Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Life Skills 102: Advanced Adulthood (Write This Down)

Last week, we kicked off the new school year with a Life Skills-centric article cleverly titled “Life Skills 101: A Curriculum for Food, Finance, and Other Real World Basics.” Essentially, the post was a mini-unit plan, focusing on everyday stuff we need to know as adults, but aren’t necessarily taught growing up. I loved writing it, and loved reading the comments even more.

You guys! You were great. Everybody’s ideas were so thoughtful and creative, it made me want to write a sequel. So here it is, straight from your mouths: “Life Skills 102: Advanced Adulthood (Write This Down).” This time around, the lessons go beyond cooking and money, and into mental health, etiquette, civics, health insurance, and more.

I would love to hear additional feedback. Maybe there’s some magical school board in the sky we can send it to, so all American children will henceforth know how to rent an apartment, make a healthy dinner, and write a thank you note. It’s a dream, y’know?

So, without further ado…

Everyday Ettiquette

(Suggestion from: Kathy, Mel, Moosie, Kate)
  • Why Etiquette Matters (1 day) – societal reasons, personal gains, chivalry in a post-feminist society, passing it forward
  • Day-to-Day Conduct (2 days) - message board and cell phone etiquette, addressing the elderly, public vs. private behavior
  • Thank You Notes (2 days) – why a text message is not appropriate in some cases, when to write one, how to write one
PROJECT: Write a 100-word thank you note (on stationery) to anyone about anything.

Consumer Education: Both Sides of the Counter

(Suggestion from: Kathy, Mel)
  • Personal Stories: Bad (1 day) - allow kids to tell their worst stories about dealing with the public at work; examine the situations closer and ask how it might have been different
  • Personal Stories: Good (1 day) – allow kids to tell their best stories about dealing with the public at work; examine what went right, and how that can be applied to other situations
  • Complaining (1 day) – when and how to properly complain to a company about a product or service, writing a complaint, phoning in a complaint
  • Complimenting (1 day) – when and how to properly compliment a company for a product or service, writing a compliment, phoning in a compliment
  • Privacy (1 day) – why it matters, explaining information security, what to do if ID theft or fraud occurs, protecting your valuable information
PROJECT: Write a 200-word form letter complimenting or complaining to a company about a product or service.

Big Purchases: Cars and Beyond…

(Suggestion: Moosie)
  • Researching a Large Purchase (2 days) – why research is absolutely necessary, how to get started, using online and paper-based sources, the importance of reviews
  • Budgeting for a Large Purchase (2 days) – how to start saving for a large purchase, why you should NEVER put it on credit, how to account for the incidentals
  • Negotiating Tactics (1 day) – why a person who wants your money should never be assumed to be acting in your best interest, what to say when addressing a salesperson, traps to avoid, strategies to pursue
PROJECT: Research and draw up a budget for a longed-for large purchase.

Advanced Insurance: Health & Car

(Suggestion: Lola, Jennifer)
  • Health Insurance (3 days) – why we’re spending three more days on health insurance, why it’s SO important to understand, what plans cover, what they cost, defining HMOs, defining co-pays and deductibles, how to file an insurance claim, how to fill a prescription
  • Car Insurance (2 days) – why you need it, how to research the best rates, how to lower your rate, how to file a claim, how to deal with an accident
PROJECT: Research the best possible car insurance for your needs and/or fill out a standard medical claim

Student Loans & Investing

(Suggestion: A Bit of Everything, Kitschen Bitsch, Anonymous)
  • Student (and Other) Loans (2 days) – college costs now vs. college costs ten years ago, what college loans are, where they come from, how to apply, how long it takes to pay back, how interest rates on a loan
  • Savings and Checking Accounts (1 day) – when to invest, how interest works, how to search for a good savings account/bank
  • Stocks and Bonds (1 day) – what they are, how they work, when they can benefit you, why stocks are never a sure thing
  • Mutual Funds, CDs, and Other Investments (1 day) – what they are, how they work, when they can benefit you
PROJECT: Using an online loan calculator, find the monthly payment on a 20-year, $30,000 loan at 5%. How about a 10-year loan for $10,000 at 5%?


(Suggestion from: Christin, Kate, A Bit of Everything)
  • Renting vs. Owning (1 day) – why you might rent, why you might own, why so many young people rent, when to look for roommates
  • Searching for an Apartment (2 days) – why you should research, how to start searching, what you should be looking for, what classified ad jargon means, using the internet to look for an apartment, how to identify a scam
  • Seeing an Apartment (1 day) – what questions to ask, what to look for
  • Signing a Lease (1 day) – what the jargon means, how it binds you legally, what documentation you should receive
PROJECT: Find a suitable apartment online. In 200 words, explain why this place might fit your lifestyle and budget.

Paying For Things That Will Eventually Depend On You to Survive (Plants, Pets, & Kids)

(Suggestion: Kate)
  • Plants and Gardening (1 day) – costs, benefits, drawbacks
  • Adopting a Pet (2 days) – initial costs, lifetime costs, process, benefits, drawbacks
  • Budgeting for a Child (2 days) – the real cost of raising a child, how to plan financially for an addition to the family
NOTE: This particular week should not concentrate (at any point) on how to raise a child. Those are decisions best left to individuals. Please keep the financial aspects central to the lesson.

PROJECT: Figure out how much it takes yearly to raise you. Show your work.

Mental & Physical Health

(Suggestion from: Amy, Nicole, Heather, Anonymous)
  • Why Fitness Matters (1 days) – how bodies change as they age, the annual costs of obesity, how to combat obesity, how exercise benefits adults, how food factors in
  • Finding Your Fitness (1 day) – local fitness options, sports, finding a gym, understanding the paperwork, paying for it all
  • The Doctor’s Office (1 day) – what to say, what not to say, how to find a decent doctor or mental health professional, the warning signs of a poor physician
  • Your Mental Health (2 days) – why it matters, warning signs of certain conditions, coping strategies, outlets, when to seek professional help
PROJECT: Find a local fitness program or facility you might be interested in. Write down the costs, the terms, and what attracts you to that particular place.

Effective Adult Communication

(Suggestion: Mel, Amy)
  • Maintaining Healthy Relationships (1 day) – why open communication matters, how to deal with difficult people
  • Listening (1 day) – why listening is important, how to be an effective listener
  • Bringing Up Tough Topics (1 day) – breaching sensitive subjects in a loving way, communicating your concerns, listening to your partner
  • How to Fight Fair (1 day) – communicating problems with a partner or loved one, avoiding insults, talking it out
  • Workplace Communication (1 day) – what’s appropriate at what level within your job, how to speak to a boss, how to speak to co-workers, inappropriate work topics
PROJECT: With a partner, playact a sensitive workplace scenario, where one student has to speak to his or her boss about a problem. Use class-taught concepts.

Civics & Volunteering

(Suggestion: Mel, Christin)
  • Registering to Vote (1 day) – how, where, why
  • Understanding Your Local Government (1 day) – who they are, what they do, what jurisdiction they might have
  • Emergencies (1 day) – what police/firemen/EMTs do, what to call them for, how to effectively communicate the specifics of an emergency
  • Volunteering (2 days) – why it’s important, what’s available within the community, what’s available online, benefits
PROJECT: As a class, choose a place to volunteer for one day. Go and do it. (Field trip.)

Putting it All Together (5 days)

PROJECT: With three other class members (your “family”), devise a life plan for the next ten years. Calculations must be included, along with specifics about how you will accomplish the following:
  • Applying for Student Loans
  • Paying for college
  • Renting an apartment (must find one online)
  • Buying a car (must find one online)
  • Having at least one child
  • Buying a house (must find one online)
  • Getting a mortgage
  • Finding a doctor
  • Finding a health insurance provider
  • Creating a food budget
  • Contributing to the community
  • Investing in an IRA or 401K
  • Staying in shape
A timeline example will be provided for everyone. Your family’s situation can be whatever you wish (within reason), but you MUST show how you plan to pay for it.

Presentations (5 days)

PROJECT: In front of the class, give a full-period presentation on your family plan.

And that’s it. Readers? Any more suggestions?


If you like this article, you might also dig:

Photos courtesy of FilmCritic, ReelzChannel, and Embers.)

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NEC said...

So I liked your shout out to volunteering- and I feel like esp as an adult in the workforce, it's good to be involved in service because it ties you in with your community.

This is something I have been wanting to do ever since I moved to DC. I was really involved in community service projects with several agencies in SLC, UT (not to sound snotty or braggy) but I loved it and it was easy to get dialed into college because I was in college.

Now I'm in DC, I know theres tons of ways to help and I definitely have ideas of what I want to do but no where to get dialed into them. Does anyone have suggestions besides opening the phone book and start dialing YWCAs at random? Some kind of database by location or something with different genres of service?

This sounds like a really goofy question but I really have been noodling on it all week and googling here and there but not having the best results.

Many thanks in advance.

- Nicole in DC

Kitschen Bitsch said...

High five. Great follow-up, and if I ran a school system, you'd be on my committee. And, of course, asked to participate in bake sales.

mel said...

Even more great ideas. Let's hope that by the time my one year old gets to high school something like this will be a mandatory class! But I plan on teaching him some, if not all of these ideas anyway! :-D

Joshua said...

That was great. I wish someone had taught me about these things. I often still find myself lost in the fitness matters. I'm in denial that my skin and joints don't have the same elasticity and fluidity as when I was 20...

But in the money matters, I've learned an important, yet simple lesson. Save your money. This one has come hard but I've realized growing older how important it is to at least have an emergency fund. A High Yield Savings Account with direct deposit and online access is a great tool in helping to do this. There is a bank I work with (shameless plug), called ShoreBank, that offers one for 3.5% APY. Plus it has no pesky monthly fees and really easy access for transfers between other bank accounts. Furthermore, they are a very socially conscious bank, dedicating their lending to projects and people building stronger communities and creating a healthier environment. It's an interesting premise, being proud to be associated with a bank. Pretty cool too. Check them out at Thanks again.

Mikey said...

I am impressed by your zeal to go out and volunteer for yourself. Keep It up!!