I have read many posts recently that had the same common theme:  things a kid should know how to do before going off to college.  The lists included things such as knowing how to do laundry, basic cooking, checkbook balancing.  My first thought was “Duh….of course they should know how to do these things.  These things are part of being a responsible adult- they are things you need to know how to do.”  I’m not going to get into the “why” they don’t know these things- but apparently- many young adults are bereft of this knowledge.

Now, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and I was in what was commonly referred to as Junior High, I was required to take 2 semesters of Home Economics.  I know, visions of this class bring back thoughts of burnt toast and really haphazardly sewn aprons.  it harkens thoughts of women touching up their make-up before husbands return from work.  Slippers and the evening paper waiting my the Lazy Boy, a pre dinner cocktail already poured.  But if you can get those thoughts out of your head, I want you to think about what was learned in that class.  Because all those life skills?  I learned those, and more, in my home ec class when I was 13.

I know Home Economics is a bad name.  So lets call it “Life Skills 1.0”  or “Adulting”.  And obviously, both men and women should be required to take this class.  It is just as important as any subject taught in school, and in some ways, more important.  Some of you are thinking, “well, I’ve taught my kids all these things.”  That’s great.  You get parental gold stars.  But extra knowledge in these areas is not a bad thing.

Here’s my real life example.  My daughter will be attending a Halloween party tomorrow night.  She’s going as “The Devil Wears Prada”.  Go ahead and copy the idea- I think she saw it somewhere and thought it was cool.  She’s going to wear devil ears, a black skirt and a red t shirt.  On the front of the t she is going to iron on letters that spell out PRADA.  Easy, inexpensive, everything my kid wants in a costume.  Here’s the thing:  she doesn’t know how to iron.  So yesterday, she asked me if I would help her.  (Full disclosure- though I technically know how to iron, I choose not to.  I am perfectly happy in wash and wear clothing, and I am totally cool with walking around unironed.  I just don’t care.  It’s also fun because it drives my Mother in Law crazy….I take my fun where I can get it)

Now, we own an iron.  It is somewhere in my apartment.  Where?  That’s a really good question.  I wish it was like my phone, and I could push a button and do “find my iron”, but as that is not an option, I’m going to have to actually look for it.  And later this evening, I will be McGyevering an ironing board and teaching my kid how to iron on letters.

And though she knows the basics of cooking (I love to cook and bake- so this was a natural for me to show to her) and she can handle an industrial washing machine- there are certain things she does not know how to do.  She has basic skill level with tools, she can hammer a nail, and knows the difference between a flat head and Philips screwdriver- but the last time we bought assemble at home furniture, she was really looking to me for guidance.  Yes- I had her assemble a small bookcase (FYI- my husband does not know how to do these things….I put together all the things that need assembly)  And I’m sure there are many other tasks my daughter would not know how to do.  So I think that a class that showed the basics would be a great idea.

So, because I love to make everyone think and participate- what life skills do you think kids need before they leave the nest?  Do you think it should be entirely parent responsibility, or do you think a semester at school learning these things would be a good idea?

92 thoughts on “We Want Home Ec!!

  1. How to cook something from scratch, and how to follow a recipie. The difference between various often used tools such as a Philips vs flat screw driver, how to use a staple gun without stapling your hand, and how to operate basic saws (i.e. Understanding which way to pull is based on the teeth). How to balance and keep a budget. What credit really means. How to do laundry. How to fix a toilet or at least figure out its leaking and wasting water. How to read an electric, gas and water bill. How to wire a thermostat or at least the basics of electrical wiring. How to turn on and off the water main in a house. How to check tire pressure on a car and how to change a tire. Those are something’s I learned at various points of childhood that friends often didn’t and they lament never being taught.

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  2. Wow, I’m first so here’s my entry: changing a diaper. My daughter had to babysit an infant and didn’t know how to diaper a baby. I was going to show her with a doll, but she ended up watching it on YouTube. As the second oldest of 7 kids, I knew how to diaper kids as a pre-teen.

