15 Life Skills Essential for my Children


As homeschoolers, we often like to think that our children are better prepared to handle life situations than many of their public school counterparts. After all, they do see us “living life” day after day. But after speaking with many homeschooling moms that wonder if they are allowing their children enough opportunity to truly interact with others, I wonder if we are really preparing them to step into their roles as adults. Are we teaching by example? Or are we too eager to do everything for our children, depriving them the valuable opportunity to learn on their own?

Several years ago, my husband heard a broadcast that stated that a public school had actually taken a field trip to Wal-mart so the students could practice standing in line and making a purchase. We had to chuckle,  if that counts as a field trip, we’ve been there and done that too many times to count. But this is no laughing matter. Apparently there are enough children lacking this basic skill that the school district felt it necessary to include such an exercise in their school program.

If  those children are unable to make purchases at the store, then how many of those children, or our own children, have no clue how to open a bank account, pump gas or speak with a customer service representative to resolve a problem? Do our homeschooled children have an advantage in this area?

With children that are nearing adulthood, I sometimes wonder how my children measure up in this department. Have I taught my children the necessary life skills that will enable them to be confident and knowledgeable as they make purchases, conduct business and live their day to day life without my aid?

I’ve compiled a list of some of the life skills that have been on my mind lately; in part because of some of the events that we’ve been dealing with in our own home. The following suggestions may give you an idea of where to begin, or continue working on, with your own children.

  1. Are my children able to create a shopping list, select groceries and cook simple meals on their own? Do they know how to find the best deals?
  2. Do they have basic sewing skills enabling them to sew on a button and complete simple repairs when needed?
  3. Are they willing, able and capable to clean the house, including washing laundry and cleaning toilets? Are they aware of the dangers of combining chemicals such as bleach and ammonia?
  4. Are they comfortable handling their own basic auto maintenance? Do they know how to check and top off their fluids, check tire pressure, change a tire, and pump gas?
  5. Do they know who to call and what to do in emergency situations? Do they know basic first aid or CPR?
  6. Do they know how change a mailing address or register with the selective service?
  7. Do they know where to register to vote? How to vote? Or why it’s important to do so?
  8. Do they know how to apply for a job? Have they practiced interview skills? Are they able to select proper clothing for an interview?
  9. Do they know how to open a checking account and how to get the best deal? Is there a monthly fee for the account? Does it pay interest? What is the minimum monthly balance? Does the bank provide checks or a debit card? Does your child know how to use a debit card, track purchases and balance their account?
  10. Do they know how to create a realistic monthly budget and stick to it?
  11. What should they look for in a first apartment? What should they know about signing a lease? Who do they contact to turn on utilities?
  12. What should they look for in buying their first car? What about auto insurance? Or license plates?
  13. Do they know how and where to have a document notarized?
  14. Do they know how to use public transportation? How to hail a taxi? Ride a subway? Purchase an airline ticket and find their gate?
  15. Can they handle their own problems when they arise and work things out on their own?

As a firm believer in hands- on learning, I’ve covered many of the items on the above list by explaining to my children what I’m doing and why in various situations. As my kids have gotten older, I’ve allowed them the opportunity to make purchases, return items, pump gas and make phone calls in my place.

When it was time to renew my drivers’ license, my kids went with me. When it was time for them to get their drivers’ license, I allowed them to do all the talking but I was there if they needed me. When my son applied for his first job, he filled out all the applications but I was available if he had a question. When my older son opened his checking account, he preferred to do it by himself. Before he left the house we talked about some of the information he would need, made sure he had the documents that were required and away he went. If he needed me, I was only a phone call away.

As my children grow, I want them to be capable, confident adults.  I also want them to know that if they ever need us, their father and I are only a phone call away.

What are some of the life skills that you consider essential for your children to know before they leave home?

{This post was originally published on The Homeschool Classroom on December 13, 2011.}

When Tonya isn’t attempting to teach her kids all they need to know before they leave home,  she’s blogging about the fun, family friendly and educational destinations that her family visits at The Traveling Praters.

