Courses that teach life skills vs. academics

[deleted account] ( 14 moms have responded )

In high school, I took all the academic courses because, well, I was a nerd. Come to find out I rarely use the information I gained and quickly forget after graduation in 2002.

Fast forward to year 2010. My husband and I decided to take a course through our church called "Financial Peace University." I am learning things I wish I'd known upon being thrust into the world at age 18. On the way to class tonight, we were discussing how this information should be required for high schoolers before graduation. How many people do we know that are deep in debt or have struggling marriages due to financial strain?

So my question is, what courses do you think should really be required for high school graduation? I'm not saying math, Language and sciences are not important, they are. But what life courses do you feel would be more beneficial for high schoolers?

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ME - posted on 01/22/2010

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My mom was a high school parenting and foods teacher ( I believe that they call it Family and Consumer Sciences now)...she always talked about how important parenting class was for her students...Interestingly, many of her girls wound up preggers during their high school career. They were always shocked that their boyfriends took off on them, and left them to figure out everything on their own.

I think that real-world finances is also a good idea...tho, I do think that this is a generational problem. I am 33, and I have no problem balancing my finances (when I have any to balance)...I can talk to insurance co's, bill co's, housing people, make and keep appts., I don't get stressed when I have a lot of responsibility...My youngest sister, on the other hand, wants my parents (read mom) to do EVERYTHING for her. She gets very easily stressed, and if something doesn't work for her the first time, she just waits for someone else to take care of it for her. I always had lots of responsibilities when I was growing up...while the youngest (and last of 5) had few to none. I had a job and kept track of money every summer from age 12 on...my sis didn't start working till late in highschool, and then, her money was just for spending, not really for saving.

I also think that Philosophy and Political Science would be useful...we need to start turning out more responsible and informed citizens...I think this would be a good start!

Michelle - posted on 01/21/2010

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As a young mother, I'm facing this issue as we speak. I was a TOTAL school nerd in high school-- I was in an accelerated program, graduated above 4.0, top 5%, etc..... Yet now, Here I am. No idea how to make investments or how investments work at all, no idea how to buy a house or a car or ANYTHING. I have no financial knowledge, whatsoever. It's very frustrating!! Not only that, but while I file my own taxes, etc., many of the people I know who are my age are still having their parents do their taxes and fill out FAFSA and apply for credit cards and car loans because they don't know how to do it. A real-world finances class would maybe seem redundant or unnecessary to many adults, but I'm 22, and I don't know a lot about finances, and am struggling to pick it up as my family moves closer to these huge financial milestones.
Christy, a smart shopping type class is a great idea!! Knowing how to buy groceries that you'll actually eat and aren't beyond unreasonably expensive... that's something that a LOT of my friends are having a VERY hard time with right now. They just don't understand why their grocery bill for just them is just as much if not more than what mine is for my family of three adults and a baby. Throw realistic budgeting into that and it's perfect!
I also think (this is a little yuppie of me, so forgive me) that an actual class that teaches things like real conflict resolution, how to speak and write in a professional manner, how to present yourself as someone to be taken seriously. I know it sounds more like something that you as a person need to figure out, but I've found that my age group in particular seems to be having a huge problem with this. I actually know people who cuss in interviews or their resumes! It seems like my age group is almost TOO relaxed about formalities. Learning how to handle yourself and arguments you find yourself in is something that many people that I've witnessed in my classes or my jobs just have not figured out.

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[deleted account]

Relationship issues would be good, not just sex education. Also world religion classes would be very useful, as there's a lot of ignorance out there!

Just a couple of personal thought here - encourage everyone to join a library, not just the school library. Libraries are SO important, both for recreation, and for information. Library skills classes are invaluable and transferable to all sorts of research.

How about some vary basic cooking and nutrition classes?

Jocelyn - posted on 01/24/2010

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Maybe it's just the high school that I went to, but I learned how interest works, how to type up a resume (3 kinds!), how to create a budget, we had a political science class and we had to do a certain number of volunteer hours in order to graduate. I think that the only thing I would have liked to learn was something about RRSPs/RESPs/Life Insurance type of stuff. I think if we were made to take more "life skills" classes, there would be a lot more ppl skipping/dicking around, thinking "wtf am I going to need this for?" Everything that I learned I learned within other classes. They were sneaky like that lol. I think that it is ultimately up to the student what they get out of the class. But yeah, a class on "investing" would have been nice.

