“Adulting is hard.” This is a phrase you commonly hear among college students and those new to the workforce, and you know what? They’re right. Being an adult is hard, but it is especially challenging when you don’t have much of the basic skills and knowledge that generations prior to the millennials and generation Z-ers have. This is why a teacher in Louisville, Kentucky has created a three-day course for high school seniors to teach them the ins and outs of life in the real world.
College Access Resources teacher at Fern Creek Highschool Sara Wilson-Abell was dismayed when she realized that while her graduation seniors understood quadratic equations and could write an essay about the symbolism in The Lord of the Flies, they knew very little about basic life skills. (1)
How were these kids going to manage to live on their own in college or out in the working world if they didn’t know how to do laundry, check their oil, cook a healthy meal, or manage their finances? This inspired her to create a three-day course for high school seniors that teaches them all of those things and more, effectively called Adulting 101. (1)
The inaugural class to complete the course was the 2019 graduates, who considered it an all-around success. Lilly Farmer, who was among the students in the first rendition of the course, said it was very helpful for many home skills, primarily laundry. (2)
“I learned a lot about my laundry…I knew, like, some aspects of it but I never sorted my clothes or anything like that. Now I know it’s very important to do.” (2)
Wilson-Abell built the course based on suggestions from alumni and community members about what “adulting” consisted of. On her Facebook account, she posted this:
“If you could choose one real-world concept/skill that you wish you learned in HS, what would it be?” (1)
The community came through and gave her plenty of ideas of all the things that they wished they’d learned in school before going to college and going into the “real world”.
The course is spread over three days, each with its own theme (1):
Day 1: Money and Wealth Management
Day 2: Home and Health
Day 3: Professionalism
On the first day, students learned about money management, basic banking and loans, leases, renting vs. buying, and about saving for retirement. Students were able to have all of their financial questions answered and could even win prizes like microwaves and mini-fridges. (1)
Day two the students learned about the basics of cooking and how to prepare healthy meals. They had a special bit particularly focused on cooking in a microwave because many of the students will be living in dorms with only a microwave to cook with. Other home tips were included, such as basic plumbing, how to fix a toilet and other household repairs. Part of day two was dedicated to taking care of their mental health and how to seek help if needed. (1)
The final day was focused on professionalism. Students took part in resume workshops, interview prep, and what employers are looking for when hiring. (1)
A Community Effort
Members of the community, such as mechanics, plumbers, and financial professionals came in to give talks and demonstrations. Students learned how to change a tire and how to manage credit card financing. (1)
“Our job as educators is to ensure our students are prepared for life after high school. Knowing some of our students felt they lacked some of these basic life skills made me want to provide every opportunity possible for our students to be as prepared as possible,” Wilson-Abell said. (3)
Adulting 101 During COVID-19
Of course, things for the second annual Adulting 101 course were a bit different this year. With the coronavirus pandemic closing all of the schools, the students were unable to participate in in-person programming this year. Wilson-Abell was not going to let this year’s seniors miss out on this critical part of their education. (3)
With help from a couple of other teachers at the school, she set up an Adulting 101 YouTube Channel, where she uploaded videos to teach all of the different skills that students would have learned in the in-class program. (3)
After that, her husband, who is also a teacher at the school, helped her to build an Adulting 101 Website to act as a sort of library for all the videos. (3)
“I didn’t want this year’s class, who has already been stripped of so many staple senior activities, to miss out on this. So as soon as I knew we would not be coming back to school, I started to come up with the alternative option: doing it all online,” she said. (3)
Though she hopes to be able to teach the course in-person again next year, the website will continue regardless. (3)
“The students are sad about missing out on the in-person interaction but now they have this website to refer to for years to come,” she said. “I have even had alumni reach back to me to tell me that they’ve been watching some of the videos, too, so it’s not only impacting our current seniors, but really all of our students.” (3)
The channel and website have really taken off, and students from all over are benefiting from the lessons that they are teaching. (3)
Programs in Other Schools
Fern Creek High isn’t the only school to have implemented basic life skills education.
Bullitt Central Highschool in Shepherdsville, KY has an “adulting day” organized by the director of the BCHS Family Resources and Youth Services Center Christy Hardin. Supported by various members of the community, the seniors learn about taxes, cooking, how to conduct themselves during a traffic stop, and about homesickness and what signs to watch out for that may indicate a more serious mental health struggle. (4)
Lumpkin County High School in Georgia has an “adulting day” as well. Students learn everything from ironing to basic plumbing, resuscitation to car maintenance, and everything in between.
Clearly this is a gap in education that needs filling in every school. Hopefully, other schools, districts, and school boards will take notice of not just the need for these programs, but the desire from students to be taught these things.