One of my goals for this year is to continue teaching my children some skills to make them more independent of me. A focus of our learning around here is to take full advantage of all the learning we can in and around the home. In addition to math, science, and languages, I feel it’s my duty to help my children learn to care for their own needs. Each month of this year, I am focusing on a different skill/chore and taking my time to instruct my children.
This isn’t earth-shattering news. These aren’t difficult skills. No doubt generations of mothers before me have been doing this since the dawn of time. I have been slowly showing and teaching my children these things since they were tiny. First it was to put away toys into baskets and bins and over the years that has evolved into doing their own laundry, loading and emptying the dishwasher, and making their own beds. As they are growing, so, too, should their level of involvement around the house.
This month, my “chore” to teach my children is taking on a little bit of a different spin. This month, my focus is on Thomas, Mae and Kate being confident in their knowledge of some basic safety and first aid. Over the past few months we have been giving the kids some opportunities to stay home alone for short amounts of time. (The amount of time ranges from 15 minutes up to usually an hour or so. And I think the furthest I have traveled from the house while the kids have been home is still less than 10 miles.)
Baby steps for the kids. Baby steps for mom.
When we let the kids stay home, we don’t put Thomas in charge, per se. We say that everyone is responsible for himself or herself. We have some basic ground rules:
- do not open the door for anyone, ever (no UPS deliveries, no neighborhood pals)
- they have a cell phone to call or text me in an emergency, or call 9-1-1
- the kids know to run next door together if they are in immediate danger (fire, injury)
- and no electronics, no fighting, no knives-cooking-or-baking
So far this has been working just fine, and everyone’s confidence in the arrangement is increasing each time. When doing my own research for teaching this life skill, I came across this informative article from the Red Cross about kids staying home alone.
Due to my own low-level anxiety about medical emergencies and related issues, I wanted to be sensitive to my kids’ ability to process information about scary situations and their responses.
This website has some good information and videos on specific safety issues. Some of the reenactments are dorky. And some are just not pertinent to our situation. In the end, after watching three or four videos, I decided that seeing another child seize or witnessing someone controlling bleeding was a little too graphic for my purposes of preparedness. This site does include some good fire and weather safety precautions and advice as well. Beware, most of the footage is from the 1980s.
Since my children’s ages range from 7-11 I knew this particular life skill and exposing them to it, may not be a one-size fits all.
For Thomas, my 11 year old, I ended up just simply downloading the Red Cross app to our iPad. It took him less than half an hour to work through 11 interactive safety modules and their quizzes. (This was his “seriously, Mom? This is too easy” face.)
You can retake the quizzes until you get all of the questions right. Those 11 modules included:
- Heart Attack
- Unconscious Breathing
- Broken Bone
- Head Injury
- Strains and Sprains
The app has some cool features. There are more learning modules including those for pet safety and a variety of natural disasters. There’s an emergency link that can connect you immediately to 9-1-1. And I plan to keep the app on my phone as there’s a feature that allows you to use your current location (GPS enabled) to find the hospital nearest to you. Not only does this app tell you your hospital options and driving distances, you can link straight to driving directions. This is a dream for any military family who may not know the routes to hospitals in a fairly new city OR when you’re traveling. (Also, blanking out exact locations, #opsec)
I know I’m telling tales on myself here, but another anxiety for me is being somewhere unfamiliar and needing to orient myself with where the nearest hospital is located in case of emergency. Granted I’ve only been hospitalized three times, for three child birthing experiences, but for those of us who worry about health problems, knowing a quick way to find help is literally a lifesaver.
Blame this fear on having a toddler who had several ER visits for asthma, an ambulance ride when his entire arm was sucked into an elevator door at the TN Aquarium at the age of not quite four, or that same kid, at age 9 having an ER visit while his dad was deployed to Afghanistan and I carried his 85 pound, severely-constipated-but-I-thought-it-was-his-appendix, body into not one, but two hospitals looking for a place that would admit children on a weekend. #goodtimes
Anyway, I digress.
The Red Cross app seemed to fill the bill for Thomas, but I did determine it was a little over the girls’ heads. Besides, I thought there might be a more fun and engaging way to teach them and at the same time make it practical for my baby loving Mae and Kate.
Since my girls are SO into baby dolls, their baby cousins, and thinking they are much older than they really are, I thought it might be fun to let them take the Red Cross babysitting class.
Technically the online version is meant for kids age 11 and up, but my girls were able to do all of the reading and navigating on their own. There was one section in each module where they needed to type some answers to questions about hypothetical scenarios and I did come type for them to expedite things.
The cost of the online course is $29 but there *is* a 30% discount for military families. I let the girls just share one class and it has worked out fine. Although we will get to print a completion certificate at the end of the course, we aren’t taking this “officially.” I’m more concerned about their exposure to the concepts rather than a strict adherence to the exact “rules” of babysitting.
(Remember, my goal here is my own peace of mind to leave the kids home alone and confidence for Thomas, Mae and Kate to react calmly in the event of an emergency.)
The total estimated time to complete the entire course is 4 hours. We attempt to keep our kids’ screen time limited and therefore, the girls are breaking down the six modules and working through them over the course of several days and a few weeks. Right now they are about halfway finished. The six modules are:
- The Business of Babysitting
- You’re the Boss
- Safe and Sound on the Job
- Playing with Kids of All Ages
- From Feeding to Bedtime: Caring for Kids
- It’s an Emergency…Now What?
The modules are meant to take 20-50 minutes each to complete. It’s taking Mae and Kate a little longer. However, the short video clips are engaging and the entire thing is narrated by a cute little animated avatar, Sophia/Sophie. The only downfall of this whole thing is that now I have two daughters ready to type up resumes and get an official babysitting business started. Bless their hearts.
Here at Casa de Wood, we aim for a lifestyle of learning, although I am counting these skills/chores each month as part of our Wood Academy plans. Charlotte Mason would agree that cultivating good habits in our children is every bit as important as the math, language and social studies.
For more in this series, Teach Them Diligently: