For as long as I can remember, Filipino parents have always placed a premium on their children's academic performance. Our culture emphasizes the importance of achievements in Math and Science, and we take great pride in academic honors and accolades.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with valuing scholastic performance, many parents fail to realize that the ABCs and 123s hold little value if our children cannot apply their learning in the real world.
According to former Princeton president John G. Hibben, "Education is the ability to meet life's situations." It doesn't matter how far one has progressed as a student or whether they hold a PhD or an acronym before their name; what truly matters is how effectively they can apply the information and knowledge they have acquired in school to navigate real-life situations. Without life skills, education cannot be considered truly effective.
Life skills have become a prominent topic among parents, particularly within the homeschooling community. However, when asked to define life skills, parents often mention the ability to perform specific tasks such as house chores, swimming, or First Aid. Some even include skills like entrepreneurship, carpentry, programming, or culinary expertise.
While these practical skills are valuable to learn at a young age, true life skills encompass more than simply acquiring the ability to perform tasks. They involve personal, emotional, spiritual, and mental growth and development that result from engaging in these activities.
There are numerous life skills from which children can benefit, but there are five foundational skills that are particularly important to develop: critical thinking and decision-making skills, communication and relational skills, grit, daily living or survival skills, and self-directed learning.
Five foundational life skills children must develop
1. Communication and relational skills
Communication and relational skills extend beyond simply stringing words together and delivering a confident speech to a group. They encompass understanding social cues, developing empathy and compassion, and responding appropriately to others.
'Allowing children interact with people of different ages and backgrounds is the best way to foster their communication and relational skills.'
A child's emotional quotient (EQ) plays a significant role in the development of their communication skills. Those with a healthy EQ are confident in themselves and their capabilities, enabling them to effectively communicate their needs and thoughts to others. They possess the ability to choose the right words, understand when to speak up or remain silent, and manage their reactions while recognizing and appreciating different opinions and perspectives.
Allowing children to interact with people of different ages and backgrounds is the best way to foster their communication and relational skills. Letting them play with other children at the playground, encouraging conversations with service staff at restaurants or coffee shops, involving them in community service, and giving them the autonomy to handle their own conflicts and communicate with teachers all contribute to their growth in these areas.
2. Critical thinking and decision-making skills
Critical thinking and decision-making skills are vital as children navigate the choices they encounter in daily life. From selecting their meals to determining when to leave the house, children face countless decisions. It is essential for them to learn how to logically analyze situations, consider relevant facts, and independently form opinions or draw conclusions. These skills empower children to resist the influence of others and confidently adhere to their principles, even when standing alone.
Opportunities to foster critical thinking skills can include taking children grocery shopping, allowing them to make decisions regarding their Christmas money, or involving them in the planning of family trips.
3. Daily living and survival skills
Daily living and survival skills are crucial for children to learn, as parents cannot be around to care for them forever. Starting early and involving children in simple responsibilities around the house, such as making their own beds, learning proper hygiene, or knowing who to contact in case of emergencies, sets them on a path towards self-sufficiency.
Learning to cook, operate household appliances, swim, bike, and fulfill commitments on time are all essential skills for their development. Additionally, introducing children to income generation through their talents and interests at a young age can instill confidence in their capabilities and provide them with the tools to support.
Actor and writer Chris Morris defines grit as the courage to push through no matter what the obstacle is because it's worth it. Even at a young age, children learn that some things cannot be easily achieved or accomplished, and that life is filled with challenges and setbacks. Developing grit means cultivating determination and perseverance to keep going even when faced with difficulties. It teaches children the value of staying committed to a purpose or goal, even when the path to achievement is difficult and long.
'By providing children with opportunities to develop these life skills, parents help prepare them for the realities of life.'
Grit instills in them the understanding of hard work, effort, and dedication. It teaches them the meaning of commitment and the willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. By building grit, children develop the strength and resilience to navigate life's ups and downs with the right attitude and mindset.
Sports, music and performing arts programs are excellent environments to train children in grit.
5. Self-directed learning
Self-directed learning is a valuable life skill for children. It fosters humility and the recognition that there is always more to discover and learn, fueling their desire for lifelong learning. This skill encourages a mindset of continuous growth and adaptability, enabling children to embrace new challenges and seize opportunities for self-improvement. By cultivating self-directed learning as a life skill, children gain the tools they need to become independent, motivated learners who can navigate the complexities of the world and pursue their passions with enthusiasm and confidence.
Allow your children to explore their interests and hobbies and see where they take them. Let them take on projects and provide them with the space to work on them independently, conduct their own research, and celebrate their successes. For example, if your child enjoys writing stories, encourage them to start a blog, attend writing workshops, submit their works to publications, and even motivate them to find the tools they need to self-publish their books.
By providing children with opportunities to develop these life skills, parents help prepare them for the realities of life. Encouraging interactions with diverse individuals, engaging in decision-making exercises, involving children in household responsibilities, fostering determination through activities like sports or the arts, and supporting self-directed learning experiences all contribute to their holistic development.