Prisma is the world’s most engaging virtual school that combines a fun, real-world curriculum with powerful mentorship from experienced coaches and a supportive peer community.
Creating a meal plan. Running a washing machine. Knowing how to manage money. The list of basic life skills every teen needs to master to become a fully self-sufficient adult is endless.
It’s also a highly dynamic list: young people don’t need to learn to balance a checkbook anymore, but adult life does demand the occasional phone call — something that older generations observed and practiced plenty from a young age, and that a tween today might have to sit down and learn.
What’s considered a critical skill also changes with context: an adolescent living in a rural area might not prioritize learning to ride public transportation, whereas an urban kid can’t get very far without that life lesson.
Regardless of the specific essential life skills you and your child hope to tackle, keep in mind that the purpose runs deeper than mastering any series of tasks: teaching life skills helps young adults develop the empowered and optimistic mindset they need to engage in fulfilling work, foster emotional well-being, form positive relationships and make positive change.
In our weekly Life Skills high school course at Prisma, we favor teaching broadly applicable skills that can be practiced over time (how to balance a budget) rather than narrow knowledge or skills that will be made obsolete (balancing a checkbook). They may very well forget specific details long before it’s time to step up to the plate (or washing machine), but if they learn the underlying principles, they’ll be well equipped with problem solving skills for when the time comes.
Our course focuses on two foundational areas: knowing yourself (i.e. emotional skills) and interpersonal skills (i.e. social skills). How do we overcome obstacles? How do we take care of our mental health? What does it mean to find a community and lead others? What is the meaning of friendship? How do we deal with peer pressure?
These big-picture questions lay the groundwork for all the secondary topics that follow:
You can watch all the youtube tutorials you want, but to absorb the lessons in a lasting way learners need an opportunity to practice in a hands-on, judgment-free environment. Here are ways to shape the experience so that it’s a positive one.
No one claimed that it’s a laugh to pay bills, but there’s no reason it can’t be fun to learn how. We turn our life skills class into a goosechase, using an interactive app that allows us to set challenges and award points for their successful completion.
And while you’ll want to make sure they get through all the major skill areas — even if they aren’t excited about laundry — we find that giving kids choice can make the process enjoyable. Let them set goals, and alternate areas of challenge with areas of strength, so they have a chance to score wins and build self-esteem, all while filling their adulting toolkit.
We use a tiered point system to structure our life skills “missions,” so that learners gain self-confidence as they build up to a big, final project.
Small tasks under the “money management” umbrella might include earning $5, using an ATM, or opening a bank account. Larger projects might include building a business or developing a family budget based on the median salary and cost of living in your area.
Small tasks under the “food” umbrella might include identifying basic kitchen tools or a source of recipes; medium tasks could include cooking a simple dish or calculating the calories in a meal; a big project might be to plan a day’s worth of meals or compete in a bake-off with other members of the family.
As you design these smaller missions, think about the skills they need to make it through a bigger project. They’ll need to familiarize themselves with kitchen tools or financial products, but also practice decision making, time management and more.
Encourage learners to ask you and other adults about what they consider important life skills, so they get a diverse cross-section of perspectives about why this all matters. Talk to your kids about how you learned these skills — tell them which skills were “natural” for you when growing up and which were hard earned. Then have them interview other family and community members to see how experiences vary.
Whenever possible, encourage them to learn and practice these new skills in a community setting, like a free bike repair workshop, a volunteer garden, or a babysitting class. These settings offer great opportunities to hone collaboration and communication skills, all while socializing.
Middle School Curriculum Designer Lizzie uses her diverse experiences: studying Literature at Harvard, leading outdoor adventure expeditions, and teaching high school English, to help Prisma learners find their voices.
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"Carolyn is a miracle worker in math. Piper's attitude towards math has improved so much this year. It's never been her favorite subject but Carolyn's patience and encouragement has made such a positive impact." -Alexia A., Prisma parent
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“Lauren is fantastic and has struck a nice balance of connecting with Cooper and keeping him on task. I'm impressed to see real growth in Cooper around self awareness, reflecting on his “glows and grows,” and goal setting.” -Kym J., Prisma parent
“I've seen growth in my kids, and most importantly a solid relationship between them and their coaches. We feel so grateful for these amazing humans that have entered our kids' lives. My kids' words exactly: ‘These teachers actually want to be here. They really care!’ ” -Katie M., Parent in Kimberly’s Cohort
By introducing these concepts at home, you're setting your child up to be more financially responsible and savvy, giving them the tools to navigate an increasingly complex financial world.
“I’m so happy to have an opportunity to call out Javi. As a math educator myself I am really impressed with how he presents math concepts, differentiates for and challenges learners as needed. From a social-emotional perspective he is so kind, patient and invested in the kids as a whole. I am so happy he is Brynn’s math coach.” -Chandra S., Prisma parent
The ability to tolerate frustration is not merely about weathering the storm of the moment, but about instilling the persistence, adaptability, and resilience that set your child up for future success.
“We are eternally grateful for Prisma and the wonderful people who work there - especially the coaches - whose patience and expertise make our kids feel seen and heard and loved while also coaching them to learn knowledge and skills.” -Ashley S., Parent in Angie’s cohort
We are thrilled to announce that Prisma has earned accreditation from the Cognia Global Education Commission.
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"Thank you for the bottom of our hearts for showing Story what it means to show up and do the hard work.” -Jenna W, Prisma Parent
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“Kristi sent Madeline a little note saying how much she likes seeing Madeline everyday, and Madeline grinned from ear to ear. Certainly a nice reminder of how different the relationship has been between coach and student compared to what we saw in public school.” -Pamela D., Prisma Parent
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“Despite Levi’s frustrations with science in the past, he had the most ambitious projects for Anne’s class. I love that she was able to inspire him!” -Joy J., Prisma parent
“Cindy is AMAZING! I’m so blown away by her accommodations, reprioritizing Parker’s to do lists, and always providing tons of encouragement. I’m knocked off my socks everytime I overhear her doing anything, really.” -Priscilla W., Prisma Parent
The first big surprise for me was the amazing team I would get to help me. I didn’t feel so alone when it came to supporting my kids' academic education.
“Natalie is so amazing and Karl has become very close with her. This year has seen Karl expand in his learning very much." -Anna H., Prisma parent
“Gwyn has been so wonderful to Jack. She is so relatable and authentic and really kind. She immediately bonded with him, and has really given him the freedom to be creative and take risks. She has made education and the whole "school experience" a safe place for him. With her support and encouragement, she has really made him thrive.” -Wren W., Prisma parent
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