About me

My photo
I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


Follow by Email

Follow me on Instagram


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Things a kid needs to know before going away to college

You are going to have to help me with this list, the final post on this subject.

My sister has been smart this summer. 

My nephew is planning on going away to university after his next and last year of high school. He wanted to get used to more independence by working and living away from home. 

That's why he is here. 

My sister also wanted to make sure he got used to managing things on his own and one of my jobs here is to encourage that.

Sometimes it is easier to do this if you are not the parent and already well in the role of doing things for your own child.

Yesterday we did laundry intensive for example, including how to use a clothesline because they don't have one at home.

He already cooks well so that's not an issue. And he is a conservative guy so probably will handle his money well but his situation has made me think of launching my own kids and of all the first years I see every fall.

One story that sticks in my mind is a mother that bought her son a chest freezer and filled it up with his favourite frozen dinners.

Another is of a really nice 20 year old boy who asked an accountant who was a guest speaker how to claim bankruptcy because he was in so deep with credit cards. Or the girls who take their student loans and go to the Dominican at spring break.

My students also tell me things like learn how much you can drink so you know when you have had enough (for me that would be two glasses of wine max, their self described limits would amaze you), or that girls need to always take their drinks with them at a bar, even into the washroom, so no one puts anything into it. (I find this one so sad).

I also remember my middle son telling me the most useful thing I ever taught him was how to iron a shirt. That's it. After 19 years of my upbringing what he remembers is shirt ironing.

So what's on your essential skills list? Here is the start of mine:

  • how to iron a shirt (details first then the body, use steam)
  • how to make quick dinners with pasta that don't require tomato sauce
  • what interest is and why it is scary (be aware that your freshman is going to be surrounded by credit card kiosks)
  • how to sew on a button
  • how to look at the unit price of food
  • that students are no longer living at the level of their parents' income (I am blown away by the "essential" $30 lipsticks and Coach bags my "broke" students bring to class)
  • how to sew a button
  • how to treat girls with respect
  • how to expect men to treat a girl with respect
  • how to separate colours in the wash and why some things need to be hung up
  • how to do a quick clean even if it is only with a box of disinfectant wipes
I know I am going to think of a million more things through the day but now its your turn.

Over to you.


Jen in sunny Melbourne said...

How about how to use a pay phone and how to call collect (for when they run out of credit on their mobile phone)?
(Mind you, neither of my kids - almost 22 and just turned 19 -are showing the slightest inclination to move out yet. I have dibs on daughter's room for a sewing area if/when she does go though!)

GirlSpazDog said...

I was a resident hall assistant for a few years in college. I would add how to respectfully ask for what you need from someone. I know my teenage kids fight and when they come to me for moderation I coach them on how to ask. Things like discuss when not angry, explain reasons why it's important and no name calling. Hopefully this will help them avoid conflict with roommates later on.

swanny said...

Great ideas, all. The first year of university is a very big growth year. As a university professor myself, I would say that learning to communicate respectfully, and learning to think for oneself and then ask questions are critical.

Angela M. said...

Good question! Some of mine apply more to life in an apartment than dorm, but still... once I went to the dorms for a year, then it was to an apartment and a whole new set of skills came into play.

Balance a checkbook - my husband had to teach me when we married.

Basic household repairs :
see what the flapper is doing if the toilet keeps running.
The difference between a phillips and standard screwdriver, and why it is good have more than one size available.
How to use speckling to fill in a small hole in the wall.

How to turn off water (if possible).

How to check the hot water heater.

What numbers to call for any type of emergency.

NO question is stupid - ask if you don't know!! It is so easy for kids to not want to feel stupid and call home. But it is ok! Awhile back our hot water heater developed a leak, and slowly leaked into our house. What a mess when it finally became apparent! The guys that came to our home for water damage issues told a story of some college kids that had a huge water leak on an upper floor -but didn't think it was a big deal - and so continued to party for THREE days. When the party time was over, they mentioned it to a father who promptly called for help. Of course, the damage was many many many times worse due to the kids waiting so long to call, not thinking it would be that big a deal.

Sandra said...

If/when you call/email/text when you are in a crisis (self-defined), please call/email/text when the crisis is resolved or when you're managing the situation okay.

Anne said...

Love your college posts. Particularly like your idea to choose a profession with consideration on how you want to spend you days. Need to remind myself too of the value (and fun)of continually learning new skills.

Graca said...

My advice to someone heading off to college or university? Hmmm, that a slow cooker was the best household investment I made while in university because there is nothing like coming home to a hot meal. (Get one that automatically set to warm when it finishes cooking.)

Learn how to repair a hem.

Listening respectfully will earn you respect. Ask questions! Discuss and share ideas! Appreciate other opinions and views.

How to budget and that you can live on cash instead of credit. Save for a rainy day because IT WILL come when you least expect it. Oh and the difference between wants and needs when it comes to preparing a budget (sorry but cable and video games are not needs).

