The bell rings. Students flock to their classrooms, sporting new backpacks, poised to begin the school year. They head to their desks, take out their books, pencil in hand, ready to work. When you mention back to school, usually these are the types of images that come to mind. Indeed, learning inside of the classroom is incredibly valuable. Reading, writing and arithmetic are all necessary foundations. Yet there are experiences outside of the classroom that can be just as enlightening, offering different types of growth and development for your child. Your child’s education can be enriched with life skills while learning outside a school’s four walls.
Fayetteville mother Ivory Cloud has her daughters involved in a purposeful learning enterprise. Her daughters, 13-year-old Charity and 12-year-old Chasity, along with her husband Antre, are involved in her non-profit organization, Dreams of Lois.
“It’s a family business. They help with everything,” Ivory says of the girls. “We started as a mentoring group to help young women who’ve lost their moms to death, especially cancer.”
Over the years, it has morphed into much more. Dreams of Lois now offers outreach activities for girls and boys, including holiday socials, toy drives, pajama parties and other events with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. And Ivory’s daughters are part of the driving force making that happen.
“They treat it like a Fortune 500 company. They promote it, they talk about it as if everyone in the world should know about it. They tell me what I should put on social media,” Ivory says. And they are honing tangible life skills.
“My mom always gives us a budget so we can stay on budget,” states Chasity. “It’s teaching us how to be responsible. When we get older, we’re going to have to know how to stay on budget and pay our bills. If you only get this amount of money, you have to spend it wisely.”
Charity echoes similar lessons.
“We have prep time and time we have to set up the events,” she notes. “Organization is a big part of it. We have to make sure that everything is set up and make sure that it’s not a big mess and things are out of order. It helps us stay on track.”
Ivory sees the big picture as she instructs her girls.
“My ultimate goal for Chasity and Charity is to take this organization to the next level. I want them to run this company like many non-profits are run. After they graduate college they are running Dreams of Lois like executives.” She continues, “It may be Chasity and Charity that take this to a global level.”
According to successfulstudent.org, lessons like handling money, time management and critical thinking are not generally part of a school curriculum. As a result, kids are missing critical components of vital skill sets when they graduate, and ultimately enter the work force. Even the art of face-to-face conversation – not buoyed by electronics – as well as finding a job, may not be integrated into school lessons. Offering your children unique and innovative learning opportunities outside of school can enhance these skills.
What are some real-life applications you can use to drive these points home to your children? Volunteering offers huge opportunities for learning and growth. Participants have to learn to be on time, follow instructions, and ensure the end result is successfully achieved. Let your kids work with you in the family business. Whether you run a store, manufacture products, or provide a service, the kids can help. Something as simple as counting inventory, stamping flyers or sealing envelopes can provide them with real responsibilities. A sense of achievement can be derived from having them organize an outing. Headed to the zoo? Let your child figure out what time you need to leave, what you need to bring, and create a budget for tickets and snacks.
Of course, the kids won’t know what to do in the beginning. Start them slow, teaching them not just what to do, but why.
“When we first started, they were just big helpers. They mimicked everything I did. Now they have more of a part. Really, I’ve given it to them,” Ivory notes.
Internships, summer jobs and entrepreneurial summer camps also offer valuable learning. Even something as simple as paying the kids for tasks around the house, then letting them figure out how to spend that money, is a valuable lesson in finances. Experiences that encourage kids to put life skills into practice offer them a huge advantage. What’s more, it can nurture intangible, and no less important, character.
“My foundation is teaching my girls you must leave something behind. Giving and serving – that is our goal,” Ivory states.
And she offers words of advice to parents looking to open up the world to their children through positive exposure experiences.
“If they have a great idea, I’m going to run with it. Have an open communication and let their creativity flow. Don’t ever try to dumb their creativity down.”