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How Will Our Children Survive the Zombie Apocalypse if They Don’t Have Home Ec?

When I was in middle school, I took Home Economics (lovingly abbreviated to Home Ec).  I learned how to cook, balance a budget, sew, and… for some unknown reason… create a blueprint for a house.  Maybe this skill was helpful for Pa Ingalls to know when it was time to make his little house on the prairie, but as someone who planned to move into houses that other people had already constructed, this skill seemed like the least helpful unit.

But I digress.

In the cooking unit, my teammates and I had to follow a recipe, starting with sending someone on the team to the local grocery store to compare prices and purchase ingredients within the budget.  I learned how to cross-compare unit prices, choose the best produce, and substitute in a pinch.  We made bulgogi and served it on the school’s corelle-like plates.  We made black bottom witches pie.  We shook up vinaigrettes inside glass carafes.  I tried nothing that we cooked, but that’s not the point.

We learned how to sew, and I still have a hideous pillow in the shape of a guitar to prove it.  We made Bermuda shorts, and I didn’t line up my pattern properly so the colours changed when you got to the seam.  The blue stripe on the back of the shorts matched up with the red stripe on the front, the green stripe matched up with the orange stripe, so on and so on.  My sister asked me if I was actually going to wear my creation in public.  Yes.  Yes, I was.  I was going to walk proudly through the hall in my malformed Bermuda shorts.

If the zombies came, I was going to be prepared.  I would be able to cook a meal, sew my own clothes, balance our weapons budget, AND draw up a quick blueprint of a house so we could visualize our escape plan.



As far as I can tell, they’ve removed Home Ec from the curriculum.  The twins will still learn these life skills, but they’ll have to learn them at home, lest they become like Josh who still hands me his pants whenever he loses a button and says, “can you fix this?”  Josh, you’re first to the wall when the zombies come if you can’t even re-attach a button.

I get it.  I know there is a lot to cover in the school day.  I know that you can get by not knowing how to make a pair of Bermuda shorts.  But I’m really sad that the twins will never know the joy that was the cleaning unit.  Or learn how to set a table (during school hours).  Or the embarrassment of exiting the Home Ec room, reeking of whatever you were cooking, and needing to sit in biology class while everyone around you sniffs the air and asks, “did you just have Home Ec?”

Did you have Home Ec at your school?  What did you learn?

P.S.: I particularly miss our teacher, who was a youthful-looking middle aged woman who dressed in clothes from the Limited and wore her hair up in a banana clip.  She liked us to think of her as “just one of the girls.”  One time, she sat down at our table and said, “So girls, what are you all doing this weekend?  Hitting a party?”  My friends and I all exchanged glances and then one of us said, “We’ll all be at home this weekend with our parents.  Since we’re 12.”

P.P.S.: We also had to take woodworking.  And typing.  And computer skills which included learning how to turn on the computer AND create a rocket ship in BASIC out of the letter E and have it take off on the screen.

P.P.P.S.: Can you tell how much I love PicMonkey?


1 nicoleandmaggie { 08.17.14 at 9:00 am }

I took small engines instead (one of two girls in the class). I know how to check and change a spark plug, and I’m fairly sure I could use the engine manual to do harder stuff. I took keyboarding over the summer at the community college– it was, as advertised, one of the most useful classes I’ve ever taken. I don’t think they offer it anywhere around here so I’m not sure what to do about that. And I took a year of Pascal.

I heard that the home ec class was pretty useless– they made cookies and muffins and cupcakes and pretended to take care of a baby (a raw egg, IIRC) but no more in-depth cooking (nothing healthy), no sewing, etc.

These were high school classes… in middle school we had art, health, PE, and band as electives (only band was actually optional).

We’re teaching a lot of home skills to our kids, but I know in college so many people seemed so helpless. And I would kind of like to know how to use a sewing machine just to do hems. (I can hem by hand, but it isn’t the same.)

2 a { 08.17.14 at 9:27 am }

We had no home ec. I did have to take typing, though. On a manual typewriter. We also had to take speech. My husband says I will be the first to go when society breaks down, as I am not willing to live rough now. And I’m a “picky eater” in that I have likes and dislikes and won’t eat food I dislike. Whatever – I’m adaptable and that’s all you really need.

No, cooking was taught at home by the time tested method of “Mom! I’m hungry!” “Well, get yourself something to eat then!” No coddling in our house…

3 loribeth { 08.17.14 at 9:42 am }

I took home ec in grade 7 & 8, don’t remember about 9. In high school (10-12), it was offered as an elective but I had a full course load and didn’t take it. But my sister & I also belonged to a 4-H club & took three years of sewing there, and my mother taught 4-H cooking, so I was pretty well versed in the basics of both by the time I left home, and very thankful for that. I don’t think I’ve touched a sewing machine in over 35 years, lol, but I can at least sew on a button or tack up a drooping hem. 😉 And I can cook, although dh does most of it these days. I still have — and use — my junior high cookbook too.

