If you don’t know, I’m a trained chef by profession. I went to The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York right out of high school and worked as a chef for many years before I got married and started a family. I LOVE all things food. As you can imagine, Home Economics in 7th grade was a big influence on me – it was the first time my passing interest was put in an academic context.
We learned about the cookies we made, and we learned about how to make them better for next time. I was shown how to crack an egg and peel a potato, and I was allowed to use a knife and the oven. (I grew up in a home without an oven, strange but true, so this was HUGE!) I was hooked. I happen to also love the rest of it: budgeting, sewing, childcare, etc.
Home Economics (rebranded as Consumer Sciences) has fallen from school curriculum in favor of STEM and fights against the band, choir, and art for a school’s limited resources. In our measurement-obsessed society, schools have little enthusiasm for subjects that don’t prep kids for standardized exams. Let me say up front, that there aren’t any college credit options for high school home economics, and unless you’re going to major in home economics (excuse me, consumer sciences) you won’t find many college classes either. It’s a shame, really. Home Economics, in my opinion, is an acquired skill. I didn’t always manage my home as well as I do today but know plenty of adults who must have missed home economics altogether.
I think FUN is to blame. If a curriculum is too fun or too inviting, gets in the way of important things, like transcripts, college admission, and test prep.
Real home economics teaches basic life skills that will carry a person through their entire life, but they also expose our teens to activities that may not have come up with their activities of daily living. I realize making a batch of muffins and sewing a placemat don’t feel as important as more time in World History, but I don’t think it’s an “either-or” position, I think it’s an “and” position. I think World History is important, and, I think home economics is important.
Poor home economics. I don’t define a home economics credit as making frozen pizza and volunteering in the church nursery. Those are valuable experiences, but let’s get into the heart of home economics. Did it take you years to learn how to live on a budget (are you still learning?). Do you have to eat out a lot or buy convenience foods because you never learned to cook from scratch? Do you throw a shirt away because it’s missing a button or become stained? These small skills pay off in a small way once you live in a dorm, a little more when you’re in your first apartment, and a lot once you’ve started a family. These skills pay off immeasurably if you’re going to be a homeschooling family living on one income for 20 years.
What is home economics? Many will answer “life skills” and that’s not untrue, but to me, there is a difference between being able to keep your family alive and being a skilled home economist! In my opinion, home economics are a deliberate attempt to learn and then master skills of the home. I realize that some of the skills will fall into the category of “feminine” and may not appeal to your sons, but that’s ok, we all have had to learn things that aren’t our favorite. There may be many independent years where your son will thank you for teaching him to cook and do his laundry.
What’s covered in a basic Home Economics course?
It varies by curriculum designer, but in general, the more of this the better:
Finances and Budgeting (income, expenses, saving, credit, budgeting)
Household Care (interior cleaning, laundry, repairs)
Automobile Care (routine maintenance, pumping gas)
Basic Sewing and Mending (Fix a button, patch a hole)
Shopping and Storage of Food (refrigerated, frozen, and non-perishable)
Basic Lawn and Garden (Mowing, weeding, planting, pest control)
Basic Home Furnishings (selecting furniture, painting a room, hanging curtains)
Safety (CPR, First Aid, child-proofing, personal protection, over the counter medication)
Child Care (feeding, changing diapers, supervising, nurturing)
Organizing (a place for everything, everything in its place)
Entertaining (special cooking or baking, decorating, guest lists, etiquette)
I think homeschool parents have an advantage when it comes to teaching and modeling good home economics. Why? Because we’re always teaching our children! It doesn’t start or stop with the clock. So while it’s common sense to teach these skills to our teens, I like to be a little more diligent about it by making a list of “must know” and tackling it with my husband. A list is good because if you have many children like I do, it helps you remember who knows what and who doesn’t. It also helps you really consider the skills you’d like your teens to take with them when they leave home. My kids watched a lot of lawn mowing before they were allowed to do it themselves, and many years of practice before they were “good” at it. Many skills lend themselves beautifully to parent mentoring, but you may also want to use a formal curriculum or course.
When I started looking for a formal home economics curriculum, I was pretty disappointed. My go-to and favorite review site Cathy Duffy Reviews doesn’t have a section for home economics, but I’ve done my own homework. In addition to these high school programs, I’m going to list a few more “grown-up” options that are fantastic. For example, I love the ServSafe Food Handler course! In addition to it providing a real career credential they can add to their resume, your teen will learn a ton about basic kitchen sanitation – something everyone should know. If you have a favorite to add, I’d love to know about it!
High School Textbook-based
Alpha Omega Home Economics Lifepac (10 workbook course – Christian)
Christian Light Publications (10 workbook course – Christian, for females only)
Landmark’s Freedom Baptist (1 book – Christian, for females only)
Abeka Family and Consumer Sciences (1 book – Christian, cooking only)
McGraw-Hill Catalog (over 200 books to choose from- Secular)
Foundations in Personal Finance, Dave Ramsey, (Christian/ Secular)
Home Economics Kitchen Skills, free online course, Plain and Not So Plain (Christian)
Household and Personal Management, free online course, Plain and Not So (Christian)
Foundations in Personal Finance, Dave Ramsey, (Christian / Secular)
ServSafe Food Handling Certification $15 food safety course includes certification.
Alison Diplomas, free open courses in Childcare, Caregiving, Nutrition, and many others. Can be taken individually or for a diploma. These are not for college credit. (Secular)
Life Skills for Young Men, Plain and Not So Plain (Christian)