What if You Ran a Home Ec 101 Class? A Special Ask the Audience

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Dear Home Ec 101,

I recently ran across your home economics site. It is extremely helpful and visually integrative. I love it. I am a first year home-economics teacher at a Christian Academy. I was wondering if you could give me some tips for teaching high school economics.

You see, I just graduated Culinary School and they thought that I would be the perfect candidate to teach Home-Economics. I would personally love nothing more than to teach Home-Economics. However, the job was kind of thrown on me quickly. More than I’d prefer. I more or less prefer a plan if you will. I’m pretty structured 🙁 Anyway, I kind of feel loss…What I’m getting to is…Help me please?!?!

I only have them on Fridays at 9:00 am for an hour. On Mondays and Wednesdays I teach Latin all day. I plan to return to school in January hopefully to get my Masters to teach Home-Economics…

So, do you have any ideas on how I can approach this class? I’m so confused, scared and nervous. I would really appreciate it!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this…


Nervous N00b

Heather says:

If I were you, I’d sit down with pen, paper, and what the school expects the students to master in the course. These are naturally your first priority. From there, it’s all about life skills. These are just off of the top of my head. I want to open this up to the Home Ec 101 audience. What would be the most valuable life skill you wish you had learned in home economics?

You may find the articles linked in the footer of this site a decent resource for what Google users seem to find most helpful on this site. Here are some other ideas. If I were laying out the menu plan, I would block out sections based on some of the topics below and fill in based on their interest and the questions that arise.

How to create a budget.

  • This may be covered in the economics course, see what is covered and when to avoid repeat / overlap.
  • One time expenditures.
  • Recurring expenditures
  • Emergency funds
  • Renters insurance.
  • Rent to own is a BAD idea.
  • How coupons work / how to use them.

How to read a recipe.

  • How to convert measurements – teaspoons to tablespoons to cups.
  • Temperature conversion
  • Cooking terms: simmering, boiling, braising, roasting, baking, pan frying, searing
  • How to double or halve a recipe.

How to read a nutrition label.

  • Serving size
  • Explain misleading proclamations: example Trans fat free -just because it’s less than the minimum required to put on the label.

Knife skills.

Food safety.

  • The bacterial danger zone.
  • Safe temperatures for chicken, pork, beef, fish etc

How to menu plan.

Garment care

  • Explain the label care guidelines
  • How washing machines work -it’s not just a magic box.
  • Hemming, buttons, zipper repair.
  • Stain removal

I know Home Ec 101 readers are full of helpful advice, I’m leaving the comments wide open for all they have to say. Hear that Home Eccers? Chime in!

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37 thoughts on “What if You Ran a Home Ec 101 Class? A Special Ask the Audience”

  1. I took home ec back in the 1980's and it was still one of the best things I ever did. It reinforced what I saw my Mom and Granny doing everyday. That was the ONLY class that went over a household budget. She taught us basic cooking skills and encouraged us to try at home.

    I would enforce that budget/home cooking is not a bad thing. That home cooking is tasty and good and if you must mention it, better for you {G}. That veggies and fruits are your friends!

    That the clothing labels do help you take care of your clothes. Basic home care (more than taking out the trash).
    Basic hem and repair skills.

    Also, listen to the students. You will find life skills that need tending right away and alter your plans accordingly.

  2. How to balance a checkbook, keep track of money. That is something that isn't taught and I know so many people who can't do it.

  3. I was a first year Middle School Home Ec teacher last year. The best tip when it came to cooking was to remember, if something takes you 20 minutes to complete, it will take them 40 (this came from the High School Foods and Baking teacher, but I found it to hold true for my 6th, 7th, and 8th graders). I have groups of 3-4, each of them have an assigned apron color, and then for each lab, that color is assigned a different job (head chef, assistant chef, organization chef, sanitation chef). This helps things run very smoothly.

    Other than cooking, what does your curriculum require you to teach? I would love you help you out more, so if you stop by and can answer that question, I'll be checking back to add another reply.

  4. Yes, please for the love of god, teach those kids how to budget. credit companies will be on them like leeches at age something-teen. this would also help kids who have to take out college loans. 22 and $50k or more in debt? no pretty. In a perfect world, I suppose parents would teach these things to their kids, but most parents don't know how to budget either. i don't see the point of knowing upper level calculus if you can't even manage your money in order to pay the bills every month. but that's a whole other can of worms that's sitting next to the "why do nfl players earn more than teachers" can of worms.

