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Do you have a college-bound homeschooler this summer? Does he or she know these five important things? These 5 critical life skills can make a huge difference in their success in school.

Almost every mom has concerns about their children heading off to college or university, and maybe homeschool moms have more concerns than others. We want to do everything we can to prepare our kids for life outside our homes, life on their own. But sometimes, we tend to focus more on the academic side of life than practical life skills. The following five life skills are critical for your child to learn before school.

5 Things Your Homeschooler Should Know Before College - light green background, dark green text. Picture of college student

Does your child know how to keep his personal space clean and organized?

It doesn’t matter if your child lives in the dorms or an apartment, alone or with roommates; he will benefit from keeping his space clean and organized. Does your child know how to keep his space clean? And does he have any sense of why that matters?

Order increases productivity.

Having your things neat, orderly, and organized will increase productivity. You have probably learned this, but have your children? This life skill will benefit them both in school and after. The old saying about a place for everything and everything in its place has truth to it. Knowing where all their things belong and putting them back where they belong will save your students so much time! Less time spent looking for things means more time for studying, assignments, and/or having fun. Or something!

Do they know how to do laundry?

As a homeschool mom, you have taught your child many things, like how to read, write a paper, and do advanced math. But have you taught them how to do laundry? Do they know not to use hot water to wash bright red shirts with white clothes? Do they know how to use the proper dryer setting to avoid shrinking their clothes or melting nylon zippers? Do they know to read the care labels for their clothing? Teach your college-bound students how to use washers and dryers properly! Be sure they know how to do laundry!

Cleanliness reduces illness

Believe it or not, if your college-bound students learn to keep their spaces clean, they will improve their health. I know that may sound crazy, especially to kids, but there is truth to that. Keeping their food refrigerated will help avoid food poisoning or contamination. Using clean glasses and utensils will help them avoid other germs. Dusting and vacuuming will reduce allergens and pollutants. And clean spaces also promote mental health and well-being.

Do your students know the difference between debit and credit cards?

There is a big difference between debit cards and credit cards! Have you taught your students how those types of cards are different? Do they know which kind of card they have? And what about using an ATM machine? Do they understand where that money comes from? And what about ATM fees? Do they know which ATMs they can use without fees? Students who don’t understand these things well can mess up their finances for years to come!

What is a debit card?

Debit cards are tied directly to a bank account. When a purchase is made with a debit card, the purchase amount is immediately subtracted from the associated bank account. Students must understand this so they don’t overdraw their accounts and accrue large overdraft fees.

  • Teach your students to track the money in their accounts and ensure they know how to check their account balances easily.
  • Teach your students the importance of not spending more money than they have.
  • Be sure your students know about overdraft fees, how much they are, and why they occur.

What is a credit card?

Credit cards offer easy and convenient payment methods for purchases. The charges accumulate monthly, and a balance is presented for monthly payments. That balance is payable to the credit card company. So, instead of paying for every individual purchase out of your pocket, you are presented with a lump sum of purchases to be paid monthly. What does your child need to know about using credit cards?

  • Credit card bills are billed monthly, and they must be paid. Credit cards are not free money!
  • If your child does not pay his credit card bills in full each month, he will incur large interest payments, which will add up quickly.
  • Your child should know to pay his credit card bills in full every month.
  • He should know not to spend more than he has or will earn monthly. Budgeting and wise spending are important.

Where does the money come from that you get from an ATM? And is it free to use an ATM?

Sometimes, students need cash. Yes, even in today’s society, there are still times when cash is useful or preferable. And ATMs provide easy access to cash. But where does that money come from? And are ATMs free to use?

Your student needs to understand that when he gets money from an ATM, that money is immediately subtracted from his bank account.

Some ATMs are free to use, but others are not. Your student should know which ones he can use for free and the fees for other ATMs that are out of network. Each bank has a network of free ATMs; those outside the network charge fees, which now average close to $5.00 per transaction.

Does your college-bound student know how to use your/his health insurance?

Most colleges or universities require students to have some form of health insurance. Many students are still covered by their parents’ policies, and others may purchase policies through the school. Either way, students need to understand how health insurance works and how to use it.

Deductibles, copays, and out-of-pocket expenses

Most health insurance policies have deductibles, copays, and out-of-pocket expenses as part of the insurance plan. These are all different amounts that the policyholder is required to pay before the insurance company pays out.

A copay is a set payment required at the time of service. A doctor’s appointment may have a $50 copay. An emergency room visit may require a payment in the hundreds of dollars. Sometimes, providers will bill for these copays, but often, they are required at the time of service. You should discuss with your child how to deal with these copays if needed.

A deductible is a dollar amount the plan holder must pay before the insurance company pays. Depending on how the policy is written, the insurance typically covers a percentage of a fee for service while the plan holder pays the rest of the amount up to a certain threshold. Here’s an example: Let’s say you have a health insurance policy that is a 30/70 policy with a $10,000 family deductible. So, if you have a medical issue or procedure, you are responsible for 30% of the bill, and the insurance company pays 70% until you have paid $ 10,000 over the course of a year. After that, the insurance company typically pays 100% of the costs (after copays).

