Community Voices

Beyond the Classroom: More core life standards every kid should have

Last week, I discussed seven insights about the things kids should be able to do before they grow up and/or leave home, inspired by’s Life Skills section and a superb piece on Common Core Standards by TIME magazine’s Kristin van Ogrop.

Here are eight more.

1. Become financially literate. Open a savings account. Learn how to write a check and know the difference between a credit card and debit card.

You may think that owning a fancy car or a big house is the mark of being rich. But having money doesn’t mean you have to spend it all. Any millionaire will tell you that knowing how to use your money is critical to keep it from running out. If a person makes a $1 million and spends $1 million, they are not using their money wisely and may ultimately go bankrupt. Parents can help model the fact that all money earned does not have to be spent — it can be donated, invested, saved and otherwise put to good use besides purchasing excessive material goods. The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko, shares some invaluable financial insight and remains one of my favorite books to date.

Some great children’s books on money include:

▪ Lemonade in Winter by Emily Jenkins and G. Brian

▪ The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies (8-12)

▪ The Money We’ll Save, by Brock Cole (4-8)

▪ A Chair for My Mother, by Vera B. Williams. (4-8)

▪ Coat of Many Colors, by Dolly Parton (4-8)

▪ How I Learned Geography, by Uri Shulevitz (4-8)

▪ Those Shoes, by Maribeth Boelts (5-8).

▪ The New York Times money columnist Ron Lieber is set to release a great book in February called The Opposite of Spoiled — raising kids who are grounded, generous and smart about money. Check it out.

Learn how to “compartmentalize” and manage your money. This allows you to decide how much money goes where. If not, you will get a nasty habit of spending your money on everything you want — which is not a realistic view of money or its management. Read books about managing money. Ask your parents about how they manage their money. Ask for an age appropriate weekly allowance. Then create a compartmentalized banking system. Provide yourself a bank for: spending money to be used soon, saving money to be used later, investing money to grow, and giving money to help others.

When you do decide to spend your money:

▪ Understand the tactics of consumerism. It is a business and you are part of it.

▪ Learn the difference between wants and needs. It may save you one day.

▪ Practice math calculations so you aren’t surprised at the cash register.

▪ Compare prices and quality before you buy. Cheap is not always better.

▪ Consider taxes and fees. Did you know there is a hefty service fee attached to buying online concert tickets? Online purchases often require a shipping fee.

▪ Don’t buy just because there is a sale.

▪ Don’t be fooled by persuasive media.

2. Have a conversation with someone over the age of 60. Even if this person isn’t a relative, find something to talk to them about. Wisdom comes with age and there are a lot of wise people out there that you can learn from. Spend some time listening to an older person. Ask them questions and listen to their answers. Then send them a note to thank them for sharing their wisdom with you.

3. Take care of someone or something other than yourself. Learning selflessness is good for the body and soul. Being responsible for something or someone because you want to,is huge. It is an amazing feeling although not always convenient. But that is the point. Learning how to give of oneself is a core life skill and it has its perks.

U.S. News &World Report shows that teenagers who volunteer or assume responsibility for something, reap big benefits. Responsibility has a positive effect on grades, self-concept, and attitudes toward education. Regular volunteering and community service is also associated with reduced drug use and huge declines in dropout rates and teen pregnancies.

By babysitting your brother or sister, visiting your grandparents, washing and and feeding your dog, you are likely to become more compassionate and feel better about yourself. So if it means giving up some time, take it on and stick to it. You will find yourself feeling pretty good.

4. Read a book for pleasure. In a world of screens, it can be easy to forget how good it feels to curl up in bed with a good book. Research shows that:

▪ Reading a good book is the most effective way to overcome stress.

▪ A lifetime of reading may keep your brain in shape as you age.

▪ Reading before bed is a great way to calm your mind and prepare your body for a good sleep.

▪ Reading a good book might actually increase empathy or the ability to feel another person’s emotions.

5. Take a shop class. In his book, Shop Class as Soulcraft, Mathew Crawford praises the benefits of learning how to do manual work. “In a time where most of our digital work is intangible, working with our hands can bring a sense of satisfaction that is lacking in our virtual lives.”

Most digital aged high school kids don’t even know what a shop class is because when electives are available, schools opt for technology rather than carpentry courses. And not all kids are interested or have strength in academics. So who will be the makers and tradesmen of tomorrow if there is nowhere to learn these skills?

While generations before sewed their own clothes, changed their own oil, and built their own fences, today most people hire someone to do the job. This creates a feeling of dependence. Once you know that you can fix one thing, you are more apt to try and fix something else. Knowing how things work not only saves money, but helps you feel more in control of your life.

6. Learn how to type. Learning how to type can be one of your greatest investments. You probably are an expert texter so you might as well put the idea to good use. If you don’t know how to use a keyboard, you might as well move to the mountains and live in a hut. With typing skills, you will be able to write your papers much quicker and accomplish more in a short period of time. Efficient typing makes a world of difference for those wanting to pursue a higher education.

One of the most prominent benefits of learning to type while you are young is that it involves so much reading. Your ability to read will grow as you learn to type as will your knowledge of spelling and sentence structure.

7. Find a purpose. You will learn soon enough that passion is the greatest motivator; it makes us jump out of bed, energizes us far more than a double espresso and guides our goals in life.

Instead of passion however, many kids today are driven by competition and a belief that college will create a path to a well-paying job. Many feel that the idea of success today is far too narrow and creates an extraordinary sense of pressure without perspective. Find the interests, qualities, characteristics and skills that you bring to the world. What do you love to do?

8. Become a responsible citizen.

▪ Do the right thing — even when no one is looking.

▪ Seek out quality role models and learn from them. Respect the elderly — they have wisdom to offer.

▪ Be accountable for your behavior and actions. They are yours and yours alone.

▪ Set high standards for yourself — even if it means struggle and failure. Don’t let others bring you down and don’t give in.

▪ Be kind to others, even through your mistakes.

Laurie Futterman ARNP is a former Heart Transplant Coordinator at Jackson Memorial Medical Center. She now chairs the science department and teaches gifted middle school science at David Lawrence Jr. K-8 Center. She has three children and lives in North Miami.

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