Should Home Ec Classes Be Mandatory?

One of the greatest, wisest moves that I made in high school was to enroll in a typing course. My parents, both of whom always encouraged my writing, felt strongly that it was a necessary skill. My father was especially persuasive on the point that typing would come in handy whatever field I chose.

Imagine how tickled they were when, my senior year and having also been granted early admission to The University of Texas at Austin, I won a typing award at my high school. I also won awards in English and creative writing–but my middle class parents thought the typing award was a stellar achievement. (Now, as a parent myself, I suspect they felt more than a little pleased that I was still taking their advice as I reached adulthood.)

As grateful as I am for having enrolled in that typing class, I wish that there’d been more room in my schedule for classes like, say, home ec. Yup, I believe in that push for college acceptance, we short change young people on some crucial life skills these days. In fact, while I learned to cook, garden, and clean (sort of), I still can’t really sew to save my life. In my arsenal of skills, you will not find a sewing kit.

And that bums me out.

I’m not alone, it seems. Over on the Red, White & Grew Facebook page yesterday, I shared a link to this story and asked readers whether or not they agreed that home ec classes should be mandatory. 

Here are the responses:

Heather W: About 3 months ago I sent out a tweet saying that I would love to teach home-ec. We all pondered if it was even taught anymore.

I believe basic life-skills should be part of a well rounded education.

Cassie Gardengirl Dingwall: Sign me up! Where I live there is not enough healthy food talk at home. The four food groups here are Burger King, McDonald’s, Popeye’s Fried Chicken and Wendy’s. Makes me sick and MAD. We have over-weight, under-educated parents teaching their kids that a meal comes out of a drive thru window…

Tisha-Shannon Ricketson-Clinkenbeard: These skills that they discuss are very needed by every child as they grow into adulthood. I heartily agree with the statements around them being “life skills” and that many children are not prepared for adulthood b/c they lack these skills.

Have an opinion yourself? Feel free to join in the convo!


  1. Home Ec is required in our local junior high but not high school. So at least here ,at some point, kids learn to sew a button & bake bread…. make a budget, plan a balanced menu,etc. Of course, how many use those skills later, who knows.

    This is definitely an area where I see homeschoolers having an advantage. There’s so many more opportunities for learning life skills and not just learning them – using them regularly.

    • I thought about home schoolers when writing last night, and was hoping someone would mention it. I think you’re right–assuming of course that the parents acquired those particular skills in the first place.

      Also, the “make a budget” part is even more critical, in some ways, than the other skills, esp. with college students having amassed terrible credit card debts in recent years unrelated to their education.

  2. You talk of homeschoolers… and yet, y’know… aren’t all children home schooled to some degree? I know we take it a lot farther, but kids learn things at home. Home Ec is a great idea, but it’s like sex ed and religion classes – school might give a pale imitation that’s dumbed down to suit the masses but the BEST information is going to come from mom and dad and grandparents and aunts and uncles.

    I shy away from handing things to the government to teach my children. I want to teach it to them myself. Now, I’m no sewing diva (and I *did* take home ec in school btw), but the kids learned from family friends who WERE divas. In the same vein, they learn baking from the most competent baker in our circle, and they learn peasant cooking from me, and farming from their grandfather. 🙂

    Home Ec classes are great, but I don’t think they should be required. I can give a convincing argument that advanced math can’t be taught by the average parent at home… I’m not so sure I can use a similar argument in regards to teaching how to sautee onions or do the basic math required to balance a check book.

    • As usual, you make excellent points, Allyson. And I hear you. However, there’s such a wide disparity between the amount of time and talent that families (and I included close friends in that definition) possess that some measure of “requirement” (even a semester) might work best.

      That said, I also happen to think that there’s an enormous amount of opportunity here for community-based organizations and entrepreneurs to fill the knowledge gap. Personally, I’d be more apt to sign up for classes on sewing, etc. than one of those trendy chain supper places where they help you “cook” a bunch of high-salt, fat-laden meals.

  3. I agree on the community based stuff. We specifically found a place to move to (south western New England) where we enjoy a very small community that holds together fairly well. We’ve worked hard to foster connections here, and it’s paid off. I’m a proponent of ALL communities forming small groups of this kind, of like-minded individuals. After all, when we’re talking about kids, it really DOES take a village! 🙂

    I love that our kids will learn hunting from “the local deer and turkey guy” who leads the youth group on their annual hunt and is highly respected by all people in our area. There are lots of other things for them to learn, too. In working with adults in the neighborhood, they are also learning to respect their elders, something I worry is missing in those inner city type places. Because children in places like LA and NYC are living in a community that all adults are working rather than being with kids (yes, overgeneralization, but I think you get my drift), they hang with each other instead of in adult-led activities like cooking or farming. They don’t get a good grounding in that learned respect. IMO of course. *smile*

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