Written by Kris Bales of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers
I’m getting ready to show my age. Back when I was in junior high (See? The age-showing is happening already because middle school wasn’t even a thing back then), we took our first elective class in 8th grade. Except it wasn’t really an elective.
All the boys took shop and, directly across the hall, all the girls took home ec. (See? More age showing with all that “boys build things/girls cook and sew things” stuff.)
I still remember proudly making biscuits, as I’d learned in home ec, for my dad one weekend.
(He was either being exceptionally kind or I have totally forgotten those 8th grade lessons because I can’t make biscuits worth a flip anymore.)
There is still an embroidered, apple-shaped pillow somewhere, and the latch-hook rug I made for my grandmother still hangs on her bedroom wall, even though she passed away many years ago.
What is home ec?
We’re long past the “boys take shop/girls take home ec” days, but that doesn’t mean we should be past teaching the skills of home economics.
Home economics encompasses all the skills needed to maintain a home such as:
- Preparing healthy meals
- Sewing (at least enough for simple repairs like replacing a button)
- Basic household repairs
- Menu planning and grocery shopping
- Budgeting and money management
- Balancing a check book/finances
- Lawn care
- Making appointments (Some people hate calling to make a doctor’s appointment, but it’s something we all have to do at some point.)
Basically, what was once called home ec is what most of us now refer to as life skills – and it includes skills that both boys and girls need.
How to Teach Home Ec
So, how do you teach home ec –life skills – in your homeschool?
Teach it as an elective.
I love the cooking course that Jamie does with her kids. A lot of times, it just makes sense to intentionally address some aspect of home ec.
I know a lot of people teach their kids to cook as they go about their normal meal prep times, but that tends to not work well for me. I find that I just want to get supper on the table.
On the other hand, if I’m purposefully using the time to teach a cooking concept, I start earlier than normal, allowing more time for teaching.
Get Dad involved by asking him to teach basic auto maintenance (changing the oil, airing the tires, changing a flat), lawn care, household repairs, or using the grill.
(Yes, moms can certainly teach those things, too. I just know at my house, my husband handles most of that, and asking him to share his knowledge with the kids is an easy way to get him involved in our homeschool.)
Use school breaks.
I like to use summer break to work on life skills. Schedules are usually more open, allowing time to focus on teaching kids practical skills such as doing laundry, cleaning toilets, or washing dishes.
Summer is also a great time to allow an older sibling to pass on a skill to a younger sibling. For example, an older sibling might teach the younger how to clean the bathroom. Cleaning bathrooms then becomes the younger sibling’s job and the older sibling can learn a new skill to become his responsibility.
Incorporate the concepts into your daily life.
Many times, it makes sense to incorporate life skills concepts into your daily life, rather than teach them as a separate subject in your homeschool.
Maybe you have your kids sit down with you as you plan the week’s meals and have them suggest a meal for one or two nights. Or you take them to the grocery store with you and they see how you use your list and coupons to stick to your grocery budget.
Recently, my husband had to do some minor electrical work in our home. He called our 17-year-old son in to watch, help, and learn. My son’s BFF and his dad have spent the last year or two restoring a car, learning all kinds of things about auto mechanics as they go.
If you have a high school student, don’t overlook these learning moments. Give them transcript credit for home ec (or life skills) based on the mastery approach. The mastery approach just means that students receive credit for mastering a set of skills, though the “course” may have spanned a few years rather than a single semester or school year.
As an example of the mastery approach, recently a friend was worried that her high school senior still needed credit for a health class. However, after discussing it, she realized that her daughter had already covered all the concepts that a specific health course would have covered.
She’d taken a CPR course. She’d learned some of the skills in their church’s scouting-type group. Some of the lessons had been covered in other courses, such as biology.
It really was pointless for her to take a separate course when she’d already mastered all of the topics in a variety of settings over the course of her high school years. Instead, she was given credit based on her demonstrated mastery of the skills.
Home economics are still valuable lessons for today’s teens – boys and girls. (And feel free to teach your boys and girls shop class topics while you’re at it.)
What life skills are you working on in your homeschool this year?
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Thanks for this helpful post. I especially appreciated the comment about giving credit for mastery on a high school transcript. That was an encouraging thought. I have 3 and my oldest is 11 so we aren’t there yet, but I see it coming around the corner and am trying to start learning what I will need to do to prepare my kids (and myself) for all that transcript. stuff. So this was really a “breath of fresh air” kind of thought for me to learn that I can give credit for a class even though they are learning life skills little by little over their childhood “lifetime” and not in one semester. But if they’they’ve mastered the content, they KNOW it & can be given credit for it. That is SO encouraging! Thank you!
I am about to join you in the age thing. 😉 Middle school wasn’t around either for me and I still struggle with exactly what grades they cover. I agree we need to make sure we teach our kids life skills. It takes time and effort but it is so worth it. <3 Now Biscuits I can make, but squares, hahaha nope! Trade?
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I love this post! And I like your tip about giving credit when your child has mastery. I always stress about things being ‘official’, but you are so right. Why add a class or book when you’ve already mastered the material? Good advice!
You make some great points for expanding home ec to life skills. I also appreciate the approach of giving credit for mastery. When evaluating the chores, I want to see the high schoolers take initiative, especially with the cleanup. If I have to remind and nag, they aren’t really mastering it yet. My older students joined a robotics club where they can plan and design a robot, and build it using a variety of materials and tools, and help write the engineering notebook and market their business idea. Can look at http://www.bestinc.org to see if BEST has a hub and homeschooling robotics team in your area.
My boys, 15 and 18, got a crash course in cooking, laundry, and housekeeping earlier this year when I broke my ankle. It was pretty much figure it out, or you don’t eat, or have clean clothes for the first couple of weeks. We probably still need a little more work on the housekeeping end. 😉
Thanks for the list of what Home EC is comprised of. I wasn’t thinking of a couple of those topics and definitely like the idea of adding them.
You write well, and it’s enjoyable to read. I laughed through your first two paragraphs and had to read them to my husband too. 😁
I was just wondering what happened to all of these life skills classes. Our classes weren’t segregated by gender, so I learned auto mechanics, wood working, and welding in 8th grade, as well as the cooking class, and sewing. I still have the trivet I welded in 8th grade many years ago. I’ve decided since public education has removed these esssential classes, I’m going to start them with my reluctant 14 yr old son. HIs older brother went to Camp Grandpa for the summers to learn basic repair classes and cooking with me. My eldest are amazing at life skills while my youngest is great on the Xbox. Sad and bad parenting on my part. I’m up for this challenge if you have a set curriculum to help follow to make it more legit for him. 🙂 Thank you!