Tonya Prater


  1. Rana says

    Great post! My twins are only 8 so we still have a ways to go, but they do know how to purchase things at the grocery store, and use the self check out lane and pay with cash. They can also do their own laundry and some cooking. I think we are on the right path. Your list is good, I’m going to use it as a reference as my kids get older and keep adding to it.

    • says

      Thanks, Rana! It’s never too early to teach our kids the essentials that they will need later in life. Sounds like you’re off to a great start. And if your kids have mastered the self checkout lane, I’m impressed. That one frustrates me everytime! *smile*

  2. says

    Wow – what a great list. For moms of younger children, perhaps revise this list and find the base of each skill –
    learn parents’ full names (and their own!), know phone numbers, learn to address envelopes and buy stamps and post letters to grandparents, help plan, buy and prepare a meal, do basic car cleaning, check oil and tyre pressure with dad … all fun and easy skills.
    My 17-year old has developed a little part-time business with a friend and for 2 years now have hired halls, earned money to save for their expenses, worked with adults, organized and delegated … become really skilled. Homeschoolers have all the advantages and it shows!

  3. says

    Great post Tonya! I agree all these things are very important. Keilee has filled out my checks [minus the signature], filled out deposit tickets, pumped gas, bought and paid for purchases and other things. I just need to teach her how to do laundry and CLEAN HER ROOM now. :)

    Loved this!

  4. Paris says

    I think another one to add is change a flat tire. It’s always go to know. And sometimes teens don’t really understand how much umpth they need to get those lugnuts off or on tight!

  5. Jennifer says

    I’ve been thinking about taking my daughter to an intercessory prayer meeting at our church one morning a week. I’ve never taken her before because I was afraid she’d be too easily bored.. but recently I’ve been thinking it might be the most important life skill she’ll ever learn.

  6. Lee Ann says

    Love this post, sweet Tonya! Don’t like thinking about these things these days. :p Thank you for all of your encouragement. And I love the picture of “C”!

  7. says

    Great list! I hadn’t thought of No. 14. Living in the suburbs, we don’t use public transportation. We never know where our kids will end up living, so I agree this is a good one. I would add one to the list “How to send a thank you card or written correspondence.” In our digital age, this is often overlooked. A followup after an interview should be a mailed correspondence. I try, but often forget, to have my sons send a “thank you” card for a birthday gift. I think it is the ultimate in politeness. Most of your other list was covered in our Math U See Stewardship course. My son LOVED that course! I even learned from it!

  8. Anne T. says

    Great article! There’s a good book by homeschool mom, Barbara Frank, called “Life Prep for Homeschooled Teens.” The description: “Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers includes step-by-step projects that guide teenagers to an understanding of practical financial matters. It also includes reading and writing assignments that require them to think seriously about their goals for their personal lives, and how they will integrate their values and their work. ” And, the link: http://www.cardamompublishers.com/cardamom-life-prep.htm

    And, no, I don’t get any type of compensation for promoting Mrs. Frank’s book. I just know of her & her books because she has been a speaker for our local homeschool group a couple of times. :-)

  9. says

    That’s a great list! even at 31, I still am not completely aware of what to do with notarizing documents… (go to a bank?? Probably a fee??)… and a few others on the list, like public transportation, since it is not available around where I live.

    I would add 2 other things to this list.

    -Nutrition. As much as I was a tomboy who rathered take the shop classes than HomeEc, I wish I had to learn more about nutrition and vitamins and hydration.

    -Taxes. at 19, if I went off on my own, I probably would have assumed I wouldn’t have to pay taxes. Kids need to learn about our complicated tax system, what number to claim, the difference between a deduction and a credit, and adjusted gross income….and so on.

    I lied. I have one more

    Healthcare. I remember my first time getting an EOB (explanation of benefits) statement, i sent payment to the insurance company!! Teach kids about deductibles, year maximums, copays and spending accounts.
    (auto insurance and renters/homeowners insurance claims go along with this one too)

    I guess you could go on and on… healthcare directives/living wills, wills, life insurance….. There is SO much to learn!

  10. says

    In the coming year we will be teaching our children how to read their Bibles, pray and spend time of solitude with the Lord every day. I do think that is a life skill that is so often skipped and one that I have come up short on and still do. To be able to form these 3 life lines into children at an early age will surely set them up for success as adults!!!!