    Laura made a good point about tuning into the kids. They will help guide the way.

    good luck with the class! i'm glad to see home economics hasn't completely gone the way of the dodo.

  5. Hi, I took Home Economics back in the 1960's. One of the best things I learned was how to plan meals and learning to make and keep a workable budget. My teachers also taught us basic mending skills, hems, torn seams, zipper repairs, etc. When I went out on that first job and had to take care of my own place and meals, those skills saved me money, and gave me great skills for taking care of myself.

  6. I'll never forget my first week in dorms at college. One of the guys heard I could cook and came to find out what he could make with the ingredients he bought. I asked him what he had. He replied, "flour." I asked what else and he asked, "Can't I just mix it with water?" I assured him that he didn't want to live off of glue for the year and we better find him a few more ingredients.

    I think its super important for high school students to learn to cook/meal plan. And as much as I think they should be taught "fancier" meals such as how to make a roast, practical, simple, nutritious and budget friendly meals that they would actually make when they move away from home are a good place to start and even more useful. My husband was telling me the other day that when he was in college he tried to make a menu plan. He planned 4 meals and just repeated them over and over. One of them was just rice and mixed vegetables. Needless to say, he didn't last with menu planning long and ended up living off of Wendy's until he met me.

    I also agree about fabric care labels (I still have trouble with those!) and to go with that, stain treatment such as what to do/use on which type of stains (protein, oil etc). I'm just now starting to learn this and I'm 27! It was a stain that brought me to this site.

    And the chore chart kept me here! I didn't grow up in a home with structured cleaning schedules. People who don't grow up around that, don't always know how to "get it all done." So then they go months between bathroom cleaning etc. I think its important for kids to learn that home maintenance takes doing something every day. You can't expect your house to stay in good condition if you only clean it once a month, And your future living mates (room mates, spouse, children) will not be impressed if you leave dishes to rot on the counter until there are no spoons left in the house etc.

    For me, the biggest advice I'd give, is to find ways to make the mundaneness of the tasks fun for the students. They're more likely to continue to do them if they find joy in them. And to help those boys see that though a lot of these things fall under traditional "woman's work" labels, they are still important things for them to learn!

  7. I would say how to read nutrition labels and count calories. And I don't know if you will be cooking or not, but something that would have helped me would have been a list of substitutions and the fact that you CAN substitute. This is a good list even though it's not complete. http://allrecipes.com/HowTo/Common-Ingredient-Sub

    Also… try really hard not to stress. The kids will pick up on it. Try to roll with the punches and relax. 🙂 You'll do great.

  8. Absolutely agree on the budget thing. Also the most basic fix-its. How to drive a nail, hang a picture, wash dishes (yes, really, I know 20 somethings that don't know how to wash dishes by hand!) Basics of gluing something back together. Using a screw driver. Care and feeding of basic appliances- how to reset the garbage disposal, not putting metal in the microwave, how to put out a grease fire on the stove, why you don't put Tide in the dishwasher.

    I really think there should be a class in Navigating The Grown Up World 101. Basics of a lease. Basics of a loan document (how to look past the monthly payment.) How to sign up for utilities (and pitfalls/money traps.) How to register to vote, how to dress for court (jury summons, witness, etc.). What to do if you're in a car accident/witness a crime. How to complain effectively to a business. Who to contact if you are ripped off. How to write a gracious thank you note.
    Most of those things SHOULD be in a personal finance class but most high schools don't offer those!

    Then, if you have time, teach them kitchen basics so they won't starve or feel they have to go out to eat. A few basic, serviceable recipes.
    How to make pancakes, how to cook chicken, how to brown ground beef, how to cut and cook an onion, how to cook pasta. How to make a pizza crust. Let's face it, if you can make noodles and pizza you're set. The basic building blocks of other recipes.

    • Ohmygosh, yes, all these things! Excellent suggestions. Especially understanding interest. I still don't get it and I have a mortgage.

    • I like your idea of a class on growing up. Love the name you came up with too. "Navigating the Grown Up World 101." Perfect. It isn't gender based, would be good for both young men and women, is something they don't often learn anymore, and is so important.

