Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bring Back Home Ec!

Alright, straight off, I have to admit, I never took home ec in school, and I thought it was kind of a waste of time. It was offered as an elective class, and since I already was taking Limited Edition (our high school's elite choir) as an elective, and was planning to go to college, I figured, why in the world would I need to take home ec? Its filled with old practices like sewing aprons and baking pies....stuff I would never need to know in real life. I was going to college - I knew this - and career people don't need all these "pioneer" skills.

Ah...how wrong I was at the tender age of 16! But I'm getting ahead of myself.

We were required as sophomores to take a class called Careers. It taught us how to write checks, balance a check book/bank account, write resumes and cover letters, how to effectively interview for a job (and subsequently, I have never been turned down for a single job interview I have gone for), what jobs our personalities are best suited for.... All important things, but I don't think it was at all thorough enough.

We also were required to take Health and Safety. This covered nutrition, sex ed, eating disorders (I will forever be scarred for life after watching a documentary on a bulimic....eew), fitness, etc. You know, the usual. But again, I still don't think it covered nearly enough.

Now that I am in the "real world," I am realizing how deficient I am, as are so many others, in basic domestic, household-running skills.

First there is cooking. My sister and I joke that I naturally got the "domestic gene" and she didn't. (And if you compared the 2 of us, you would definitely know why!) I have figured out how to cook, and pretty well at that. I can hold my own with the Bree Hodges of the world. (I'm not saying that to brag, just saying it because its true.) I think some of it probably is intrinsic, but I also learned a lot from my mom growing up because I was interested in it, worked with my chef uncle for 3 summers in a row, and got married at 19, which thrusted me into a situation where I had no choice but to learn how to cook in order for us to survive. (But make no mistake....we ate a LOT of vegetarian lasagna our first year of marriage, because it was one of the only things I knew how to make.)

My sister on the otherhand.... Well, she can bake a mean brownie from a box, but she has no concept of how to cook anything else except maybe mac n' cheese from a box or fry an egg. And that seems to be the norm.

Most women (and men) my generation and younger have no clue how to cook, or even WHAT to cook. Meaning, those who do cook, often cook things from packages and cans, blissfully unaware of how nutrient-deficient and loaded with fat, calories, sodium, preservatives...you name it, it is, or what all the deficiencies and harmful substances are really doing to their bodies. The average American eats far too much of the wrong stuff, hence, in my opinion, the reason we have so many people who are morbidly obese, suffering from high cholesterol, clogged arteries, heart attacks, and even certain types of cancers. Most people don't know lean protein from the fatty stuff, or that a box of Zatarain's rice has more sodium in one serving than you are supposed to consume in an entire day. Most people are under the assumption that veggies from a can are as good as fresh, or that white bread is as wholesome as whole wheat. So many people turn to eating out, hitting a drive-thru, or ordering a pizza for almost every meal, because they just simply don't know how to cook. Our bodies weren't designed to process all this junk! No wonder the vast majority of us are overweight and have health problems! Its sad. Truly.

We need to be mandating that kids learn these skills, and more importantly, WHY they are important. They save money, and they save your body....in a nutshell.

Then there is sewing. This is most definitely my lowest area of domestic expertise. I know how to sew, but anyone who saw my kids' Halloween costumes this year can attest to the fact, I can't sew very well. If something needs fixing with a needle and thread, we all know who to go to -- my mother-in-law. Even my kids know this. But for those without a handy mother-in-law, what happens when something loses a button, or your child's stuffed elephant loses an arm (for the 4th time)? Its just sad to me to watch this art die out. Not to mention, I think this may be one reason most textile companies outsource their labor. Not only is it cheaper for them, but its also much easier to find people who know how to sew in cultures where the women are forced, but sheer survival, to learn how.

Then there is childcare. The only kids at my high school who had to do the "fake baby" project were those in home ec. Not surprisingly, none of the home ec students (as far as I know) got pregnant in high school. Sadly though, other girls did. Most teens are under the illusion that having babies is this enchanting experience. All they know is babies are cute, cuddly, and fun. They don't learn about being up off and on all night, how many diapers you have to change over the course of 2 1/2 to 3 years, how to deal with colic, how much it COSTS to have a baby - physically, emotionally, mentally, and certainly financially - or the dedication it takes to devote yourself 100% to someone else's needs because they are 100% dependant on you. Any and every parent will tell you, having a newborn baby is not all its cracked up to be. Its immeasurably rewarding, but also extremely exhausting and pushes you to your very limits. The "fake babies" are a major reality check!

