Necessary knowledge

What should an 18-year-old know before he or she leaves home? Marilyn vos Savant, weekly columnist for Parade magazine, answers that question more than 2,000 times in a new book, "Growing Up" (W.W. Norton, $21.95).

Suggestions range from the fanciful – At least once in your life you should have written your name in the air with a sparkler on the Fourth of July – to the practical: Know how to shop for a sensible used car and pay a fair price for it.

Among the experiences and skills she considers important are ones that some adults are still trying to master. For instance: Be able to get up the first time your alarm rings, without pushing the snooze button. And organize all your drawers and cabinets so that everything is neat and easy to reach.

There are also some that any parent will say amen to: Use a timer to learn just how much time you spend on the phone with friends. Also: "Know how to adjust the volume control on every device you own that generates noise."

One of my grandmothers felt that every adult needed to be able to swim and to dance. I wish I had asked her why just those two; they seem an odd choice for a woman who raised seven children by herself during the Depression.

My own list of what to teach my sons before they headed off to college was more pragmatic – cooking, basic sewing and ironing, and money management.

What skills and experiences do you think every 18-year-old needs? What do you know now that you wish you'd known at 18? E-mail us at home@csps.com or write Homefront, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, P02-20, Boston, MA 02115. We'll publish some of your answers next month.

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