You’ve seen the articles circulating online, surely. Schools should teach home economics courses again. Millennials don’t know how to function on their own. They take “adulting classes.” Young adults are helpless.
And so the answer, as usual, is school. It is The American Way. The schools should teach everything. That’s what we’re paying them for, right?
I disagree that it’s the fault of schools that young adults don’t know how to iron clothes or cook a chicken. I also don’t think it’s the schools’ fault that they don’t know how to do their own taxes or understand basic economics. And I certainly don’t think that we can go back and add Bible classes to public schools. (And if you’ve read anything I’ve written, you know I’m not a fan of public education.) But not everything is the responsibility of schools and teachers.
That is exactly my point.
The reason so many people share this mindset is because we’ve become a society that thinks kids must learn at school and that it’s not the job of parents. This is at the root of so many problems in America. We’ve swallowed the idea that certified teachers are the only ones qualified to teach anything and everything. We’ve bought into the notion that a college degree equals smart, and that if you don’t have one, then you don’t get a part in the conversation. We’ve reduced the role of parents to food, clothing, and shelter, and allowed everything else to be outsourced. We’ve given our role away.
Schools do not need to teach home economics
These basic things used to be handed down in the home, through the family, when family held more importance than schools. Mothers taught their daughters to cook, clean, garden, and sew. Fathers taught their sons to manage property, care for the home and equipment, buy and sell, feed their family, and lead the home.
Some of you will take issue with my old-fashioned examples, but that’s okay. Because in the old days, people knew how to do things. They grew up shouldering responsibility, working with their hands, and they didn’t pay others to do menial chores. They knew how to predict the weather without a meteorologist; they knew how to deliver a baby without a doctor; they knew how to build a home, make furniture, and preserve food, and they taught all of these things to their children and grandchildren during the course of the average day.
RELATED: Listen to my speech at the Great Homeschool Convention: A Laura Ingalls Education
The term “home economics” should be the clue. The same goes for “life skills.” These are things you do at home. They are part of life. That’s how you learn them.
Parents, these are important to every single human, whether they plan to become a doctor or a mechanic or a librarian or a mom. They are skills most adults already have, and they are some of the easiest to teach others. Teaching these skills is the responsibility of parents.
Anyone can teach, especially the things they do on a regular basis. If you cook meals, you can teach cooking. If you do your own taxes, you can teach it. If you change your own oil, you can teach it. If you read your Bible everyday (and I hope you do), you can teach it to your children. Even if you feel that you don’t know much, that small amount of knowledge can be passed on to your children and grandchildren.
Do you grow beautiful roses? Teach your daughter. Do you know how to repair lawnmowers? Teach your son. Do you make the best omelets in the county? Show your children how it’s done. Whether you specialize in poetry, sales, decorating, motorcycles, or theology, share it with your family. Don’t just keep your knowledge to yourself!
And by all means, teach them to do all the mundane things, like housework, basic food prep, and money management. Kids don’t need classes to manage a bank account; they just need to open one and have their parents or grandparents walk them through it for a few weeks. Ironing and boiling eggs don’t need a classroom; they need a home and a parent who is already doing those things to set the example.
(Follow me on Instagram for pics and in-depth discussions on how we do it at our house: https://www.instagram.com/nickitruesdell/)
Now, I’m aware of the objections to my viewpoint: not every adult knows how to do these things, not every kid has a loving family life, etc. I agree. But these are not the majority. Most kids have a home and at least one parent. Most of these parents know how to boil eggs and iron shirts, and all the other little things we do every day but don’t spend much time thinking about.
And for the parents who don’t? There’s no time like the present! Dig in and get acquainted with the basics. For everything you learn to do on your own, you’ll learn one of the most basic economics lessons: doing it yourself saves a ton of money!
What else can you and your children learn?
- Homemade food is healthier and less expensive
- Working together builds strong family bonds
- Repairing your own possessions is a sought after skill and saves money
- Handcrafts teach all kinds of basic skills and add beauty to our lives
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to have their “recipes” delivered to their front door by an outrageously expensive meal kit service. Compare the cost of these to purchasing food from the grocery store.
Life Skills are a Part of Life
Moms and dads, don’t shoo your kids out of the kitchen when it’s time to cook. Give them an apron and let them help. Let them do the work while you instruct. Put together a cookbook of their favorite recipes and family favorites. Let them pick out new recipes and make them. Teach them to set a nice table, and definitely have them clean the kitchen on their own from beginning to end.
Before they even get a bank account or a job, give them a checkbook register and a pretend paycheck and budget. Walk them through the very things you do, such as grocery shopping, paying for utilities, and eating out. Add in some emergency car repair and teach them to decide whether to try to fix the problem or take it to a mechanic. Show them the details of taking out loans, the cost of interest, and what a credit score is.
Make sure they are doing their own laundry by the age of 10 or 12, and teach them stain removal, ironing, button repair, and the cost of dry cleaning.
Give them the job of mowing the lawn, trimming trees, lawnmower maintenance, landscaping, etc. Shop for plants and potting soil together. Talk about organic methods and soil nutrition.
Instruct them in basic nutrition and health care. Teach them which foods are healthy, how to treat minor illnesses, and when to seek emergency help. Teach them to read labels and make smart choices. Teach them what supplements and medicines you use and don’t use, and why.
These are things that are learned through instruction and example, daily, weekly, through conversation and togetherness. They can’t be limited to a classroom or a worksheet. We need to stop thinking that they can.
Spread the love
If you believe in this idea, you can also help those who don’t have basic life skills. Share your skill with friends, neighbors, family members, or the community. Whether you invite young girls to a cooking class, teach your grandsons to change a tire, or share some really obscure talent, you’ll inspire a new generation to get their hands dirty and learn something new.
You can also offer some real meaning to your friends and neighbors who may feel their useful days are behind them. Ask your neighbor how she grows such a fabulous garden. Talk to the man in your town who makes beautiful wood carvings. Ask your friend who sews if she will teach you the basics.
In this way, we not only share the joy in work and the knowledge of simple life skills, but we build community. We encourage relationships between people of all ages. We build family bonds, and reach out to those who many not have family.
What we don’t do is relegate some of the most basic and important human functions to another class and another homework assignment. We don’t spend more taxpayer money on salaries and supplies that are not necessary.
What we DO is parent responsibly and deliberately, love our neighbor, and build community. Don’t let your kids drift into adulthood without equipping them to be their best!
While you’re here, visit my Knowledge Keepers Bookstore! In it you’ll find the books and the stories that have shaped this great country, the books that influenced our founders and our ancestors, the books that Americans have mostly ignored or never heard of, but the good books that we should all read and protect. Join me in saving Western Civilization, one book at a time!
Nicki Truesdell is a 2nd-generation homeschooler and mother to 5. She is a homemaker at heart, and loves books, freedom, history and quilts, and blogs about all of these at nickitruesdell.com. She believes that homeschooling can be relaxed and that history is fun, and both can be done with minimal cost or stress, no matter your family’s circumstances. Nicki is a member of the Texas Home Educators Board of Directors. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.