During the school year, I am laser focused on simply keeping everyone alive and quasi on schedule. With three boys 18, 16 and 14 that task is less complicated than it used to be. Still, with our hectic life spread out over three different schools, it is often easier and faster to do everything myself. But if I'm being honest, most of my responsibilities revolve around food.
When summer comes, I shift gears. I design our break to spend less time in the car; encouraging bike riding and walking to camp, pools and jobs. We are lucky that we live in a neighborhood that has all of these opportunities a short distance away.
As I am planning, I devise a list of basic skills that each boy must learn over the summer. They are age appropriate and build on what they already know. I have found that I'm more patient and the kids are more receptive when the pace of the day is slower.
Life skills boot camp begins at the age of 10. At that time, they learn to use the microwave and blender and to make and reheat food. I show them how to pre-treat a stain before washing clothing and pack a cooler. Yes, they will thank me in college.
Each year, we tackle something new after they have had a year of practicing at least some of the things they learned the summer before.
For instance, now my oldest is learning how to write and endorse a check as well as record it in a check book. My middle son will buy groceries through the self-checkout and pay with a credit card and my youngest is learning to cook simple meals on the stove without burning down the house.
The boys have had household chores for years and those don't change. They are never too young to clean up their own mess. As their mess expands, so does the chore list and accompanying nagging from me.
The skills they learn during the summer are not things they may need every day but they will help them as they move away from me and into the world. My hope is that I am giving them the confidence to not just survive but to thrive.
Below is a list of sample tasks I have taught my children. Because each child is different, there is often tweaking to this list based on personalities and abilities. Yours may vary depending on time constraints and lifestyle as well.
There are learning opportunities everywhere. Encourage your child to watch, ask questions and contribute when doing things like packing the car for vacation, unclogging a toilet and even addressing an envelope.
Life-Skills Summer Boot Camp: Sample List
For 10 and 11-year-old
- Microwave and blender use
- Washing dishes by hand and drying them (not every place they live will have a dishwasher)
- How to work a plunger
- How to change a lightbulb
- Putting on a fitted sheet
For 12-14 year-old
- Cooking simple meals on the stove
- Looking for sale items at the grocery store and store vs name brands
- Using cash and credit card at self-checkout
- How to separate laundry, wash, and what gets hung to dry and what goes in dryer
- Lawn basics
For 15-17 year-old
- How to pump gas
- How to endorse and deposit a check
- Social Security number memorization for college apps
- Changing a flat
- Lighting the grill, cleaning it, cooking and shutting it down again