by Katie Julius

Four years of English. Three years of math. US History. World History. Biology. Chemistry. Foreign Language. Physical Education. Music. Fine Arts. Leadership. Extracurricular Activities. Community Service … the list of what is expected of our high school graduates goes on. For some, this list is not practical for their post-high school plans. It’s debatable if all this is really even necessary to be successful in a college environment.

So, what do ALL high school graduates need to know to be ready for life in the real world? We’ve made a list of 10 things we think every high school grad (homeschooled or not!) should know by the time they walk across that stage in their cap and gown to collect their diploma and head off to whatever is next.

Failing Gracefully & Recovering

Life is full of failures. As parents, we can probably think of at least one way we failed today. Our children are no exception. As wonderful as we think they are, they will encounter struggles and disappointments and things not going their way. They need to know how to handle that gracefully – and how to recover. Learning to acknowledge, accept responsibility for, and pick yourself back up after failing are all key to being a successful and productive member of society.

It’s also important to understand why we fail and to be aware of where our weaknesses may be. As believers, we know that God loves us no matter what and He gives us the strength to try … and try … and try again. Psalm 73:26 says, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Time Management

This is an area that many adults still struggle with (I’m not speaking from experience at all). It’s important to know when to say no, even when it’s something we may really want to do. Learning to plan ahead and not procrastinate is a skill that many people never fully develop (again, not speaking from experience). Time management is a skill that will make life less stressful because you won’t always be rushing from one thing to the next or dealing with last minute emergencies.

Financial Literacy

Economics is typically a class that most high school students take during the senior year. While helpful to understand the basics of how our economy works, perhaps more important is to understand and know how to manage one’s own finances. From budgeting, to comparison shopping, to balancing a checkbook, to loans and investing, being familiar with how these everyday financial transactions function is essential to being successful. You may make a lot of money, but if you don’t know how to manage it properly, this can also be a point of major stress (especially in a marriage relationship).

Civic Responsibility

Like economics, civics is another course taken by most high school seniors, and again, while the knowledge behind our government is essential, it’s much more important to understand the impact of our individual responsibilities and actions. As our students prepare to enter adulthood and become registered voters, knowing the history of our country, why our founding fathers set up our government the way they did, and the importance of the founding documents, will drive their decisions as a voter, and therefore, the future of our country. It’s kind of a big deal, and so many young people do not understand the power they hold as voters as well as constituents represented by these elected officials. Staying engaged in the political process year-round is vital to holding those we vote for accountable.

Service Minded

Perhaps it’s my personality and gifting, but I’ve noticed in a variety of settings that many young people today are not particularly keen on looking for opportunities to help others. Yes, there are some who take the initiative to step in and help when they see a need, but a growing number of youth (at least in my personal experiences) do not help when asked. And if they do, it’s not with a positive attitude. It makes me sad for the future of our communities. My 9-year-old daughter and I serve regularly in a variety of environments. It’s something I’ve instilled in her from a young age – to always be looking for ways to help. It makes me sad that most of the volunteers we work with are over the age of 65. Of course, people of working age typically work during the day, but there are still lots of homeschooling families who have the opportunity to serve as a family, even if only a few times a year.

Communication Skills

As a Communications Manager and Editor, I’m kind of partial to this one. While shorthand like “TBH,” “LMK,” and “IDK” are great for texting with friends and social media, they don’t translate well to professional written and oral communications. Most job interviewers are not going to be keen on the use of slang during an interview. A company will not look favorably upon an email that is laced with abbreviations that may not be commonly known.

This is not to say that the digital language we use doesn’t have its place, but it’s key to know how to communicate appropriately in a variety of situations and settings.

Disagreeing Respectfully

If we’ve learned anything this past year or so, it’s that, as a society, we are not very good at disagreeing with each other. Even the simplest of disagreements can lead to name calling, personal attacks, and even lost friendships. We’ve lost the ability to have a civilized discussion with pretty much anyone who doesn’t hold the same views as us. We’re more divided than we’ve ever been and the chances of agreeing with everyone we come in contact with is non-existent. If we have any chance of saving the freedoms we have in this country, we have to train the next generation on the importance of diverse viewpoints, how to hold a conversation with someone who doesn’t hold the same views as you, and how to keep emotions out of any disagreements.

Lifelong Learning

This is perhaps one of the biggest advantages of home education – being able to instill a love of learning in our students. It’s about so much more than being able to spout off random facts and stuffing their little brains full of as much information as possible. If we can teach them how to find information, especially in today’s digital world where information is just one click away, they can learn whatever they need (or want) to throughout their lives. 

Working Cooperatively

Anyone who has been in a classroom environment knows of the complexities of the dreaded group assignment. There is always someone who wants everything done their way, someone who doesn’t pull their weight, and then those who get stuck with all the work. While group assignments in school are not quite comparable to those in the workplace, knowing how to work with different people toward a common goal is a skill that will be invaluable in a number of circumstances throughout our lives.

Household Management

Whether our kids will be married with 10 children of their own or remain single into adulthood, being able to manage a household is a skill that everyone needs to have. From menu planning to shopping to following a recipe to doing dishes. Dusting, vacuuming, scrubbing toilets, and mopping floors. Laundry settings, folding clothes, folding sheets (especially those tricky fitted sheets) and towels. Changing light bulbs, tightening screws, unclogging a toilet, gardening and lawn care, and more. These are all tasks that you can easily train your children to do in the course of your everyday activities.

No matter what the future holds, these skills (among others) will serve them well as they prepare to enter the world after completing high school. As parents, we can provide ample opportunities for our students, even from a young age, to develop these essential skills while they are under our tutelage. As homeschoolers, we are not preparing our children for college, but for life. “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” – Deuteronomy 6:6-7