Retro Saturday: Why Home Ec

WinkIvy says:

I saw this post earlier today, and while the original poster was actually talking about something different than the rest of us thought, it did make me think. (It’s a dangerous pastime, I know)

Anybody ever read Dicey’s Song? When I was younger, I strongly identified with her hatred of Home Ec. My Home Ec class was completely useless, we learned to make croutons and I made a horrible pink sweatshirt that fell apart in no time.

Cue me about 5 years later attempting to run a household. I attempted to fry chicken and turned it black on the outside while it was still raw on the inside. I couldn’t figure out how to pay bills on time to save my life. I overspent on groceries and then starved at the end of the week. I threw away awesome shoes because I didn’t know how to repair them.

Yes, Home Ec was important. But my Home Ec classes didn’t teach the sort of thing I needed to know anyway, and my mom was too busy working to teach me much- not that I would have listened to her anyway.

Home Economics reduces your global footprint. When you can sew a button on a shirt instead of throwing it away, that’s Home Economics. When you can cook from scratch, you’re reducing packaging. When you can effectively budget, you’re not wasting money.

It’s important, and this site is both for all of you who grew up like me, uneducated in the ways of effectively running a household; and it’s for those of you seasoned pros who have great tips to add in the comments, and could pick up a new trick or two. It’s for women, it’s for men- young people and old people. It’s for the conservative Christian homeschooling moms and the childfree vegan godless hippies. Everyone can learn here, everyone can benefit. And all are welcome, even those who think this sort of stuff is not important, because they’ll learn. Oh, they’ll learn.


  1. Suzanne on June 17, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    So very true!! Thank you to everyone here for all that you do on this site because the gaps in my education between my home ec class and my mom’s teaching need filling. 🙂

  2. Nancy on June 17, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    For a long time now I’ve thought a life skills class should be required for high school students. Every single person needs to have the basic skills to maintain a home. I’ve seen too many young people that don’t have a clue about the most basic of skills.

  3. mom, again on June 16, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    oh, tink! I’m 43 and I think how many times I have started over?! After the divorce, after marrying again, after moving cross country, after buying a house, after going back to school, after graduating, after the girls moved out, after moving overseas, after having another baby last year! (This one seems to be the hardest, cause I keep thinking I KNOW how to be a SAHM with a little one. I’ve done this bit before, right? But I’m in a different place, physically, mentally, financially, so, it’s all new. But I’m loving it!

  4. tink on June 15, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    I guess I was lucky – my home ec class did teach me the basics of cooking and sewing – though budgeting, etc wasn’t a part of it.

    Of course, that was in the days that dinosaurs roamed the earth. 🙂

    That being said, I’ve hit about every “stage” you mentioned in your post – from hippie to homeschooler, from young to old.

    I LOVE your site. I may have been running a home many years (let’s put it this way, my eldest will be 27 this month, my youngest is married and about to make me a grandma)

    I learn something new here almost daily. You have great and easy recipes that help me to expand on my repertoire’. You tip me off to new items or ideas, and sometimes I’m able to pass some of my new finds or ideas to others.

    When I became an empty nester (at 39!) life changed drastically. The way I cook, clean, organize. It’s almost like starting home life all over again. Then I went back to work – started a cleaning service of all things, and Ivy helped me along with that as well. (By the way Ivy, that “part time housecleaning job to make some extra money” has swelled to 29 clients – My schedule is full, busy, I have people on a waiting list and I’m making dang good money – Thanks again for your tips!)

    You’re a great site with MUCH to offer. I appreciate all that you do.

  5. Rosa, alberta,canada on June 15, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    My home ec class was of some use to me. I learned how to knit a baby blanket ( although the only other thing I’ve knitted was a very, very, short scarf as a christmas gift for my husband!
    lol) I learned how to make creampuffs, a skill I have used more often, how to sew a zipper into a skirt (the teacher made me take it out and do it over 4 times!) how to plan a meal and it’s timing and, most importantly, clean as you go.(If only I would actually do this every time!)
    It would be great if total home management was something taught in schools though.
    I had huge gaps in my knowledge that cost me money, embarrasement and a lot of frustration.
    Most of what I eventually learned came from women’s magazines like Family Cirlce and Women’s Day.
    Thanks for this site as I think there’s always something new to learn.

  6. Jasi on June 15, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    Snicker Doodles and an embroidered hankie. My home ec class blew, too. And I’m pretty sure it turned a lot of kids off to house keeping.

    Ya know… If they improved home ec programs in schools I’m sure it would do much to boost the esteem of home keepers everywhere. (That includes SAHM’s who usually get less respect than deserved). Whether you work, have kids or no, smart shopping, cooking, cleaning, minor repairs and maintenance – it’s all hard work!

  7. JimK on June 14, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Great post. And for you lurking guys out there, Home Ec is also for you. So is this site. Heather and Ivy are welcoming to all, so get involved! Post comments, send tips, all that stuff.

  8. Meredith on June 14, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    Right on, Ivy!

    I agree that homemaking has little relevance until you’re actually doing it for yourself or a family.

    That said, I hope I can teach my kids a thing or two before they are as crippled by ignorance as I was as a young adult ; )

  9. themomhalf on June 14, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    ok! gotta respond to this one :), my college minor was Home Ec. but……………………getting up on soap box……..

    Clothing? classes are aimed at teaching students how to work in the fashion industry, how to be a buyer for a store, there was a class on tailoring we made our own suit, but of course you had to make the type that they wanted you to make, and how to repair a zipper was not in the curriculum

    Home? classes are aimed at interior design, how to set up lighting, draw up a design, pick a colour pallet, no where in the curriculum is how to clean, when to clean, or even how to pick the best, most useful appliances.

    Food? You guessed it, now to run a nutrition program that will pass gov’mt inspection (daycare / school / nursing home), —– I did learn in my nutrition class that chocolate blocks the absorption of calcium — my professors pet peeve about giving children chocolate milk.

    We were required to take business classes, because by being in home ec. it meant we were actually going into business, not running a home, and personal finance was not one of the classes up for option. It was offered by the university, but only as an elective.

    there were pictures in the building of the home ec house that the university ‘used’ to have, where the girls learned all about running a home, but of course those pictures were in black and white, and all were dated before about 1965!!

    ok, getting off of soap box now – lol

  10. Deputy's Wife on June 14, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    I think every school should make a mandatory home ec/home finance class for every senior. It is important that each student learn guidelines for balancing their budget and the importance of the dollar.

    I had home ec in school, and I sucked at it. People who knew me 15 years ago laugh now because I am completely different from then. That home ec class gave me the building blocks to take care of my family and home. I hated the class then, but I sure do appreciate it now!

  11. Sara on June 14, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    Awesome–this is like the New Millenium Home Ec Manifesto! Learning how to make the most of what you have really is for everyone. Perhaps a new name should replace Home Ec (to help replace all those memories of sewing giant floral garbage bags in middle school…). I really enjoyed your non-Donna Reeves take on this!

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