Would I know how to do this if I had taken Home Ec?

Through a freshly cleaned window, spotless and clear, I watch sunlight burn the fog out of the valley. The morning light changes from a diffuse blue gray in the distance to a crisp yellow on the tall trees outside our neighbor’s fence, casting sharp shadows of tree trunks, of limbs, even of the jagged bark.

It is Sunday, our rest day, and as I lounge with my coffee, squirrels go about their busy lives.  Their bushy tails are high and happy on this warm January day as they check and re-check their acorn stores, scurrying up trees, tittering, “They’re still there,” and then racing back down to check another hiding spot.

The stove creaks and groans in the next room, coiled elements on a continual quest to maintain that medium-low, #3-on-the-knob heat.  We’re cooking kidney beans for chili tonight.  And for our daughter, who does not like meat.  I cooked black beans yesterday.  Chick peas and pintos last weekend.  Boiled a dozen eggs Friday to keep as grab-and-go high-protein snacks.  Not that our daughter eats them, but the rest of us do.

One of my resolutions this year was to learn how to keep house.  Not just to learn how to clean it, but to manage it more economically.  I never took a Home Economics class, and now I feel that oversight acutely.

By the time our generation arrived on the high school scene, I think Home Ec classes had been mostly phased out.  Our bright young minds were better used for science and math, for advancing, for succeeding.  Learning how to create and follow a household budget, how to care for our belongings so that they’ll last, how to shop smart, how to plan meals and conduct household affairs – those were not priorities for our generation’s brain power.  I wonder if we’d be as deep in debt today, as individuals and as a nation, if we’d taken more care in learning how to balance budgets, how to plan for our futures at the foundational level – in our domestic lives.

Probably not.  Maybe they didn’t even teach that stuff in Home Ec.  And even if they did, I’m sure we would have been too young and too cool to digest that sort of fundamental knowledge.

But now.  Now that we’re approaching 40, my husband and I are learning.  We haven’t balanced our budget yet, but we’re getting closer.  And as I run my hands over the smooth, dry beans that click and tap against the glass bowl, I am soothed by their earthy pink color, and am comforted by the fact that they provide three meals worth of protein and only cost $1.29 per bag.

When I open the freezer downstairs to put in yesterday’s black beans, I am greeted by two loaves of our favorite sandwich bread that was on sale at Food Lion this week, six tubs of marinara sauce that I made last Wednesday, an extra homemade meatloaf from last weekend.  Dannon yogurt cartons with strips of blue painter’s tape, marked in Sharpie, “Pinto beans 1/4/13,” “Chick peas 1/5/13.”

And my phantom squirrel tail twitches.

This started as a response to the Daily Prompt: Clean Slate, but then it took on a life of its own.

10 thoughts on “Would I know how to do this if I had taken Home Ec?

  1. Not to burst your bubble dear, but we did have those lessons in high school. In Religion class junior year we learned about family planning and budgets, and I think it was senior year we learned other financial planning lessons in Economics with Mrs. Jenkins. You know I’m your memory! However, I don’t remember any of the lessons they taught (except the egg babies…). Also, they did teach Home Ec in middle school, but we did SEARCH instead – a much better way to use our school day too, critical thinking and problem solving is much handier than how to make a soufflé!


    • Dang! There goes that theory. Just goes to show I wasn’t ready to learn it then because I have absolutely no recollection of any of that (except the egg babies). God my memory sucks. And if we hadn’t had SEARCH I’d have never met you. I’d say you’re worth more than a soufflé ;-)


    • You are absolutely right Margie. It’s like students who return to college when they are adults – they are ready and eager students. That’s how I feel now about learning how to take care of my family. I hadn’t thought of it that way.


  2. Margie raises a great point. We only learn when we learn what we love. Today you are learning to care for your family, out of love for them and for yourself, and for the process… this is the real deal.


  3. I had home ec in sixth grade, and I remember learning a bit of cooking, sewing, menu planning, and my favorite part, interior design. We got to make a plan for our dream bedroom, complete with furniture placement. My design had a sitting room attached and a fireplace that went between the two rooms, and of course everything was rose, peach, and dusty blue (apropos for the 80s). I actually wish we’d done much more in that 6 week course, but I was lucky…my mom taught me a lot of home ec-type info, except for the budgeting. My husband never learned things like how to clean a toilet properly or much in the way of cooking, until recently (of course!), and for all the cooking I did with my parents, it wasn’t until I spent $2000 on master chef cooking classes that I learned so many things that now seem like basics (like how to break down a whole chicken into parts and make stock). I still can’t get him to use a chef’s knife correctly, and it slows him down and makes cooking less fun and more time-consuming. And the concept of a budget and making choices about money is still like a foreign language. So now it is my mission that our son will know all of these types of things. When he is old enough, he’ll have household chores and will learn to cook well, and he’ll even get to participate in parts of our family budget. It’s one of the parts of his education that I look forward to most, because I want him to be self-sufficient with healthy eating habits before he goes off to college. I wish this kind of thing was in schools more, but with the emphasis on teaching to the standardized tests, I’m sure there’s no time or value put on proper knife skills or how to grow a garden. So, we’ll do it at home! And someday his spouse will thank me! :)


    • Well said, Ellen. I’ve been really good about baking with both kids, and our daughter has really taken to it. They’re both learning how to use knives now, too. But I haven’t formulated any kind of strategy for teaching them other basic household skills. Maybe that will be my resolution for 2014 :-D


  4. I had home-ec in middle school (it was Jr. High in those days), and we learned how to cook and sew, but budgeting and balancing a check book were in a different class. :D


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