Life Skills — Health, Nutrition, First-Aid

Teaching life skills such as health, nutrition, and first-aid may seem unnecessary to some. In fact, many of us considered the mandatory health class in high school quite annoying. However, our family includes these and more in our homeschool lessons.

Actually, our children begin these life skills prior to most organized schooling. Many of you may also be teaching health and nutrition from an early age.

Life Skills to Toddlers

Very young children learn to eat foods that we provide. Serve chicken nuggets with fries, and they learn to enjoy these fast foods. However, if we provide an array of vegetables and fruit, prepared and served in a healthy combination, our children learn to enjoy these.

Many times parents have commented to me that they wished their children would eat vegetables like mine do. I explain that they will eat them, once they learn to enjoy them. Sugary foods laden with processed ingredients will tempt those who are accustomed to their tastes. Likewise, people will learn to love broccoli and brussel sprouts if that is what they are accustomed to.

As children grow we encourage their nutrition knowledge. Talk about the foods they are eating. Explain why you avoid certain foods. Discuss food fads.

Tie Into Health

Discussing food usually leads to discussing health. Explain how eating nutritious foods and avoiding “junk” food allows the body to grow and function properly. For young children, the conversation remains basic. However, over time, find ways to educate your children on health and nutrition beyond the basics.

Sometimes a website or book may be useful. Our family likes drfuhrman.com andrmcdougall.com. Both of these sites are family friendly and explain plant-based eating and the correlation with health. Old nutrition textbooks contain some useful information, too, but may have misinformation, especially with regard to meat, eggs, and dairy.

By the time your children are teens, they should have a solid understanding of nutrition and its relationship to health. As you prepare meals together, discuss the various foods and how they benefit health and growth. We also discuss foods that are not beneficial, to give a balanced approach to the subject.

First-aid and Emergencies

Most children will experience bumps and bruises as they grow. Often parents treat and bandage, then send the child off to play again.

However, even young children can learn basic first-aid as they go through these life experiences. Explain what type of wound it is, why you treat it as you do, and how to manage the care. Involve your child in his or her own treatment. And, if a sibling is injured, let everyone take part in that learning experience, too. We also discuss how to avoid problems.

But of course, first-aid goes well beyond the need for cleaning a wound and applying a bandage. Even young children can learn basic CPR, wound management, and other first-aid measures. Reading and understanding helps, but active learning with living examples will result in long-term knowledge.

Several organizations, including the Red Cross, offer first-aid training for teens. Some churches do, too. This encourages teens to learn beyond their basics.

All first-aid training, at home or in a class, will help prepare your children for life’s emergencies. It also provides a better understanding of overall health issues.

Focus: Health, Nutrition, First-Aid Life Skills

Taking care of our bodies as the temple of God begins before birth and continues throughout our lives. Teaching our children these skills enables them to begin a healthy start early in life. A healthy lifestyle that begins early will serve them well.

”Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body,” I Corinthians 6:19, 20.

Life Skills — Car Maintenance

Car Maintenance and RepairsLong before our children were old enough to drive, life skills training for car maintenance and repairs began. Probably in part due to being the daughter and granddaughter of mechanics, I consider these essential life skills.

Our family home is also our farm, so a great deal of learning begins with farm equipment. But, even those in a more urban environment can benefit from these teachings.

We start early

In the elementary ages, children can learn to check for oil and gas in the push mower, and later in the riding mower. Spark plugs can be checked and changed, too. At this age, most children show an interest in how things work, offering an introduction to simple mechanics and maintenance.

By the time they are teens, our children graduate to riding mowers and tractors. We don’t consider this an age issue, but more of a readiness issue. Some are ready well before the teen years, while some may not be ready until late teen or beyond. Offering them exposure to watching and helping as you work with the machinery gives the opportunity to learn more quickly.

