In recent conversations, both in-person and online I have been amazed at how many people (both men and women, for the record) who don’t know how to do what I would consider “basic skills”. For instance, the amount of people who drive a car daily but don’t know how to change a tire is fascinating.

I learned how to do it in Drivers Ed because, just like putting gas in a car and checking the oil, it’s part of basic maintenance and operation of a vehicle. And yes, I’ve changed a tire more than once. I’ve also called AAA; but I know that there are times and places where I won’t have cell reception and I am going to be responsible for myself.

Anyway all of this got me thinking of what skills I want my children to have by the time they go to college. This is ever-evolving, of course, but here’s what I have so far:

Car care/operation: Change a tire, check tire pressure, check/add oil (and/or whatever new technology brings), how to read a paper map

Clothes: sew a button, fix a hem, iron, operate a washer and dryer without ruining the clothes. Bonus – if either kid wants to, I will teach them to use a sewing machine.

Home & Garden: start and use a lawn mower, paint, plant flowers, operate a drill and other basic tools, how to install new locks.

Cooking: make perfect chocolate chip cookies, cook a variety of proteins, make bread, make our family’s favorite recipes, make a good marinara sauce, cook perfect eggs, how to follow a recipe, starting a charcoal grill, cooking on a grill.

Maybe part of it was being the youngest of 3 and having “tired” parents, but I did all of these things by the time I was in high school. I mowed the grass in late elementary school. By 4th grade I was let lose in the kitchen without supervision and became the chief cookie and zucchini bread maker for the family. The summer between my 8th and 9th grade years I removed wallpaper and painted several rooms in our new house. I learned to sew from my mother and my middle school required Home Economics* so I furthered my skills there.

I remember being dumbfounded by a college classmate who had no idea how to use the dorm washing machines. I don’t want either of my children to be “that kid”. Beyond that I think that most of these things are simply basic parts of being a functioning adult and it’s my responsibility to teach my kids how to do them.

What “basic” skills do you want to teach your kid? As an adult, what skills do you wish you had?

*we were also required to take Shop where I learned things beyond basic tools like a drill press, table saw and metal working tools. Those classes were the best! I wish schools still required this.

6 thoughts on “Skillz

  1. I totally agree. And the people I know who were never taught (or never had to figure out) those basic skills are the ones, at least in my experience, that struggle the most at being responsible adults. There’s something to be said for parents not doing EVERYTHING for their children!

  2. JMH says:

    YES!! Since we grew up together, you know I totally agree. This summer, M is going to learn how to mow the lawn (in the back, front is to hilly) and cook basic items. Last week she made brownies, and she was so proud! A is learning how to change sheets and start his own shower. Both kids are responsible for cleaning their bathroom-and that includes mopping the floor. They also have to clear the table after meals and vaccum the basement. You would be amazed at the parents that are shocked that I “make” the kids do all of this. Really?? They are 7 and 10; not toddlers!! You were born when I was 7 and I remember changing your cloth diapers…with safety pins. Kids need to learn to be independent now, so they don’t turn into irresponsible adults.

    • So, growing up in the same home – why can’t you sew? 🙂

      And yes, Matilda already has her chores (letting the dog out, setting & clearing the table, making her bed and cleaning up her room). I can’t imagine not teaching her those things!

  3. JMH says:

    I CAN sew, I am terrible at it so I choose not to 🙂 I had to take Home Ec. too…I even made a skirt and matching vest in 7th grade. I still have the wooden napkin holder I made in shop class too. I agree that we need those classes back in schools too!

  4. Oh you’re putting me to shame here. I am the one that doesn’t know how to change oil or rotate my tires. *bangs head on wall*

    But while my eggs and cookies are not perfect, I think I can manage most of your list. It was more of an independence thing for me – I attended school hundreds of miles away and had to fend for myself…on public transportation!

  5. THIS.

    Great post.

    The thing I’m astounded that people don’t know – and I’m talking about people my age aka in their 30’s – is basic money management. Seriously. I was in charge of my own bank account as soon as I had a job with a paycheck to cash. It seems like a crazy amount of people didn’t have their own not attached to their parents accounts until college or even later. That’s insane to me. Seems like a super important life skill!

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