What would most people do in the face of the apocalypse? Okay, maybe just in the face of having minimal access to resources? That was our thought after reading a tweet from a Twitter friend this week. In 140 characters she said “Put Home Ec back into curriculum. It’s sorely needed — we need EVERYONE to be better at cooking their own food, mending, fixing etc.”
We agree, more Home Economics. More self-sufficiency. But, it can’t be the one most of us remember. Not just girls, not just sewing curtains and ruffly skirts and hems, not just making a béchamel sauce, not just home management. It also can’t just be the one promoted by the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (the only organization dedicated to Home Ec professionals). The AAFCS curriculum includes instruction on family values, resource acquisition and management, diet, conflict resolution, parenting skills and pregnancy prevention. (I definitely do not remember the last one in my Home Ec classes.)
A new Home Economics has to include real, century 21 stuff like general finance management, basic handy work (sewing and structure repair), cooking and growing local food and cleaning with natural products.
Some have tried to fill the void by providing online homekeeping resources, or opening storefronts to encourage homecrafts (sometimes with don’t-miss-the-point names). Others have created “upscale Home Ec” programs to teach urban kids how to make baby mesclun salad and cilantro bay scallops. But a new Home Ec needs to be century 21 and relevant.
The first issue is getting that kind of Home Ec into schools when so many programs (anyone remember Art?) are being cut. Well, what about linking it to the school garden movement? As kids learn about growing food, why not teach them nutrition (an apple is better than apple juice) and cooking and household time management? I mean, cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be time consuming. I can make a zillion things from scratch in the same time it takes to put together a complete meal from pre-packaged items. And, I don’t even own a microwave. Shoooot, don’t tell me about time!
Maybe finance management, natural cleaning, sewing and structure repair can be included in school garden time as: marketing produce; natural pest abatement and surface disinfection; work aprons or dish insulators; arbors and sheds.
Home Ec can further integrate sustainability into students’ home life by bringing into the home what wasn’t passed down from parents. I was lucky, I saw both grandmothers garden, built things with my father, and my mother made a huge percentage of my clothes (although I was totally bummed out by the “designer” jeans she made with my own name on them in 1979. SW on the pocket was not Sasson.) Kids probably don’t want handmade jeans, but being able to fix a hole instead of buying a new “one of whatevers” is invaluable. Cleaning without toxins, not only keeps you healthy but is way cheaper ($2 for several months worth of cleaner versus $12 for a few bottles of pre-packaged cleaner).
The apocalypse? I know I would be okay because I can cook and grow lots of things from scratch. I can sew (I’ve got a sewing machine AND needles, gasp!), and I’ve done plumbing, drywalling and even a little whittling. Heck, I was even the only girl in shop class…but that’s another blog. The question is, would you be okay? (No, you can’t come to my house.)