Should we Bring Back Home Ec and Shop Classes?
By Deborah Brooks
When I was in grade school we had to take Home Economics classes in both grade 7 and 8. Generally the girls took Home Ec and the boys took Machine Shop. I learned the basics of cooking and sewing and had a good time in each class. These might be the only skills I learned in grade school that I still use today!
During high school Home Ec morphed into Family and Consumer Studies but even then the remarketing and new curriculum didn’t stick. Reasons cited for its demise range from understaffing, low enrolment, and students wanting more marketable skills for competitive university/college applications.Times seems to have changed, but I am not the only professional who laments the loss of the life skills that Home Ec and Shop taught us. Jane Kristoffy, in her book Launch Your Kid, states that based on her focus groups with university students many of them did not feel ready to leave home from lack of life skills. Organizations and alternative schools have responded by offering Adulting Courses such as this Millennial Life Skills Class. Here they teach how to do laundry, menu planning, organization skills, basic tools to perform a task, and basic home and car repairs. Clearly there is a need to learn these skills.
Do parents need to step up? Kristoffy’s book outlines a list of chores and responsibilities that are age appropriate starting at age 2 to young adults. She states that starting at age 2 your child should be putting clothes in the hamper and by age 8 folding their own laundry. At age 10 to 13 children should be using the washing machine and be able to prepare a meal with several ingredients. My kids are good in the kitchen, but I have to admit that even at ages 11, 14 and 20 clothes rarely make it to the hamper! So there is always room for improvement and no one is a perfect parent.
Maybe my parents had it easy because I learned the basics of cooking, menu planning, budgeting, how to do laundry, and of course sewing during those years in Home Ec. I had chores at home too but they were reinforced with these classes. Today as parents we have to pass along these skills in our homes. In my house I have my kids learning “most” of these skills but it's not a perfect system. For cooking in my house the rule is if you help make the meal you don’t have to clean up. It seems to work most nights. Other chores are dolled out as they go, but we also have all-hands-on-deck sessions when things really need to be cleaned. Do I think my kids have all the life skills they need? Absolutely not, but it’s a start and so far my daughter who went off to university 3 years ago has fared very well.
What do you think? Are these life skills something parents should be teaching or should we bring back Home Ec and Shop classes?