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Our parents had it easy. They totally trusted the school system’s ability to take snotty nosed kids and turn them into fully functioning members of society. But look at us now, mom! We’re still confused when it comes to filing our taxes, we had to learn the hard way about balancing a budget, and we have only just begun to learn survival skills for when our current world order inevitably goes to hell.
So, as we now know from firsthand experience, the school system may succeed in teaching us basic math and science; but the school system usually sucks when it comes to teaching practical life skills needed to thrive in the real world. As parents, it’s our job to fill in the blanks.
Don’t let their youth waste away with video games and Netflix! (Except for these shows.) Take the opportunity to create a super fun year that will contribute to a happy and healthy future for your little self-sufficient humans.
1. Animal Farming
Where would humanity be without horses, chickens, and cows? These animals have played a huge part in America’s conception and growth. From transportation to nutrition, having a close relationship with animals and understanding all of the benefits they can add to your life is key to living a self-sustainable lifestyle.
Enroll your kid in horseback riding lessons where they’ll also learn how to muck the stalls, buy them some baby chickens to teach them how to cultivate eggs, or take them on a field trip to a local cow farm where they can learn where their meat comes from.
Kids are never too young to start learning how to plant seeds and grow their very own garden – indoors or out. Whether it’s a small herb garden on your porch or a full-on veggie patch in the backyard, make this your kids’ summer project.
Teach them the fun stuff like how to protect their plants from critters and plan exactly what you’re going to do with the yields once they’re ready to pick. Gardening is more than just a waiting game.
It’s time to dispel this idea that “sewing is only for girls or old ladies.” Rather, teach your kids that there’s nothing quite as satisfying as being able to patch up a tear in your favorite jeans or being the one your family turns to when a button pops off.
Fishing teaches patience, is extremely relaxing, and provides a super fun activity that can fill your child’s weekends with something other than a brain-draining computer screen.
Teach your child about sustainable fishing by releasing the small fish and keeping the big boys; teach them how to string a rod or fashion a fishing net out of materials in your garage, and teach them how to clean and cook a fish all on their own. Take pictures of their catches and print out the photos to inspire a sense of achievement that will keep them motivated!
There’s no better feeling than knowing your child could survive on their own if something were to happen to you. Foraging is an immediate fix to hunger and nutritional depletion that doesn’t involve hunting, growing, or catching.
The key to foraging is learning how to decipher what is and is not edible. Just because it looks like a fruit, doesn’t mean you can eat it! Head into your backyard, the forest, or your local park to find berries, mushrooms, and leaves to munch on as you explore.
6. How to Build a Fire
Kids and fire are a combination that terrifies most parents, but hear me out! Guns are dangerous when you don’t know how to use them, cars are intimidating when you don’t know how to drive them, and fire is a hazard when you don’t know how to contain it.
Step one to fire safety is learning how to be comfortable with fire. Build a firepit in the backyard (together!) and practice all the different methods of starting a fire. With practice, your kids will become more confident AND more cautious once they learn to respect the process.
No, I don’t mean reheating frozen food or making instant ramen; I’m talking about cooking from scratch. Making soups, homemade pasta, and fresh salads with veggies from the garden!
Cooking is a hobby that opens doors! Doors to promising careers, fulfilling passions, and healthy lifestyles that will stick with your child for life. Lead by example and show your child how fun (and easy) clean cooking can be.
If you’re not already canning your food, here is the perfect opportunity to start. Make jams, homemade spaghetti sauce, pickles, and more – then can them up for a healthier (and cheaper) alternative to store-bought goods.
This is not only a chance to teach your child about healthy eating, what to do with their abundance of garden crops, and how to prepare for food emergencies, but also a chance to bond with your child. Canning is a weekend event that is much more fun when you have a canning buddy!
9. Self-Defense Tactics
Face it, the world is a dangerous place. Furthermore, a catastrophe or government shutdown would make it even more dangerous. Everyone, especially young girls, should know some basic self-defense moves.
You can enroll your child in a local self-defense class, teach them some classic tactics at home, or see if they’d be interested in a new hobby like Brazilian jiu-jitsu or Muay Thai! Brazilian jiu-jitsu is good for overpowering larger and stronger opponents, while Muay Thai is a quick way to fend off attackers using a combination of kicks and punches. Both styles of defense are suitable kids of any size.
10. Money Management
It’s never too early to teach your kids how to handle money! In fact, the sooner the better. From budgeting their allowance to saving for big-ticket items, the ability to manage money will dictate your child’s future.
Remember: money management is not always about spending less, rather it’s about spending SMART. Lead by example and take your kids on coupon clipping adventures and teach them about buying what you need vs. what you want!
11. How to do your Taxes
Almost every adult has gone down the angry rabbit hole while doing their taxes with one violent question on their mind: Why didn’t they teach us about taxes in school?!
Filing taxes does not come naturally and follows no laws of common sense, yet we are all expected to know how to file our taxes on our own? Ugh! Start with the basics: what are taxes, how many times a year do you have to file them, what good do taxes do for your community, etc.
12. How to Use a Compass & Map
It’s time to break the news to your kids that cell reception and phone charging stations are not God-given rights. In fact, it’s dangerous to strictly depend on Google Maps. Life just isn’t that predictable!
Every child and adult should be able to use a compass and an “old-school map” to navigate. Make a game out of it by racing to a specified location on the map using just a compass or digging a treasure in the ground with an “X Marks the Spot” hunt.
Humans can’t breathe underwater, and water is everywhere. This fact alone should be a motivator for every human being to learn how to swim! You can increase your child’s chance of survival with just one summer of swimming lessons! Don’t have the money or time for swimming lessons? Go to your local river or lake and practice treading water and floating. These two skills alone are life changers.
14. How to Do Laundry
You want to integrate into society? You can’t do that smelling like a foot or looking like a barnacle! Every kid should know how to do their own laundry. Teach them how to do a load of whites and colors using your washing machine. Show them what materials need to be hung to dry. And hey, explain to them how to remove a mustard stain before it sets in!
15. Basic House Maintenance
Things like changing a light bulb or unclogging a drain are pretty simple, but you’d be surprised how many adults rely on Google to figure this stuff out. Even worse, many adults are too lazy for Google and end up shelling out a wad of cash to hire a “professional”.
Set your children up to be totally independent and do these things on their own! The next time the power goes out, call your kid into the garage to help you reset the breaker. These little lessons will stick with them for life.
While changing a light bulb may not seem essential to your 3rd grader now, and filing taxes doesn’t apply to your 16-year-old just yet, the underlying skill you’re teaching them here is critical thinking.
Each of these self-sufficiency lessons teaches your child to analyze problems and find solutions. Critical thinking is the ultimate key to living an independent life full of small successes and big achievements.
When your child believes in their ability to problem solve, their confidence grows and overflows into every aspect of their life. If they believe that they can catch, clean, and cook a fish with their own two hands – who’s to say they can’t catch a squirrel and do the exact same?