As we have mentioned before on the blog, helping foster youth obtain valuable life skills is a major factor in preparing them to successfully navigate the world beyond foster care. At Calvary Home, these skills are taught formally and informally.
Informally, instruction occurs day in and day out in each of the foster homes. The skills taught at home usually include how to care for one's own hygiene and personal care, and how to maintain a clean and pleasant home. Children are taught how to take care of their own laundry, clean their rooms, prepare yummy but nutritious meals, and how to clean up the kitchen after dinner. Children also have the opportunity to do odd jobs around campus to earn spending money. These odd jobs help them learn other important skills such as how to wash a vehicle, how to mow the yard, and more importantly - how to complete a task with diligence and excellence.
Formally, we try to provide opportunities throughout the year to provide instructive teaching. One example of this would be our life skills courses in the summertime. Here, children learn first hand the basics of plumbing, electrical work, wood-working, dry-wall repair, mechanics, budgeting, and finances. School holidays also provide unique and fun opportunities.
This year, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we took the children for a fun but instructive outing to Clemson. Over Christmas, a local organization had generously provided $25 dollar VISA cards. Each child received one card and we took them to four different stores in Clemson where they would have the opportunity to spend the money.
The goals of the exercise were many.
1. Exercise the process of purchasing items from the store.
2. Exercise making educated decisions about spending money.
3. Exercise calculating multiple purchases and sales taxes to determine
your remaining balance.
4. Exercise reading shopping receipts.
5. Exercise eating at a restaurant while staying within your budget.
6. Exercise loving your friends and family well by going into stores with them that do not interest you while maintaining a good attitude.
7. Exercise carrying oneself respectfully and pleasantly in public.
By the end of the day, everyone was tired but satisfied. The true personalities of each child shown through in their purchases. Thirteen-year-old Khole bought a new sweater for school. Fourteen-year-old Danny bought candy to share with everyone, picking out the specific candy he knew would delight each person the most. Eleven-year-old Alex bought a tiny keyboard for his younger brother's upcoming birthday. The entire day was both a success and a delight!
If Dr. King could have seen the children all together, laughing, smiling, and loving one another, he would have been pleased. The children all have different backgrounds, skin colors, and stories, but they were interacting with one another based on their character, not their skin color. Perhaps that was the greatest life skill exercised after all.