Life Skills; Are They Still Being Taught?

As I was raised in the ’50’s, my parents taught me everything in the way of “life skills.” Of course, I learned a lot in school, but my best teachers were my parents and my grandparents. All the women in my family were adamant that girls should know how to manage money, how to cook, sew, clean, start a garden, bake, and everything involved in running a household successfully. In their eyes, to do less meant that you weren’t fit to be a wife.

It’s a real shame that so many schools have dropped Home Economics and Shop. I know I’ve said this before, but these two classes taught kids “life skills.” In Home Economics we learned how to make jam, plan and serve a meal, how manage a budget, how to sew, how to bake and so on. The boys who took Shop learned how to use tools safely, and how to make a chair or table or spice rack and so on.

This probably sounds pretty old-fashioned, but these were skills that made sense and were helpful. At home, my mother made sure that I knew how to do the housework, including vacuuming, dusting and polishing; how to wash a wool sweater without shrinking it, how to make simple meals, how to care for children (when I was old enough to baby-sit) and much more. When I was about to start my first job in the town gift shop, Mom sat me down and taught me how to count change. I really didn’t want to do it, but Mom insisted it was necessary (of course, she was right), so I learned.

I’ve mentioned this before in previous posts about what my dad taught me. He made it clear that I should learn how to do things myself (such as changing a tire, starting a camp fire and putting it out responsibly, how to use a jacknife without cutting myself, how to point and shoot a handgun and rifle and how to care for them, and so on). He told me that learning these things meant that I wouldn’t be helpless, but strong.

One of the biggest lessons I learned growing up was this: the world will not be kind to those who are not prepared. My parents taught me things I have never forgotten; they made it clear that you don’t always win, you won’t always be the center of attention, your lack of foresight and planning is your own fault, to treat people the way you want to be treated, and the list goes on.

And this from a woman who never raised a child (me): the modern concept of “everybody wins” is a terrible thing to do to a child. I call it the “participation award syndrome.” I and my two other wonderful co-teachers taught Tae Kwon Do for years, and when our kids went to the yearly competition, they were prepared to do their best. If they didn’t win the trophy they wanted, they understood that 1): despite all your best efforts, you don’t always win. 2) If you didn’t do your best, that’s on you. 3) If you didn’t get the trophy you wanted, work on getting better, and congratulate the one who did win.

It’s a funny old world now, and so much has changed in our lifetimes. However, I stand strong on doing all you can for yourself, learning the technology that fits your own life, and basically just being cognizant of what and who is around you. As my dad always told me, be aware. I hope that we don’t forget life skills; they are as important today as they were back when there were rotary phones and live operators. Life skills matter, and I hope that they, like so many other things, will not be left behind.

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