Life Skills 101

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

Today I wanted to touch on a topic that I have been discussing with a lot of people lately. In my mind our current high school curriculum is missing some important life skills that I think would help so many people to function better in the real world.

For example, how many of us learned how to budget money, grocery shop and prepare meals, or were taught a thing about taxes in school?

These are vital skills that are required to lead a successful life, regardless of career, education level, or socioeconomic status. Yet these skills are left for us to learn outside of school.

My parents definitely taught me many of these things, but I still believe I would have benefited from a more structured class setting, as I think most people would.

Now I am not suggesting a curriculum overhaul, simply a one semester class. Many high school seniors take two study halls in their final semester, so I simply suggest replacing one of those with this class, or something along those lines.

If each semester is approximately 15 weeks long, then it can be broken down into three 5-week units.

Unit 1

Unit 1 would be learning about food.

We would start with Nutrition 101 – what foods are sources of proteins, carbs and fats – it is amazing how many people do not know this. Emphasizing real, whole, minimally processed foods.

It would also teach basic kitchen skills – proper food storage, knife usage, hygiene/sanitation, and food washing.

Third would be basic cooking skills. Different cooking methods (baking, broiling, steaming, stir-frying, etc), using a thermometer, following a recipe, etc.

Finally I think it would be great if kids were taught how grow their own and shop for food. Kids could learn to create a simple garden. Research shows when kids are involved in the growing and cooking of their food, they are much more likely to eat it, especially vegetables. They could also learn a little about composting. Wrapping up the class would be a piece on grocery shopping – teaching them to make a list, shop the perimeter and only pop into the aisles when necessary – its not aimless wandering looking for sales or food that looks good.

You would learn how to grow food, shop for food, cook food, store food and a little about nutrition. Not too shabby if you ask me.

Unit 2

Unit 2 would be learning about budgeting.

How to track your income and expenses, make a budget for food, gas, rent, vacations, etc. I think this is key! In my mind my generation and younger has lost this ability. We are so inundated with marketing and the “we want it therefore we will get it” mentality (rather than asking ourselves if we actually need it, much like how we eat) that spending gets away from us.

Credit card debt is the number 1 reason for people to drop out of college! Financial issues are among the leading causes of divorce. This is clearly a problem that needs to be rectified, and to me prevention is the real key. Learn how to control your money from the get go, and the foundation for life-long smart spending is there.

While this isn’t my area of expertise like Unit 1, it is an area where we could all stand to learn a thing or two, especially as a 17 or 18 year old kid about to enter the real world.

Unit 3

Unit 3 would be all about taxes. My mom is an accountant and has taught me a lot about taxes, but half the time I don’t have a clue what she is talking about! The language is an enormous barrier, and if we were given the basics and a background in it, I think we would all be better off. While this wouldn’t make anybody a tax code expert, I think it is incredibly important to learn how to properly file your taxes, add in proper deductions, or just to have a clue when you talk to your accountant.

While maybe not as vital as Units 1 & 2, I think it is simply an area of life that is overlooked until it comes, and then we are lost. I think this unit is open for other ideas, or maybe the class would be better with four 4-week units (one being only 3 weeks).

I would love hear ideas or thoughts from others. While this obviously wouldn’t make anyone an expert in any of these categories, the idea is to simply make people competent in these basic life skills. I feel our country, and our communities would be far better off!

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Posted on September 7th, 2011 by Brian St. Pierre

3 Comments

  1. Jon Says:

    Brian,

    I would have to agree completly with you. Many schools have removed some vital courses that help in day to day life. Take for example my High school, they have a wellness class where some food and nutrition is learnt however there was no education on proper meal preperation, or even meal planning. And common house hold tasks that were once taught in shop class no longer exist. they remove these classes to replace them with a wide range of arts classes. Now im not saying learning about the arts isn’t important, but how many people could benifit from learning some basic home care techniques?

    I believe you also hit on a key topic with young adults learning how to budget or at least keep track of your expenses. Most people these days look at a check balance book and wonder what all those pages are for, Im fairly certain some people wouldn’t be able to fill out a check properly. That may sound a bit extreme, but I don’t think its far from the truth for the latest generations.

    As far as taxes go, a bit of education to at least cover when to do your taxes, why we do our taxes, and a general overview of how to do your taxes could greatly benifit upcoming generations. I know for myself it was a learn as you go process. As you stated this may be one of the shorter end of semster brief units, however it could make a differance.

    I believe that when a person graduates from high school they should have the skills needed to survive everyday life. You dont need to know how to build a house, but the skills to maintain it, and do repairs should be there. you dont need to be a corporate farmer hauling in enough food for several hundred people. But you should be able to at least understand how to plant and maintain a small garden of your own. You dont need to be a rancher to understand how to store, preserve or cook meat. But understanding the basics will help at some point. Obviously you can dive deeper into what is and is not a basic skill that is needed. but I think you have touched on some of the key items needed to make it through the day to day.

    Jon

  2. Ben Fury Says:

    I totally agree that these are important subjects that need to be required courses.

    In addition, I would like to see a course on critical thinking. How to dissect arguments and advertisements that are fallacious is key to not being taken advantage of in life. Just read the Wiki on Fallacies and it’s incredible to think how many there are and how pervasive they are:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

    If you can cook, shop for, and grow food, keep to your budget, and not get fooled by con men and “experts”, you’ve got a good base of life skills.

    Be well,
    Ben

  3. Rees Says:

    Sounds like a great start to me.

    After reading “How to win friends and influence people” my first thought was “why wasn’t this a required reading before college?”

    I love the idea of growing their own foods.

    But I’d also add some type of physical education that’s actually worth having. A few of my athletes have a new PE teacher this year and the first week they all came in telling me how he didn’t know how to do a pushup….

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