by Meadow Clark
A couple years ago, I compiled a list of 25 basic life skills that should be taught in school (but aren’t).
The readers all chimed in with some great additions to the list. Some of you had thoughtful objections. Interestingly, a lot of you called for a curriculum for each class.
I had no idea there would be a great interest in more class material for these hypothetical classes for life skills.
As I said before, it’s not the government’s job to bring up children, nor should it be. But for all the time spent in school, wouldn’t ‘it be ideal if young people left with skills that would truly enrich their lives?
I’m not the only one saying we need to train our children better in basic life skills.
A lot of young people get tossed into the world and must learn the hard way how to navigate important life skills like personal finance and career searches. They sometimes discover these painful lessons by crawling back out of debt and spending hours pouring over books. Since 2018 – when I wrote that past article – there have been calls to teach finance in high school.
Just look at these headlines that came out not long ago:
This is not to say that the financial literacy courses won’t be provided by special interests. They very well may be. But it does show people recognize there is a disconnect in education, and that families are perhaps too overworked or fractured in some cases to provide important wisdom.
It turns out that there’s a great interest in mastering these skills at any age! Myself included. I know I’d love to take these classes any time. Note: these suggestions are geared toward adults, so discretion is advised.
Here, by popular demand, is a selection of educational materials for each of the original 25 life skills: a curriculum for adults.
We can put these skills to use and pass them on to the next generations.
Editor’s Note: I know lots of you are homeschool parents. But please accept before reading this article that many kids are sent to public schools for a wide variety of reasons. Please do not turn this into an argument about homeschooling vs. public schooling or an insult festival toward parents who send their kids to school. That’s not productive. Let’s talk about what is taught vs. what is missing. And also, keep in mind that school is the only chance that some children have to learn new ideas because their parents are either disinterested or close-minded. While most of us try to teach our children these excellent skills at home, many young people are not raised in households like ours. ~ Daisy
#1 Individual Thought
- Cutting Through the Matrix website
- The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer
- Order of Chaos, a fictional movie
- The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron
#2 Personal Finance, Saving, & Budgets
- The Index Card by Helaine Olen
- Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
- Articles and podcast by Ellen Brown
- The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn
- The frugality section of this blog, The Organic Prepper
#3 Health & Nutrition
- Green Smoothies for Life by JJ Smith
- Eat for Health (extremely vegetable based but extremely effective for the most stubborn weight, health issues) by Joel Fuhrman
- DDPYoga.com – not your mama’s yoga! Comes with a reasonable, easy diet plan.
- Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking
- Allen Carr’s Quit Drinking Without Willpower
- Orthomolecular Medicine for Everyone: Megavitamin Therapeutics for Families and Physiciansby Abram Hoffer
- Prescription for Nutritional Healing: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies by Phyllis A. Balch CNC
The world can be crushing enough. Perhaps resiliency and tenacity can be emphasized instead of measuring people against society’s false idea of success. Failure is inevitable, after all, so people should be shown how to get back up again when they do fall.
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
- Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
- The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday
- Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book that Changes Lives by Dan Milman
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn fiction book by Betty Smith
- Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness by Rick Hanson
- No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering by Thich Nhat Hanh
#5 The Art of Conversation
The ability to carry on a conversation is truly an art form. Too many people have cast their abilities here to the wayside as the ever-present screen (whether that be from the phone, computer, tablet, or TV) has occupied their brain. For those seeking to learn how to avoid the awkward silence, may I recommend the following:
- Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle
- The Art of Conversation and How to Apply its Technique, by Milton Wright – if you can find it
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
#6 Logic, Reasoning, and Public Discourse
Did you know that schools have been rapidly dropping Logic classes? It’s time to stop the Idiocracy from spreading and revive Logic!
- Logic Made Easy: How to Know When Language Deceives You by Deborah J. Bennett
- Being Logical: A Guide to Good Thinking by D.Q. McInerny
- A Rulebook for Arguments by Anthony Weston
- Thank You for Arguing, Third Edition by Jay Heinrichs
Character is who you are when nobody else is watching. For those whose introspection has caused to realize there is room for improvement, I suggest the following:
- The Road to Character by David Brooks
- Character Disturbance: The Phenomenon of Our Age by George K. Simon PhD
Everybody needs to know how to negotiate. It doesn’t matter if you think you aren’t a businessman – you are. This is a necessary skill that too many have neglected to train themselves in.
