Including life skills as part of the curriculum for high school students makes sense for many reasons. Students heading for college who will be on their own for the first time will benefit from good life skills habits. Special needs students may need specific life skills instruction to be able to function on their own on even a rudimentary level. High schools can help all students enjoy a smoother transition to adulthood by providing a curriculum that addresses areas such as vocational planning, financial management and good dietary and other health habits.
Even experienced breadwinners are not always the best managers of money. Particularly in trying economic times, instruction in financial basics can greatly improve students' odds of functioning successfully as independent adults. High school students with special needs will benefit from basics such as counting money, making change, shopping for items from a list or using money to negotiate public transportation before moving on to higher level financial skills. Students who function in the average to high academic range will benefit from learning about how finances relate to earning (banking, paychecks and income tax), spending (bills, making and sticking to a budget, sales and coupons), credit, business math basics and investing and saving, according to Money Instructor.
A life skills curriculum developed by the Hamilton Boone Madison Special Services Cooperative lists vocational planning as one of its core components. The curriculum includes beginning steps such as interest inventories, specific job descriptions and tools for job searching. It also stresses good work habits such as attendance, punctuality and completeness of work and time and self-management. Other areas of study include preparing resumes and job applications, interview skills, the idea of employment termination (voluntary or involuntary), teamwork, effective communication and workplace ethics. Special needs students might benefit from the modeling and specific practice of some skills such as interviewing.
The Hamilton Boone Madison curriculum also addresses household functions as a part of basic life skills. One primary area of household functioning is food preparation, which according to this curriculum includes making appropriate dietary choices, keeping track of food freshness, the ability to follow a recipe, including measuring and using packaged food items appropriately, and the ability to operate appliances. Students with special needs will benefit from modeling and practice at food shopping, measuring and preparation of simple menu items. Cleaning is another area in which high school students benefit from instruction, including selection of household cleansers and tools appropriate for various tasks, emptying trash and sorting laundry. For those students needing extra reinforcement or instruction, classroom housekeeping chores are good practice.
Health and Safety
Issues of personal health and safety covered by the curriculum include basic hygiene skills such as hand washing, dental hygiene, observing good exercise routines, scheduling routine and other doctor appointments and following prescription instructions for medications. Tools used to teach these skills include medical alert bracelets, cards for emergency information and the physician's section of a telephone book. Special needs students or those requiring more in-depth instruction may also benefit from learning sight words or signs indicating various dangers.
Cathy Moeschet has been writing since 1988. Credits include a public affairs show for WLFL-Channel 22 in Raleigh, N.C., a video for the Handicapped Student Services Office at North Carolina State University and short fiction in Jackhammer II and Planet Relish e-zines. She holds bachelor's degrees from NCSU and Western International University. She is pursuing a Master of Education from Grand Canyon University.