[deleted account]

Mary, I agree with you. Parents should be teaching their children. But the fact is, most people don't have money skills (look at the state of our economy). So parents teaching their kids about money would be like the blind leading the blind in many households. We've got to start somewhere to break the cycle and it makes sense to start in the schools so the next generation won't make the same mistakes as their parents. I think my parents did fairly well, they have absolutly no debt and are retiring well, but I don't think they fully understand how money works. I ask questions sometimes and they just say, "save all you can and don't buy on credit!" Which is great advice and has served them well, but when you start asking about investments they have no clue! Anyway, I'm glad your parents taught you so well.

Mary - posted on 01/24/2010

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I've read through all of these posts, and am left thinking "Thank you, Mom & Dad!!!"

Many of the things mentioned here are all 'life skills' taught to me by my parents. Especially money management! I was 16 when I got my first job waiting tables...at my parent's insistence. While they always provided for my necessities, and most "extras" like a designer pair of jeans, or Senior Week at the beach, were my responsibility. I didn't work much during the school year, but I busted my ass all summer - they helped me open a checking account, and lectured me about saving that money to cover my expenses throughout the year. When I was a sophomore in college, my dad had me get a credit card to establish credit, but he was VERY clear about who was paying that bill, and how the whole system worked. Almost 20 years later, I have still never been in debt.

They also sat down with me and taught me how to do my taxes once I had started working, and explained the importance of starting a 401K when I got my first job out of college. They went with me when I bought my first car to guide me through the process of haggling the price, and obtaining a loan. I should add that when I began driving, my dad made sure I knew how to change a tire, and what type of routine maintenance, from regular oil changes, to tire rotation and checking fluid levels BEFORE I obtained the privilege of driving.



Watching the world news every evening in my house was mandatory, and my parents discussed current issues openly with us. I went through 12 years of Catholic school, but was exposed to a variety of different belief systems and faiths, and taught by my parents to be open to everyone's views. Beleive it or not, this was reinforced by the SSND's that taught at my high school. My mother took my sister & I to volunteer at a soup kitchen in Baltimore once a month, and there were plenty of discussions about substance abuse, STD's, and conrtaception on those rides to and from.



Perhaps my parents are exceptional, and it's not that I am against any of the things mentioned here being offered in HS. I guess I just assumed a lot of these "life skills" are things that I should be teaching my child as she grows, the same way my parents did with me.

[deleted account]

Most of what I know about finances-taxes, checkbooks, buying smart, interest, credit cards, etc.-I learned from my father. He's a banker, and I've listened to his lectures for years. Once upon a time I rolled my eyes at most of what he said, but now it's really coming in handy. lol My husband, on the other hand, either wasn't taught about all of that or doesn't understand it. He doesn't understand that the "finance charges" on his credit card are the interest charges, and if they're $25 for the month and he pays $50, he's only actually put $25 toward the amount on the card. I had to sit down with him and explain things like that-as well as how to keep a checking account balance. I honestly don't know if he was never taught those things or if he didn't pay enough attention to get the message when someone tried to teach him. It's been an uphill battle for us, as he had credit card debt when we got married but I had none.



I think that a practical course would be useful in either the junior or senior year, especially for those students who are not planning to go to college, but even for those who are. College really doesn't teach you about balancing a checkbook and not charging more than you can pay. And I wish someone had taught me about negotiating-because I'm not sure how I'll deal with a car salesman or a real estate agent when that time comes, as I have no experience negotiating that type of situation. I don't know how much lower than the original price I should offer, especially as the dollar amounts are high and will even out to monthly payments. It's easier for me with small numbers.



I think that teaching classes on religion and politics can be done in high school, but I'm not certain that they should-at least not as mandatory classes. If they are taught then of course they have to be as unbiased as possible and as balanced as possible-which is difficult but possible. We had a high school class called government and economics which we were required to take, and I've found it quite handy, although if revamped it might be better. Some of the things we've been talking about with finances and jobs could go into the economics side of the class, while the government side of the class should (and did) consist of information about how government works-how laws are made, how elections are held, etc.