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  3. I think some things should be taught at school and some at home. When my oldest was in middle school, they sent her home with the fake baby to care for for the weekend. Sadly, they discontinued the program by the time my last 2 kids were old enough.

    I think kids should know how to balance a checkbook, be able to budget, cook, do laundry, cleaning, basic car knowledge like changing a tire, how to fill out a college or job application, writing a resume, basic use of tools…

    I am guilty of not teaching my teens all of these skills. Why? I am too busy working and doing all of those things. It is hard if they don’t take an interest. Plus part of me says let them be kids as long as they can be…they will figure it all out like most of us did.

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    1. I get the too busy thing….which is why I think a class at school would be great. And honestly….my husband does not know how to do a lot of basic things….I was away once and got called to ask how to run the dishwasher. Another time I got called to fix the internet. At this point I know he’s not learning these things, and my personality is to just to do it…..but I know in my head that’s not healthy. And I’m trying to make sure my daughter is totally self sufficient.

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      1. I understand…there are some basic things we were never taught to do. How then do we teach our children?? I also have the tendency to want to maintain my own house too. Not that they would necessarily do it wrong, just that I like things a certain way. My way! They can screw up their own house someday. 😂

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      2. I totally get the screwing up the house thing. But like one reader commented, she’s a late millennial, and she knows people that know nothing about their bank accounts, including how to access information. Or that they need to change the oil on their car. These are expensive lessons to be learned the hard way…..

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      3. Oh….I know….but there you have it. That’s why I wrote this today….I follow a lot of empty nest type blogs, and as all the schools have been experiencing parent weekends, a lot of posts talked about how few actual life skills their offspring had.

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  4. I get super frustrated with the “millenial” age group, even though I am technically on the higher end of being considered part of that group. I work with several young to mid twenty somethings who can’t do a damned thing for themselves. They don’t know how to write checks, keep track of their keys, cook, or even show up on time. I’ve seen articles online about how they actually offer “Adulting” classes for younger generations now. Some of the basic questions included in these classes are “Do you know how to access your bank account?” This is so absurd to me. I agree that certain life skills should be taught in schools, but, even more so, should be taught by parents. I learned a lot of really good life skills at home. I genuinely don’t understand how there is an entire generation of people who can’t even figure out how to get their oil changed. Ugh.

    *end rant*

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  5. My concerns are much larger than what kids can do when they leave home. After all, as my mother used to say, necessity is the mother of invention. But I worry about society at large. Home Ec isn’t the only thing middle schools and high schools should be offering. Bring back vocational training! I’m serious. We’ve become a nation that pushes everyone down the same path (I think in an overreaction to tracking, but don’t get me started). If you’re not going to a 4-year institution, someone somewhere will turn down their nose at you. But not everyone is cut from the same cloth — and if everyone gets fancy degrees, who is going to repair our cars, our roofs, our plumbing? Where will we find good restaurants with excellent chefs? Where will we send our most special articles of clothing, like a wedding dress, to be cleaned and preserved? All those exploratives (and vocational classes) really help kids find their passions. Sometimes, they even save kids.

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    1. Oh…..I couldn’t agree more!! I think the whole everyone should go to college is bs……and the world needs electricians and carpenters etc…….those are great vocations and require intelligence and logic. How we’ve gotten to the point where these things are looked down upon is beyond me!! Honestly, how many philosophy majors does a society need?

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  6. Yes to home ec along with basic mechanics and finance. Things like checking tire air pressure, changing a tire, putting oil in a car, changing a battery, balancing a checkbook, building a resume… necessary life skills.

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  7. We definitely need home ec. Kids should learn the basics of cooking, baking, sewing, and cleaning, and while a lot of parents do teach those things, a lot of them don’t. If people weren’t so up on college prep/ACT/SAT prep and ZOMG Standardized Test Scores!!!!, then maybe we could keep useful classes like arts and home ec in the schools. Seems to me that high school should be preparing kids for life, not just for college.

    p.s. I would have mentioned driving as a thing all kids should learn how to do, but then I realized that in cities where there is a good public transit system, they wouldn’t need to learn it as much as kids in more rural areas, where there are few other ways of getting around..

