Bring Back Home Economics!

Bring Back Home Economics! August 10, 2010

When I left the Army to stay home and raise babies I was sort of in a weird limbo. I stumbled through the motions required to physically maintain a home, husband and small child, but my mind was elsewhere. I looked forward to dinner being done and things being put away so that I could get out my small-business start-up books and LSAT study manuals. I continued to look at my 2.5 year-old daughter as the part-time job she had always been, eventhough she was now my full-time job.

About that time God led me into a Christian women’s group at our local post in Arizona. How eye-opening! These women were actually reading about mothering! They were reading cookbooks in order to prepare more nutritious meals for their children, they were even reading books about the spiritual benefits of doing laundry. I joined a small book group in which we read about how to be better wives. Suddenly, my eyes were opened — I could learn how to improve every single aspect of our domestic life and bless my husband and children so abundantly! I didn’t have to be a natural pre-school teacher who loves to meal plan and re-upholster. No way, there were forerunners in this vocation and they have written wisely. In fact, as our mothers’ rode the cultural pressure wave of feminism and entered the workplace full-force, we lost domestic role models and familial wisdom. We have had to relearn things that were components of every family home just fifty years ago. We have the added temptations of hydrogentated high fructose convenience foods and 24-hour kiddie programming to avoid as well. We have been told that aprons and ironing boards are the modern day equivalents of chains. Well, my readings over the past THREE years have finally enabled me to reclaim many of the objects of domesticity. In fact, I love wearing an apron at the end of the day so that I can prepare a dinner from scratch. I love when I have time to iron one precious shirt for my husband to wear on the plane when he travels. These are enormous blessings to my family, they bless their health and spirit, and I know I would not be able to do that if I were slugging it through law school as previously envisioned.

I have been really empowered by reading Michael Pollan on how important slow, healthy food is. I have loved reading Laura Berquist on how to educate my little ones. Even Dr. Laura, on whom I am personally ambivalent, shares great wisdom on being a wife. I am in the midst of a book that I found in our Church’s “trash pile” (your tax dollars at work, folks) that really hits home the importance of a welcoming, established home in every individual’s life. To quote: “The stability and sense of community a home gives is necessary not only for the child’s well-being but also for persons of any age. Home is the comfortable base where we all belong.” Amen! So God help, me, I am not a natural-homemaker, but I am educating myself, and intend to do the same for all my children. Why is Home education so taboo? Is there room for it in the schools? What are some of your favorite titles?

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  • JurisMater

    AWOL, great post! I do tons of reading–homemaking, childrearing, spiritual and otherwise–but something deep in me still can't quite see this as a topic for study that's as important or worthwhile as philosophy and law and apologetics and the other “adult” disciplines. I still feel a little pathetic giving my time to “studying” homemaking, and patronizing toward the author who's so wrapped up in holy cutesy nest-making, and generally I prefer to do it my own problem-solving way, even when that means bashing my head against the same wall over and over again. I wonder how much of this is nature, and how much is the fact that in my school years, as you say here, home economics was never seen as the hot-shot, multi-tasking, worthwhile, challenging and important endeavor that it is. But wow, if my high school GPA had to include a “home economics” grade, I don't think I ever would have gotten into Princeton!

  • rightsaidred

    Good old Home Economics…they were still offering it when I was in public middle school, but I think by high school it was all finished, or maybe just worth so few credits that only women considering a future in a beauty salon were willing to take the risk to their transcript. Very sad.The great part about Home Ec is that you can learn as you go! I often think this is the best way to learn anyway. While it would be helpful to have a mother or a class to teach some of these skills, the internet is a great resource, and like you mentioned, there are plenty of books to read. I love calling a friend to ask advice on party throwing or cooking a new dish, so I think if your heart is there, it isn't too difficult to get up to snuff on basic homemaking skills.

  • AWOL Mommy

    I just “liked” two comments in a row, can I do that? Did it. Like you guys.

  • rightsaidred

    So, where is everyone? Hello Ladies? Everyone on vacation or something?

  • B-mama

    I had home ec. in middle school and thanks to it, I now know how to make a pie and sew on a sewing machine. I even learned how to write letters to businesses as a consumer advocate. Pretty darn cool. I don't fault my mom for not imparting this wisdom in our home–I really think she was just living according to the norm and encouraging disciplines outside the home.This, however, makes me want to be sure to sit down with my children (even the boys) and teach them craftiness–knitting, sewing, baking (still not quite qualified to teach this one, but perhaps we can learn together…), cooking…

  • rightsaidred

    B-Mama, I seriously want to learn how to sew. I'm still impressed with the curtains you made for the boys room. I'm just too intimidated to get started, that and I don't own a sewing machine. Would it be crazy to purchase one with the hope that I could learn how to do small projects? The life phase I'm in doesn't allow for much time to learn new things. I think sewing is one HUGE blemish (well it probably doesn't even qualify as a blemish because I can't do it at all, so it's just a gaping hole) on my homemaking resume.

