Generation Cedar

This came from my inbox:

“I have really enjoyed the last few years of homeschooling but feel like I have focused too much on academics, and too little on practical “living” skills.  There is so much pressure from family and friends about testing, and “what college will they attend”, etc., but never questions about what kind of skills they are acquiring that will be most beneficial to their everyday lives.   Am I naive to worry about such things?”

This struck a heart-chord with me because I see SO many parents go to the ends of the earth to provide what they hope will be a superior academic education, and give little thought to all those practical, living skills that will make the rest of life so much easier (and cheaper).

Hear me at the start…I’m not saying we have to sacrifice one for the other.  I’m not saying academics is NOT important where living skills are.  I AM saying that living skills are FAR more important than we make them, and we do our children a disservice by not investing at least equal effort and time into teaching those (or finding someone who can.)

I’ve heard a lot of well-educated men, specifically, lament how little they are able to do for their families because so much time was poured into their academics.

I have to bring up my friend, whose passion and ministry lie in this area.  Her blog is devoted to the very concept of teaching life skills–to be used in their homes, to bless others, and even perhaps to make money.  Kathy at Teaching Good Things  has “a good thing” going on.

Her daughter, Olivia, just came this week and helped my daughter start a beautiful herb and vegetable garden (pictures to come!)  They are a remarkably capable family who constantly blesses those around them and are now using their gifts to teach others about practical life skills.

So what if you and your husband missed out on these skills but you want your children to learn them?  I have several recommendations:

  1. Find someone who knows things, whom you trust, and ask if your children might hang out a day or two now and then.  (Several of the young people around us make themselves available to work with my husband or Dad either building or landscaping…invaluable skills.)
  2. Organize a local class and find someone or several people to teach their particular skill.  We do this in our neighborhood a lot–one family teaches a sewing class, one a bread-making class, one a calligraphy class, etc…
  3. Self learn through books or videos.
  4. Don’t look over your own relatives or local neighbors for help in this area.  Many older men and women have a wealth of knowledge and know-how who would be honored to teach you or your children.

What are some things important to know?

Wow…the sky’s the limit really.  But you’d be surprised how many basic things kids grow up not knowing how to do.  Here’s a short list to get you thinking…

  1. Basic home repairs–changing a door knob, minor appliance repairs, assessing problems to see if it’s repairable or not, etc.
  2. Upholstery.  Years ago, people didn’t buy new furniture when theirs wore out–they re-upholstered it themselves for a few dollars!  (We are having a class here at my house Saturday taught by my friend, Jennie–she’s thrilled to share her expertise…you have them in your area too!)
  3. Cooking.  Sounds like a no-brainer, but many a gal gets married and hasn’t a clue where to start in the kitchen.  Meals are important!  Let’s teach our children that.
  4. Lawn maintenance
  5. Car Repair–Wouldn’t this save families tons of money?  I am so thankful my husband has a knack for mechanics.  He has saved us so much money.

As I said, there are lots of different areas, and delving into some specialties like cake decorating, photography, etc., can prove financially beneficial.

“Also, make it your goal to live quietly, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we instructed you…”  I Thess. 4:11

Let your children experiment with all sorts of things to see where they have particular gifts.  I think it’s a good idea to even set aside a day of school for basic skills training, if you’re not already doing it every day! 

(On a sad side note…a friend who works in a large public school system recently told me that many schools had replaced Home-Ec (who needs it?)with “Early Child Development”.  And guess what?  They are not training to be Mommies.  She said they were specifically training them to run Day Care Centers.)

Math, English, science, history–YES.  But let’s give our children a more well-rounded education than stopping there.  Let’s emphasize the importance of working with our hands and make it just as much a priority!

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17 Responses

  1. This is what I need to hear. We are starting homeschooling next year. I am making decisions on how we want to run things and I can’t help but think of all the practical lessons we can teach about the home while at home. Thanks!

  2. Amen! This is one of the reasons (among others) that we chose to homeschool. This year a dear friend spent a day teaching myself and the kiddos how to bake bread. We laughed, learned, baked, ate, and had a wonderful day of fellowship. She managed to bring in some wonderful spiritual lessons and also told us some memorable stories from her childhood… a daughter of missionaries in India! This by far was one of our best homeschool days!! We also have implemented a chore chart and are learning important homemaking skills, in addition to our academics. Next… learning how to compost & garden! Thanks for your encouragement, Kelly.

