chore list!
If you’re planning a trip or vacation, take the opportunity to teach your child mapping or budgeting skills. Invite them to help plan your route to include tourist attractions, show them how to research local restaurants, or put their math skills to use to keep the gas or souvenirs under budget.
Other activities might take a little more planning. If you want your children to learn to garden, for instance, you’ll need to prepare for that in advance. Luckily, your children can take part in every single step along the way – choosing plants and seeds, tilling, planting, weeding, harvesting, canning, freezing, dehydrating, and whatever other amazing things you choose to do with all those goodies.
If you have a home project to do, include your capable children in the planning, budgeting, and purchasing of materials. Allow each child to help in whatever ways they can to learn carpentry skills and to see the project through to completion.
You might even enlist the help of some amazing mentors for a summer full of learning life skills. Is the neighbor always working on his car? Maybe he would consider teaching an older child how to do basic car maintenance. Does your sister enjoy using natural remedies in her home? Maybe she would like to spend an afternoon making tinctures and balms with your children. Is there a plumber or electrician at church who might take one of your children to the job site for a day?
Enjoy the Fruits of Teaching Life Skills
As your children’s confidence grows (and your patience grows) you’ll be able to step aside and allow them to take over certain duties around the house. It’s an incremental process that takes time, so be patient and diligent. But the fruit is amazing!
For example, as your children learn to cook, they can slowly begin to make complete meals by themselves. You can soon extend the responsibilities to meal planning. Teach them how to plan a grocery trip, how to work a menu around your garden’s harvest, how to utilize coupons and discount cards, and even how to stretch leftovers. This exercise works seamlessly with budgeting practice and shows that more than money can be allocated, extended, and directed to work with your family’s needs.
Don’t Forget Play
I remember a vacant lot in a friend’s neighborhood when I was growing up, and every summer we’d venture over and build our unofficial hangout from whatever we could find. I remember learning a lot about digging caves into the dirt, how dirt collapses without support, and many other building-related skills that have stuck with me to this day because of the days spent working – and often failing – on those clubhouses.
Play is an opportunity to learn so many life skills! We can get stuck in seizing every opportunity to occupy time that our children don’t learn to think and do for themselves. Make sure there is lots of time for plain, old playtime. Sandboxes, water tables, scrap piles free for the taking, art & handicraft supplies, bikes, sports equipment, and tools to build, dig, and plant.
You’ll be amazed at the life skills kids teach themselves during long hours of free play – especially outdoor play. Mud pies, making ink from berries, nature crafts, jump rope games, and fixing bicycle chains allow children to explore self-sufficiency as they design and redesign their perfect playtime.
Communication is a Life Skill
Instead of jumping in to halt every summer argument, give your children the opportunity to work out disagreements for themselves. Teach them how to speak up for themselves without speaking over others, how to ask questions that help them to understand others, and how to listen when someone shares something about what they need.
Give them the tools for healthy confrontation and satisfactory conclusion, rather than immediate distractions or punishments. Even if you need to set up a mock courtroom in the den, empowering your children to handle conflict in a mature way is a life skill that will undoubtedly benefit them for the rest of their lives.
Summer is such a vital part of childhood, for so many reasons – the memories, the easy mornings, the days spent at play. The opportunity to witness your child in a less-structured time is the perfect time to see which life skills they may need more practice in – or may need to be introduced to.
We know that our children are always learning, and as homeschool parents, we know that learning doesn’t always come from books. Summer is a gift, a time to rest from education and spend more time learning.
From sewing to scouting, coding to car maintenance, and fishing to finances, use your precious few summers as opportunities to help your children grow in the things that will carry them confidently and proficiently into adulthood. After all, most students go through algebra once, but everyone eats three times a day. Make sure your kids can handle both.
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