Sunday, April 1, 2018

Beyond Academics... What should we be teaching them at home?

Gifted kids will learn lots of academics... Maybe not the academics we'd like them to, and maybe not
"demonstrating" their abilities in the way the schools want them to, but still, they will learn. But there are more than a few things they won't learn in school, and really need to know by the time they get to college and "adulting."

Some of these things are obvious, but perhaps get missed because they used to be covered in junior high Home Ec class.  Like sewing on a button or fixing a blown out seam in your pants.  Or even like doing their own laundry.  You'd be surprised how many kids get to college before they have to wash their own clothes, or get out a tricky stain.  And iron a shirt...?  Why?  Because you need to look professional for those interviews for internships or full time jobs! And not everything comes out of the dryer looking ready-for-prime-time.

Basic cooking is another skill kids should have developed long before they leave home.  How to scramble or hard boil an egg, or fry up a hamburger, because not all college kitchenettes include a microwave. How to make a simple meal for yourself, when the kitchen closes before your ride home at the end of the semester. Or an easy-to-eat meal for six.  Cooking for your study group is a useful skill, too.

Do your kids know to register and vote, once they turn 18?  Do they know what the primary process is in your state, or how it varies in other states they might move to?  Have they volunteered at the polling place?  Do they know the little issues they might be asked to vote on?

Do they know how to fill out forms?  How about the answers to common questions... parents' names, birthdates and birthplaces.  Yes, I had to answer those very questions for my 23-year-old today, filling out her passport re-application.

Other things are less obvious, but perhaps more important. Teach them how to balance their checking account, without depending on the ATM to tell them how much is in the account... because the ATM doesn't always include all the withdrawals that are due to come in. Teach them how to establish credit by taking one of those very tempting credit cards that banks are offering our college kids, often right in the college union building. And teach them how not to spend more money than they can pay off each month, to establish good credit.

Do your kids know the importance of paying their bills, especially their health and car insurance bills, that can often be difficult or impossible to reinstate if they fall behind.  And any loan payments.  I watched my neighbor's 28-year-old son have his car repossessed from his parents house, where he tried to "hide" it from his creditor a few months after he stopped making payments. He thought he could save money by skipping payments! It wasn't what his parents thought they taught him...

And once they're gainfully employed, they should know how to begin making deposits to their retirement accounts immediately, because the magic of compound interest makes those early deposits the most valuable to their eventual retirement, even if they cannot imagine it as they're just getting started! Friends recommend teaching our kids how to make intelligent purchases in the stock market alongside more reliable IRA deposits; I must admit this is something we were unfamiliar with and did not teach our kids.  I wish we knew more ourselves!

And then there's self-advocacy. By the time our kids are in high school, they should be doing their own advocacy, whether it's talking to teachers, or negotiating class schedules with their guidance counselor. My eldest worked for years as a college instructor at a large university, and you would be shocked to learn how many parents called her each December and April, trying to advocate for their college student children.  This should never be!

There are the standard dating rules: always carry enough money to catch a Lyft home.  Always meet a stranger in public for the first time. Never leave your drink unattended. No means no, whether you are a man or a woman.  And if the other person is drunk or otherwise incapacitated, help them home... because drunk or incapacitated is the same as No.

If your young adult is going away to college before they are 18, there are other things they should know... like the law for statutory rape in their college state. It doesn't matter if they consented. Not something you might want to discuss, but something you should discuss.

As part of our family "driver's ed" we taught the girls how to change a tire, and yes, we made them actually do it.  Park safely on level ground or block the wheels, jack up the car, and change the tire. That is a lug wrench, and that's where to find it and how to use it. And then take the leaky tire to the mechanic for repair or replacement. We taught them how to deal with the mechanic, too!  Also how to check the oil, antifreeze (when it's cool!), transmission and brake fluids. And of course, how to jump the car. That gets trickier when Dad drives a Prius. We were lucky enough to have access to a stick shift, so both girls can drive stick, too. One still is!

I've asked my girls what life skills we taught them, and what we should have taught them, and this is the list we came up with.  What skills are you teaching your kids, beyond academics?  What should you be teaching your kids?

Visit the rest of the blogs in our Beyond Academics blog hop by clicking here... there are some really great ideas, worth your time!

-- Carolyn K., Hoagies' Gifted Education Page

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