As for the job hunt-resumes, CV's, etc.-I think there really should be some time devoted to it. I don't know if an entire class on the subject would be necessary, but perhaps a class like the gov./economics class could set aside a week or so for teaching those skills.



I also think that we, as parents, should try to remember how bewildering this has been for us, and at least attempt to teach our children what we've learned about these processes rather than having them figure it all out on their own as well.

Michelle - posted on 01/22/2010

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Katie, I had that doll that cried too, that was a family something class. It was more about how to NOT get pregnant, but teaching abstinence is another conversation for another time lol.
"Learning and Self-Understanding
The Psychology of War
House and Home
Other People
Parenting
Animals and Nature
Advertising and Propaganda
Making a Living
Gender
Religion"

I agree too that a widespread, fair evaluation of religion should be taught, but I think that because of the nature of the class and the fact that in high school you are a minor, that is something will probably have to stay in college.
The propaganda thing is a GREAT idea, because many people don't know just how many people will take you for a ride if they can lol.
I like the idea of teaching the psychological effects of war, as well as the gender thing, but I think that (since I just got done in the male abuse thread lol) it again, should be made fair. Women aren't the only victims, and women aren't the only ones who are discriminated against.
Learning to manage a home in general is a great idea, not just the finances, but what to look for when buying or renting, how to tell when something's not as great as it sounds... etc.
Unfortunately, as it stands, these are all just life lessons that we have to learn. I do know that at my local community college they offer seminars that are available to anyone, not just students, about finances, taxes, major purchases, resume writing and interview skills, etc. It's something that I'm definitely looking into for myself.

Veronica - posted on 01/22/2010

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When i left high school: I didnt know how to do a checkbook (how to write a check or balance a checkbook), i didnt know anything about loans, mortgage or stocks. I am still learning how to be an assertive person - im very passive aggressive (not so much since ive had kids - but still am) I don't know much about politics.



I learned how to clean, cook and take care of myself from my mom. I learned how to manage my money from my mom - she lived off of hardly nothing and raised 5 children - she HAD to manage her money, shop for deals/savings, etc. she had to stretch a dollar. So we were taught these things right away. Raising children - Im learning on my own - but also with help/advice from my mom, aunts and grandma.



I think the biggest issue in my life now (as all these things I either taught myself, asked questions, and found out for myself), I am now working on learning how to file taxes - for self-employment. This - thus far - has been the most difficult - not that i cant figure out numbers, or that i can't figure out what expenses, profit, deductions are - i have those down (after asking questions) - there just happens to be more categories, more things that have to be taken in account - and I just want to make sure Im doing it all correctly!! That i have every single thing that is possible to file - so that i get the maximum in deductions,etc. and that when/if they ever audit me - i dont have to worry about anything!



But i do agree - for the most part they should have "Life" classes. Some stuff you learn in college -- but that's rediculous because not everyone goes to college. Everyone should be taught about these things - so they can leave with that knowledge - I bet you that is why we are in the deficit/economy crash - because no one was taught shit - our economy went from cash to fantasy money (loans/credit cards, etc.)



Saving money, spending wisely, investing smartly - all good things to be taught in high school.



-Veronica

[deleted account]

Yeah this financial course has really opened my eyes. In recent years I've found myselft wishing I knew about money markets and the proper way to save for retirement/ children's college education and investments and insurance and the list goes on. This course is great because it goes into all that plus gives such practical advice. Such as: buy a car in cash, even if you have to buy an old clunker, and put the money you would normally use for car payments to save for the nice car you want then buy it in cash. Do you really know how much money you are paying in interest when you buy on credit??? Do you know that if I pay the minumum on my house note over thirty years I would end up paying for my house twice because of interest??? We are lucky that the only debt we have is our house and student loans, but we definately could have doen better with our money had we known how to manage it. These are the things I wish I'd known all along.

I like the ideas present already on this thread. Especially on how to present onself and parenting.

