Practical Life Skills: The Homeschooling Edge

Practical Life Skills: The Homeschooling Edge
I’ve been pondering the idea of life skills lately.  In relation to many things, I suppose.  Things like a simple life.  Skills like being able to feed yourself, cook, clean, prepare food.  Grow it.  Other skills like construction, and how things are made.  Things like fixing a leaky pipe, or building a chicken coop.  Even hanging a picture, painting a wall.  And other things, too, like sewing.  Dying cloth.  Or hunting.  Gutting a fish.  Finding a library book.  Sending an email…

The list goes on.  Some of these skills are considered necessary by today’s standards.  Using a computer, for one.  Probably cooking.  Something.  Hot dogs, maybe. But, others, hardly seem necessary to many of us these days.  One might ask why they really need to learn how to fix a leaky pipe.  Or gut a fish.  Or mend a sock.  And they’re right to ask.  Perhaps there is no truly valid reason in today’s world.  Yet, I find myself becoming more and more uncomfortable with that mindset.

All that lost information troubles me, for one.  My Grandma knew how to bake bread.  My mother never did it with us, to my recollection (although we did bake other things).  And, now, here I am.  Only one generation removed, and having to teach myself this skill.  Learn it later in life.  To be honest, I enjoy the challenge.  I love learning new things.  It’s what makes my heart race.  Gets my mind whirring.  But, still, I think of all that lost knowledge.  What else do I have to teach myself because, as a modern society, we have lost the memory of?

My son is on a “how things work” kick right now.  With the wonderful clarity of childhood, he sees these knowledge gaps much more often than I d0 (ever since Jessica at Only Small Things shared the Discovery series, How It’s Made, with us, we’ve been hooked.  Flutes, balloons, stickers, you name it).

Today, as he was watching me sew, he asked me why the wheel turned so fast.  My quick answer, “because that’s how it moves the needle.”  Then, he clarified, “yes, but why does the wheel move so much faster than the thread?”  And, you know what, he was right!  The thread moved along at a leisurely pace, and, yet, the wheel was zooming along.  Turning, turning, turning.  I didn’t have the answer for him.  Because I never actually stop to think how my sewing machine is made.  Or how it works.

With the movement towards sustainability and health, comes knowledge.  A relearning of the knowledge of our ancestors, near and far.  In my mind, this includes things like where my food comes from.  But, it also includes things like how a computer works.  Or a sewing machine.  How is that _____ (fill in the blank) really made.  If it broke, could I fix it?  If they were out of it at the store, could I make it?

Or this meme a librarian friend of mine shared the other day:

If there were a zombie apocalypse, would I know what to do?

Subsequently, I’ve noticed a huge, gaping hole in my solid, successful educational career.  I have 7 years of post-secondary education, but I can’t milk a cow.  I can’t fix my sink when it breaks.  And I can’t gut a fish.  I can find a library book (you’ll be pleased to know), and I’m pretty good at operating a computer.  But, ask me what to do when it breaks down, and I have not a clue.

I think about all of these gaps.  And then I think about my son.  I think about all of the things we have already learned together. Because of his questions.  Not mine. Things that I already should have known, like how electricity really works.  What exactly a dam is for, and how a generator is powered.  Or things like, how chocolate is made.  Or why is there a breeze when you run into a room.

I think about how homeschooling changes a child.  How, for a homeschooled child, these questions get answered.  As they come up.  Not later, or in the correct year at school.  But, in the context of real life.

I think about how many practical life skills my child might attain.  Both by being encouraged to ask questions, and by being given the time to find the answers.

I think about how people are always concerned with what homeschoolers might not know.  And rarely concerned with what, they, themselves don’t know.

I think ahead.  And I think of the life skills that I am going to develop along side my son.  And I thank him ahead of time for this gift.  The gift of seeing the world, once again, through fresh eyes.

So, today, I relish the questions.  And I relish the connection to the world that they bring.  And, I relish the time we are taking to learn these things, once again.  As a family, and, as a people.

And, if I were stranded on a desert island, I’d definitely choose a homeschooler to accompany me.

Just saying.

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  1. Wow.. what a wonderful way to look at those practical life skills.. so why does the wheel turn so fast on the sewing machine? My son is only 4 but he has asked several questions that I had to resist the urge to say because that is how it works.. and think about why they work that way 😛

    • My son is 4, too! I admit, I haven’t quite figured out how to articulate the sewing machine conundrum. Working on it… Luckily (or not) for me, my son never lets me get away with throw-away answers. He always makes me stop and think! =)

  2. What a beautifully written post! I feel exactly the same way. I’m so glad for the practical skills my kids will be able to learn – those skills that will really help them when they move out on their own. I’m also so glad we can center the kids learning around their own questions- not some arbitrary curriculum that someone else decided they should be learning.

    • Thanks Christina! I know, when you’ve been immersed in interest-led learning lore for awhile it feels very normal. But, I sometimes forget what a departure from the norm it really is. A good departure.

  3. I love this post and it made me think of all the skills my girls have been learning in just the past few weeks (changing the oil on the car, using a tree saw, driving a splitting wedge into a thick log, and the list goes on). And while I have never changed the oil, I learned how to tape and mud a wall. I love that the learning new skills continues throughout life!

    • Wow! Nice ones. I’ve never used a tree saw, but I have changed oil. Never taped and mudded a wall, though! I love the learning, too. It’s one of the wonderful things that I learned as a librarian – lifelong learning. A person can always keep learning.

  4. There are many practical things I wish I had learned when I was younger. It would have made this whole homemaking thing a lot easier. But I just LOVE how much I am learning with my kids right now. Homeschooling is such an adventure.

    • So true. And, hey, if we had learned it all then, what would be do now? (I always get excited when I think of all the things we still have to learn together).

  5. Beautiful post! I’ve been pondering the same question recently, and I was amazed how many things I was able to learn or re-learn as an adult thanks to homeschooling and my kids’ never ending stream of questions.I am incredibly thankful for that.

    • Thanks, Anya. Me, too. Both amazed and thankful. I admit I never really imagined I’d learn so much from my children. It’s such a blessing.

  6. Great post! Teaching practical life skills is so important. I always try to give Eleanor real things as opposed to toys of real things. She already has her own tool set with real tools. I remember feeling so proud when she fixed her shovel all by herself with a screwdriver. She was 3. I also am learning so much from my child. Isn’t it funny how children show us how much we don’t know!

    • Nice. I wish I was that brave. I always hold my breath if Dylan’s got the screwdriver – waiting for his younger sister to get bopped. So far so good, but still…


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