  3. Oops! Sorry… I accidently linked to someone else’s blog my last post!! Hope they don’t mind. Love their blog name. 🙂 Be patient with me, blogging is a skill I am still acquiring!

  4. Oh, I love this! So, SO true! I went to Christian school but guess what… I skipped the Home Ec course to take advanced Math. I guess that helps with my math lessons for the boys, but I have agonized over not being able to sew for years (just now learning).

    I can’t wait to see those gardening pictures!

    P.S. I am REALLY, REALLY jealous over not being able to come to the upholstery class. That is something I am dying to learn (I know, I am being just a little dramatic).

  5. Yes, I totally agree with the practical living skills. I think we have so many conveniences that people think they are not necessary anymore but they definitely are! They often save money and are healthier for our families. When I first got married to dh I didn’t know how to cook much beyond convenience foods and I was concerned b/c we were looking towards the foreign mission field at the time and I asked the Lord to please help me learn to cook and He really has and has also used my dh (who used to watch his mom cook, he was homeschooled) and dh helped me learn a few things too. So praise the Lord for His provision! I definitely want to teach my boys how to cook. And also gardening. My dh knows a little about gardening too and sewing as well..more than I did. I’m learning gardening now and just learned to crochet almost 2 years ago. We are planning to homeschool our children and I am glad they will be able to learn practical living skills by our side…as we learn and grow in them too!

  6. Kelly, of all the important posts you’ve written in the short time I’ve known of your site, this is my favorite. Especially considering the long haul it looks like we’re in for economically speaking, these practical skills are what will keep many families afloat, as they always have. Practical services and skills will to be the most valuable commodity in a difficult economic climate.

    I also appreciate it from a new homeschoolers perspective – it seems counterintuitive to only do “school” when HOMEschool is so much more, and that’s really the point. Not to mention, academic subjects are enhanced by practical application – cooking teaches measurement, time, chemical reaction, thermal energy,etc. – I can’t wait to examine the physics of a pressure cooker. Additionally, finance, ratio, and on and on….things most kids in upper math classes don’t grasp on a practical level.

    My own math skills were weak, barely passing College Algebra, and then I got a part time internship in a small home-based drapery workroom. Bear in mind, I had never sewn a stitch, and didn’t for 3 years after I left that position. But while I was there, I learned to figure easily in 16th’s of yards, centimeters and meters, the geometry of plane, scale, and the physics of load, I actually used pi and diameter and circumference, daily! About a year letter, I CLEP’d out of an additional two math subjects, which I substituted for elective credit. Never in my life, without that practical training, would I have EVER considered math as one of my electives. When I did sit down to sew, I knew backwards and forwards the formulas, and the mechanics came very easily, because I had a body of competence associated with it. In my life now, I am given a better price at the workroom I use for my clients, because I do part of their job for them. They don’t have to schedule a write up appointment for me, and it saves them time and money.

    These everyday skills are the things that make a difference between a job and a career, and a living and a life. If I stumbled into being better academically and professionally on mere chance, I can only imagine what a dedicated homeschooling parent can scratch out of the minds of their own children. It’s an amazing thing to consider.

    Thank you for reminding and encouraging all of us, once again. Bless you!

  7. Wow, this is something I have often wished I learned. I was in “advanced” studies in high school which left no room for home economics. At the time we teased the kids who took home ec.(they weren’t as smart as us, or so we thought!) I got married not knowing how to cook beyond boxed foods, not knowing how to set a cleaning schedule for the house, and having no clue how to garden or sew. All these things I had to teach myself, I still have a long way to go with the sewing and cooking 🙁 and I feel like I have wasted years. My first born son spent his early days watching me take all day doing simple things like preparing dinner or cleaning out a closet.

    My mother was a great cook, knew how to sew, kept a realtively clean home, and gardened. Somehow she bought the feminist lie that those things were unimportant and therefor never taught us, but instead she pushed academics. She sees her error now that her two oldest daughters are both staying home with their children and complaining that we don’t know how to do anything around the house 🙂 We have asked her to teach us some things, but now she is busy working outside the home to pay for the 5th and last child to go to college (even though she has also stated that she plans on staying home after she is married, which may be soon.) I’m not saying college isn’t a great thing for her to accomplish, but at the cost of my mother going back to work now that she is sixty is outrageous to me. (Even my sister knows this, but mom and dad required all of us to go to college so we can “get ahead”, whatever that means.)