I read a book in college called "Critical Lessons: What our schools should teach" by Nel Noddings. I dug it out after starting this conversation. Here are the table of contents:
Learning and Self-Understanding
The Psychology of War
House and Home
Other People
Parenting
Animals and Nature
Advertising and Propaganda
Making a Living
Gender
Religion

What does everyone think of this list? I wouldn't mind digging into the book to explain something here. I remember being angry with my high school after reading this book and realizing how ill-prepared and unknowledgable I actually was.

Rosie - posted on 01/22/2010

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i can't remember the name of the course i think it was called adult living, that i took in high school. it wasn't required, but i still chose to take it, and i was glad i did. we took field trips to aprtments, talked about the cost of living, and making a budget. we also got these neat little dolls, that you kept for a week, pretending it was a baby. the thing cried at all hours of the night, and you had to stick a key in it's back, and keep the key turned until it eventually stopped. we were the first class to have these babies, earlier classes had flour bags, that had a place for an egg, and if you broke the egg it meant the baby died or got hurt or something. we took field trips to see different types of work, once we went to a butcher shop -i think it was to scare us to keep us away from blue collar jobs, and another time we went to a financial institution. we practiced a marriage, with a "bride" and "groom" picked from our class, and taught the importance of premarital counseling.

i'm very glad i took the class, and i do think it should be a required course. i guess in a way it was required, you had to take an elected course, but there were a few other options out there like home economics, photography, and others. i learned alot, alot more about life than geometry could ever teach me.

Michelle - posted on 01/22/2010

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Christy, I am also running into the same resume issue.
Mary Elizabeth, I agree about the need to produce more informed citizens, but I think that a politics class would have to be very closely monitored so that it wasn't taught with a bias.
I agree as well that the financial issues I brought up are a generational problem. My mom's generation was raised to take care of themselves. You failed a test? That sucks, study harder next time. Your coach didn't play you? That sucks, practice more. However, our generations parents took care of us. Failed a test? Let's call the teacher and bitch them out. Coach didn't play you? Let's call the coach and bitch them out. I remember innumerable conversations with friends in high school-- "I can't believe Mr. So-and-So gave me a D on that paper. I'm gonna have my mom call and get me a better grade." It's like parents were so convinced their children MUST be perfect that they couldn't let them fail, even if they had to step in themselves. It's a mistake I hope to rectify with my children.

Christy - posted on 01/22/2010

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ooo, i like Michelle's idea of a class on how to represent yourself correctly. i also know a lot of people who are terrible at interviews and as for resumes, i never learned how to make one. my lack of knowledge kept me from applying for the jobs that required resumes.

i also like Mary Elizabeth's idea of a poly sci. class. i think a lot of people could use an extra push to stay involved with everything that's going on with our government and politics in general. very few people seem to care about being informed and i think having to take a class on it in high school would make them more interested in political issues later in life.

Christy - posted on 01/21/2010

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i do think that kids should have to take "life" courses. i think a good balance might be one life skills course a year from the time they start middle school (whatever grade that is depending on school districts) until they graduate.



i think that the biggest thing that needs to be focused on is money management. smart shopping and ways to save money would be great too. i actually think this would have been a much more beneficial math class for me, one that focused on how much a certain percent off is and such. i know i personally have not used algebra 1 day since i graduated but i was forced to take 2 classes of it to graduate. i feel my time could have been better used learning how to figure out prices of things in my head. and i'm not talking about frivolous shopping either, make it be on grocery and necessity items. not everyone will go to college and need the higher mathematical skills but at some point or another most of us will go grocery shopping on our own.



another good thing they could focus on is healthy eating habits and choices. i bet the obesity rate would decrease if we taught 12 year olds not to eat for comfort and what they should do instead when they feel like they want to. i guess that could be covered in health class although i don't think it was ever covered in any of mine.



i think that another good focus of these classes would be a parenting one. maybe they could take like a 6 week course or something of the sort. i accept that not everyone plans on having kids but there's always a chance that it will happen whether you plan it or not, it would be nice to at least know there's nothing scary about changing a diaper or feeding/burping a newborn (i for one was totally lost for my 1st week with my daughter because i didn't grow up around babies). and i do realize that there are home ec. courses for things like that but i know my schedule was so full of my academic course requirements that i couldn't take that class.

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