I was having an interaction earlier today with some online strangers, like ya do. Sometimes I forget that while I’m hardly ever the oldest person in the room, I’m getting up there when it comes to hanging out in online spaces, especially those focused around gaming. Home ec. was on its way out when I was a kid. We still had it, I still had to take it, but everyone knew the days for that course were numbered. At the time that just seemed like progress? I dunno, the conventional wisdom seemed to be it had little to teach people. STEM STEM STEM. We didn’t call it that back then but the trend was already started. Remove all real life courses from primary and secondary school because really, what is school for except to prepare every single child for college regardless of the likelihood they will ever step foot in one? So I make a reference to home ec. in this online space and suddenly I’m flooded with questions about what the heck that is. This was after a young adult, and I do mean above 18 years old adult, openly asked what it was you were supposed to put in a dishwasher if not dawn liquid dish soap?
Parents, are you teaching basic life skills to your children? I know it’s irritating sometimes and I know that they slow you down a lot when they’re “helping”, but do you really want your kid to be the one that’s somehow made it into the adult world without knowing how to operate a washing machine? I don’t mean to pick on the dude, it’s far from the most stunningly how-do-you-not-know-that question about house life ever thrown my way, but it is spring cleaning time and it reminded me of the seemingly epidemic lack of basic home skills in today’s young adults. Don’t need to know how to operate a dish washer if you don’t know how to cook the food that soils dishes.
Remind yourself this spring season to teach your kids something about basic home skills, even if it’s just a few at a time. Remember, you have a few years to go over this stuff. I’m not asking you to teach your 8 year old how to do your gutters for you, but you should at least be introducing them to the basic ideas. I think it’s striking in this burgeoning creators economy that adding home ec. back to schools isn’t a more urgent conversation. Production is getting more and more decentralized as 3d printers and kitchen shelf sized cnc mills fill more homes. Platforms like Etsy allow the things made from home production to be sold easily to wherever you feel like shipping to, and yet we are teaching our kids, at least in the context of schools, fewer and fewer skills related to home production and even finance. Now, I could hem and haw about how that’s always ultimately been a parents responsibility, but I can’t deny that without those classes this up and coming generation seems especially clueless about how basic operations of living work. Is that a bad coincidence? I don’t really know, and I’m not going to pretend to know, placing blame is beyond the scope of this blog, but this job can’t be expected to be outsourced anymore folks, you are solely responsible for ensuring your kid doesn’t burn their apartment down in a week after moving out. Oh, by the way, the average move out age is over 24 now, so you have plenty of time to correct this if your Jr. year high-schooler still doesn’t know ;).
Perhaps you feel barely competent in areas like cooking and cleaning, that’s okay. You’d be amazed what you can learn online. YouTube hasn’t been for just cat videos in a long long time, and there are awesome DIY subreddits for just about anything. Really young youngsters can start with the super basics, like how things in the cleaning cabinet will make them very sick if they drink them, or the fact that yes, eventually the base boards do get cleaned. A really great activity that’s fun if you let go of the sense of urgency is when a room needs repainting. Enjoy this time with your children and if it takes a week to do a 20×20 it takes a week to do a 20×20. In the mean time, break down how much it cost to buy that paint, the canvas spill guard, let them in on the whole process, take them to the hardware store—don’t pretend you aren’t looking at things you don’t need while you’re there either, verbalize all the home improvement fantasies you’re having while you’re there.
Older children can help you with stuff like drywall repair. Don’t know the first thing about drywall repair? Learn with them! It’s time for that know-it-all mask to come off with the older kids. Make mistakes together. Show them that being an adult is as full of mistakes as any other point in their lives and that they’ll never reach the point of knowing everything that you’ve been projecting at them since they were two. Instant obedience at a young age is a safety issue—they don’t need to get introspective when you’re telling them to freeze because they’re about to charge the wrong way in a parking lot—but eventually they have to understand that heading into unknown territory is something adults have to do regularly, or they won’t grow up. Rebellious teenagers might be interested in the idea of making their light switch different from the rest of the decor, the trade off is they have to do it. On that note it might be a good idea to teach them what a breaker/fuse box is for.
It’s time to get that oven deep cleaned, and to teach oven safety, and also how to make that killer cookie recipe they like when you’re done (you have one of those right?). A lot of these can be applied whether you own or rent but we can also cross into home owner territory like lawn care. Do they have a favorite spring flower for the flower bed? Would they like to pick one? What’s that mulch for anyway? What is mulch? Time to cut that grass, but also learn how to properly care for a 2-stroke engine, or properly store a lithium ion battery pack, maybe you have both. Our chainsaw is gas powered for instance, because it’s the thing we’re most likely to need when the power is out in hurricane alley, everything else is electric because it’s a luxury when the power is out. Oh hey, that’s a good one, teach them the thought process for decisions like that and how local weather affects them.
I could go on about specific examples butt the main point here is that while you’re in the middle of the season where you’ll be getting down deep and dirty with your home the most, don’t forget to include the kids in the experience in ways that will help them grow into functioning adults later on in life. It can be hard to convince yourself that you are allowed to slow down that much, but it will pay off in the long run.