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I was a teacher for several years before I had our kids, so I love the education that a school provides. I love how our kids think that their teachers are amazing (you should hear the things that our kids say about their teachers… they are true heroes in the eyes of children).
However, certain life skills cannot be learned in a classroom and we need to be sure that we are teaching them, because one day, they will need them, and we will not be right there showing them every step of the way. We have to embrace today and use every moment that we have to teach our kids these lessons… whether it be matters of the heart or practical lessons (below)
As a parent, you can teach them important life skills and make it fun. Naturally, your child’s age and interest level will determine what they’re ready to learn.
1. How to USE time, not just tell it.
Yes, they will learn how to tell time in a classroom, but you can do so much at home to extend this. Talk to actually use their time… and use it wisely!
~There is a true difference between early and late.
~If given 15 minutes, you can either do something wonderful or hang out and wait for the time to pass.
~In a year, the time will go by either way… what did you do with it?
2. How to complete tasks.
We live in a world of distractions. It’s even hard for us to stay on track. Unfortunately, a lack of focus can result in low productivity in everything that we do (and they do). How many times do we get online to check an e-mail and find that it has been 30 minutes and we are still online? (Please tell me its not just me that does that!) Our kids are the same way- I’ll send them into their rooms to clean their room and find them playing with toys that were under the bed or under a blanket. “Oh long lost toy… where have you been?”
It’s a great idea to plant the right seeds when your child is little to help them learn to focus. One way to develop focus is to walk your child through a project from beginning to end. Read a book, do a puzzle, even go grocery shopping and let your child help: make a list, check them off as you shop, return home and unpack everything.
3. How to work hard – all of the time.
There is a reward for working hard, and there is a penalty for not working hard. Hard work needs to be taught. You can do this by setting up chores for your kids (we don’t use a chore chart, by the way). They will see that when they do their chores they get to do other things- play a game, earn computer time or earn an allowance, if you give one.
Ps- you can even make a game out of it!
4. Communication skills.
Communication skills have to be taught, as well. Work on this by playing games that require your kids to speak in front of others. You could create a play (one of our kids favorite things to do!) We will make puppets out of old socks and then the kids put on a play while I video tape it. They watch it over and over.
5. How to follow rules (all of the time, not just in school).
Give your child specific rules and let them follow them. “We do not run in the house” or “We always pick up our clothes.” You can even do this with your older children. If your child is old enough to drive a go-kart, teach them the rules of the road (and driving skills). You can teach them all sorts of skills to learn to become a safe driver–how to sit back in the seat rather than lean forward, how to handle the steering, when to brake or accelerate. This is a great lesson in impulse control.
Children who take driving lessons as teenagers often drive poorly because they have not learned impulse control, so teaching them on their little battery-operated cars when they are younger or go-karts when they are a few years older, this may help them to avoid making errors in judgment that can be dangerous. Ps- if you’ve never bought a go kart before, many go karts are fairly inexpensive and easy to find online. This is an example of how to turn your lessons into a game.
6. How to love learning.
It is up to you to reinforce the love of learning. Teach your children how to love learning by reading to them and asking them to read back to you (It is so important to let them to you!) Take them to zoos and museums and make these into an educational trip. You can also teach children to view the Internet as a learning tool rather than simply a place to play games. (There are a lot of educational websites that are fun!)
7. How to be self-sufficient and responsible.
Teach your kids how to make their beds, clean their rooms, make simple meals and snacks, and do experiments in the garden. Start by showing them how, and then have them do it themselves. Make it a game rather than a chore. Learning how to be self-sufficient will boost your child’s self-esteem and teach them to be proactive and responsible in later years.
8. How to use money.
People often learn about money by making mistakes that they could have avoided if someone had taught them the value of money when they were younger. There are many ways to teach your children. You can show them how to count money and demonstrate its value when you shop. You could give them 3 mason jars and label them “save, donate, spend” and when they get money, help them to figure out how much goes in each jar.
Overall, remember that YOU were your child’s first teacher and it is up to you to teach your child the things that they are not learning in school. Extend their school lessons when they get home and work them into real life.