October 14, 2013

What I Wish I Learned in Home Ec

The Boston Globe had an article yesterday calling for Home Ec to be brought back to our schools but in a new and updated way. I found the article, "Bring back home ec!" really interesting and I think it makes a strong case. Young Americans today, we're fat, unhealthy, not self sufficient, and financially irresponsible and unintelligent. Life skills that were once taught in home ec - and not just to girls too dumb for college but everyone - are still life skills but are no longer taught... by anyone.

The article discusses how home ec, which was started over 100 years ago to bring "scientific rigor into the home, and to professionalize women’s domestic work, bringing dignity and efficiency to both," needs to be taken back to its roots, teaching kids to "cook, sew, and choose a low-interest credit card."

It got me thinking, what do I wish I would have learned in Home Ec, a class I didn't actually even take in high school. What skills do I wish I had first hand experience in or things I had learned in a high school or even college Home Ec class? 
Here's my list:

- how to understand the stock market
- how to chose the best loan
- how to make natural / home made detergent and cleaning solutions 
- how to butcher a deer, cow, and chicken
- how to clean and prepare fish
- how to plant a garden
- how to can food from the garden
- how to sew (mending, buttons, following simple patterns)
- how to change a tire
- how to change the oil in a car
- how to use simple power tools (drill, saw, etc)
- how to meal plan

Certainly I have learned some of those skills anyways, but a lot of it was trial and error and some of them I still don't know how to do. And what about you? What would be on your list?


  1. I definitely wish I knew how to choose a good loan, especially for college!
    Agree with you on the button thing...my husband can do it like a pro; not me! :)

  2. I think Home Ec needs to come back in a big way too - but it's multifaceted - we need to understand that managing a home whether as a stay at home parents or a working one, is an advanced skill set. Running a home, for men and women (since the home was often the place of business for men for a long time), was something you were trained for from a young age.

    A few things I would add:

    Splitting Firewood and selecting the best woods for fires.
    Basic Breadmaking
    Cleaning basics - how to properly clean a room/kitchen/bathroom
    Basic Emergency Preparedness

    1. p.s. Mentioned this on Kendra's Homemaking post last week - but I'm continually surprised at how much I use my theatre degree in the home. Children's Activities, clothing repairs, basic electrical work and small appliance repair (my theatre electrician trained hubs has repaired both our dryer and dishwasher in the 1.5 years we've been in our home), time management, budgeting, even thrift store shopping.

  3. I so wish Home Ec were more available in modern times! My sister-in-law teaches it in East Peoria, but I don't know what kinds of things are in the curriculum anymore. I wish I had learned to sew from patterns and can food, but these are my own fault, as my mom did a lot of both and I was never interested enough (or forced) to learn. I sure wish I would have now! Same for butchering a deer and cleaning fish - have seen them both done many times, but kind of wish I had been forced to take part so that I would feel comfortable doing it now. It makes me wonder if home ec class is what we need, or if it is a family-society fail that our generation doesn't know these things.

    1. I think it is a family-society fail. For reasons I cannot comprehend, the overall society decided our generation did not need to be taught these basic skills. Now the older folks get mad because we don't know it while seeming to forget it is they who did not teach it.

  4. Oh gosh... I think it would be easier to list the courses I don't need. So... I make a mean pan of brownies from a box! City girl, latchkey kid, hopping between houses in my broken home, didn't know how to use a checkbook until I got married. Home ec would have served me well!

  5. My mom was the life skills teacher for many years (middle school equivalent of Home Ec). Looking at your list, 4-H teaches most of that! So many life skills are slipping through the cracks now. So sad.

    1. 4-H! 4-H! I'm so excited you mentioned it!! It gave my parents a sort of spring-board for covering skills.
      My mom is a home-ec teacher, although there is a different name for it. Sometimes its a good thing the deep south is slow to change. ;-) Oddly enough though home-ec (Oh! "family and consumer science" is the new name, but anyway) is taught in career driven high schools, not typical high schools. Meaning only a really small minority of students are receiving these life skill lessons.

  6. Sewing is definitely on my list though I can do basic stuff like attaching buttons and darning socks. I really need to learn to hem my own pants though!

    I'm good at cooking and I'm almost completely vegetarian so butchering wouldn't be on my list.

    Knowing how to change my oil would be good to know. I've had waaaay too much experience with changing tires.