Begin with the basics

Yes, we are working toward car maintenance. Before we feel they are ready to begin learning to drive the family car, our children learn basic car maintenance. These skills include the following:

  • filling the gas tank
  • checking oil, transmission fluid, windshield wiper fluid
  • checking other fluids such as brake fluid, antifreeze/water
  • cleaning the car, inside and out (this begins very early in life!)
  • changing the oil and filter
  • changing a tire
  • checking tires for wear and deciding when to replace
  • basic tune-up
  • recognizing when the engine sounds normal and when there might be a problem with it
  • changing light bulbs, fuses, etc

This seems like a long list….

While this might seem like more than the average car owner would do, our family believes that it’s better to know more than you need to know. As adults, they might choose to go to an oil change station, rather than changing it themselves. If they do, at least they know what they are paying for.

Unlike those raised off farms, our children have driving experience before they get their permit. They also have basic maintenance experience. And when they are ready to drive, we feel more confident in their ability to manage basic maintenance and even emergency situations on the road.

Ready to drive?

Of course, driving training needs to go beyond the maintenance. But if they know maintenance and basic repairs before beginning to drive on the road, they can more easily concentrate on gaining experience behind the wheel.

Life Skills: Holiday Preparation

Holiday Preparation

Some might question whether holiday preparation falls under life skills training. However, our family considers it a very useful part of life skills.

Life skills learned during holiday preparation might include…

  • basic planning for an event,
  • large meal planning, which usually includes math skills,
  • budgeting, another area of math skills,
  • time scheduling,
  • working well with others,
  • hosting and being a gracious host,
  • appreciation and thankfulness,
  • and much more!

These life skills are quite useful in holiday preparation. However, they also provide great training for other aspects of our life. Indeed, these life skills may be some of the most useful throughout our children’s life. So, why not teach them in a festive, happy atmosphere as we prepare for holiday gatherings.

We celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas as important family gatherings. In our home, holiday preparation begins with planning the day. If a family member needs to work (hospitals never close!) we may shift our planned event to accommodate everyone. Yes, planning to include everyone constitutes life skills, especially in a large, active family.

Next, we work on the menu. This encompasses not only planning a large menu, but ensuring that everyone can take part.  From a very early age, each child helps with some part of the food buffet. Younger children create the relish tray or make mashed potatoes. As they grow, so do their responsibilities.

life skills holiday preparation

Good Planning is more than life skills training

Good planning helps ensure the holiday is enjoyed by all, without too much stress. Planning includes what we will serve and the amounts needed of each. While our children all learn to cook from an early age (see Life Skills- Home Management again!) holiday planning requires additional planning.

As such, we consider the following:

  • Figure out the number of people attending. (This seems to grow each year!)
  • Plan each meal item. We do buffet style with plenty of variety, all vegetarian, many vegan.
  • Assemble the grocery list. This actually becomes multiple lists.
    • List 1: items we need ahead of schedule to begin early cooking.
    • List 2: items we need last minute, to ensure they are fresh.
    • List 3: actually might be part of the first two, and includes non-food items such as serving ware, bakeware, and even a little decor.
  • Create the “who does what” list. This begins to come together before the grocery list and often alongside the meal planning. After the basics, each family member is encouraged to offer their choices of what they hope to help with or contribute.
  • And, the final step includes who has the kitchen for what time slot. Yes, in a large family, this becomes necessary, even with an extra large kitchen.

Teach these life skills from early childhood. It might seem more like a holiday checklist, and it is. But, it is also helping our children grow up, learning holiday preparation in such a way that they avoid feeling overwhelmed. I could do the entire preparation and know other moms that do. However, by teaching these skills as we live together, our children become teens fully capable of planning a complete holiday on their own, should the need arise.

life skills holiday preparation

Family together!

Holiday Preparation Becomes Family Fun

Some of my fondest memories of childhood and beyond include holiday preparation with my mom and family. Over the years, we have built such memories with our own children, too. I still enjoy the chatter in the kitchen and friendly chiding as we each whip up our own contribution. These hours become family memories none will forget.

But, almost as important as the beautiful memories are the life skills. Most of our teens could quite easily plan a small gathering with great ease. In fact, one of my daughters did the majority of the planning and development for her own sweet 16 party. Given a budget, realistic guidelines, and a few suggestions, she had a party for more than 150 guests. That might be considered a final exam for a course called Life Skills-Holiday Preparation!