  9. When doing cooking basics it might be better to concentrate on stuff like cooking on a budget rather than planning a dinner party, as that would definitely be more useful to them when they are in college and before they start making money. I knew how to cook when I went away to school (thanks, mom!) but I had no clue whatsoever how to cook within my meager meal budget. It never occurred to me to just whip up some rice and beans.

    I will also second the idea of cleaning schedules, as I also grew up in a messy house and it's still something I struggle with. If this had been presented to me as a teen I might have come a lot further.

  10. Menu Planning
    Reading Labels- I guess when I started cooking I had no idea companies would put in ingredients that were "bad" for you. I have learned many things here and this is a big one. MSG, HFCS, red40… I had no idea you were to keep those to a minimum.
    Basic Housekeeping- I know people have different levels of clean, but I think there is a basic clean house.
    House Essentials- the basics for each room to live, especially the kitchen.

  11. If it were me, I'd move Menu Planning up under Budgeting. It should go hand in hand with couponing, reading grocery ads, etc. If you can plan a basic weekly menu, even if that means just having a list of meals you can put together quickly then deciding daily or the night before what you'll have the next day, you are still ahead of the game. Basic pantry items every house should have. What can do double duty, and what is really not necessary. How to round off a meal. I know with myself, it isn't the entree that makes my brain bubble, it's trying to figure out which sides would go with what. I end up looking like I plan for a 4 year old. Just a basic *what goes with what* under menu planning would be good. Hope I didn't throw in too much.

  12. Your experience with time is a big part of why I don't include time estimations (other than the cook time) in the recipes here. New cooks just take longer to do things, really new cooks take an extra long time just trying to find the right tools in their kitchens. If I tried to estimate how long that took, the experienced cooks would write tactful emails about how I had no idea how long prep took and that perhaps I shouldn't try to teach anyone anything and the inexperienced ones would fuss at me for how much longer it took than I said. LOL It's just one of those no-win kind of things I refuse to get involved with.

  13. I remember taking Home Ec in the early 1990's (junior high school for me) and all I recall learning is a little cooking and making some god-awful shorts with a sewing machine. Useful skills, to be sure, but I think the many suggestions on budgeting and "being a grown-up" type skills are that much more important. If we start teaching kids now how to be a grown up and have a little common sense, they will be able to figure out how to read a cookbook and ask the right questions to get a meal out of their stove and pantry. (They can probably live without sewing, that's more of a bonus skill.) So few kids today (can't believe I'm old enough to use that phrase, but there it is) have enough common sense and that is because they have not been taught how to budget and use money wisely, and not to spend money they don't have. Kids don't know how to just go without something until they have the money to pay for it, and a lesson in budgeting might help to drive that point home.

  14. I wish I had been taught how to properly write a resume, letter of introduction, and/or how to properly function at a job interview in high school. And a class in remedial sucking-up skills would’ve been great, too.

    Oh wait, you mean home-skills?

    Well, everyone needs to learn basic wiring. Electrical, cable, and ethernet-type wiring. You never know when you’ll have to install a ceiling fan, hook up a new TV, or have to move your computer from one room to the other (though you could just use a wireless router and wireless network card). Some basic home computer care skills would also be great, since these kids are going to be chained to computers for the next 50 years.

  15. Oh and just from my own experience. How to make dental / medical appointments. Somehow I managed to avoid that for so long that I developed this huge fear of using the phone for these things. I built it up into this huge ordeal in my head, which naturally it isn't, but if someone had just walked me through the whole: have your insurance card, a pen, your calendar etc. I wouldn't have been nearly as intimidated.

  16. Definitely budgeting, advice to never get a credit card in the first place, and please teach them how to run a washing machine! I taught so many kids how to do laundry in college it was ridiculous.

    This may be to morbid for highschool kids but most people don’t know what to do if someone dies- their spouse, a parent. They need things like social security numbers, insurance info, did the person have a will, etc. Most of these kids will be married in the next five years. It’s good stuff to know.

  17. I would most definitely include basic nutrition lessons from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Kids need solid science based, practical and useful information to guide them toward eating a reasonably healthy diet and maintaining a reasonably healthy weight.

