In many countries, there seems to be a push for schools to make life skills education a compulsory part of their curriculum.
I recently came across a quote by Charlie Powell (from Britain) that said, "It's common sense that all children should learn how to cook at school, so it should be part of the National Curriculum." As a homeschooling mom, I found this quote ironic. What he is saying is that it is common sense that children need to learn in an institution what they will need to know to live at home. Common sense?
Charlie Powell is certainly not alone in thinking this way. Many people are speaking out on this topic.
It used to be that life skills were passed down between the generations, yet this no longer seems to be happening. Why is that? I believe it has a lot to do with how little time children are spending with their adult relatives.
I think part of the problem is our school systems. Children are removed from the home and sent to school all day. This is now starting to occur at younger and younger ages. Where I live, they are planning on extending Kindergarten to full days instead of half days. In Ontario, next door to us, they have Junior Kindergarten so you send your 3 and 4 year old children to school.
Daycare centers have become very common, instead of home-based daycares and grandparents. You send your child there, and your child experiences age-appropriate programming. Sounds great, but that programming usually has nothing to do with daily living skills.
After school and daycare, there is a lot of societal pressure to enroll your children in lessons. Your child is supposed to be getting 60 minutes of physical activity per day, so a sports program sounds good. Many sports programs are at least 3 days per week. Then there is music, church groups, and other clubs, as well as all these activities for siblings.
When you pick up your children from school or daycare, you must shuttle them to their various activities. Often you do not even have time to cook supper so you go through a drive-through on the way there, or pick up something at the canteen.
Before you know it, bedtime has arrived, and you still need to bath the kids and ensure they have done their homework. There simply is no time left for life skills.
Weekends are spent catching up on everything you could not do during the week. You have yet more childrens' activities and visiting with friends and relatives.
When do you get anything done? I think most parents stop for groceries on the way home from work. They put in quick loads of laundry whenever they can, but do not include the kids because that would take too long. They buy pre-prepared meals because they do not have time to cook. They hire someone to clean their house.
I've been there. We are all so busy rushing around that life skills get neglected.
Parents do not have time to teach life skills, and rely more and more on the schools for this. I had one friend who told me, "I can't wait for my son to start school so he can learn how to read." At the time I had a child the same age who had already learned to read at home. She is not alone. Many people leave it to school to teach hygiene, sexuality, interpersonal skills, nutrition, etc.
The ideal place for children to learn daily living skills is where they will need to use them - in the home and in the community. It is not "common sense" to learn them in a different environment than where they will be used. Research has shown that skills do not transfer very well between different environments.
However, in general, the reality is that kids are not learning what they need at home. They are learning hockey, soccer, music, etc., but not how to cook, clean, grocery shop or budget.
Because we cannot rely on kids learning daily living skills at home, they really must be a compulsory part of the school curriculum. Otherwise, where would our kids learn life skills?