- Verbal Judo, Second Edition: The Gentle Art of Persuasion by George Thompson PhD
- Articles by Liz Ryan on Forbes and LinkedIn
#9 Cooking from Scratch
Too many of today’s youth are clueless when it comes to cooking anything which isn’t pre-packaged.
- The Lost Art of Scratch Cooking
- The First Timer’s Cookbook by Shaun Bucher
- The Flat Broke Cookbook by Daisy Luther
- Make sure to check out our FREE Quickstart Guide to Canning as well.
Out of all the basic life skills covered in this list, this is the one that has truly been forgotten. Only in modern history has mankind decided he doesn’t need to know what it takes to survive the elements. We’ve become dependent on modern technology, always assuming it will be there. It won’t. For those who are seeking to improve their survivability post-disaster, may I recommend the following:
- 98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive by Cody Lundin
- When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency by Matthew Stein
- When Disaster Strikes: A Comprehensive Guide for Emergency Prepping and Crisis Survival by Matthew Stein
For kids and adults:
- The Dangerous Book for Boys,
- The American Boys Handy Book,
- The Field and Forest Handy Book: New Ideas for Out of Doors
#11 Speed Reading (But with Deep Comprehension)
The faster you can read, the faster you can learn. We live within the Information Age. One has to be able to process large amounts of information as quickly as possible, and speed reading is one of the keys to doing that.
- “Want to Read Faster? Stop Saying The Words in Your Head As You Read”
- Find your reading speed with this test offered by Staples.
- Spritz app
- How to read 300% faster in 20 minutes
#12 First Aid
You have to know some basic first aid as an adult. This will not only save you money, but can easily save your life as well.
- The Ultimate Survival Medicine Guide by Joseph Alton
- The Prepper’s Medical Handbook by Willaim Forgey
#13 Crash Course on How Government Works
Citizens need to have a basic understanding of how their government works or they’re going to be caught blindsided by policies, laws, and regulations that they would have otherwise been clueless about.
- The Everything American Government Book: From the Constitution to Present-Day Elections, All You Need to Understand Our Democratic System (Everything®)
There are so many aspects of life where creativity allows one to prosper. As such, the well-rounded American would benefit from reading up on what it takes to be creative.
- Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards
- Journal Sparks: Fire Up Your Creativity with Spontaneous Art, Wild Writing, and Inventive Thinking by Emily K. Neuburger
#15 Household & Basic Car Mechanic Repairs
Things break. It happens. When this does occur, you can either pay $100 just for somebody to show up, or you can save yourself $300 by fixing it yourself. These books will help you with the latter option:
- Dare to Repair: A Do-it-Herself Guide to Fixing (Almost) Anything in the Home by Julie Sussman and Stephanie Glakas-Tenet
- New Fix-It-Yourself Manual: How to Repair, Clean, and Maintain Anything and Everything In and Around Your Home by Reader’s Digest
- Flylady.net keep your house clean even if you have ADHD.
#16 Time Management, Focus, and Productivity
If one cannot manage their time, they will have a next to impossible time with being successful. For those who seek to improve their ability to manage their most valuable asset, here are some sources which will prove beneficial:
- Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen and James Fallows
- Never Be Late Again by Diana Delonzor
#17 How to Read Literature With Deeper Understanding
Being well-read in the classics allows one to better understand their own culture. Oftentimes, these books can be difficult to comprehend. They’re verbose, written in archaic language, and often seem boring. Here are some books to help one understand those books:
- The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer
- How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines by Thomas Foster
#18 Entrepreneurship, Career, & Starting a Business in a Gig Economy
We’re all salesmen. We all have something to sell, and we all need to know the basics of running a business. Here are my recommendations in this realm:
- Four-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris
- Articles by Liz Ryan on Forbes and LinkedIn
People are rude. Don’t be one of them. Far too many people are this way not because they desire to come across as abrasive and offensive, but because they’ve never been taught what proper etiquette looks like. This was once one of the basic life skills all people within society were taught. Now, this is a region woefully neglected.
These books can help to bring some grace to your daily interactions with others:
- As a Lady Would Say Revised and Expanded: Responses to Life’s Important (and Sometimes Awkward) Situations by Sheryl Shade
- As a Gentleman Would Say Revised and Expanded: Responses to Life’s Important (and Sometimes Awkward) Situations by John Bridges
#20 Social Skills
Social skills are different than etiquette and manners. It involves picking up on cues and tone, and knowing how to appropriately respond in different situations. There is dating etiquette and there is also dating social skills. These are just as important as having social awareness on the job.
