As I was sitting here trying to grasp the fact that Levi is soon turning the age of six, I realized what a big year this has been for him. He has acquired three monumental life skills: reading, swimming (or at least keeping his head above deep water for extended periods of time), and riding a bike. Along with basic social skills (an ongoing maturing process, helped by the fact that he is extremely outgoing) and love of learning (which he naturally possesses), I would put these three life skills close to the top of the list.
There is no question that the whole world opens up for someone when they are able to read. Learn something new, participate as a citizen, follow directions, fill out a job application (maybe not at the age of five, but...), and go on any number of adventures in your imagination!
Russ and I both agree that being able to swim is an indispensable life skill. Apart from being a survival skill and fun recreational activity, swimming is a terrific exercise for bodies of all sizes, ages, and physical abilities. It is a skill that can be used, and an activity that can be enjoyed, for an entire lifetime.
I hadn't thought much about riding a bike as a life skill until my sister mentioned it. She reminded me that being able to ride a bike ensures very inexpensive transportation. This will seem like an obvious statement to many people, but we grew up in the country and never rode our bikes on the busy highway into town.
No gas (whether there will be a shortage or it will become outrageously expensive...), no insurance, low maintenance, and exercise thrown in! Down on your luck, car breaks down, just getting started in the world... if you are able to ride a bike, transportation to a job is one step closer. In areas like ours, public transportation isn't readily available. It never hurts to give yourself an option you have more control over.
So, while 'book learning' is very important to us as a family, the life skills we help our children develop along the way are part of the big picture that I need to keep in sight. Many of these skills will come naturally, but occasionally parenting feels like an overwhelming responsibility. I wonder if we will fail our kids somehow. What are we missing? What can we improve upon? What will we look back on and wish we had done differently? What is the big picture we are striving toward? What are the individual and unique needs of each child? Of our family?
The book I've found very helpful on the subject of life skills (you knew there would be one, didn't you?) is Life Skills for Kids: Equipping Your Child for the Real World by Christine M. Field. From a Christian perspective, this book covers time management, people skills, money, self-care, decision making, and even the art of celebrating life. There is so much more to this book. I'd recommend it for any parent, homeschooling or not.