Planning Beyond the Food

However, we must also consider planning beyond the food itself. Decor, time, and any activities — all must be included in the planning. Not just what, but who will put them together and when everyone arrives.

And, don’t forget the clean-up. In our home, everyone helps with the clean-up, too. However, giving a little forethought to where things will be put and even who will wash the dishes helps keep the event from becoming a major work-fest for one or two people. Plan ahead. Ask for help. Designate.

life skills holiday preparation

Thank Everyone

Although our holiday events are mostly family-centered, it’s important to thank everyone for their contributions and for coming and enjoying. Holiday preparation life skills training includes being a gracious host or hostess during and after the event. While thank-you cards might not be needed, those verbal thanks are well appreciated. Teach your children to include these in their good-byes, too.

life skills holiday preparation

Life Skills: Home Management, Part 2

Life Skills: Housecleaning & Home Repair

At our state homeschool convention years ago, my oldest discovered a program given by Don Aslett, writer of several books on cleaning. Our family shares all parts of home life, from schooling, to home-based business, and yes, housework. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised that he wanted to purchase a couple of the offered books in hopes of improving cleaning chores.

Please don’t get the idea that my kids love cleaning. In fact, I think his first thought was to find ways to make cleaning less like work. And indeed, Aslett’s books do provide many ideas on improving techniques and simplifying the chores. My son read through them quickly and shared what he learned with his younger siblings and myself.

Interesting note: I decided to purchase some of Don Aslett’s cleaning supplies, which did work very well. Each time a delivery of his products arrived, I announced that our Home Ec supplies were here. Not surprisingly, the kids were less impressed with the new tools and products than I was, but we did put them to good use. In time, I noticed that they grew to appreciate our occasional deliveries!

Parent-led Home Economics

My own dear mom taught us to clean meticulously — not easy with two home-based businesses: my dad’s garage and tow business, and our family farm. Still, our home was to be kept neat and clean, inside and out. It’s a trend I have attempted to continue with our own children.

But, teaching housecleaning is not really a scheduled week-long venture. We live together, learn together, and yes, clean together. I don’t remember the day I taught each to sweep into the corners or dust behind the pictures. I’m not sure what age they learned to take out the garbage or wash windows. Actually, I do remember tiny fingers helping with window washing, often adding some smears as they attempted to get that crystal clear look.

Learn by Doing

Indeed, learning to maintain the home is like learning to use silverware. To borrow the 4-H motto, we “learn by doing.”

But, we also teach, mostly by example. Children learn to appreciate a clean house and the work it takes to keep it clean. That becomes a double bonus. Not only do they help clean, they also try to avoid leaving any clutter or mess. Knowing the work involved in cleaning, they attempt to keep our home neat and clean!

Home Maintenance or Shop Class

Another skill highly valued in our family is that of home maintenance. While it is possible to hire a handyman to replace a fan, repair a window, or even hang a new door, we prefer to teach the skill to our youth.

And, learning these skills does more than saving money. Indeed, kids put their math, reading, and science skills to work and take pride in being able to do such maintenance work. Moreover, they may find a career path along the way.

Commercials create thought, too.

A recent commercial on a news station struck me a bit. The man states that he is quite handy about the house, but now that he has kids, he doesn’t want to spend his weekends repairing and maintaining the home. It’s an ad for a handyman referral service. However, I saw a sad take on our current thinking.

Is it really more important to take the kids places to play than to offer them the opportunity to learn by helping us? Some of my favorite memories of childhood include helping Mom paint the walls, or Dad with the car repairs. I learned to install a window, tune up a car, and recover chairs. In fact, we poured concrete using an old cement mixer, and troweled it by hand.

Work? Absolutely. But what an incredible education!

Value in Life Skills

The hours spent cleaning the home and maintaining it do more than saving on the family budget. Our children learn important skills. They also learn an appreciation for what they have and what they can do.

Homeschool children rarely lack for something to do. Learning life skills helps ensure they are never bored!

