Invent a course that every high school student should have to take.

Question: Plinky

Growing up as a young boy, and the first born of two, I had responsibilities. Very early on I had to be home and not in day care. I remember that day when I revolted on the bus ride home from school, the day I stood up and said “No more day care.” From that point on I was granted certain rights.

I was given a key to the house and after school I would come home and take care of my brother and myself while my parents worked. This was the progression that took place in our house. I learned how to clean, how to cook, mix drinks and take care of the yard.

Early on in my life, being the first born, I had three years on my brother. Three years to learn as much as I could from my grandmothers and my aunt. And they took full advantage of teaching me things. All those lessons were put to good use in my life today.

When I reached junior high school, I was in need of company. I volunteered for many things at that school. I was a teachers aide, I took classes, at one point I got the keys to the science office and I would go to school hours early to grade papers and ready classrooms for the day’s studies. I learned a lot from that experience.

What was good while I was there was a series of classes that were offered as part of our life education series. One section was to teach us how to cook not only for ourselves but for others.

The second section was crafts. We learned how to sew, use a sewing machine and to be able to mend things that needed to be mended.

The third section of the class was wood working. We learned how to use tools and to build things from lumber using all those big machine tools and little hand held tools as well.

The fourth section was business and typing. We learned how to type on electric typewriters, use adding machines and to keep records for ourselves.

All these classes were useful in the long run. Looking back on it, I use those skills today. I can be a seamstress, a cook, a builder and a typist. Most of my life is spent sitting here behind a screen and a keyboard. It seems our lives are now centered around a keyboard of some sort, whether that be a computer or a cell phone.

In today’s world, I don’t know if kids are getting to learn about things that they should. I’ve seen many young people struggle to find their way into life. With parents working and kids at school – they aren’t necessarily getting what they need from their school systems or their parents. I’ve been working with young people for many years.

I think that life skills is something that should be taught in schools. Young people need to learn about families, childbirth and raising children. It should be required teaching to learn about contraception and pregnancy. As we see the rising numbers of young mothers around the world. I think we do kids a disservice by not reaching them with this and a few other messages. When I was in junior high we were taught about life and conception and birth. It was one of the most interesting segments of our science studies.

Along those lines, kids should learn about keeping a home, learning how to shop for food and managing money. They need to learn about responsibility about money, paying bills and being responsible for cars, bank accounts and personal finances.

How many kids go into the world not knowing how to do all these things, because I sure didn’t know what it meant to be financially responsible. I had all these little bits and pieces of information, but I was lacking a great many things I so badly needed.

When I moved out of the house I had an apartment to be responsible for, a car payment, food to buy and a job to hold down, but at the same time I had an uncontrollable addiction to alcohol that was driving me down into the pit of irresponsibility.

I lost that car after not being able to make car payment regularly. They repo’d the car and my father had to bail me out, that resentment I am sure is still a thorn in his side. But he bailed me out nonetheless. I was addicted to the drink before I left the nest and had I known about sobriety then, who knows what might have happened to me.

Kids in today’s world should be taught about addictions and the cons of using drugs and the problems of substance abuse. I see many kids today who are smoking pot and drinking as soon as they can get their hands on liquor and alcohol. There was alcoholism in my family and it did not escape me either. I think if you send a kid out into the world with street smarts that they will stay away from these things. But you cannot expect them to stay away from the drink and the drug because that is part of any young persons lives.

Going away to college brings with it many experiences and chances to get involved with drugs and alcohol. I would want to teach kids that you don’t need these things – that they will only bring you down. Look at what addiction has done to so many young people and adults in general.

Coping skills is another area that I think kids need to know about before they go out into the world. You never know what kids have been through in their own lives and some of those things could lead to a life of addiction and self abuse.