- Improve Your Social Skills by Daniel Wendler
- How to Get a Date Worth Keeping by Henry Cloud
#21 Study & Deep Research
Do you know how to truly delve into a topic, gleaning the good and forsaking the bad? This is an important skill for many facets of life, and these books will help you in that journey of discovery:
- How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren
- The Science of Self-learning by Peter Hollins
#22 How to Selectively Make Real Friends
One of the more important basic life skills is the ability to choose good people to surround yourself with. You are the average of your friends. How do you make sure you are the best “average” possible? By choosing the best friends possible. This popular book will help you do so:
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
#23 Effective Communication & Writing
Communication is key, goes the old adage, and for good reason. Proper communication is absolutely vital to marriage, relationships, business, and more. This is one of those basic life skills you never think you need to study up on until it’s too late: some form of miscommunication has led to disaster. These books will help you to become better at communicating, and limit your risk of problems caused by poor skills in this area:
- Strunk & White
- On Writing Well
- Word Power Made Easy by Normal Lewis
#24 Resume & Cover Letters
Do you know how to get the job you want? A large part of that is by knowing how to write a good resume and cover letter. Here is my advice on the matter:
- Use templates from Word and Google docs for formatting, then learn how to write an attention-grabbing human-voiced resume that gets that foot in the door.
#25 Bonuses: Geography & Relationships
- Geography: online.seterra.com and this fun quiz website
- Relationships: The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
Would you like it if schools taught some of the skills above? Which ones are your favorites? Are there other basic life skills I left out of the mix? Leave your nominations below!
Great list some suggestion for economics/personal finance. These are YouTube interviews and very informative due to the changes coming in financial system: George gammon, rebel capitalist, mark moss, market disrupters, rich dad/poor dad, Robert and Kim kiyosaki. The last one rich dad is education site only but transformational.
We had “Home-Ec” in high school.
It was a joke.
We spent about 2 weeks learning to sew, and I think a day on fiance. Sewing can be important, but in reality, I have used more financial knowledge then sewing.
I actually learned a lot from Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine (pre-wide spread internet).
When my daughter was going through “Home-Ec” in high school, she texted me from class, asking questions. I recall this quite well, as I was in the fields, tending to the livestock, while she was doing homework.
Since then, she has done very well for herself and her finances (has a budget, savings, retirement plan), but still comes to me for financial advice.
I agree with what many of the list is included in the article.
I think we need to see a long term Home-Ec (change the name to Real Life Skills) starting early in a child’s education.
And while it is not the school’s responsibility to raise children, get the parents involved in their child’s education.
Financial self-education was what led me finally into prepping.
And I never regret it!
I have so many books on various topics, I have learned skills though.
“We had “Home-Ec” in high school.
It was a joke.
We spent about 2 weeks learning to sew, and I think a day on FIANCE.”
I know it was an autocorrect dude, but it made me roar with laughter.
Ya know, I try to re-read before I post to make sure I did not leave out a word/s as my fingers tend to be a few clicks behind my brain, but even I missed that!
But as long as I made ya laugh, it is all good!
May I also suggest the Bible?
Skip the Bible – a) not all subscribe to christian religion and b) isn’t that what church is for?
I find most of the “what should be taught” should be done by parents, not school. Cover letter for resume is a good idea. Writing and literature fall under the English Department. Government is just that – under the social studies realm.
I did laugh at individual thought – the minority of parents whose knickers are in a knot over books a curriculum don’t want individual thought. They want their thoughts shoved down the throats of all kids.
What basic life skills do you suggest be taught, Selena?
This is a GREAT idea. If we stick to the Bible, we can then keep slaves, have as many wives as we want; we can ignore reality and pretend that some imaginary deity will reward those of us who comply with Biblical injunctions and penalize those who aren’t up to Biblical snuff. And then, of course, we’ll also see that even the most moral and righteous folks get punished anyhow, since the Biblical powerhouse is pretty inconsistent when it comes to the imposition of just rewards & punishments.
