When our kids are little, whether or not we plan to homeschool them, we drag them to the grocery store with us and we battle them the entire time. These little buggers are constantly running away, asking for candy (or any prize they deem worthy), pulling on the cart, and overall complicating the simple task of obtaining sustenance for the family. Oftentimes, we aren't thinking about the lessons being taught or learned during this time. Grocery shopping is just something to endure ~ we have to bite that leather strap, suffer through the pain of, and move on with life. We do this for years.
When the kids are (finally) old enough to stay home when Mom needs to go grocery shop; or in recent years, when we can shop online and have food either delivered or pick it up with kids in tow. Now everything is off limits and out of sight - while the grocery worker loads the car and we pay for necessary things on an app. We forget how many lessons can be taught within the walls of the grocery store.
Aside from the obvious counting money, financial planning, coupon cutting lessons, there are a million more.
My youngest son is 14 now. He's done with the ages of the whining grabbing of the cart, licking the meat counter, running hands along all the dirtiest of dirty shelving (and floors, and carts...). Did you know the number one thing found on grocery store cart handles when analyzed was human feces? Yep - so gross. But, I digress. Now that he's 14, and he could stay home, we make a point to go to the grocery store together just the two of us. This provides limitless learning opportunity for him (and me, if I'm honest).
I was reminded of this yesterday during a bi-weekly grocery trip when he said something to the effect of, 'hey, I'm getting better at this.'. What could he possibly get 'better' at, at the grocery store?
He's an anxious boy, nervous and sensitive. He often says he abides by the "stay at home policy" meaning he'll do just about anything if it means he can stay at home. He loves his family, his animals, his consistency, predictability. When he was in Social Skills class several years ago, they took a few trips to the grocery store as part of their class. They were provided a puzzle of sorts where they had to find certain things in the grocery store and learn certain skills by doing so. But this, this is different.
Fourteen year olds will learn to look into the eyes of the elderly and help them reach shelves. They'll learn the how, when, why of getting certain items from different isles and the appropriate considerations of adults. They learn to have their head on a swivel (a term that is fairly new to my boy) and actually pay attention to people, places and things around them. Having to drive the cart, navigate isles, locate the things they love to eat and ponder the cost.
Using self check-out, they learn how to ring things up, the importance of item placement in bags ~ frozen items go together and pointy items break holes in the bags ~ Playing 'Tetris' with the bags to ensure safe cart fitting, and of course, the overall cost of how things add up.
We even play 'which is cheaper' by mentally reducing the item and comparing the common denominator to find the best deals.
There's Math, Social Studies, Economics, Financial Planning, Social Skills, Communication, and more - all wrapped up in a tight little bow of a grocery store trip.
My sons are anxious guys. They struggle with community interaction which is something we've worked on consistently since they were wee little fellows. They don't want to be further away from mom than an arms length and worry they'll get lost if they walk away - isn't that something we talk to them about when they're a 3 or 4 year old running amuck and not listening in the store? I sure did. But it resonated so hard that they fear getting lost as a 6 foot tall teen.
When you're planning your next outing, consider taking your teen by themselves if you can. The relationship you have will be stronger for it. Spend the time in the car talking about their latest interest, walk through the isles and let them help you (they can do a good job of it now), use the ever abhorred self check-out and let them practice bagging/dinging/tetrising. Ask about their observations of other patrons within the store. Look for opportunities for them to help someone in a wheelchair reach an item on a top shelf. Teach kindness. Teach watching suspicious people and what those behaviors might look like. Help them observe the world in which we all live and watch them thrive.