I only ever took typing as an elective in Grade 9. But it was enough. I typed all my own essays at university (vs hiring someone to do it for me). When I went to journalism school, we had to take typing classes unless & until we could pass a test at 50 wpm. I passed almost immediately. It was still typing back then; we were the very first class at our J-school to use (very primitive) computers, and that was only in the final semester. Ah, memories…!!

4 Cristy { 08.17.14 at 9:57 am }

My school split Home Ec between 7th and 8th grade. We learned to cook and clean in 7th; sewing, nutrition and balancing a budget in 8th. Though my parents could have taught me these skills, the reality was it didn’t really dawn on them to do so.

I have students now who clearly don’t have these skills and will often come to class hungry. If they can’t buy it or open a package, they’d be in trouble. As much as people don’t think these courses are important (music or phy ed anyone?) the truth is they are important life skills. And there’s something to be said about burning grilled cheese with your fellow classmates.

5 ANDMom { 08.17.14 at 10:47 am }

My school did away with home ec (and woodworking) a couple a years before I go to 7th grade to be replaced with “health” aka sex ed. And then repurposed the required “adult living” class in high school (previously devoted to balancing a checkbook, interview skills … actual life skills) and made it sex ed again. All in all, we had sex ed every year from 7th to 11th grades.

So, while I never learned how to sew properly or do my taxes, I can sure rattle off the names and symptoms of STDs. Oddly, none of this did squat to reduce the extremely high rate of teen pregnancy in my city, and they unleashed us into the world with nary a useful skill in sight.

6 Stimey { 08.17.14 at 10:51 am }

My school had us take either home ec or shop. Naturally, 99% of the girls took home ec and 99% of the boys took shop. (I took shop. I have a killer set of bookends with a jigsawed “J” on each of them to show for it.) It still makes me mad that the school set up that whole gender dichotomy thing. It was HARD to be the girl in shop or the boy in home ec.

Also, poor Josh. We’ll miss him when the zombies come.

7 Rebecca { 08.17.14 at 11:20 am }

I’m British – Home Ec is specifically cookery. You might also do Textiles (sewing) and something that they used to call Woodwork but now call Resistant Materials or some rubbish.

8 Ana { 08.17.14 at 1:04 pm }

the first semester of home ec (middle school) was sewing. i made a really malformed plush basketball pillow. Couldn’t they have taught us to hem or something really useful to life? the second semester was cooking—we made, IIRC, omelettes and strawberry muffins (I didn’t try anything either). Again, nothing super useful. I took a “cooking” class in high school and I don’t remember cooking anything. I remember sitting with the teacher and helping her do the accounting for the class, which was basically adding up the purchases she made. She thought I was some kind of genius because I could quickly tote those up on the calculator (not even in my head). duh.

9 Ana { 08.17.14 at 1:04 pm }

I also took Shop in middle school. I made a little stepstool that my mom still uses to put plants on, and some kind of wooden car that I painted butt-ugly colors that I thought were cool (blue with pink glittery splotches)

10 GeekChic { 08.17.14 at 7:56 pm }

In grade 4 we had a mandatory half-year of home ec. and a mandatory half-year of shop. The home ec. portion covered food safety and nutrition as well as basic hand sewing. The shop portion covered basic auto maintenance and home fix-it knowledge as well as tool safety. After that, you could take either shop or home ec. as you chose – I took all shop until grade 9 (largely woodworking but also drafting).

In high school we could choose from 4 different kinds of shop classes (automotive, woodworking, metalworking, photography and print-press). I did photo and print-press for those 3 years. I believe that there were choices around home ec. but I don’t really remember as I didn’t pay attention. 😉

Budgeting was taught in our life skills classes (along with sex ed., managing debt and dealing with work).

But the classes that really prepped us for the zombie apocalypse was outdoor ed (grade 6 and 9). That was a class on ecology, camping, wilderness survival, respecting the environment, etc. After all, when the zombies come – you probably won’t have a stove…. 😉

11 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 08.18.14 at 4:15 am }

A. did home ec and the first week we were married I had to teach him to iron his business shirts. I do take your point, though. It sounds like your home ec class was a lot better than ours.

Although I do remember learning some interesting things about oral sex in home ec, for some reason.

12 JustHeather { 08.18.14 at 6:29 am }

We had Home Ec and Shop (metal/wood working) in junior high. Half a year spent in each. We got sewing (I made a pencil & shark pillow from a pre-set package and a light blue duffle bag, which I used for years), cooking and other “house-ly” stuff. And then we had to use big tools to make something out of wood and metal (draw a technical diagram of a 5 sided box and then make it). I also melted some records into bowls. I think my dad still has the “family name” sign I made. I enjoyed all the things we did.

No budgeting here. We also had sex ed, but I don’t remember much from it. I can’t remember if I learned more about sex from my parents (stepmom) or from friends. I do remember not knowing for the looongest time that boys also have pubic hair. (Talk about embarrassing.)

Typing I took in high school, freshman year. So thankful I did!

In elementary school we did some very basic computer “programming”, read: there was a book from which we copied letter by letter and line by line to get the computer to do something. One error and you had to start all over again. I sucked at that.

