The following post is from Shannen of Middle Way Mom:
We want the best for our kids, and we want them to have unlimited opportunities as they grow older to become successful, happy adults.
But how do we facilitate that?
I think too often we focus entirely too much time and attention on curriculum, and not enough time on developing the individual. It’s too easy to get bogged down trying to make sure they have all their states and capitals memorized, and forget to teach them how to make the most out of their time in this world.
So, what should we do to invest in our kids’ future?
Here are some ideas, in my humble opinion, generally starting with the younger years.
Time to explore
I might be the first to tell you this, but you don’t have to sign your toddler up for classes.
Really, the classes are more for you than they are for your kid. Early childhood classes are fun, and it breaks up the week, but they aren’t doing anything there that you can’t do at home. They have a sensory bin? Let your child play outside with crunchy leaves (or slimy after rain in a shady spot), tickle their feet in the grass, or let them jump in puddles. They might find some interesting creatures along the way, and hear some interesting sounds.
If it makes you feel better, schedule in exploratory play time. Swap out the toys in your home periodically so they stay fresh and new without having to actually buy new toys.
Really, letting their mind explore the world around them at a young age is key to development, and it helps them to learn how to entertain themselves.
Along the same lines of giving your child opportunity to explore, if they have certain passions, facilitate them diving deeper.
My 4 year old loves to color, especially princesses, so we recently bought her some colored pencils (an upgrade from crayons, for big girls, of course).
My teen really took a liking for astronomy a few years ago, so we bought an app for the tablet. I also got her 100 Things to Spot in the Night Sky, and we tried to stay on top of news in the astronomy community to learn about new discoveries.
If your child is passionate about something, make sure to support it. It could be their livelihood in the future.
Teach them their faith
Whether your faith is specific, or a more spiritual path with morals and values, make sure you lead by example and provide resources for them to learn more. Give them a moral compass, especially before they reach the pre-teen years where so many temptations will be presented to them.
Doing this requires dedication on your part, and not letting pop culture be your guide, but the reward is long-lasting: a child that questions the social norms to find their own way rather than simply following the pack.
I put this earlier on because it needs to be started in the early years to have the most effect. I know most homeschooling families are on a pretty tight budget, but not setting aside money for college for children just puts the burden either later in your own life, or on the early adult years of your children.
I started my oldest’s college fund at $25 per month when she was 6 months old. Now grated, it’ll only cover maybe one year of college in full, but if used alongside grants, scholarships, and credit-by-exam, it will stretch a lot further and greatly reduce school debt, making my teen’s early adult years much easier.
Books, books, and more books
This is my favorite. I love books. I always have. It took me a long time to warm up to the idea of getting a Kindle, but after I had my second child and I was nursing basically around the clock, I gave in.
I’ve heard over and over that the best way to start homeschooling is just to read, and keep reading. Never stop with read alouds, even after your kids can read to themselves. Keep the bookshelves in a place where the kids can grab them whenever they want. I have page-tearing little ones, too. These years do require a bit more supervision, and board books in easy reach, but it’s worth it to keep them interested in books.
Even if your children don’t want to do their school work, or they just coast through their lessons, if they love to read, they can learn anything they want on their own.
Get outside as a family, and if you can, sign your kids up for some type of sport. We all know the value of being active and the life-long benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Give your kids the gift of trying out various activities so they can learn what suits them. Do they enjoy being in the water? What about taking time in nature? Do they like to compete? You don’t have to be an athlete to be active.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Kayaking (many places rent kayaks)
- Do a 5K together
- Ride your bikes to the park
- Rock climbing indoors
- Roller skating
- Ice skating
When I moved out on my own, my cooking skills were limited to things in a box, with instructions. I also had no idea that those options weren’t very healthy for me. I could list many things I was ill prepared for, though the one thing I’m incredibly grateful my dad taught me was how to balance a checkbook (back when that’s what you had to do), and how to pay bills.
Take some time away from academics and make sure your kids will be able to help themselves when they are making strides toward independence. You can start with these 50 tasks, or go further with these additional 40 tasks.
Few of us are financially secure our entire lives, especially when we are first starting out. Does your child know what public resources are available when they are in need, like using the library for Internet access rather than paying for Internet at home? Do they know some go-to frugal recipes, or how to shop for the lowest price per ounce at the grocery store? Is it cheaper to buy frozen, canned, or fresh vegetables?
Knowing the answers, and having some practice staying within a tight budget, can be empowering for them as they manage their own financial matters.
This is a bit harder to instill into a child because there’s so much personality at play here, but simple things like knowing when to call in sick, and helping them understand that they are entitled to very little. Rather, their employer is entitled to get a good day’s work out of them in exchange for their paycheck.
When I was supervising, I was blown away at how many people in my team asked when they would receive a bonus when they rarely even came to work on time, or finished their tasks without being reminded. In my humble opinion, a good work ethic is a rare commodity these days, so those who have it will do quite well in the workplace.
So far nearly everything I’ve listed to invest in your children has been a soft skill; something that will help them to grow to be the most successful they can in their adult years. There comes the reality that there will come a time when you are not there for them any longer. Will you leave them with unpaid student loans (yes, some can get passed on to the children) and funeral expenses? Or will you leave them with some inheritance?
I learned recently that life insurance is not as expensive as I once thought. For a healthy adult, you can purchase a $1 million life insurance policy for around $50/mo. That’s less than many of us pay for Internet access.
We all want the best for our kids, and we want them to have all the opportunities they seek available to them. I really do believe if we work on these 10 way to invest in our kids’ future, they will have a strong foundation, and a good chance at a healthy and successful adult life.