    I guess this just goes to show that actions speak louder than words. My mother pushed academics, but poured her life into her home and children. Now her 3 daughters all want to do what she did, not what she pushed. I guess that is something we can all think about.

  8. Kelly,

    Another thing to keep in mind is that these practical skills can be integrated WITH academics! The way I learned fractions (way before we covered it in school) was by baking with my mom. Especially when she’s say, “Okay, now we’re going to make 18 muffins instead of twelve, so how much flour do we need?” Money management is another great one for integrating with mathematics–even a simple trip to the grocery store. You can learn percentages by explaining to your kids how you tithe and asking that they tithe a certain percentage of their allowance or gifts; expand this by helping them to choose a percentage to put away in savings, as well.

    If you have a kinesthetic learner, learn history with your hands: do woodworking when studying the Colonial Era (read aloud to your kids while they’re busy creating; it will sink in so much better!). Cook foods that were served in a specific time period or country. Learn other skills that may have been used at that time: candle-making, cross-stitch, etc. This works great with any historical fiction, too, and branches well into English/literature.

    Science, of course, is BEST when hands-on. Help Daddy with some rewiring around the house, and call it a course in electrical engineering! Gardening is a course in botany. Caring for animals: biology! Talking to Grandpa about his diabetes’ treatment: health & nutrition.

    The greatest gift my mother ever gave me was to find ways to integrate my academics into the real world. I think it’s the main reason I have never stopped learning and that much of my learning happened outside the classroom–but it was still academic!


  9. How right you all are about the “living and learning” concept–it’s bizarre how our culture has tried to separate the two…that was the main point in my book–Think Outside the Classroom”–living IS education with a parent who undertands this.

  10. Kelly…this is definitely one of my favorite posts. You’re right, academics is important, but so is learning to live! I echo what Bethany pointed out, as well, that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Integrating and incorporating academics and life skills is important–after all, that is a lot of the reason we teach academics in the first place!

    I was homeshooled, and I grew up around many homeschooling families. I have had some unique observation opportunities, and one of them is precisely what you described…all academics and no life skills. What a shame to be home and not take advantage of it! Some of these kids, all grown up, are no better off than their public schooled peers. I feel sorry for them, to be honest, and have seen how frustrated they are and how much they struggle to learn that which is necessary to live (i.e. cooking, managing money, and cleaning).

    So to add a voice of experience, PLEASE, please, homeschoolers, don’t neglect this. In fact, all of you parents, PLEASE don’t neglect this. Teach your children how to fish, don’t just give them their daily dose. They will thank you later.

  11. Great post.
    I agree – life skills are so necessary and often neglected. My husband and I were discussing the other night that, although we know (academic) education is very important and we are committed to equipping our children in this area, it’s almost as if it’s been elevated to idol status in our culture. People in lower income areas look to education as their salvation to bring them to a better situation. While education is important, it’s really God who they are looking for and needing. It’s living life following Him and walking with Him that will bring the blessings they desire.
    I truly believe that we’re called to equip our children. This equipping will most certainly include “the 3 R’s” along with life skills and other skills specific to their bend. Even knowing this, it’s helpful and encouraging to be reminded. (My oldest if 14 and I find myself once again fighting against the ingrained mindset of – “high school – got to make sure she’s doing the ‘right’ things”.)
    Once again, thanks for your blog. I’m always love reading your posts.
    In His love,

  12. I was definitely brought up with a strong academic emphasis at the expense of learning practical skills. In fact, my parents specifically discouraged me from getting involved in kitchen or yardwork for fear that doing so would distract from my studies.

    I have found that learning these skills is not that hard. I am a pretty good cook even though I didn’t start until my late 20s. Now, in my late 30s, I am learning about lawn maintenance and gardening.

    However, I think learning these skills as a child would have given me more of a sense of mastery over my environment, and consequently, greater self-confidence and self-esteem.

    So I come down on the issue as follows: Academics should always come first. These provide the critical thinking skills that everyone needs as a base. But I think children should be encouraged to develop competence in practical areas because that also provides a base to work off of.

    However, my experience gives lies to the idea that I see promoted on certain sites that young women should stay home rather than pursuing higher education so that they can co concentrate on developing their housekeeping skills. These things are not that hard to figure out in your spare time as you go along.

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