It is about this time every year that I start counting down the days until summer break. The last few weeks of school are nothing short of exhausting between plays, concerts, recitals, school projects, AP exams, finals, and everything in between. I am more than ready for a few weeks of unstructured relaxation…because that is what summertime with five children at home is all about, right?
Sleeping in…leisurely walks…relaxing by the pool with a book…
Then I wake up to my real life, which is not quite so blissful during the “boring” months of summer. The honeymoon phase wears off pretty quickly, giving way to the nearly constant complaining from my children that there is “nothing to do.”
Much to their delight (or chagrin), there will always be something to do this summer, and it revolves around an education in important life skills that are often overlooked during the busyness of the school year. I am running out of time to teach my older boys how to be self-sufficient. Jordan will be leaving on a church mission in two short years, and Andrew will be following the year after that. It feels like time is literally slipping through my fingers, which makes me sad. Nevertheless, I plan to make good use of the coming months. It is crunch time!
With that in mind, here are the skills that I plan to teach each of my children this summer. There is some overlap because it is beneficial for me to teach a skill to all who are capable of mastering it, regardless of their age. Some of these things may seem like a tall order, but I am convinced that kids are capable of doing more than we sometimes expect of them. Feel free to use this list to keep your own kids busy this summer, or modify it to fit your needs.
Jordan -16 years old
1. Get driver’s license
2. Learn about auto insurance
3. Change a tire
4. Check car fluids
5. Learn about credit cards and interest
6. Pay bills
7. Learn how to write a check
8. Learn to operate BBQ grill
9. Learn to use ATM
Andrew – 15 years old
1. Check car fluids
2. Change a tire
3. Learn and practice meat-handling rules
4. Menu planning and grocery shopping
5. Learn to operate BBQ grill
6. Learn to use ATM
7. Create recipe file of simple meals
Elise – 12 years old
1. Learn to bake rolls/bread
2. How to budget for and plan a party
3. Menu planning and grocery shopping
4. Learn and practice meat-handling rules
5. Add to previously created recipe file
6. Memorize Social Security Number
Kate – 10 years old
1. Iron own clothes
2. Plan and cook 5 complete meals (salad, entrée, dessert)
3. Learn to clean refrigerator
4. Add to previously created recipe file
5. Do own hair (at least in a ponytail)
Carson – 6 years old
1. Learn to tie shoes
2. Practice making and answering calls
3. Clean toilets
4. Learn to do own laundry (sort, start washer, switch to dryer, fold and put away)
Perhaps some of you are thinking that I might be crazy for teaching my six-year-old to do his own laundry at the same time as I teach him to tie his shoes. I can, however, tell you from experience that a child that age is perfectly capable of doing such a task, if you are willing to teach them. (I am working on a post dedicated to that very topic…)
Each of my children except the youngest will also be required to plan for and prepare one dinner for the family each week. That will give me a break from cooking while giving them some much-needed culinary practice. I want them to be confident in the kitchen when they leave home.
If you are interested, I got many of my ideas for teaching my kids how to work and gain independence from this book:
I HIGHLY recommend it! It includes an invaluable list of tasks and chores that kids can reasonably be expected to perform based on their ages, which I have used as a guideline in my own parenting. There is a religious undertone to some of her ideas (there is a chapter on helping kids with emotional and spiritual development), but most of the book is based on how to teach real life skills to your kids before they leave home. It is fantastic, and you can purchase your own copy here.
If you are ready to prepare your kids to be competent and independent adults, what better time to do so than summer, when there is no homework, fewer extra activities, and lots of down time? It will give them something to do, minimize boredom, and they will be learning vital skills in the process.
Maybe they will even use their new expertise to make you breakfast in bed…
It is going to be a good summer!