  • JMB

    We have home ec from 6 to 8 grades in our public middle school. My children love it. They've learned how to sew, cook basic stuff and are now able to identify the major electrical circuit breaker in our house. They also had a project on table setting and basic dish washing. It is a required elective for one semester each year.

  • Tree

    I don't think it's crazy to buy a sewing machine. I bought one last year with the hope of learning how to sew at least well enough to be able to mend pants, etc. I still haven't taken it out of the box, though! Someday…

  • Kathleen

    I think there are some aspects of Home Economics that are not exactly worth investing time in if you aren't exactly crafty. Cooking is essential to running a home and every Mom should try hard to pull this off well with healthy, tasty ingredients. Sewing however in my opinion is not essential. If you like to do it and have a knack for it, more power to you! If you are like me and not very creative or skillful, (despite your best efforts to learn sewing) the cost of the fabric, the time it takes to sew it, and perhaps the lost patiences and distraction from taking care of the kids isn't worth the product. I wish I could pull off cute curtains, sun dresses, and pillows, but they always looks ridiculous. I am better off ordering these items online (hopefully on sale). I don't mean to discourage women who have an interest in it, and enjoy the process. It has just been my experience that cute fabric + time + added stress + less than optimal results = not worth it. That being said, I think this post strikes a chord with many of us who have found that their entire education, training, and work prior to entering marriage, child-raising, and home-running gave us absolutely no preparations for the challenges we face. My Mom also says the internet can poses such a distraction for young Mothers fas they try to fulfill their duties in the home. And on that note, I am going to get off the computer and get dinner started! 🙂

  • JurisMater

    Here here, Kathleen. That's very well said, from another non-crafter. I tried a couple years ago to make cookies in a jar for Christmas gifts, and my husband was astounded at the foul language he heard coming from the living room night after night as I sweated and toiled to cut and tie fabric squares onto the tops with silky ribbon. He finally had to stop his own work and come help me for a couple hours because I got so angry. Merry Christmas : )Also, yes, I think the internet is a major distraction, but on the other hand it totally brings me to life some days. I suddenly have a laugh in my heart and a new spring in my step for my children, just because we've had an amusing conversation on the blog or I've read something uplifting. I guess that, as with everything else, we have to find that balance.

  • B-mama

    Red, I agree with Tree, you should get a sewing machine (though from your current post, it may not bring you uber happiness!). For a cool $100 you could buy a new, low end Singer machine that is very user-friendly. I had a friend actually take beginning sewing lessons at a local fabric store, which helped her become more comfortable with her machine (and pass on her knowledge onto me! 🙂 You'll definitely find the task is very easy and rewarding once you know the basics!

  • B-mama

    And yes, I agree that sewing these days is not as economical as it might seem. The aforementioned curtains I made for my boys' room cost $170 to make 6 panels, which is about what I would have paid for nice, blackout shades full price. However, I was able to pick the fabric, choose the style, stand back and look at them with pride, etc., etc. It was definitely a time-consuming project that I don't plan on doing anytime soon! And one additional note: anyone who wants to become a crafter needs her own room for such crafty ventures. Having to set up and take down night after night is enough reason to avoid the venture at all!!

  • Kate

    Red…I have a really really cheap sewing machine. Some folks have said that having one so cheap can turn you off, because it only works about half the time. But it did make 3 very awesome halloween costumes and hem some pants. I have just upgraded sewing machines and you are welcome to mine. It needs to go to the Sew-Vac store and get a thorough cleaning but then you can fiddle around with it…just know that if you want to move into more serious projects you'll want to upgrade! Shoot me an email next time your up and I'll make sure you get it…or maybe I'll bring it for mojito's 🙂

  • Jeepers, I love this AWOL. So thought-provoking.

  • Tess

    I really enjoyed this post and I agree that a wife and mother should actively seek to improve at her “job” through reading, discussion, conferences, etc., giving her vocation the same respect that she would extend to a professional career. In light of this post's title, I thought everyone might enjoy this darling little book I spied:… Do you think this book could be the textbook for a crash course in Home Ec as AWOL Mommy describes?