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Bring Back Home Economics!

By the time our students reach young adulthood, they are already making decisions and choices that will affect their future. But are they equipped to make their choices wisely? Can we help them more to prepare for "real" life?

What is Home Economics?

Our word "economics" is a compound of two Greek words - "Oikos", meaning "house" or "home," and "nomos," meaning "law." So for the ancient Greeks, economics was all about how to run a household properly, which is exactly what we mean when we use the term "home economics." 

But in recent years, home economics has declined in popularity as a school subject. This is perhaps understandable because traditionally, it was mainly a subject for girls that focused on teaching them to become efficient home managers, good wives, and caring mothers. We still value these skills, but gender stereotypes are now outdated, and home economics is usually known as "life skills" these days.

Or the other alternative is that funding is drastically cut, making a home economic class difficult to maintain. Even so, too few students are offered life skills courses, and these are skills that everyone needs.

What Do Our Students Need?

Our schools offer a special environment to our students. A safe space where students can learn and socialize and teachers can teach. But outside the school gates, a different world is patiently waiting for our students to join the wider community. 

Maria might have emerged from high school with a high degree of computer literacy but has yet to learn how to file a tax form or apply for a job. Similarly, Brad might be able to discuss the poetry of Langston Hughes but need to figure out how to boil an egg.

Our students generally come from a wide range of backgrounds, and we can't assume that there is an experienced adult in their lives who will equip them with the essential practical skills they need.

What Should the Syllabus Include?

The range of challenges that our students might face is enormous. We can't possibly cover every eventuality, but there are some areas where we can give them a basic understanding. A well-rounded home economics syllabus should cover the following:

Food and Nutrition

  • Managing and eating a healthy diet.
  • Meal planning, grocery list creation, and shopping within a budget.
  • Reading and following recipes.
  • Basic cooking, including baking, boiling, and barbecuing.

Some students might already possess these skills. If so, they will enjoy sharing their expertise with others.

Money Management

  • Create and keep to a monthly budget.
  • Plan future large expenditures, such as saving for a car within six months.
  • Understanding pension plans and other retirement plans.
  • Understand and calculate interest rates associated with a mortgage or car payment.
  • Understanding credit card debt, including interest rates and annual fees. 

Home Management

  • Simple repairs and upkeep. Changing home AC filters, for example.
  • Creating a home tool kit checklist.
  • How to find a reputable plumber, electrician, or handyperson.
  • Fueling a car, checking the oil level, and replacing a blown tire.
  • Essential first aid.
  • Emergency preparedness and local evacuation plans.
  • Child care.
  • Sewing a straight line and a simple hand stitch. 


  • Filling out an application for a job or a scholarship.
  • Resume creation and updates.
  • Filing taxes.
  • Writing professional letters or emails.

Hygiene, Health, and Personal Appearance

  • Home cleanliness, including sanitizing bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Laundry and ironing clothing and other materials such as bedding.
  • Clothing choices for such events as job interviews.
  • Public speaking, including speaking with doctors and dentists.

General Note for Educators

We can't possibly cover every eventuality that students will face. The most important skill that our students will need is the ability to learn for themselves and be confident in the skills that they do have.

An additional subject or overarching theme to teach students is that the internet offers advice and information about everything under the sun. But our students will need to be able to evaluate this information and decide what is reliable and what is not. 

A Final Word

Around 70% of our students will go on to college. This may allow some of them to defer decisions that they will have to make, such as choosing a career right away or purchasing a house. But they will have to face them someday, and with a home economics course, we can help them thrive as they enter the adult world.

Written by Stephen Tomkinson
Education World Contributor
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