There are so many things I would want my child to know about before they left the nest. In my life I have been beset with the disease of AIDS and the crippling problem of alcohol addiction. We need to teach our kids about sexually transmitted diseases and what it means if they catch one, and staying safe, practicing safe sex and proper health preventions and self caring. How do you take care of your life if you are sick? Being personally responsible is important as well. I have spent decades teaching young people how to live with HIV/AIDS. You have to learn your way into life or else you will perish. There is so much that you need to know from the get go… For some it is too much, but if you don’t learn these lessons, how will you survive???

Human sexuality should be required learning these days. The movement to teach our kids about all the many ways to live ones life, be that straight or gay. Gay is not what it was 25 or 30 years ago when I was a kid. It is not something we need to shy away from, kids are coming into the world and many of them are LGBTQ kids. And they need to know that they are normal. That they are loved and that they can grow up and be productive members of society.

The whole right wing agenda is critically hurting/killing the way we raise our children. That’s why I preach the message of learning about the world.

“Pack up your families and kids, leave your sofas and beers, and move out of the country for one calendar year. See the world from another point of view and perspective, I guarantee that you will never be the same again.”

Kids are being forced to grow up too fast in today’s day and age, and I don’t think many of them have all the skills to navigate into the world and it is only in retrospect that we see what they really need spoken about by the adults of today. We have a wealth of information to impart to our kids because I would rather they learn it from us than on the streets.

When I moved out of the house I was gay. I knew I was gay. I had been outed and rather than tell my parents that I was gay, I would move as far away as I could handle it to live my gay life, near some guys I had met earlier. They made it possible for me to find a place to live and a place to work, and to start integrating into the gay community in Orlando Florida in the early 90’s.

Kids know. With the way we consume information, kids learn about life in all the wrong places. I see kids in online communities sharing their struggles with addiction, their need to find love and their navigating the world of drugs and alcohol. Where do these kids turn when they need these answers so badly? Where are the teachers that are going to share with them all this life experience, and will they be willing to listen.

We all grow up, in one way or another. We all learn these lessons as they come. And we all walk a journey that takes a lifetime. We can’t force these things on our kids because they are going to do whatever it is they do because they want to be adults. It’s the ones who navigate into the world without having to deal with all the pitfalls in life that get away. Those are the ones who succeed.

But you know, every kid is going to do what he/she will. We can’t deny them the experiences that they want to have. We are born into the world, we have a finite time to learn what we can from our parents and families. Then we go off to college and everything changes. It may be our first time out of the nest for many. We go to school, we party and we achieve certain things like a degree and we find our way into the working world, where we can.

We learn about life and relationships – we may even fall in love, and there is a whole other can of worms that kids need to learn about. The importance of relationships with significant others be that a husband or a wife.

Marriage… There is another subject to teach about. This was the most defining moment of my life. To pledge my love and loyalty to another human being, till death us do part. To put the needs of another before my own.

And let me tell you, the adventure in that lesson started well before I said my vows on my wedding day. I learned what it meant to care for another human being early on in my life, because my grandparents were all struck down before I hit the age of fifteen. And I had to care for them along with my parents.

But for me, in my case, my husband suffers from Bi-Polar rapid cycling, meaning he suffers from manic depression that can be catastrophic if not caught, diagnosed and treated straight away. Learning how to care for another human being was one of the greatest lessons I could have learned in my life. I tackled it one day at a time. I did not walk away – I am in it for the long haul.

Marriage is for life. There are no two ways about it. If you don’t know if you are ready for marriage and you are in a relationship with your significant other, then take this test, it is very easy.

Write out your vows to your significant other. Tack them on the fridge. Look at them every day. Learn what they mean, and being to learn about them and learn to live them. And once you have learned how to live those wedding vows, then you may be ready to get married.

With so many divorces in the world it is a wonder that we don’t offer classes on marriage and how to have a healthy relationship. Kids need to learn about the broken home syndrome.

Gosh, I could go on and on with this list, but I think you get the picture. 44 years have given me some great learning and the ability to be a great teacher. I have enough time behind me to be able to offer some sound advice to our kids. There is so much you need to know, that it will take a lifetime for you to learn all of this.

Each of us learns according to our abilities.

One day at a time. One life at a time …