The full-time job of parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual. No matter how many children you have – one or six – they’ll surprise you. Some mature more quickly than others, but in general, today’s children simply don’t develop adult skills without deliberate instruction. Nearly 75 percent of millennials can’t change a tire on their own.
While a parent of a child with special needs may strongly focus on teaching basic home and life skills, it turns out that all parents need to do so. Children with gifted abilities as well as neurotypical kids need to learn these skills, as well. Just like they don’t automatically know the periodic table of elements, kids don’t inherently know how to balance a bank account or why it’s important to record each purchase immediately. Even organizing their own space to make life easier is an unfamiliar skill.
The rise in the number of young adults without basic “adulting” skills gave rise to an unusual school in Maine. The Adulting School teaches simple tasks like:
- cooking pasta
- changing a tire
- folding sheets
- growing vegetables
- hanging a ceiling fan
- using a power tool
- removing stains from clothes
- building a campfire
- administering CPR.
But you don’t have to ship the kids off to Maine (or go there yourself – for the fall colors or the adulting classes!). You can teach your kids basic science concepts alongside basic life skills. Sharing these important lessons helps to develop character traits like responsibility and self-reliance. These fun activities work within a home school program or just a parent-child weekend activity.
Build a Greenhouse
If you’re handy, and you have the time and space, you can make growing vegetables a year-round pursuit by building a greenhouse with your child. Purchase a kit to build one, or get creative and do it yourself. Either way, there are numerous lessons to be taught during the building process.
For instance, when choosing the site for the greenhouse, you can teach a lesson in slope and angle, choosing a location on high ground so water won’t pool at the base of the greenhouse. Teach the importance of a level surface for building and check the site level with a laser or transit level. You might need to use an aerial lift or boom to lift materials to the upper structure level, depending on the size of the greenhouse. Most kits don’t require this. Teach your kids about the development of electricity when installing the greenhouse lights. Explore types of solar radiation and infrared light by discussing the fact that greenhouses retain heat using convection to keep plants warm in cold months. Installation of windows or vents provides opportunities to discuss air circulation, humidity and climatic needs for proper growth.
Once you’re ready to plant vegetables and fruits, you can teach continuing lessons in botany, plant growth and life cycles, soil moisture and many other scientific concepts that go into growing a great-tasting tomato.
Take a CPR Class Together
Children need to know how to look after their own health and respond correctly in a medical emergency. To achieve this, you can study CPR online and become certified. The process lends itself to a home schooling curriculum, teaching health concepts like how the circulatory and cardiovascular systems function as well as familiarizing them with emergency services in their community. You’ll even make your home safer because 88 percent of cardiac arrests happen at home.
Remove Clothing Stains
You can put the kids to work taking the cherry drink stain out of the living room carpet with a chemistry lesson. This creates a perfect opportunity for Principle 3 to be exemplified. (This principle emphasize character to include thinking, feeling and doing.) When children learn skills like these, they become adept in their thinking. Not only will they learn about different molecules used in detergents and stain removers, but also they’ll become familiar with the various types of stains: enzymatic, greasy, oxidizable and particulate. Once they learn why enzymatic stains like blood are hard to get out, they’ll have some extra knowledge to show off – and you’ll have a sure-fire way to get a red wine stain out of a blouse. Teaching them how to remove oil stains (whether created by a vinaigrette at the dinner table or motor oil in the garage) can offer a lesson about surfactants: anionic, cationic and nonionic. Discuss the development of detergent and its changes in composition beginning with the 1970s environmental movement, leading to topics like organic stain removal methods – and beyond.
Cook Dinner Together
Like the Ragu commercial says, “That’s Italian.” You don’t need to be of Italian origin to cook al dente pasta, though. You just need to understand how the eggs, flour, and water combine to make pasta, and why those ingredients create a merger of proteins and starches that requires an exact water boiling time. Pasta noodles done right are springy and tasty, and their slightly sticky nature adheres well to any sauce, as this video from the American Association for the Advancement of Science shows.
It might surprise you to learn how many science lessons hide in everyday activities. You can teach science and adulting to your child at the same time by investigating the science behind your everyday tasks. You might not think of car maintenance as science, for example – but think of the engineering required to build and drive a car. The world is chock-full of lessons and so are everyday adult activities.
Jackie Nunes is a former pediatric nurse and now a full-time homeschool educator. She and her husband have three children.