Get a grip! Religious belief may be unavoidable, since you get brainwashed into such social conventions when you’re young and struggling to fit into society. But many folks also learn that reality contradicts much of what is preached in religious dogma, both in Western religions and the various other irrational creeds. Though I have to admit that there are some far less ridiculous belief systems which are religious in nature, but hardly as irrational and dictatorial. I just happen to not subscribe to them, either. Nor, for that matter, would I want to join a religion that insists that I will gain great status by devouring the bodies of other humans. There are endless ways to irrationally mystify perceptions of the world.
Humans can’t help being irrational. It’s part of our nature. But to pretend that irrationality is the source of endurance and survival skills is pretty self-deceptive.
What basic life skills do you think should be taught, UltraSkeptic?
Excellent article, thank you. How about:
#26 How to choose a life partner and maintain a stable marriage.
#27 How to raise well adjusted children.
There is a need for spiritual also….while others might give titles of different books to read I suggest the Bible. Choose a version that is in our daily language such as the revised standard. Give it a read but even if you don’t understand that isn’t a great concern. Ask the Father for understanding, wisdom and right action, discernment. I have found many things that help in my daily life and help me in figuring out what I should do, peace in life and understanding that I didn’t expect but was given. There is so much more like end times events that are coming and even now are at the door. Give it a try, but give it time, time for your understanding to be opened to the words of the scriptures, it does happen!
I’ll pass on the hypocrisy of the bible.
There’s also a HUGE need for psychotherapy. I hope that some day we’ll actually develop an understanding of how to deal effectively with human irrationality and then successfully move on. In the meantime, I suppose sincere religious beliefs, like those which have provided for massive wars for thousands of years, will be what we use to unite us. Sort of.
What a fun article!
I have been homeschooling for 10 years but it’s good for anyone to expand their base a little bit. I need to look at those etiquette books for my teenage son 🙂
And cooking is huge. Young people can save so much money, and improve their health, by learning a few basic cooking skills.
The only thing I’ve done with my kids, which maybe is in the “Survival Skills” section but not explicitly on the list, is butchering animals. It gives a new appreciation for food.
“Wouldn’t ‘it be ideal if young people left with skills that would truly enrich their lives?” Public schools prepare people for the military, and blue collar jobs.
So, trades. Actual skills. Was there sarcasm in your post?
Awesome article. Sure appreciate all the effort to provide the many links for each topic.
Thank you Meadow and Daisy for all you do for us.
You don’t see me post often, but I read all you put out and have benefitted much over the years.
Be happy this new year. It is a choice.
Don’t recall for certain where I saw it, but, there is a companion book to the “Dangerous Book For Boys” and I believe it’s called the “Dangerous Book For Girls”. I believe I saw it on the Garrett Wade website.
Just another suggestion…
For #18, Robert Kiyosaki and his first two books…
Rich Dad, Poor Dad…and Cashflow Quadrant.
Me and wife were homeschooling parents, and now we are homeschooling grandparents!
Did this first book with 16yr old grandson, and he loved it!
Wants to do the second.
Many many missing things, finance cant not be simply taught in books to truly understand levers of finance you will need a mentor who is social or psychopath who is in high level banking preferred in international finance as you learn all the dirty tricks. You will also learn laws and rules are only suggestions with flexibility.
Second book art of war and how to apply it. It is every interaction has a root in it.
Book 64 laws of sucess know it practice it and you will be forever alone but without it you will not ever be more than mediocre and spend twice effort to get anywhere in life.
1492 gavin menzies… learn everything is an illusion and tale.told to keep certain people in power. You have been lied to about everything and should question it all especially things you can physically see and yet it is contrary to the narrative. If they lied about the world discovery what else is not tampered with.
200 proofs the world is flat eric dubay. If this is a lie why ?
Learn about someone called sadhguru through YouTube, reading ot seminar… you will learn something about yourself good bad and ugly looks back in mirror
Basic self defense should always be included in any essential skill set.
As a former Conservative History/Economics teacher, these are all good titles.
My teaching career crashed & burned once it was discovered I was an “evil” Conservative….and that was 20 years ago.
One of the most valuable courses I ever took was not available from my old high school. So that small town’s banker’s wife set up some tables, chairs and IBM Selectric typewriters in her basement so she could teach a room full of clueless hunt-and-peck artists (including me) how to do highly efficient and productive touch typing. In that six week summer course I gained those productivity skills that have served me for a lifetime.
So much for government choosing what to teach and what not to teach….