Author's Note: The following was published in the May 25, 2006 edition of the Dallas Morning News - Collin County Opinions page.“Teach Your Children” is one of my favorite early 70s songs, sung by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. It asks both generations to help one another as each group advances through time.
I’ve never been an advocate of traditional “home schooling,” but the kind of “home schooling” I’d like to see stems from the overwhelming need to have practical values and lessons drilled into young people today. Too many folks know so little about the day-to-day workings of life. I know people who can’t cook dinner of the simplest nature, cannot go to a grocery store without having spending hog wild, and who cannot keep a bathroom or bedroom free of trash, dirty clothes or foreign odors.
And it shouldn’t be that way! Parents with graduating high school seniors, if you really want to prepare your children for the world outside your home, for what life REALLY is all about, teach them some of the following things (don’t laugh because too many young adults have no clue about most of these subjects):
How to properly do laundry. Show them the difference between whites and color-safe items, how to get out stains and how to regulate the amount of laundry detergent per load. Those rare home visits should not be consumed by parents doing their children’s laundry.
How to clean a house, or at least how to use a vacuum and mop. John Wellesley (not Felix Unger) was absolutely right, “Cleanliness IS next to Godliness.”
How to balance a checkbook without using a calculator or computer program. I don’t know what they teach students in so-called personal finance courses, but if they can’t do simple math (add and subtract withdrawals and deposits in an account), the whole thing is worthless.
How to use a phone book and/or Yellow Pages. Show them how to get information (like a phone number) without calling “4-1-1” and getting slapped with an extra fee on Daddy’s phone bill.
How to fill out a job application. Not every employer needs to see an empty personal resume. Often they need someone who can work the late shift in a competent manner.
How to do their own grocery shopping. People need to know the difference in quality of meat (that ground beef at 25 percent fat is NOT healthy for anyone), that “Hamburger Helper” is not gourmet dining and how to read the contents label for the amount of salt, sugar and fat in a product.
How to properly clean a sink full of dirty dishes without a so-called pot-scrubbing dishwasher. They already have a dishwasher; it’s called their … hands.
How to use a plunger. It’s more important in a bathroom than that stupid AM/FM turtle-looking radio hanging from the showerhead or the curling iron.
Teach them the important things to know while driving - how to read a road map without calling AAA or OnStar, how to be a courteous passenger or driver beyond the parameters of a driver’s education course and how to change a flat tire.
Teach them how to cook a meal other than using a can opener and some Miracle Whip. They need to know that quality is often more important than quantity.
Technology makes our lives “easier,” but by taking the path of least resistance, we’ve pushed many important manual skills to the curb. Young people rely on too many machines, too much software and too little common sense way too often.
Parents, that’s our fault; we taught them (and bought them) to be like that. If left out on their own, it’ll too late for them. If you still have your children at a formative age (which means any age where Mommy and Daddy still provide the money for Dick and Jane to have fun and video games), you can still rescue the mission.
Teach your children more than right from wrong. Teach them the right way and the wrong way. Teach them to depend on themselves first … and others second.
Teach them well. Then when you move in, following your retirement, you can watch over your handiwork.
And laugh a whole lot.