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    1. It’s funny you say driving, cause chances are my kid will not learn to drive for awhile. It’s not easy here to teach kids, and practice, and we don’t own a car. But yeah….enough with over prepping them for tests, which are ridiculous, and more about life skills, which you need!!

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    2. And arts! I don’t like how schools are getting around arts requirements by these new steam programs (I know they need tech skills, but really, they should have exposure to everything possible). And I hate the new push for a humanities class that combines history and English. Two senate classes.

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  8. …. and can we PLEASE have basic handwriting skills back again? I work with a gal in her mid-twenties and her handwriting would never have passed first or second-grade.

    A lot of supposedly “unnecessary” classes, such as home ec, art, shop, music, have been dropped due to budget issues. That’s wrong. So much is learned in these classes! Girls need to learn how to do basic auto maintenance and boys need to learn how to cook basic things. All should learn how to balance a checkbook, do their own taxes (the EZ form, anyway!), create a budget, learn about FICO scores, …. the list is endless.

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    1. Right there with you! They may know some things, but they can’t function in society! After hurricane sandy, I actually volunteered to help people fill out paperwork, because some of these kids (and it was by far more younger people) did not know how to do basic paperwork!!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I remember my dad teaching me how to check the oil and other fluids in a car. Mostly to know what it is that is leaving a puddle under it. He also taught me how to change a tire and because we lived in Idaho, how to put on chains and to carry blankets and food, water and other emergency supplies. All before I was allowed to get my license. I have tried to pass those skills on to my children, but they have chosen to not have cars instead.
    I thought I had taught my children basic cooking skills until my eldest caught the microwave on fire. He forgot to add water to the ramen noodles.

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  10. I think I’m a bit older than you (61) and interestingly enough, I wanted to take shop when I was in HS and NOT home ec, but was not allowed. Only BOYS took shop and GIRLS took home ec in those days. Highly discriminatory of course, but it was the way of the world back then. Because of that, I was rather a pain in the butt in my class and didn’t feel like participating very much and therefore came into life not really enjoying sewing or cooking much (although I don’t mind cooking for myself now) or all those other ‘womanly’ things. And I still very ripped off having not learned how to use tools, especially when I was a single woman (which I’ve been for many years now) and owned my own homes. Sooo, this is a bit off topic, but not really because it shows that schools are quite vital to what kids grow up learning and feeling about themselves as adults in the long run…. PS I have since taught myself to use tools and got on pretty well, but it still would have been a better base, I believe, had the school made be believe I could do it so long ago.

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  11. I admit that I’ve been really bad about doing things for my kids instead of teaching them to do it. Of course, I still can’t sew a button, so they won’t learn that from me. Somehow, my son has become pretty self sufficient since he moved out. We just started a Life Skills 101 series at my library aimed at the 20 somethings who never learned these skills. Basic clothing care was first. Gift wrapping is in December. A dating coach is coming in February and we are working on a budgeting and saving class.

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  12. Great post. Can I drop off some ironing for tonight? I need it tomorrow, thanks. I was taught how, but since you’re gonna be doing it anyway…

    ok, enough humor. Hmmm… a big life skill for me is ‘confrontation skills.’ I was timid and shy, always afraid to speak my voice because I didn’t like being around raised voices or conflict. I’ve learned how to handle it better now, but this is something people should be taught at an early age so they can be fair and not internalize those skills.

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    1. That is so dead on correct! So many people don’t want to advocate for themselves. That was a big one for me to overcome as well….and I know so many parents that still do all the talking for their kids…. and on the humor side….the thought of turning on the iron is making me itch

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  13. I for one never minded ironing, it was my chore when I was about 7, a lot better than cleaning the bathroom ( i had 2 brothers)! I will say that my daughter was probably more skilled than my son, my bad. Both my kids had a sewing and cooking class in middle school although sewing toddler clothes I think send a confusing message. I think basic home repairs and basic cooking are a good idea. When my son had his first apartment out of state I sent him index cards with basic cooking directions, not recipes more of how too. He still called.

