About 20 years ago I was a substitute teacher for junior high students where the home-economics teacher did not show up for the first day of school. (She had been taken to the hospital for an emergency surgery the night before the first day of school and had no family to contact the school.) So I got the frantic call from the office when the students got to the room and it was locked. I went into the classroom without any plan, and no idea of what to include or how to create a lesson plan for the foreseeable future for six classes each day of 6th, 7th and 8th grade students.
On day one, I decided to teach the students how to do laundry. They balked, they complained, they declared they would never need to do laundry; basically they were afraid of the unknown. So we began by sorting them into laundry loads based on their shirt color. Then we resorted by fabric type. We talked about the types of fabrics that cannot go in the washing machine and those that needed to be air dried. It was BORING! to most of them but, I graded them on their newly acquired laundry prowess and entered a somewhat overly generous grade in the book mostly based on participation, grudging or not.
Their homework for the next day was to bring in a shirt with a button on it; as they walked in the door I took a scissors and cut one button off. What an eye opener for me. These students had no clue how to sew on a button much less possess the skill to thread a needle. One student told me she would never need to sew on a button. I reminded her that she would probably be going away to college and who would sew it on for her? Without blinking and eye, she looked at me and told me her maid. I reminded her that “her maid” would most likely not accompany her to college and this student just shrugged and declared that a shirt without a button would be thrown away. Taking the discussion a little further I asked if she had an unlimited budget for clothes and she said, “Daddy gives me a credit card to buy whatever I want.” Want….not need, but want. No concern for the cost. No reverence for the privilege “Daddy” gave her allowing the unrestrained shopping. No respect for the energy or effort “Daddy” put forward to make the money to fund that credit card. And certainly no concern for the idea that throwing away a shirt because there was a button missing constituted a gross misuse of funds. At the time, I thought “what a brat!”
The other day I was in a store and overheard some young ladies (and I use that term very loosely) discussing their credit card use. Their discussion piqued my interest and I somewhat voyeuristically listened in to this rather heated discussion. One of their parents cut her off, cut up her card; refusing to let her shop until she got a job and learned the value of money. To these high school age girls this unforgiveable act constituted war. The young miss’s words about her Mom’s actions were harsh, bordering on threatening. I got the sense that neither of these two understood anything about budgeting, economics, and work ethics or performed any chores at home.
Which got me to thinking; do children even have chores anymore? Are we raising a generation of incompetents? Will today’s children grow to adults without any basic home skills? Providing a good life for our children is important but so is teaching children life skills. Most kids I know today do not lift a finger at home; they do not know the pure pleasure of a job well done because they’ve never had a job or been responsible for chores at home.
Kids used to have paper routes. They used to shovel snow and mow yards; now everyone seems to use a landscape service and get their news online. Kids used to be responsible for keeping their rooms clean, doing their own laundry and helping out around the house. How sad that these people are growing up to be people that cannot scrub a floor, wash dishes, clean windows, do their own laundry or sew on a button.
As a substitute teacher I saw a wide range of students with varied abilities. These students are our future. Our schools cannot teach children everything. Learning needs to begin at home. Are you teaching your children basic housekeeping skills?