Okay, now on to budgeting of time and money. I am a terrible time-budgeter, but I do know how to effectively manage my time if I absolutely have to. Luckily though, both my husband and I are pretty good at budgeting money. What a lot of people don't realize though is that in a time of financial hardship, if you can't budget, you will be in a hole. Ironically, just this morning, a friend and I were talking about "going without until next pay day," and she mentioned that anytime there is even a small surplus in their bank account, rather than save it, her sister-in-law will go out and buy new clothes for herself and/or her kids. My friend and I, on the otherhand, understand that any excess money goes to pay down credit cards, pay off outstanding bills....it is not to be frittered away on "wants." It just astounds me how dumb the majority of people are with money. They rack up bills and debts they can't ever pay, then whine and complain about their credit being so bad they can never make any large purchases. They just don't get that you can't spend money you don't have without repercussions.

And finally, appropriate drug and sex education. This is maybe a small tangent from Home Ec, but I feel it needs to be addressed too.

Seth came home the other night talking about how his dad and aunt are going to die from using drugs. They have been learning some drug resistance education, and were taught that cigarettes and alcohol are drugs. Which they are, I'm not denying that at all, but I was somewhat angry at the whole approach. Here my 7 year old comes home from school on Monday, and proceeds to tell me, with much fear, that we have to tell Jeremy that he can't drink beer anymore because he will die! Let me state for the record, Jeremy is no drunk! He has 1-2 beers a week (if even that much), never more than 2 at a time even when he is with his buddies, he NEVER drinks and drives, and in nearly 10 years of knowing him, I have never seen him drunk once. He knows how to drink responsibly.

Those of you who know my story with my sister, and some about my family history, know how dangerous alcohol and drugs are to our family. You all know how I feel about them. But, and I know some of you will think I am totally crazy for this viewpoint, I think that whole approach is SO wrong!! Its is the fear-based "forbidden fruit" tactic. What happens when told you can't have the forbidden fruit or you will die? (Sounding a bit Biblical yet?) You go and test it out! Instead of trying to scare kids enough that they will never use - which inevitably backfires - I think we need to give kids the REAL facts! The real facts are these: When you are over 21, you can drink. It is your right. Before age 21, it is illegal, and you can be arrested for it. And when you are over 21, if you choose to exercise that right, you need to do so fully knowing that you may never come back from the brink of that first drink; you could turn into an alcoholic. You are never to drink and drive - EVER - because it puts you and others at risk of injury or even death. Alcohol doesn't automatically equal death. It equals making a dangerous choice, and one I hope and pray my kids never choose, but reality is, just because you drink doesn't mean you will die. AND, I think we need to stop glamorizing the party scene for kids. We need to show them what families go through when they lose a loved on to drunk driving, or the pain family members go through when their child or sibling is an addict. I am a firm believer that the truth is much more powerful than "all or nothing" statements. Just my 2 cents on that.

Then there is sex ed. I know many Christians will disagree with me on this, but I do think its good they teach birth control methods. Personally, I think teaching ONLY abstinance is ignorant. Like it or not, most teens are going to have sex. Its a proven fact. I didn't, but I am abnormal that way. If we make it "all or nothing," and offer our kids no other options, they will be too afraid, or won't know where to go or what to do, to take the precautions necessary if they choose to have sex.

But, I think we need to let them know exactly what birth control methods do to a person's body. Kids need to know that the morning after pill can kill a baby (sorry, I can't call it a fetus...its a baby, not a thing). They need to know that at 5 weeks pregnant, a baby already has a beating heart, developing organs, and even movement -- this is before most women even know they are pregnant! They need to know that abortions are gruesome, and women who choose them live with the guilt of that choice the rest of their lives.

Women also need to be taught about their own cycles. I have a friend who is currently battling some issues with getting and/or staying pregnant. She believes she knows when she is ovulating because she has cramps when she does. I am not saying women can't or don't cramp when ovulating or that they can or cannot feel it, but there is so much more than cramps that you have to know about your cycle. Cramps can come from anywhere at any time in your cycle. Few women - even those who THINK they do - have "perfect" cycles; ones that run on the same 27 or 28 day rotation every month, ovulating or starting a period on the exact same timeframe every month. Hence the reasons I got pregnant with both Seth and Skye - just when I thought I had my cycle figured out, my body threw me a curveball. When I began studying TCOYF (Taking Charge Of Your Fertility), I finally realized just how little I really did know about my cycle and fertility. How are women supposed to know about their bodies if nobody is adequately and accurately teaching them?

Anyway, my point is, since mandated home ec was removed from schools, it seems there has been a rapid decline in basic life skills, and the repercussions are much farther-reaching than I believe most are willing to admit. We have a problem here. "Old" values and skills that people have relied on for thousands of years are now being seen as outdated and irrelevant. Knowing how to care for your life, your money, your future, your family, and your body is NOT outdated, and never will be! We need to bring home ec back! The more kids know, the better equipped they are for the real world. Taking it away, in my opinion, was a bad move, and it needs to be reinstated, because, let's face it, most parents aren't going to teach kids these things, and/or lack the knowledge themselves. We are doing our kids a huge disservice, and that needs to change. NOW!!

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