In addition, these skills enable our youth to be of service to others in their neighborhood. When an elderly person finds housecleaning too challenging, teens and even younger children can take an hour or two a week to assist. New moms also appreciate help. What an incredible way to bless those in need!

Just the Beginning

Life skills education goes well beyond making the bed and washing dishes, though it should include those, too. Enjoy daily life with your children as they learn to maintain their future homes and serve their family and neighbors. Who knows? They may choose one of the life skills as a future career path!

Life Skills: Home Management, Part 1

Home management

As homeschoolers, we often concentrate on ensuring our children learn academic skills. However, learning life skills might prove just as valuable, perhaps even more.

One of the first life skills we expose our children to revolves around the home and car. Even before learning to walk securely, children enjoy helping with laundry, sorting pots and pans, and other seated jobs. Beginning early instills good work skills and enables “learn by doing” to become ingrained.

Knowledge and useful skills for all

We teach our sons and daughters basic life skills, including home management. While some might never manage the home, leaving that to a spouse, we feel it’s essential that they know how to do so, should they ever need to. So, boys help with laundry and house cleaning, and girls learn basic household repair.

Where do we begin?

As mentioned, toddlers might already begin helping with laundry. Folding washcloths, sorting laundry into piles, and helping put it away, they learn to pitch in and help Mom.

As they grow, they naturally progress into sorting laundry before it’s washed and folding all types. Young school age children are usually capable of loading the washer and moving to the dryer or helping hang clothes on a line. By the time our children are teens, they are already managing their own laundry, from hamper to putting away.

Not only does this help lighten mom’s laundry chores, more importantly, it teaches children to manage their own clothing. When they need to wash their own clothing, they learn to appreciate the need to care for it properly. And, they learn to keep clothing better maintained.

Meals and groceries

I’m always amazed when an adult cannot cook a basic meal. I grew up helping Mom in the kitchen, just as she did with her mom. Unfortunately, it’s not as common as we might think.

Our children, like so many homeschoolers, grew up helping in the kitchen. Toddlers stir batters, oil pans, and fetch the measuring cups. Before the age of 10, they create basic foods on their own, and young teens prepare entire meals. It’s a learning process and one that doesn’t happen overnight, but encouraging them from an early age allows them to build the skills they will need throughout life.

We are building memories!

A side benefit not to be overlooked is the great joy we receive and memories that are built when we cook together. Daily meal preparation time becomes daily family enjoyment, too.

Entertaining together

Additionally, preparing larger meals for family get-togethers and holidays builds more memories and offers opportunities for practicing skills we don’t use every day. Some of my favorite memories revolve around all of us together in the kitchen, preparing for a holiday feast. It might just be my favorite part of any holiday!

Planning and shopping

While our children learn basic cooking skills, they also participate in grocery shopping and meal planning. From the time they are toddlers, we make our list together and head off to the grocery store. Shopping with children might slow the trip a bit, but they are learning critical skills. Price comparison shopping will help them throughout life, as will reading labels and discerning ingredients. Knowing when a fruit is ripe and how to shop in the bulk area might seem trivial, but indeed, attaining competency in food choices, preparation, and cooking will help greatly in their adult life.

Food budgets

We stress food budgeting during the teen years, but the education behind it begins in early childhood as we shop. We price compare and look for sales with our children assisting. This naturally leads to budgeting for our shopping trips and expenses.

Healthy eating, too!

Nutrition finds its way into many areas of our life skills training. It’s a natural fit when planning meals and we expand upon it as we teach health aspects. Sometimes it results from a topic that springs forth either in the news or from a relative or friend’s need. We feel it’s essential and needs to be built upon wherever it appears.

Building life skills day by day

From birth, children learn. Encouraging them to participate in each activity and chore instills skills useful throughout their life.

While, initially, chores take longer with little children assisting, we reap the rewards as they learn and become more helpful. In addition, we assist them in preparing for eventual adulthood.

We teach reading, writing, and arithmetic, for sure. However, we teach life skills that reach far beyond the school years, too.