The longer I homeschool the more I realize that homeschooling is not just about the books. It isn’t just about teaching the kids their math facts or logic. It isn’t just about reading all the classics. It isn’t just about learning politics, world history, and even that which is beyond our world. Homeschooling is about something much simpler than all that. Homeschool is about teaching our children how to truly live in this life they’ve all been blessed with. It’s about learning life skills.
Of course homeschool includes all the ‘normal’ schoolwork, but it also includes so. much. more! Having the chance to be with our children during those times when most children are in traditional school gives us homeschooling families an extremely unique opportunity. Our children are blessed with the gift of learning life skills in a much greater quantity which will help them in their own lives as adults. This is especially important for children who have any kind of disability no matter how large or small that disability may be.
Here is an example:
My daughter, who has Asperger’s, has some motor planning problems (among other things) and lacks some common sense. Prior to this last one or two years, she couldn’t tie her shoes, braid, open up a can of food, unscrew certain lids which weren’t difficult, wash her own hair, dress her self correctly, do any amount of kitchen work, acknowledge certain unsafe situations, etc. Through much diligence from my husband and myself, she has been able to overcome some great obstacles.
Last summer, I decided that if she were to ever mature into adulthood – complete with moving out, having a family, or going to college – she would definitely need to know many other skills that don’t fit into any school transcript or standardized test. I’m talking about cooking, cleaning, laundry, menu planning, budgeting, navigating the town, how to handle emergency situations, time management, etc. Of course, if she were in regular school, she would still get some of this, but not near what she truly needs to be successful in living a successful, independent life.
I have started introducing her to many life skills even though they are very challenging for her. Thankfully, God has blessed me with a stubborn streak, or we never would have gotten over the first obstacle.
Over the last several months we’ve been focusing on cooking.
This serves many purposes. When one learns to cook, they not only benefit themselves, they are also able to bless others. I also believe that it is great therapy for kids who struggle with motor planning problems. There are many times when both hands are needed or one needs to cross the midline to do a cooking task. It requires some physical strength, mental focus, and time management skills as well.
Mastering cooking skills is time-consuming and more times than not, kitchen mishaps are a normal occurrence. When one has a learning disability, acquiring a certain skill isn’t something that comes quickly or easily. It takes a ton of practice, sometimes requiring the person to perform the task hundreds of times before there is any light at the end of the tunnel. Even the simplest of tasks like taking the twisty off the bread bag, opening the spice container or a ziplock bag, opening the milk, or dumping cereal into a bowl can require days and days of practice to figure it out.
On most days, I have my daughter make breakfast. To some this may seem mean, but I see it as a unique learning opportunity that she would never get if she was always having to hastily catch the school bus. It took her a month or two of repeated practice to learn how to crack the eggs without crushing the egg in her hand. It has taken several more months for her to remember things like turning the burner off or limiting the amount of pepper and salt in the meal. Learning how to stir the eggs without sloshing it all out of the pan proved to be yet another challenge.
I’ve had my share of ‘interesting’ egg inventions. But, after a season, she can make scrambled eggs well – most of the time. Toast was a lesson all its own. Buttering bread is not an easy skill for someone with motor planning issues, but after months of practice, she can now do that too.
Another thing that became her responsibility was packing our family lunch on our homeschool co-op day. After an entire year of practice, we can count on having a ‘normal’ lunch which actually tastes good. Recently, she randomly took it upon herself to make the family spaghetti. Even though it tasted terrible the family ate every last noodle. She was so proud of herself. She has since done this meal several times….every time it gets better and better.
I believe insisting that my daughter learn these skills has not only provided her with another tool for adulthood, but also helped her gain some much needed confidence. I think she is realizing that she can actually take care of herself and even others.
A few of the learning skills on my ‘life skills list’ are things like:
- Laundry and other chores
- Meal Planning
- Taking care of the animals
- Grocery Shopping
- Personal hygiene
- First aid/CPR
- Street Smarts training (avoiding being the victim)
There are so many other things that need to be learned. Our next obstacle will be learning how to do the laundry. This one might be more about me not wanting to do it anymore but either way, it is an important step towards adulthood!
If there was one main thing I would make sure is happening, it would be to not do for your children what they can learn to do themselves. Insist they do it. Even if it takes them 5 minutes to do what would take you 10 seconds, keep up that stubborn streak. Don’t give in because it’s easier if you do it. If they struggle, walk them through it patiently. If they have motor problems, help with hand placement and think outside the box to get the skill learned. With diligence, this is going to be a very important part of your homeschool experience!
Again, homeschooling has more to do with life and less to do with books.
What are you doing in your homeschool that has nothing to do with typical school? Please share your experience!