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  14. I will be perfectly honest – I am impatient and a perfectionist and I do everything around the house from lawn mowing to cooking Susie homemaker dinners. I am also a single mother, so I would much appreciate a class for my boys! They need to learn the basics that I am too picky to teach!

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  15. A not quite so humble brag. At 14 I taught one foster mom how to iron, and later, another foster parent to weekly menu plan. Life can be very weird. Recently, in the NYT or Wapo, there was an article on how real estate people where having to school young home buyers on how to use a tape measure.

    Oh, and in the orphanage I went toe to toe with the powers that be on how they were helping to stigmatize vocational training. Again, nice post.

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  16. You have touched on a subject that I’ve supported for years (although I don’t have children myself, I am an expert on how others should raise theirs 😄). Basic life skills seem to be sadly lacking in many young adults (I love the course title “Adulting”). Basic financial knowledge would go at the top of my list, but certainly household skills, basic mechanics, and how to use – and maintain – simple tools. I wanted to take shop rather than home ec when I was in school, but, at that time, it wasn’t allowed. Fortunately I had two older brothers and a progressive father, so I learned those skill at home.

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    1. At the end of the day, we all need to take care of households, and all the things that accompany it. The fact that I hear that kids don’t understand their bank accounts, or how to do basic repairs….it’s mind boggling! I just want my daughter to be self sufficient! Knowing how to do these things in empowering!!

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  17. I think the entire Western world should only go to work 4 days a week, and spend the other 3 days doing stuff at home, all together (with your family/neighbours/friends/elderly who live alone etc etc)! Kids should learn all that stuff at home AND school; I think they should also study feminism, meditation, socialism, permaculture/gardening, and empathy-building. Women still do waaaaay more than their fair share of housework, and we can’t let the next generation keep that up.
    *rant over, thanks for the release : )
    G

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  18. I won’t repeat the ones everyone has touched on above, although they do bear repeating…again and again.

    One thing kids should learn is basic problem-solving and following logical pathways.

    They should also learn how to properly debate. NOT start a troll war or pick apart grammar in lieu of point/counterpoint. They should also learn to actively listen to the other side, instead of ignoring it so they can score the next ‘point.’

    In short, we need to teach out kids how to be humans, instead of mean and prickly little shits.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. My kids’ school still teaches Home Ec! Thank goodness. My daughter learned to cook, follow a recipe, sew a pair of pajama pants (which she actually uses), and they learned how to manage a household (which was really boring according to her LOL). But she has yet to demonstrate the cooking schools here at home, though I can’t blame her…I hate to cook too. And she did know how to sew a little before she took the class – she likes to CosPlay and so she has a necessity for that. But as far as balancing a check book and budgeting, that wasn’t covered, sadly. So, yeah, I agree with you…bring Home Ec Back to ALL school districts. By the way…I still have the apron I made in Home Ec. It’s held together all these years. LOL

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  20. When I was a young soldier in West Berlin my first Sargent called me to his office. Seems we had a new young soldier to the unit and the kid was not fitting in. Seems no one wanted him in their room ( we had three people dorm rooms ) because he did not know hygiene and had a horrible smell and bad health habits. I was tasked with taking him under my wing so to speak and get him up to speed hygienically. So even thought I was only a few years older than him I was quite a bit higher in rank. So I had to teach this 18 year old the things he did not get taught at home. I took him to the PX and explained soaps , shampoos , deodorants, etc… Then I had to sit with him while we went over a daily washing and clean up routine. I had make sure he followed it. Then I was tasked with to deal with his food habits and laundry habits as he was never taught them. I felt foolish sometimes as I was doing this and the others that knew what I was tasked with teased me I had adopted a kid. Thing is it was not his fault, he was never taught to care for himself at home. He had no real idea how to be Independent. He did not understand why no one wanted to be around him or his friend. Long story short, it worked out. He cleaned up and found friends, I got a few atta boys and credit from my command. I also learned not to take what I knew about living away from home for granted. Be well. Hugs

