My oldest son called me at work the other day.
"Hey, I need my uniform washed," the 17-year-old rising high school senior said.
"OK," I replied. "Go to the laundry room and wash it."
"Uh, I don't really know how to do that. I need you to."
The kid is a year away from graduating from high school and doesn't know how to put a jersey in a washing machine? He has been shown how to, but is either feigning ignorance (probable), or what we showed him just didn't stick (also probable). Neither is acceptable.
The kid has a lot to learn. He knows dialogue from "The Hangover" frontwards and backwards, can bait a hook, makes great grades, has watched "Animal House," can hit a golf ball fairly well, has a firm handshake and enjoys "The Andy Griffith Show" — so he has mastered the basics of life. But we can't let him loose in the world without knowing a few more of the minor "life skills" needed to function in society, and not be a crappy roommate.
Hence, the creation of the Robbins Learning Academy.
For the next 40 weeks, the two students (the Robbins brothers, ages 17 and 15) will take a class a week from the course catalog. The courses will be taught by two instructors (my wife and I), who will set a time and place for the course once the students have signed up that week.
Here are examples of the courses I'll be teaching at the Robbins Learning Academy:
• Jumping Off a Car 100
• Tire Changing 360
• Operating a Grill
• Mysteries of the Attic
• The Science of TV & Remote Control
• The Process of Browning Ground Beef
• Understanding Oil & Its Relationship to Motor Vehicles and Chainsaws
• Gutter & Roof Maintenance
• Len's Chicken Wing Wizardry
• The School of Knots — Ties and Ropes
• Mac & Cheese Philosophy & Practice
• Rudimentary Plumbing Skillz
• Building the Perfect Taco (prerequisite — The Process of Browning Ground Beef)
• Weed & Bug Extermination Basics
My wife's course load includes instructing:
• Clothes Washing 101 (obviously needed)
• The Essentials of Mopping and Sweeping
• The Skinny on Sewing Buttons
• Breakfast Cooking 400
• The Subtleties of Vacuuming
• Dining Etiquette 224
• The Tricks of Ironing
• Oven Use, Maintenance & Strategy
• The Magic of Dusting
• Advanced Dishwashing
• A Journey Into Your Refrigerator
• Spot Cleaning 225
• Microwave DOs and DON'Ts
• Window & Glass Cleaning Theory
• Basic Botany Principles
There are a few other courses offered, but you get the gist. To make sure the classes are enjoyable, and not a laborious chore, we have also instituted the following guidelines: No class is to be over 30 minutes; you can exempt a class if you show a mastery of the subject matter; student can choose any background music they want during classtime; and all classes will be taught using the "John Wooden" approach.
My father and grandfather utilized the "John Wooden" (the legendary college basketball coach) approach when teaching and coaching — instruction through positive reinforcement, patience and mutual respect. And no yelling. We're going to have fun. You learn better when you're having a good time.
There will be no formal final exams. The final exam will happen when they have to change a tire or sew a button or the toilet backs up — and they handle it without a call to me or their mother.
School's in for the summer!
Len Robbins is the editor of the Clinch County News.