  7. For years I've said a worthwhile high school course would be about understanding insurance. To this day all things insurance confuse me.

  8. Yes too all of these. And basic carpentry skills too.

  9. I would add: Plunge a toilet, Check oil in car, put air in tires,

  10. Definitely the college loan stuff would've been helpful (like...your student loan payments will be HUGE).

    Also, meal planning.

  11. Home Ec would have been wonderful. I would want to learn:

    -getting a loan
    -following major news stories
    -properly chopping vegetables

    They would offer those things, right?

  12. Oh how I wish I could sew, understand the stock market, and make staple foods from scratch (I'm thinking butter, cheese, heck, maybe even beer?) I'd also love to have some basic carpentry skills on my resume.

  13. How to iron. I just turn it to the highest setting and hope for the best. I'm so awful with shirts.

  14. To what you said and the comments...yes, yes, and yes!

  15. 1) Sewing!
    2) How to cut and chop efficiently for cooking. I can follow a recipe. What I can't do is cut up ingredients in any reasonable amount of time. It is a running joke in my family.
    3) Cleaning solutions and stain removal
    4) Car Maintenance

  16. All of it! We actually had home-ec at our high school, but I had no interest in taking it. Some of it was because I was turned off by the teacher, who I knew from around campus, but a big part if it was that my family had recently moved to the country and I was spending a lot of time learning a lot of what is listed.

    I find myself really wanting to teach my daughters, but it keeps falling by the wayside: academics and their chosen electives take priority. Fortunately, they just joined an American Heritage Girl troop and a lot of these things are badges they can earn. I just hope that's enough motivation for me and them!

  17. Yes, yes, and yes!
    I actually took home ec in high school and learned how to sew on a sewing machine, but I wouldn't be able to do it now.

    I think budgeting, creating a spending plan, planning for the future financially, and basic banking are essential skills that kids need to be taught. I've learned over the years by trial and error.

  18. All of these things are taught in our homeschool. And we take openings every August...just kidding.
    In reality, there are loads of older persons that would LOVE to teach you these things. Between 4H for my kids and just asking for help, we've been able to get a good start on all of those things for my kids. I actually put together a list of what I hope my kids will be able to do by the time they leave this house. I label it "virtue" development==Industry rather than Home Ec. I expect my boys and girls to do both complete it. :)

  19. I schedule these sorts of things right into our homeschool schedule because I thought a lot of it would be "picked up" but then found I wasn't explicitly teaching them.

    I would add a knowledge of herbal medicine/plant identification. But I think some skills would be place specific - my kids can butcher a chicken but wouldn't know how to negotiate a mall.

    My home ec class in middle school taught basic sewing, cooking and cleaning (for half a year); the other half of the year was tech ed, with carpentry and making a plastic ashtray (??). Then we had economics in high school, but that was an elective. But despite these classes, I still had (have) a sharp learning curve for all things domestic.

  20. I totally agree. I think people lost sight of the economics aspect of what a home economics class was supposed to be. I remember some fun cooking and sewing projects, but what they really needed to teach was also how to budget, personally first, then for a household. That's even more important now, that so many people going into college taking out huge loans, then having trouble paying them back afterward. Young adults really need to be better prepared for that.

  21. These life skills are so important! Thankfully, the Cooperative Extension Service (part of every Land-Grant University, and there is at least 1 of those in every state) still serves to educate youth and adults on these necessary topics. 4-H is the youth development component of these agencies and I can attest to the lifelong benefits of 4-H membership. There are, in fact, over 7 million youth involved in 4-H throughout the world. I encourage each of you to seek information on 4-H for your kids. There are Extension offices in every county/parish in the nation! Check it out. :)

  22. I agree with the planting a garden and the financial things, especially insurance, loans, credit cards, etc. I would add some basic cooking, like browning meat (my mother had surgery when I was a teenager and my sister and I had to take over the cooking for a while, and I was surprised when the chicken turned white rather than brown), preparing things like rice (one cup of dry rice plus one cup of water makes how many servings?) and chopping and cooking frugal vegetables (cabbage, anyone?). Car maintenance is so important, and I would have preferred to learn how to change a tire, check and replace all fluids, and jump start a dead battery BEFORE being on the side of road. Oh, and laundry. I was glad my mother made us wash hard-to-ruin things like towels so I could estimate load size and proper cycle setting.