Out-of-pocket expenses or limits are the most you will pay for covered services during a year. Once you reach that OOP limit, the insurance should cover all your covered medical expenses.  

In-network or out-of-network providers

Most insurance policies have a network of providers who have agreed to accept certain payment amounts for services with that insurance company. So, your student needs to know how to see if a provider is in your insurance network or not. You can see a doctor who is not in your network, but it will cost you significantly more money! Parents, you should check to see if there are any in-network providers for your insurance wherever your child is going to school. Figure out those options before something happens! Maybe it will be beneficial for your student to have his own policy specific to the area where his school is located.

Fill prescriptions at a pharmacy

Occasionally, while away at school, your child may need to fill or refill a prescription. Does he know how to do that? Some preliminary instructions may save time and hassles later. Also, remember what we said earlier about in-network and out-of-network providers? That applies to pharmacies as well. So, make sure your student understands the process of finding an in-network pharmacy, how to fill or refill a prescription, and how to deal with any necessary copays or payments.

Does Your College-Bound Homeschooler Know These 5 Important Things? Dark green background on the bottom part of image with cream-colored text. Photo of stacked books at top of image

Does Your Child Know How to Manage Money?

College or university is expensive, and that goes for more than just tuition! Be sure to consider costs for housing, food, transportation, books, extra tutoring, off-campus internet, etc. The costs and bills seem endless! We used to joke that every time one of my daughters called, it was to ask for money!

Seriously, though, the more kids learn about money and using money responsibly, and the sooner they learn it, the better off they will be! So, having those money conversations with your kids before they head off to college or university makes a lot of sense!

Loans vs. grants

As your kids plan their college funding, they need to know the difference between loans and grants.

Grants are monies given to them to use for their education. They may need to meet certain requirements to maintain those grants, but aside from that, grants are like free money.

On the other hand, loans are monies that must be repaid, usually with interest charges added. The most important things they need to know about loans are these:

  • Loans must be repaid.
  • Loans come with interest charges.
  • They should know how interest works and how it adds to the initial loan amount.
  • The sooner they can make payments, and the larger they can make those payments, the less they will have to pay overall.

Don’t spend more than you earn/have

One of the most important financial principles kids need to learn is not to spend more than they have! Just because you can buy something doesn’t mean you should! Installment payments for anything (credit card, buy-now-pay-later) cost far more than the initial purchase prices.

Teaching your children this financial principle early and often will help them avoid potential financial pitfalls later. Don’t spend more than you have!

Use money wisely for needs, not wants

Everyone needs to learn the important lesson of using money wisely. And the sooner we learn that lesson, the better off we will be. Especially when our financial means are limited, we need to learn to spend our money wisely on what we need rather than what we want. We must teach our children to establish financial priorities and live by those principles.

Does Your Teen Know Time Management Principles?

Another important lesson our college-bound teens must learn is to manage their time wisely. Time is the one resource we all have in equal amounts. No one gets more than 24 hours a day, but some people do far better at using those 24 hours productively than others! Our children need to learn to manage their time.

This may be an area where homeschoolers have more issues than others. Our schedules are often more flexible and forgiving in many ways, which may not help our kids learn those important time management skills. So, we need to find ways to help them learn time management.

Schedule your time wisely

Our children must learn to schedule their time wisely and based on priorities. They need to learn what takes priority as they look at their daily lists of things to do. What are the most important things they need to accomplish that day?

To avoid running out of time, they must learn to accurately estimate how long different tasks will take them to complete.

Prioritize academics

College or university students face many demands on their time, from attending classes and completing homework, working a job, or cleaning and maintaining their personal spaces. And let’s not forget about their social lives!

While all those things are important and will impact their future lives, I believe that while kids are in school, their primary focus should be their education. The social aspects of university life may be more fun and attractive, but their focus should be on getting the most out of their education and learning as much as possible to prepare them for the next phase of their lives.

Learn to use a planner

Using a planner is a good way for kids to learn and practice time management. Some people prefer pen-and-paper planners, while others prefer digital ones. The key is to find a planning system that works for them and that they will use, then faithfully use it!

So, encourage your kids to commit to using a planner, planning their days, writing down assignment or project due dates, bill due dates, and other time-sensitive dates and items. Then, they should faithfully follow the notes in their planner and stay on track with their deadlines.

Often, kids think they can keep everything straight in their heads, but they soon find that they have forgotten something important. Using and following their planners will help them avoid some hard lessons.

Heading off to school and away from home is a big adjustment for our kids, especially homeschooled kids. Ensuring they have learned these important life skills—keeping their personal spaces clean and organized, methods for using their health insurance, basic facts about finances and using money wisely, and time management skills—will improve their chances of success as they start their higher education.

If you are looking for more information about these topics or other things college-bound teens should know, check out the following:

Carol Rhine Rhine Home School Services

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