Our first year of homeschool had basically zero life skills lessons in it.
I was so freaked out our first year of homeschooling, that all I could think about was making sure I hit every standard and goal. Let’s just survive this year without killing each other mode. Raise your hand if that was you too! 😉 Then I got to thinking, “Is my kid going to need to know every single scientific fact that we are learning?” Maybe. “Is he going to need to be prepared to live on his own?” Hopefully. Realistically, I think my son will live on his own one day and I want him to be prepared for that. If you suspect your kids will be on their own one day, are you teaching them that way? If not, there is help for you here!
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The more I caught myself telling my son things like, “When I was your age I did all my own laundry,” I started to realize that I might be letting his disorder become an excuse. Even accounting for developmental abilities, we were on different levels of responsibility for sure. Honestly, part of the problem might just be that I am a stay at home parent. Not to mention one of my default modes has always been serving.
Whatever the cause, I realized that it’s my responsibility to prepare my sons for the life that lies ahead. I reevaluated our homeschooling practices about halfway through our second year and realized that I was putting too much emphasis on traditional learning. My remedy for this was to start having a life skills lessons day. Once a week we work specifically on life skills type activities.
Seven reasons we started having a life skills lessons day:
1) Gives all of us a break of sorts – I’m leading with this one because it’s honestly the most exciting one for most of us. My kids love life skills day because they don’t do “regular school”. This means they are more excited about tackling life skills lessons potentially otherwise seen as chores. It also gives me one less day I have to devote excessive mental energy towards.
2) Prepares them for their future family life – As mentioned above, I’m thinking that my son with ASD is probably going to be on his own someday. I’m almost certain of it. Whether he’s with us or his own family, independently, he needs to know how to pull his weight around the house. Life skills is about more than just “housekeeping” of course, but you know what I mean.
3) Prepares them for working – On our life skills day, we include basic emotional intelligence activities as well. Things like learning how to deal with bullies, how to enter a conversation, or how to properly apologize. Yes these are things that we need to work on every day of course, but I know at least for kids like mine, this is something needing extra, intentional practice. People in the workplace do much better when they have higher emotional intelligence quotient. IQ only goes so far.
If your child is unlikely to be working outside the home, life skills can help them find their entrepreneurial skills! A sewing class may be a great investment for a creative young entrepreneur who is unable to work outside the home. Learning code and running websites may be life changing for the future work-at-home techie at your house.
Life Skills 101: A Practical Guide to Leaving Home and Living on Your OwnLife Skills Activities for Secondary Students with Special Needs, 2 editionLife Skills: 225 Ready-to-Use Health Activities for Success and Well-Being (Grades 6-12)
4) Build endurance – Learning new skills like these are going to be a challenge in some cases. Scheduling learning opportunities reduces pressure and produces greater results. We’re less rushed and better guides through the process.
5) Build confidence – The more we see our children growing, learning, and overcoming struggles (see reason 4), will we will also see their confidence blossoming. What person doesn’t want to have independence? Helping them to do more for themselves on their own is a huge gift.
6) Reduces every day frustration – “Mom, I’m hungry!” How many times have you heard this at the least opportune moment? It’s one of those things where you know that “teaching them to fish” is better than feeding them, though you never seem to find time to stop everything and work on it. I know that’s me at least… Having a life skills day built-in affords plenty of time to work on teaching your children “how to fish.”
7) Reminds us that our children are more than just their diagnosis – It’s easy sometimes to fall into a trap of “They can’t do it because…” If we’re really honest with ourselves, our kids are quite often capable of more than we realize. We are so quick to push back and say, “My son will talk; my son will write,” and similar things. However, we tend to let these “little” things slide.
So how do we put life skills Lessons into practice?
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, we do have weekly a life skills day. We homeschool year round so we tend to usually have four days of school a week. One of those days each week is a life skills and passions day. We spend the day focusing on one thing that they love and the rest of the day on life skills. My social skills resources, and the Skill Trek program. There are some life skills you can easily teach on your own! Sometimes though, someone else can explain it more clearly than you can. Overlooking what things to teach is easy to do! To help with this, we’ve used Skill Trek for a few weeks now and I am loving it.
The support team member, also a special-needs parent, that help me place my son developmentally was very kind and helpful. They have a cool feature that allows you to pick different ages that allow development on differentiation. They go by names rather than by age groups. Thankfully, keeping them from feeling like they’re in a “baby group” (as my oldest would say) if they’re behind developmentally.
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Our Favorite Resources
I’ve created a free, editable, life skill checklist of life skills we are working on- no strings attached! So without further ado, here are some of our favorite life skills tools:
- Skill Trek- A myriad of life skills lessons
- Deb Cadovious- sewing course
- A Moment in Our World- free “Kids in the Kitchen” pack
- Kitchen Stewardship- Kids cook real Food
- Autism Homeschool Mama –various Social Skills worksheets
If you’ve got any additional life skills resources you love, share in the comments! Let me know if you’ve got your own life skills day or plan of action, I’d love you hear!
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