Wanted Missing Life Skills

Recently I was at a large honors convention of community college students as an advisor, when a young man I knew came up and asked me if I knew how to iron. The final night of the conference was a large banquet and his dress shirt had become wrinkled during travel. A young woman standing next to him asked if I could repair a hem, and another if I could sew on a button. Why me? Perhaps I looked like someone who was adept at “adulting” after all I was of a particular age (however we all know that is no guarantee). I questioned these students, did they not know how, or were they lacking the equipment? The answer was they had never been taught, and had, in fact, never seen anyone do these things. We arranged for an impromptu lesson on ironing, hemming, and sewing on a button. These students wanted to know where I learned these skills. As I completed the tasks, I taught, and talked about the skills I learned from my grandmother, my mother, and in high school. Imagine the look of surprise on their faces when I explained that one could darn socks rather than replacing them! Not only ironing and sewing, but also cooking—not with boxed mixes but assembling individual ingredients. None of the students (and many others) could make something as simple as scrambled eggs, a grilled cheese sandwich, or a modest soup. Sadly, I wasn’t shocked to learn about the lack of training from grandmothers and mothers, due to the fracturing of families and the need for the dual-income for many families. Why and when did this become the norm? I remember fondly trying my hand at French cuisine, cake decorating, and sewing during my own Home Ec classes. My own sons (who are now 29 and 38) both took Home Economics. What happened to the classes since they were in high school? I believe it’s the disappearance of classes such as home economics, that have left a generation without the necessary skills to be self-reliant.

The Case for Teaching Life Skills in the Classroom

Have Home Economic classes truly disappeared or are they just not as popular or required curriculum any longer? NPR explores this question on The Salt section of its site:“Despite A Revamped Focus On Real-Life Skills, ‘Home Ec’ Classes Fade Away.” The Salt reports, “These courses haven’t gone away entirely, but their presence in schools is dwindling. In 2012 there were only 3.5 million students enrolled in FCS [Family and Consumer Sciences] secondary programs, a decrease of 38 percent over a decade.” What does that mean in numbers for recent years? According to The Guardian, only 32,062 took the class in 2012. In a rapidly expanding world of service, where you can hire anyone to provide essential tasks, such as sewing and cooking, attention to learning basic skills has declined. However, there is a movement to re-learn these skills. I asked a highly accomplished grad student in her mid-twenties what she thought about life skills and whether her generation was witnessing a decline in basic skills. She replied, “The drive to learn self-sustaining skills are coming back, taught by new waves of technology, honestly mostly at the lowest income levels. Platforms like Pinterest and YouTube are actually bringing these skills back. Classmates (mostly younger than me, and I’m 26) looking to save money, out of environmental consciousness, or out of genuine curiosity often spend hours on tutorials about how to clean their suits without paying for dry cleaning, how to cook healthy foods, how to mend clothes instead of buying new ones.” The internet often shows seekers HOW not Why these skills are essential, which younger generations are missing entirely—which can lead to other complications in “adulting.” Additionally, reading instructions or viewing a video on how to complete a task may not be enough. Sometimes, learning needs to take place in a hands-on environment.

The Call For Action

It is time for individuals to contact our local school boards, local colleges, community education boards, and request the reintroduction and requirement of hallmark classes such as home economics. Gather together individuals who possess basic skills and offer free community classes. Are we prepared to have a generation who lack the basic skills of self-care? What happens to future generations as the skills are completely lost? It is our duty to take steps to prevent this from happening.





Danovich, Tove. “Despite A Revamped Focus On Real-Life Skills, 'Home Ec' Classes Fade Away.”NPR, NPR, 14 June 2018,

Avie Layne 2012