I opened the pantry this morning for “a little something” as Winnie the Pooh would say. As I dug through our snack shelf, searching for the almonds I’d clipped shut last night, I ran across a bag of pretzels, or should I say a bag that once held more than six stale pretzels, with a chip clip mid bag, holding on by its corner to one side of the bag only. It appeared to be there for ornamentation only. Oh, where to begin?
My children are smart — brilliant at times. They talked early and prolifically, mused about life and death and the meaning of both before kindergarten, fell deeply into subjects like Ancient Roman history and meteorology before the lost their first baby teeth, and generally show all the signs of being smart cookies. They can — and do — vacuum, dust, and sweep. Alas, it seems the more mundane practical life skills — the chip clip variety of skills — correlate poorly with high scores on IQ and achievement tests. As I enroll my older in advanced computer programming classes while musing on my younger’s need for more rigorous writing curriculum, I wonder how these children will survive in the world, or at least how they’ll ever have cereal that isn’t soggy before the milk hits it.
Here’s what I want: classes to teach them the basics of surviving and even thriving in the world. It’s a simple enough request, isn’t it? And should they partner later in life, it seems important that they master a few basic skills. Here’s what I want for them:
How to Keep Good Food From Going Bad: After an opening exercise of rummaging through the back of the pantry for lonely chip clips and empty bags, beginners will attend sessions such as ”How to Use a Chip Clip” and “Folding Bags Within Boxes: It’s Not Just for Cereal.” Advanced topics would include “Matching Container Size to Leftovers,” “Successful Zipping of Food Bags,” and “Proper Storage of Unfinished Liquids.” Prerequisites: Ability to use a chip clip without self-injury. Or not. They seem to learn quickly.
Exploring the Concept of Empty: The concept of zero challenged great thinkers until about 2500 years ago, so it’s not surprising kids struggle with the practical aspect of zero: the empty container. Enroll now for sessions such as “When the Dredge of Milk Isn’t Even Enough for Mom’s Coffee,” “The Last Three Mini Wheats: An Early Morning Conundrum,” and “Depression and Anger: The Consequences of Disappointment When Picking Up the Empty Box”.
Beyond Empty: Remove, Recycle, Replace: Now that they can identify empty and the consequences of the concept, students in this advanced class learn about choosing the appropriate waste disposal method and replacement of key items, like toilet paper and tissue boxes. Extra credit is given for alerting the family procurer of items out of stock. Lecture titles include “Toilet Paper Planning: Saving Embarrassment and Maintaining Privacy,” “From Cupboard to Bin: Preparing Materials for Recycling,” and the ever-popular, “Empty Boxes Don’t Refill: A Study of the Replacement Process.”
Laundry Myths and Facts: No, there is no laundry fairy. Convince your child with stimulating and sense-intense topics like “Balled Socks and Jeans with Inside Out Legs Don’t Come Clean,” “Finders Keepers: Laundry as and Entrepreneurial Endeavor,” and “Washed Gum and Crayons Affect Us All.” Advanced students may move onto “Putting it Away” (syllabus below)
Putting it Away– Socks, Spoons, and More: Taught in the individual’s home, this course will show your child just where everything goes. This course covers everything, from laundry (“Drawer or Hamper? How to Discern Where That Garment Goes”) to dishes (“Look Before You Load: Are Those Dishes Clean?” and the more advanced “Cupboards and Drawers: A Place for Everything”). Special attention will be paid to returning chip clips to their proper place after use. An interactive session on using hangers and closing drawers is included.
Where is It?: Children often lose what is in sight. This course addresses both ends of lost items — looking effectively and putting things where they belong. Attention to personal property is the focus in this follow-up to “Putting it Away.” Schoolwork, musical instruments, sports equipment, and other items are addressed in the session “Yes, There’s A Place for It.” For what does not get put away properly, we offer, “I Have to Look the Same Way You Do,” a course emphasizing the personal responsibility of the one who lost the item. “Search Strategies: Standing in the Middle of the Room is Not Searching” addresses challenging issues, such as the last place one had the item, actually looking under that heap of papers on the table, and searching for more than 30 seconds before panicking.
Watercloset Wisdom: Does your child leave the bathroom a scene akin to the aftermath of a Category 5 hurricane? Do you need a Hazmat suit to enter? Whether you share a bathroom with your offspring or not, this course can help. “When Toothpaste Escapes” focuses on management of the tube, from cap replacement to sink (or floor) wiping for accidents. “Towel and Washcloth Management: Only You Can Prevent Mold and Mildew” and ” Close the Curtain Tight!” are public health and safety classes included in the curriculum. Boys may attend an additional session on apparatus control, seat placement, and flushing. Repeat attendees welcome.
I sense I’m not alone. Many of you are also raising smart kids who have difficulty applying mathematical, scientific, and psychological concepts to daily life despite (and I bet you keep checking, too) amazingly high test scores. That same child who can rescue you from your latest computer crash CAN learn to recycle the empty granola bar box. It just takes the right curriculum.