  18. Wholeheartedly agree with the budgeting inclusion – a cash foundation (zero based budgeting, including emphasis on saving and planning), with biblical back up about stewardship, since you are in a Christian school. House cleaning routines would have been a HUGE blessing for me – I grew up in a home where housekeeping routines were NOT routine, and we had a housekeeper (the house was still a mess often). There was a lot of love, but that lack of discipline and learning related to house keeping has been a source of frustration for me and my family now that I have my own home. I also agree the information about how to pay and contact utility companies, insurance carriers, medical providers, etc… is useful. I was scared to death (almost twenty years ago) that I would not be able to do that. Maybe also include some special sessions on philanthropy/volunteerism? Best of luck to you!

  19. One thing that can help you teach budgeting is the census.gov website. It has median household incomes by state and I think by county too, so you can start with a realistic salary. I teach college, and I find that many of my students overestimate how much money they are going to make when they start working.

  20. How to use checking accounts, debit and credit cards. How much you're really paying for credit.

    Basic mending, how to sew on a button, how to iron a shirt. Yes, many of us rarely iron but there are times when it is necessary — like when the shirt for an important business meeting or to be worn to a wedding comes out of the suitcase looking like you slept in it.

    Laundry basics.

  21. (They can probably live without sewing, that's more of a bonus skill.)
    Sewing may be a bonus skill, but a mending know how is a must. Repair a hem, sew a button, iron patch a tear. Maybe you could do a decorate some old jeans project with a fancy patch, snazzy buttoons, an applique, etc. for a project.

  22. Menu planning, budgeting, both important.
    But chore chart/cleaning is important part of home care, also. Most kids don't know how to clean a floor, a window, or a toilet. Just one day would do the trick …………… and let them know that a clean home is important to their health, their relationships, and their emotional wellbeing.

  23. Storage times for fresh foods! Or canned foods, for that matter.

    After I got married, I used to get calls from single guys we knew to ask me things like, "Is this ground beef in my fridge still okay? It's brown, but I've only had it a week." (NO NO NO!!) Or, "Is this can of SPAM okay? The can is a little squishy." (Yes, it's an aluminum can, they're a little squishy when they make it. If it's bulging, toss it!)

    If you're trying to teach how to eat healthy on a budget, it'd be good for them to know how long different foods will stay fresh, so they don't fill up their fridge with produce, dairy and meats (especially DELI meats!) that will spoil before they can use it all.

  24. Basic home repair: hang a picture, hang curtains, patch a hole in the wall, fix a toilet, fix a drain. Also how to check the oil in a car, how to jump-start a car, and how to change a tire.

  25. How about adding —> Writing a quick and timely thank you letter!

    Also, regarding cooking, maybe just a quick demonstration of measurements, get out various jars to show them what a quart, pint, etc; gallon, bushel basket, etc.. just so they get some exposure. If you're going to do anything regarding nutrition author Michael Pollan's book 'Omnivore's Dilemma" was recently released in a Young Readers edition totally geared to your age group. Check it out!! Good luck. (By the way, our middle school just added this class this year too. As a parent I am very excited!)

  26. i took homeec courses for four years…yes we had that much in the late 1960's-1971. first year homeec was broken up into quarters and was mostly freshman/sophomores. first nine weeks:foods/nutrition/budgeting/cooking 2nd nine weeks:red cross course in home nursing/hygience/med.emergencies/first aid 3rd nine weeks-sewing/clothing care/make a simple garment/become acquainted with machines and terminolgy 4th nine weeks-family care/child care/marriage/more budgeting after first year of home economics later courses were full semester and in more detail.

  27. This is my 4th year to teach FACS ("Home-Ec"). By far the best resource I've found is this website: http://www.uen.org/Lessonplan/LPview.cgi?core=20 . Its a website from Utah and it has lesson plans (with worksheets and other helpful attachments) for almost every part of our curriculum! I've used this site when I taught in Texas, and again now that I'm in New Mexico! Good luck! Hope its going well!!!

  28. I may be returning to teaching FACS next year after teaching another subject for the last 5 years. I want to make a proposal to my principal that is updated to the 21st century. How do I incorporate technology as well as life skills into the curriculum? Does anyone have a good program set up for an 18 weeks unit?


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