13 Heather { 08.18.14 at 8:23 am }

Just like the Heather above, we did home ec for half a year and shop the other half during 7th and 8th grade. I loved both classes. We did cooking, sewing, and cleaning in home ec. In shop we used all the power tools (band saw, jigsaw, belt sander, etc). As I told my husband this he was both jealous (they didn’t have shop at his school) and in awe that they would allow 7th graders to use a band saw. I don’t know, we actually listened to our shop teacher when he said: You will lose a finger. So, there was very little screwing around. Same in home ec, the teacher was very careful to point out that we could puncture our hands with the needle in the sewing machine and it WOULD hurt.
I’m not sure if our school system still has those classes. I hope they do, but if they don’t Phil and I have shop and home ec covered at home I guess.

14 Nonsequiturchica { 08.18.14 at 10:57 am }

I don’t think we even had Home Ec? If we did I didn’t take it. I do wish that I knew how to sew….(although I can easily sew a button back on).

15 deathstar { 08.18.14 at 11:42 am }

Yes, I did and I hated it. I hated it cause all the boys were in Woodshop and I would have rather spent more time there. Yet, I can sew on a button and I can hem by hand if I’m forced to. Still can’t thread a bobbin to save my life. I made a jumper in class. It was not so good. Don’t think I ever wore it. Thinking about Home Ec still gives me the shivers.

16 Tiara { 08.18.14 at 12:50 pm }

I had Home Ec & Wood Shop in elementary school. Home Ec was actually the stage for one of my most embarressing moments. We were doing the cooking unit & making beef stroganoff. It was a horrible experience from the start as I was put in the same group as the class bully who’d decided at the beginning of the year to make me his prime target. We had taken the stroganoff out of the oven to check on it & saw it needed to cook a bit longer. I grabbed the pot holders & was carrying it back to the oven when it slipped out of my hands & smashed onto the floor. I was mortified! Made worse by the bully going on a tirade of how stupid I was & incessantly mocking me. Thankfully the teacher intervened & sent him to the office just before I burst into humiliated tears. Of all the great thing I loved about home ec, that is all I remember of it.

17 Queenie { 08.18.14 at 10:04 pm }

We could take shop or home ec. in middle school. I took shop one year and home ec the other. Shop (mostly woodworking) was great, but I was terrible at home ec. It haunts me as the only “C” I ever got. I was particularly terrible at sewing with a sewing machine, and was graded accordingly. And, I still can’t use a sewing machine! Someone in my family still has the fabulous cat doorstop I made in shop, however. 🙂

Home ec was optional in high school, and mostly taken by the. . .less academically gifted? students. I did take typing early on in high school. It was billed as a course for people who wanted to be secretaries, but it turned out to be super useful. The teacher used to tell us how her daughter had taken the class in high school, and still had her notebook with all of her helpful tips on spacing letters and such in her (secretary) desk drawer. I never planned to be a secretary, but being an excellent typist certainly helped speed up writing those 11th hour term papers in college!

We never did have any money management or budgeting classes at all, which I think is a terrible oversight. Hmmm.

18 Another Dreamer { 08.19.14 at 10:52 am }

I took home ec in 6th grade, then I elected to take it at my new high school too in 9th or 10th (can’t remember). My older brother was actually in my home ec class in high school, it was awful lol. Him and his friends tormented me and my friends, and there was often a food fight behind the teacher’s back. I really loved home ec though, it was so useful. I didn’t learn any of those skills at home, my mom wasn’t big on teaching us and she was always too busy- that was the only way I was going to learn about check books and recipes, about sewing, etc… I wish they had advance home ec classes back then so I could have taken more. I think it’s very sad that it’s one of the things they decide to cut when the budget gets tight.

19 Jamie { 08.23.14 at 9:28 am }

I loved home ec! In fact, I briefly thought about becoming a home economics teacher. But even at that young age, I noticed the budget cuts in schools and questioned the job security. However, I earned the Home Economics Student of the Year award my senior year of high school! My name is on a place somewhere in the halls (or basement?) of my school. Maybe a hundred years from now, some student will come across it and wonder who was this person and what did they do to earn such an achievement? But, then again, I was the kind of kid that would roam down the hall of past memorabilia from the turn of the century, 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. 🙂

20 magpie { 08.23.14 at 2:58 pm }

the quarter that i had home ec was the quarter that included christmas and seriously? all we made were christmas cookies. not one other thing.

they have home ec in my kid’s middle school – it’s called “family & consumer science” now. but i know that they do do some cooking, and learn to make salad dressing, and i don’t know what else.

21 electriclady { 08.26.14 at 3:40 pm }

In middle school we had to take both home ec AND “Industrial arts” aka woodshop and metalshop. Home ec taught both cooking and sewing, which wasn’t very helpful for me because I had already learned both from my mom, but Industrial Arts–THAT was useful. We made locker shelves, and learned to use a jigsaw and to etch metal. They should have had auto shop in there too.

22 Battynurse { 09.05.14 at 6:42 pm }

We had home Ec. I learned to make an apron and in my senior year I took a class on cooking foreign foods which I mostly refused to eat because of all the onions and spent a semester being made fun of because of my weight. So I guess not great memories of home Ec.

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