School is supposed to prepare our kids for the “real world,” but very few of the lessons focus on the things they’ll actually use once they’re done with the SATs. Shakespeare is great and all, but I do wish schools put more focus on these things kids REALLY need to learn before graduating. Keep reading to see what they are!
Do Schools REALLY Prepare Our Kids for the Real World?
I recently saw a quote that said, “Every high school should have a mandatory class called “Life” which teaches you how to sew, change a tire/oil, do taxes, basic first aid, basic cooking, etc. Basic things that you need in real life.” It got me thinking about how schools neglect to teach the things kids REALLY need to learn before graduation.
Schools have so many weird requirements for graduation these days. They need to know how an iambic pentameter poem uses rhyming couplets, how to find class frequencies in statistics, and the exact dates that WWII started & ended. But they don’t need to know how to turn on an oven and cook a simple meal, change a tire (or even check tire pressure), or stop a wound from bleeding.
We’ve talked before about lessons all kids need that they won’t get in a classroom but that focused on character traits like kindness, empathy, and so on. Today, I want to focus on actual life skills that every single person needs to know to survive in this great big world.
10 Things Kids REALLY Need to Learn Before Graduating
In life, there are certain skills that are universally useful, regardless of age, gender, or occupation. If we want to prepare our kids for the real world, here’s what they should be learning, either in school or at home. By the way, if you plan to supplement your child’s education on your own, check out these gadgets and goodies that make teaching at home a lot easier!
1. Simple Cooking Skills
Cooking our own meals saves money, encourages healthy eating, and allows us to explore new flavors and cuisines. Yet fewer and fewer teenagers even know how to boil water. At the very least, teens should know how to work an oven and stove, safely chop fruits & veggies, and be able to put together a week’s worth of healthy meals. Yet in most schools, cooking classes are either an elective or relegated to a very tiny portion of “home ec.”
Some would argue that parents can teach these skills at home. But keep in mind that not everyone has access to the tools they need to cook healthy meals. Roughly 34 million Americans suffer from food insecurity as well. So even in cases where parents have the tools for cooking, they may not have the extra food to use as “teaching food.”
2. How to shop for groceries
Along with cooking, teens should be able to navigate the ever-growing complexities of grocery shopping. This includes things like setting a food budget and sticking to it, using coupons or shopping sales, finding the healthiest options in a sea of processed food, and choosing the best fruit or veggies. They should also know how to read nutrition labels, when to buy organic versus traditional produce, and how to find healthy snacks.
3. Cleaning & minor home repair
Cleaning may not be the most exciting skill to learn, but it’s an essential one. Living in a dirty home isn’t just gross, it can actually be dangerous. There are so many different types of toxic mold that thrive in dank, dark places.
At the very least, teens should know how to clean the bathroom and kitchen, use a vacuum and mop, and do their own laundry. They should also learn basic home repair, including things like unclogging a drain and replacing a light bulb.
4. Basic first aid and medical care
In an emergency situation, knowing how to perform basic first aid can save a life. Everyone should know how to perform CPR, treat minor injuries such as cuts and burns, and recognize the symptoms of a heart attack or stroke.
Along with basic life-saving first aid, teens should know how to handle their own medical care. This includes things like making a doctor’s appointment, advocating for themselves during that appointment, filling and refilling prescriptions, buying the right over-the-counter meds, and even figuring out their health insurance plan.
5. Basic sewing
Knowing how to sew a button or fix a tear in clothing is a useful skill that can save you money and extend the life of your clothing. It also allows teens to personalize and customize their clothing. I’ve seen grown adults throw out a perfectly good shirt or pair of pants because a button fell off and they didn’t know how to sew it back on. It’s so wasteful! Not just in terms of money, but also in terms of the planet.
6. Money management
Money management is more than just figuring out how to balance a checking account or make sure you have enough to cover your bills each month. It’s also about learning when and how to invest, not just in stocks but also in yourself; and how to determine whether the price tag on something is worth the true cost of the time you spent making enough money to buy it.
Decision-making is such an important skill to have as it helps us make informed choices about our lives and careers. Theoretically, one could argue that kids get to learn about decision-making every single day in school. If they decide to skip class, they get detention. If they decide not to study, they get bad grades. If they decide to use their phone during class, they get it taken away. As Pearl Zhu said, “The art of decision-making includes the art of questioning.” I think we can all agree that “questioning” isn’t really something that’s encouraged by schools.
I’d argue that they’re not learning how to truly make real decisions, though. They’re just learning that bad decisions have consequences and good ones have rewards. But the world doesn’t work on just consequences vs. rewards. Often, we need to decide between two bad options and figure out which would cause us the least pain. Sometimes, we even get to decide between two good options and need to figure out which would bring us the most joy.
8. How to say “no”
Now here’s something our teens rarely ever learn in school: how to say “no.” Not as in saying no to drugs or peer pressure, but as in saying “No, I cannot take that on right now.” In fact, not only do schools not teach this skill, but they actively punish kids for standing up for their own mental health and refusing to take on more than they can handle.
Imagine if Sally dared to tell her English teacher that she will not be reading 7 chapters of Lord of the Flies tonight because she already has two hours of math homework, cheerleading practice, AND she has to make dinner because her mom is working late. What do you think her teacher would say?
10. Self-care & Stress management
I saved the most important one for last. Self-care involves taking care of your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Teens have very little time to themselves after school, homework, after-school activities, family obligations, and caring for basic life-sustaining needs like eating, showering, and sleeping. It’s no wonder that they’re suffering from anxiety at alarming rates!
Along with self-care, kids also need to learn how to manage stress. Stress is a part of life (something our kids know all too well). We need to be teaching them how to develop healthy coping mechanisms, such as exercise and meditation. We also need to be teaching them that there is NO shame in asking for help when they’re feeling overwhelmed.
I’m not saying that the things schools do teach aren’t important. However, I’ve never used half of the math that I learned, never once had someone come up to me and ask me what year the Battle of Hastings took place (1066), or ever had my life depend on whether I can correctly identify Jack’s motivations in chapter 4 of Lord of the Rings. So maybe, just maybe, they could cut back on the superfluous info and start teaching a bit more about the things kids REALLY need to learn before graduating. What do you think?