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  21. I’m old enough to remember when the giant meteor crashed into the earth and killed the dinosaurs, so I too had to take home ec classes in high school. So did the guys. We had classes for cooking, interior design, etcetera. (I went to high school in an upscale & forward thinking area, where we were in Spanish class in third grade and had mandatory computer classes in the mid 80s using brand new Apple 2e machines running DOS before point & click graphic user interfaces were even a twinkling in Jobs or Gates eyes but now I’m digressing…)

    I was subjected to classes in meteorology, computer use and even programming, typing (changed to keyboarding when the school got rid of typewriters and replaced them with computers), interior design, cooking, Latin, accounting, the three Rs and the usual core classes like history, foreign exchange students, bowling (sweatergawd, my high school had bowling classes in P.E. and every Friday we went to the bowling alley and practiced the rules we had learned that week), and a class entitled “mass media” was part of the core curriculum requirements for everybody–even the vo-tec track students who were taking nursing or auto-body or auto mechanic or carpentry classes to prepare them for careers that required certifications rather than degrees)

    I’ve gotten long winded here, haven’t I? Sorry. Rather than make a list of what we should teach kids in school, I will say that we should be teaching them the same shit I was taught, adapted to suit today’s technology and such.

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  22. Some great discussions on here. I do believe some things should be taught in school, especially health related things to make sure they get the right information. I believe healthy food choices and family meal preparation makes for a healthier society both physically and mentally.

    I don’t believe that teaching all kids on the same level and inclusion of all students is the healthiest learning environment. Many European school systems stream the university-bound students separately. I’m sure they have their own set of issues as well.

    I took sewing and cooking in my junior high years. I actually failed sewing, despite having my grandmother try to teach me. I can sew a button, but thankfully there are people I can take my hemming projects to!

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    1. I think everyone should know the basics….you can’t have ,asters of everything, but just a working knowledge. Totally agree on health related stuff!! My daughters high school is what’s considered a college prep school (public) but the whole ethos now seems to be that all kids are college ready. I wish I knew what that meant

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  23. I am going to out on a limb here. I hear all the above, I actually enjoyed the full conversation, nodded in agreement with everything. Got to say there is nothing wrong with a pre dinner cocktail tho, I digress. I think the problem is there is no observational, generational or necessity learning. What I mean is, I put the washing on at 6am, sometimes chuck on a slowcooker, iron at night, bake and clean when the house is empty -because it is easier- so the children do not ‘see’ these things. Most of the time they are in their own electronic world and are unaware that the toilet has just been cleaned. We are a modern family, no grandparents living with us to fill in the gaps with their time and knowledge, I pay people for their expertise, a mechanic fixes my car, I call in an electrician, my children are not part of that. I only have two children so I can manage a job and everything else. It is not necessary for them to learn how to cook to eat etc. I think our children are useless at life because our living makes them that way. I attended a talk by the great Celia Lashlie who halted my parenting in its tracks. She said do not make your son his packed lunch or make his bed, let him do it himself, he will not starve. That night I came home and STOPPED doing lots of things. The house is more messy and my son sometimes goes to school with popcorn and a lamb chop but he is looking after himself. My daughter was forced to learn how to maintain her car because I stopped. One day my son asked where the cleaning stuff was because his room was dusty, a similar story with their bathroom. I then put up a roster of duties and have made a massive effort to stop doing so much for them. Sorry have gone on a bit but maybe if our children were forced to learn they would. Whats the point of learning something is it is not necessary or relevant to them. It is also amazing what you can learn on youtrube. Phew epic reply.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for amazing comments! I think there is a lot of truth to what you’re saying….parents do things cause it’s easier to just do them. But, yeah….kids need to learn some basic stuff. The problem I saw, which was my prompt, was that parents, upon visiting kids at college, realized that their kids didn’t know any basics. But, sometimes we don’t have time to teach the basics. I think learning something in school that is entirely practical is probably not a bad thing. At least they can’t say “ when am I going to use this”

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  24. Wow, nice discussion. I just wanted to add that a lot of kids who are eligible to drive at 16 are putting it off until they’re 17, 18 or older. Why? Most don’t want to deal with the hassle of driver’s ed. This is a major shift from when I was a teen and got my license a month after I turned 16. We wanted the independence and freedom that today’s kids don’t seem to crave.

