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Confession time: I love curriculum. I love to research it, read through it, plan it, and expand upon it. It really doesn’t even matter what subject. It’s just fun. My motto? “You can never have too many books, only too few bookshelves.”
But watching my son grow up, I’ve slowly noticed that something is lacking from many curriculum options: actual, practical life skills.
Even with my copious use of unit studies throughout the years, working life skills in every which way, there are still many that have gotten missed. My kid could navigate without a compass and treat a head injury by the time he was 11, but didn’t know how to pay for gas at the pump when he started driving on his own. He knew all about the dangers of credit card debt and the benefits of mutual funds, but didn’t know how to organize a pantry.
No matter how many life skills we try to plug into our studies, there are still the hundreds of little, but necessary, everyday skills that totally slip by.
The problem I’ve always run into, though: how do you work it all in? How do you teach skills that are necessary, but unrelated, without buying 23 different courses?
Well, there are a few options. When my son was younger, I spent a LOT of time (and, quite frankly, money) doing the first two. I’m excited to now work with the third!
Option 1: Life Skills as Part of Life
This one always sounded like a good option to me…until I tried it.
I mean, all the books I enjoyed as a kid showed children learning right alongside their parents. Laura and Mary learned how to make biscuits and churn butter from Ma, and Almanzo learned how to drive a team of cattle from his father. It’s the natural progression of things, right?
Except that I am not nearly as scheduled or organized as they were. I don’t have specific days to do the wash and by July, my poor garden is on life support. Just being real here…I do household tasks as they need to be done. And I can’t guarantee that my kiddo is going to be standing right next to me, eagerly learning, every time that happens.
So yes, some things have been passed down as a part of daily life, but it’s not been what I would call a comprehensive system.
Option 2: Build Life Skills into Unit Studies
Now I’ll be honest, this was really fun. I loved (and still love) finding fun ways to work skills into units. But this wasn’t a terribly complete method, either.
We did lots of unit studies that included skills like cooking from different cultures, survival skills, first aid, and different types of sports. We made maps, figured out travel routes, and planned tons of fun field trips.
There’s a slight problem with that, though.
It’s fun to fit survival skills and auto mechanics into a unit study…meal planning and giving driving directions, not so much. Unit studies are fantastic for teaching skills that fit into some fun topic or niche, but they’re not always great for teaching random, everyday skills.
Option 3: Life Skills Curriculum!
Up until recently, there were a few curriculum options that covered a specific set of skills…financial literacy, cooking, sewing, home repair, automotive maintenance. And each one of them normally runs a good $75+. If you want to teach more than a couple of skills, that can get kind of pricey – especially when you also have to figure in all of your other subjects.
Some of them are excellent – we’ve used several – but they tend to foster a mindset that their topic is a separate part of life. Just like many students see math or grammar as belonging in their workbook, they can start to see budgeting or cooking as belonging in that class. When that course is over, so are the habits that are built.
However, there’s a new option that I’m really pretty excited about: Skill Trek. This program was designed by a homeschool family to teach over 500 life skills to kids from kindergarten through senior. And it’s fun!
Some of the skill areas taught include:
- Financial literacy
- Swimming & water safety
- Emergency preparedness
- Child care
- Current Events
- Outdoor skills
- Manners & etiquette
- And lots more!
There are a few things I really like about it.
First, character building is designed right into the program. Skill Trek will teach the skill and provide accountability for the student, but the parent is involved as well.
Second, the program is adaptable to your student. Skill Trek does schedule out the units, but if a skill is not developmentally right for your child at the moment – or if there is another skill you want to focus on – you can change the schedule. You have access to upcoming lessons, and you oversee what is taught.
Third, it’s just plain fun! There are three basic levels of the program – Trailblazers (beginning), Rockhoppers (intermediate) and Cragsman (advanced). The lessons within each level are written to the age and developmental level of the student. You can check out more about it here!
It’s available by monthly or annual subscription, and it’s a lot less expensive – and more effective – than trying to find separate courses for each skill. Go on over and check it out, and comment below to let me know what you think!
*Please note that your confirmation email will come from Jen at A Helping Hand Homeschool (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please “white list” this email address so you don’t miss it!