Give yourself enough time to finish a paper so that you can proof-read it before you hand it in. And never cram the night before an exam. If you put in the work before you'll be fine. Go to a movie and relax--you're already prepared and got this. It is all about endurance, don't burn out at the home stretch.

Anonymous said...

How to test and change batteries in a smoke alarm and a carbon monoxide alarm.

Anonymous said...

How to use their health insurance. How to look up online for Urgent Care and doctors in network. Explain co-pays,deductibles etc.

LyndaSewing.blogspot.com said...

After watching three Grands go through it early in their freshman years...
How to explain to your dorm mates that you are studying and don't want to come out to play right now.
Seems a lot forget that they are there to study and get a degree, not "party hearty."

Anonymous said...

1. Importance of punctuality for appointments, classes, dates, homework assignments, etc
2. Dressing for the image that you want to convey
3. Ability to schedule and follow through
4. Listen to your gut if you feel you are in danger
KathyC whose son has navigated college already

Rose said...

Great blog topic, Barb. My 47 year old son is still learning some of them. I tried, but....

Denise said...

How to negotiate - with the roommate, the professor, the office assistant. My daughter missed a deadline for Honor College but was able to talk her way in one day late.

Saying that, how to keep your classes/assignments/appointments straight.

How to work out a menu plan and shop for a weeks worth of groceries.

Anne Frances said...

I would add
acquire a diary - or become thoroughly familiar with an electronic version of one and Use it. Put everything - including regular classes - in and check it before you commit to anything. Then you won't miss appointments or activities or social events nor will you double book. And you might even arrive on time!

Gail said...

My advice to my daughter who is a first year:
Remember your primary goal is to study.
Engage with you teachers
Don't procrastinate - tomorrow comes more quickly than you think!
Don't be in a rush to experience everything.
Look after your friends, and NEVER sleep with anyone unless it is what you want to do.

Lynn Barnes said...

When was the last time anyone saw a pay-phone? Most college dorms don't even boast landlines anymore. Charge your cellphone regularly. Call your mother.

I'd add the perennial motherly advice to turn off lights and shut doors when you are through with a room; always take advantage of a clean restroom, even if you think you don't have to go; take lots of naps; eat your vegetables. Let your parents know when you'll be away for the weekend, or for the semester. And, apparently, Barb really really wants you to learn how to sew on a button, lol.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all your sensible advice.

Anonymous said...

Recently I stayed at Olds Agricultural College, Alberta in a townhouse designed for four students. Four bedrooms with locking doors - each room had a desk with chair at a window, good sized closet and single bed. Two bathrooms for 4 students. A nice looking kitchen and living room. What really got me was that each T/H had a laundry room with space for a farm-sized freezer for those farms moms who wanted to send their kids off with good food. Seemed to me it would be a really good place to go to college and learn something and live well while there.
Vancouver Barbara

Anonymous said...

how about, don't go to the kinds of parties/bars where girls have to watch their drinks all the time. Yikes. That is not normal and a sign you are with the wrong crowd. There are other crowds of people to be with.

Anonymous said...

Most of the above mentioned things are not about going to college but being prepared for life. I think a flurry of activity to teach or kids how to be ready for college is simply too late. these skills need to be taught at a very young age.

I see my role as a mom as to first make good decisions for my children when they were young and to pass over the decisions to them as they appropriate for their age. By the end of high school they should be managing their own life.

I have three daughters and all have gone to university. Two oldest two are in medical school. I gave no lectures or lessons before they left. We packed bags and kissed them at the airport. The process of getting them ready for life was just that a process and they were all ready.

Study habits and work ethics were learned in elementary and high school. All could do laundry in elementary school. EAch of them worked and managed their own money and back account since junior high.

Teaching them to cook is good but teaching them to eat well and to take care of themselves is even more important. Food is simply a choice. Eating healthy food takes more work than fast food.

My girls did not cook getting their undergraduate degrees. They went to school full time. Worked in the summer to help pay for tuition and had part time jobs all year long. The did however, all eat well because they were used to eating well. Not one of them has any cravings for junk food.

I just think we need to let our kids grow up with responsibilities and life skills.

Summer Flies said...

My son is 10 and already he knows what foods to eat and why, the value of money, the lies of marketing, the importance of saving etc. Kids learn from example and so I hope I show him good examples. As he gets older more responsibility gets passed onto him. Just this morning in the car on the way to school, he said he used to want to get bigger (older) quickly, like when he was in grade 3" i wanted to be in Grade 5 but now I don't want to get older quickly as I know it is just harder and more responsibility!" He floors me with this kind of stuff at least once a week.

Anonymous said...

When something is difficult remember that practice, practice, practice can be the key to success. Have patience when practice does not immediately show good results. Sometimes relaxed but engaged efforts can over time yield amazingly beautiful results. My two are a Navy pilot/Commander and an electrical engineer.

Anonymous said...

re: Kids learn from example

exactly my 2cts
not very helpful in this post, but learning starts earlier.

Our 4 years old follows me when I do the laundry
and tells us when telling him there is not enough money to buy another toy: go to the machine there you will get more…

Very intersting comments, the one with the drinks is scary.