Defining and agreeing on a universal list of life skills and creating a universally acceptable list of life skills is an elusive goal.  After all, much depends on the “life” of the individual or group in question, their particular context and goals, and the conditions they live in.  But for the majority of American youth, we can easily pin down a list of life skills that will cover 90% of the cases – and also group those life skills into meaningful categories so we can better develop programs and strategies to address them.

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Most approaches to life skill development, and any list of life skills, typically do not include core academic subjects, such as math, science, reading and writing literacy, and some humanities like history or social studies.  But strong academic skills, especially those that apply to a chosen career path, could be considered some of the most important life skills.  So I consider that part of the life skills set.

An important qualifier on these life skills is not just knowledge, or the ability to perform rote tasks – it must also include critical thinking, problem solving, personal development, and general strategies for approaching key situations.

So, in this post, I’ll look at the major categories of life skills and list some representative samples of skills in each category.  Then, in future articles, I’ll tackle a few of these categories at a time and provide a lot more detail on what should, or could, be included.

The purpose of all this is to help parents and homeschoolers address the question of, “what should my teens know before they head off into the world?”  And for professional educators, this will help compile and evaluate relevant life skills curriculum.

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Here’s the 90% list. Many of these are not exclusive and there’s considerable overlap; for example, independent living skills include financial skills and domestic skills.  And as I mentioned above, this does not include the vast collection of specialized skills required for specific jobs, vocations, and careers.


Also – feel free to reply to or comment on this post and suggest others:

  • Financial literacy (or economic awareness, or money management skills)
  • Domestic skills
  • Health and hygiene
  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Independent living skills
  • Workplace and job readiness skills
  • Computer and technology skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Self-knowledge, including goals, values, interests, and risks to manage
  • Academic skills
  • Career and job-specific specialized academic or technical skills

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Next: looking at each of these categories to define them further, and list relevant examples.