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Family Life

Adulting 101 Classes to Teach Over Break

Shari McStay


We call it Adulting 101. The basic life skills that all kids should learn and know. Skills that are not innate but need to be taught.

Adulting 101 encompasses the skills that my husband and I believe are essential for our children to learn so that they can go on to become independent, responsible young adults. Lessons that will help them to be organized, thrifty and self-sufficient. He and I can be role models and lead by example, and we do our best, but actions speak louder than words — there are many instances when we need to actually show our children important how-to’s.

For years, we had good intentions to teach the children various life skills. But you know how it goes. Life gets busy. Life gets hectic. “Next week, we'll get around to it," I solemnly swear to myself. The week passes. “Over the summer, when they're not in school,” I vow. “We’ll do it then!”

We still hadn't started when the pandemic hit. A stay-at-home mandate went into effect. Suddenly there wasn’t much to do outside of the house — what better time for Adulting 101?

At last, with a captive audience, the lessons began. New skills were learned, sometimes willingly and sometimes not, and at times laughter erupted.

Kitchen Basics 101

The first course we conducted was Cake Baking 101. Sure, it was from a box. However, there were plenty of skills to be taught: preheating the oven, greasing a pan, measuring the oil, cracking open eggs, cooling pans on a rack and actually following the directions. All excellent skills to acquire. It was messy, it was fun, and the kids got to enjoy the finished product.

We went on to pizza making (not the frozen kind), with rolling out dough and then adding sauce, cheese and favorite toppings. We experimented with thin crust, thick crust, personal pizzas and more. We got lots of laughs with flour getting into places it didn’t belong (hair) and we teased each other about misshapen pizza pies. (It's harder than some may think to make them perfectly round!)

Other Kitchen Basics included baking chicken, creating omelettes, making pancakes and French toast, and even things as simple as cooking rice and pasta. Do not assume your teen or young adult knows that the lid should stay off after the pasta goes into the pot of boiling water!

Lawn Care 101

This course includes changing the oil in the lawnmower, mowing the lawn in straight lines, seeding, mulching, fertilizing and raking leaves.

Basics include removing your dirty shoes before entering the home, choosing older clothes for dirty jobs, avoiding poison ivy, and doing the chore with a smile on your face (or at least not a scowl).

Extra credit for this course: Building raised planting beds from old wood pallets, filling them with soil, planting vegetable seeds and tending the garden.

Laundry 101

This class covers the basics of emptying pockets prior to washing, separating darks from lights, how much detergent to use, and the various washer and dryer settings.

Important skills include: emptying the lint screen after each use (fire safety), putting clothes in the dryer promptly (so they don’t mold), folding right after drying (so they don’t wrinkle), and putting them away where they belong (so you can find them when you want them).

Parental reminder: Completing this course is no guarantee that what is taught and learned will be fully executed.

Auto Care 101

Important basic car care is covered in this course, such as: replenishing windshield washer fluid, putting a snow and ice scraper in the car for winter, keeping an emergency kit in the car, adding air to the tires, cleaning the vehicle, paying attention to when the inspection sticker is expiring, filling the gas tank and being cognizant of what type of gas goes into the car.

It also helps to know what to do if they get gasoline on their skin or clothing because not only does it smell, it can irritate their skin and cause rashes. Skin should be cleaned immediately (another good reason to keep a package of handwipes in the car). At home, additional cleansing with lemon juice or vinegar will remove the odor. For fabric, apply a mix of white vinegar and hot water before washing with detergent in the machine.

Auto Care 101 also includes reminders to pay attention to dashboard warning lights and and report them promptly to the parental units.

Housecleaning 101

This introductory course provides the basic fundamentals of cleaning such as what products to use in the bathroom to clean the toilet, the shower, and the tile floor. General kitchen cleaning involves loading and emptying the dishwasher, sweeping the floor, and what to use to wipe down countertops, sinks and the table.

The course also covers where the vacuum is kept and how to use it (straight lines preferred and not smashing into baseboards and furniture legs).

Sewing 101

This class offers instruction and hands-on practice of threading a needle, knotting thread and sewing on a button as well as using a running stitch or back stitch to fix a hem.

This course is a prerequisite for Sewing 201 which teaches sewing machine basics such as threading the machine and winding a bobbin.

What's Next?

By the time we made it through these initial introductory courses, a little more normalcy was back and the kids were masked up and back to school in person. With a little luck (and hopefully practice), they'll remember these new skills; if not, there will be a review session come summer followed by a selection of new courses.

Just a few of the 100 Level courses coming in Summer 2022: Budgeting/Money Management, painting the deck, and cooking on the outdoor grill. With six months of planning time, who knows what else we may come up with? Ideas are welcome!

When it comes to enrolling in Adulting 101, your children may be annoyed or they may be willing participants. Either way, as they learn new skills that they'll need for life on their own someday, they'll feel empowered and self-reliant. If they don’t thank you now, surely they will thank you later.

My own family got a late start — however, it's never too early or too late to begin teaching Adulting 101!

The writer Shari McStay's raised bed gardens

Here's the extra credit project!

Photos courtesy of the author.

Shari McStay is a full-time residential real estate agent and part-time writer, with master's degrees in both business and education. She is mother of four children, one angel baby and three kitties. Shari is passionate about spending quality time with family and friends and volunteering at Sweet Paws Rescue. Fun fact: In 1995 Shari was the oldest New England Patriots cheerleader and remains active with the New England Professional Cheerleader Alumni Association. She lives in Massachusetts with her children and husband of over 25 years.

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