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    1. Hello Thegsandwich. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact things are so much more expensive compared with wages than they were when we were young. You are correct people my age began thinking on how to get their first car, normally a pretty beat up rig, when they were 15 and had their learners permit. When I was in my mid twenties I could afford a new home and a new truck plus some luxuries on my wages. I could pay all the expenses that came with a new home. Today my son at the same age is having a much harder time doing that. He just got his first car. He has a good job but it won’t cover his own place so he lives with us. He says he would need at least one possibly two roommates to afford an apartment. The truth is one wage doesn’t cover what it use to, not even for us old timers. Be well. Hugs

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  25. I took 2 quarters of home ec, 1 quarter of wood shop and 1 quarter of a fisheries class. Home ec was my least favorite but I did learn how to sew on a button! I think the teachers have a lot to do with how much I learned in each class, and the fact that I was the only girl in fisheries was a little odd, but I really enjoyed fishing off the pier at night! Everything else I had to learn independent of parents and the public school system. I learned to change a flat tire when I had a flat tire! I learned to cook when I was living on my own and was hungry! And I can clean a trout in under a minute, because, well doesn’t everyone know how to do that?! I am not sure school requirements really lead to independence, just needing to grow up has more of an impact. Just my experience with it all. Have a great weekend!

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    1. I noticed so many parents of first time college kids wrote posts about what your child should know before leaving home. It seems so universal. And while life is a great teacher, it might not be bad to give a Little course in practical stuff. Let’s just say my husband never learned how to do anything basic…..I’ve gotten calls about how to do “basic” things. Some people also can not follow written directions…..my mother being a prime example

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  26. When my daughter got her first apartment in college, her hot water heater stopped working. My husband was on the phone with her, trying to walk her through the process of figuring out what was wrong, she asked him, “which pipe brings in the hot water?” She actually thought that the local water company provided the both the hot and cold water. (What she thought her water heater did, don’t ask me.) And this kid was an honor student in both her high school and college. So I essentially have nothing to add to this conversation…..

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  27. I’ve talked about this with my husband several times because I’m shocked at how little some kids know about basic things. I also feel that in speaking with kids of this generation common sense is lacking. I’m not sure how to fix that.

    I think they should understand the basics about money, credit, cooking (at least enough to survive), cleaning, ethics and being responsible overall. These are skills that they will need throughout life and I think parents should teach them these things, and that at least some of them should be reinforced in school.

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    1. I totally agree with you! I think it should be a combo of home and school, because frankly, there are people like my husband, who is almost 50, and he lacks basic skills, so there no way he could teach my daughter. I can get my with basics, which I’ve tried to impart to my kid (sometimes more successfully than others) but it can’t hurt to actually know life. My daughter said there’s a meme about this, like ask them to name a bunch of philosophers but don’t ask them to sew on a button….

      Liked by 1 person

  28. Ah, if only! As a former teacher, I know too well that teaching more newer topics (always in demand) requires teaching fewer older ones–with accompanying anguish. But home ec–hell yeah! I still remember doing laundry in my first year at college and having to help some fellow students who had put soap in the dryer…College students!!

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  29. My junior high home ec teacher smelled like cigarettes and had nicotine stained fingers and a huge beehive hairdo. She did not like teaching; I think she was clinically depressed. I learned nothing from her that I can recall. My mother made the apron that was required of me.

    As for a requisite high school course—absolutely! We need one that teaches kids how to read a lease, change a tire, repair an electrical cord, write a check, create a resume, turn a yard into a wildlife refuge, perform CPR, practice everyday kindness.

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