Have you noticed that many teens are being launched into adulthood without knowing important things such as how to balance a checkbook, cook a simple meal, or even how to use a mop? True story. Even worse, have you ran into a young adult who lacks basic understanding about American governmental principles and/or the importance of participating in civil government? It seems to be quite an epidemic among millennials. Have mercy—I know.
I most definitely don’t want this for Ben. And I’m assuming that you likely don’t want this for your child either. Needless to say, one of the many benefits of homeschooling is that we have the ability to balance academics and life skills. Well, at least to the best of our abilities, right? But we are human parents and just like with everything else, oftentimes like gets in the way. I’m realizing that as Ben finishes up his senior year, there are some things I’ve glossed over that now suddenly seem very important. Ideally, our children will be set to go with basic life skills by the time they’re a freshman in college. So if you are also realizing that time is speeding by, hopefully you’ll find this information helpful.
Practical Life Skills for College Freshmen
Whether your teen will be entering the full-time work force after graduation or attending college or trade school, there are just some things he will need to know. For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on some practical life skills for college freshmen. I’ll follow up with a separate article in the near future for those of you (us?) with kids who may not be college-bound.
Household Life Skills
This may be ridiculously obvious to you, but it’s rather shocking how many college freshmen lack basic life skills for managing a home. In order for them to thrive they need to know how to clean a home, how to properly use and store cleaners, and how to keep it tidy. Even if the “home” is a dorm room, many of these skills will come in handy. If your college student ends up sharing an apartment, they will be mandatory. Make sure your teen can properly clean the kitchen and bathroom especially. And use a mop. Add doing laundry and perhaps he won’t be bringing all of those clothes home on weekend visits!
Cooking and baking are practical skills as well. This is true especially when it comes to maintaining good health. After all, we have yet to hear a doctor say: “A Twinkie a day keeps the doctor away.” Right? (Chocolate maybe. But never a Twinkie.)
Something we are working on right now is learning how to meal plan, write a grocery list, shop for groceries and make 5 meals. Even if your teen doesn’t love to cook, it will be important for him or her to know how to make at least 5 recipes that are simple, well-balanced and healthy, and budget-friendly – for your teen, a date, or even for you! Some suggestions for recipes to teach:
- A hearty pot of chili
- A homemade pasta sauce to use with boxed pasta or frozen ravioli
- A delicious soup
- One recipe for each of these proteins: chicken, steak, and fish
- Tacos and homemade guacamole
- At least two great vegetable side dishes (steamed broccoli, roasted asparagus, glazed carrots . . . )
- Mashed potatoes (because mashed potatoes go with most everything!)
- A good salad
- A hearty breakfast (teach how to cook eggs several different ways and how to safely cook bacon at the least)
This cookbook has been a lifesaver for us – Racheal Ray’s Look + Cook
Health Life Skills
Aside from eating a healthy diet, as mentioned above, college freshman ought to govern themselves in other areas that affect their health. For instance, late nights aren’t very beneficial for overall health or mental clarity. Of course, proper rest and mental clarity are both needed in order for students to do well. Help steer your teen away from the idea that energy drinks are the way to get by and instead build some healthy habits now. For example:
- how and when to use essential oils properly, especially for immune support, restful sleep, test anxiety, and focus (buy pure essential oils, diffusers, and accessories here)
- what whole food supplements to take (we like Juice Plus+)
- make exercise a priority (a membership to Planet Fitness is only $10/month)
- try to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night and have regular times for going to bed and waking up
- eat 3 meals a day, at least one of them healthy and keep a healthy snacks around
Lest your college student thinks that running from one class to the next constitutes as exercise, affirm him or her that it doesn’t.
Life Skills in Time Management
Where to begin? There are lots of aspects to this. I’d say that having the discipline down to use a planner is a huge skill to have. Especially when study-fatigue or study-stress kick in, it can be so easy to forget appointments, due dates, etc. High School is a great time to teach this skill, because teens tend to be pretty busy already. Your teen is likely pretty tech savvy, so Google Calendar will work perfectly for this. Sometimes, homeschooling can be a bit loosey goosey. College won’t be. Use these high school years to begin training your teen to be more precise with his schedule.
As silly as this may sound, it’s important for your college student to literally schedule in sleep. Let me tell you, even as a mom I find that this is important. It’s all too easy to stay up late, lost in a sea of tasks that I feel I need to complete before heading to bed. Can you relate?
Life Skills for Financial Responsibility
It’s always best to allow your high schooler the practice and experience of budgeting as they mature. In this way, they’ll be ahead of the game. Your college freshman may benefit from these tips:
I think I first learned of the cash envelope system from Dave Ramsey. The envelope system is a great tool for budgeting cash. Basically, the rule of thumb is to keep the money designated for each category. Moving the money around to different envelopes isn’t permissible.
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of using a check register. Seriously, help your college freshmen understand that it’s not enough to try and “figure it out in their head” or to “keep track of transactions in their mind.” And it’s critical that he or she balances the checkbook. Otherwise, it’s carelessness and asking for troubles—too many to count along the way. Bounced check fees are no joke. If you haven’t already helped your teen open a checking account to practice with a part-time job, do that as soon as possible. For some teens <ahem> it takes a lot of practice to balance saving and spending, plan ahead, and practice self-control in this area.
Savings is so important as well. A little something to help on a rainy day. Something more set aside for true emergencies. And savings for a nice little nest egg, if possible. But, if your college freshman needs to save for next year’s tuition, the nest egg can probably wait. However, that emergency savings account shouldn’t be put off. If you’re teen currently has a few “bills” to cover, it will help him or her to understand this concept. Ben pays for his own car insurance, gas, cell phone, and meals while at work. We made it mandatory for him to keep at least 3 months of an “emergency fund” in savings in case he couldn’t work and needed to cover these expenses. Saving $1000 is a huge deal for a teen, but it also gives them a feel for the value of the money they earn.
If your college student has a part-time job, he’ll also need to understand how to file his tax return every April. He’ll likely be inspired by the likelihood that he’ll get a refund!
We’ve been using this Financial Literacy curriculum as a math credit in Ben’s senior year. I highly recommend this course for your teen. You can use it as an elective instead of math if desired.
Relationship Life Skills
Noooo, I’m not referring to boyfriend and girlfriend relationships here. I’m talking about the ever-still-so-needed human interaction. The get-your-nose-out-of-a-book (or video gaming) kind of interaction. Set aside the phones. Walk away from the computers. Aside from God, family, and friends, your college freshman would do well to learn networking skills. You can begin teaching these skills with a homeschool assignment as simple as finding experts in an area of interest to interview.
Civics Life Skills
Is this really a basic life skill? I believe so. Christians have influence and we need to be using that influence for God’s glory in civic affairs. Yes, even during those busy freshman college years. We have a civics crisis in our country. The skills for reasoning biblically in areas of civics will either help to restore and keep our republic. Please make sure your student takes American Government and Economics courses with a biblical worldview in high school. And make sure your teen gets registered to vote as soon as he is eligible. And in the U.S., men at age 18 also need to still register for the draft.
What else do you think is an important life skill for a college freshman?