Learning Basic Home Skills

I took a trip up to Indianapolis today to participate in a Farm Bureau workshop about how to bring farming education into the classroom.  It seems like a natural fit for me since one of my jobs is doing environmental education and the other is working with farmers but I still have to figure out how to combine them (and convince someone to pay me for the combination.)

Most of the workshop participants were farm wives who had a deep respect for agriculture and a deep sense of alarm for the growing disconnectedness between kids and farming.  One of the lecturers pointed out that the majority of kids in school today are now 3, 4, or even 5 generations removed from farming.  When you ask where food comes from, their automatic response is “from the grocery store.”  Sure, it’s true and it’s even amusing but it’s a little shocking to think that many of them don’t understand where bacon comes from and even if they do, they’ve never actually seen a pig.

Another presenter commented that many kids today aren’t even exposed to the basics of home economics.  They aren’t asked to help with cooking and often there isn’t even very much cooking that takes place.  Many households are largely dependent on prepared foods.  The days of sewing a new dress with mom and constructing a dog house with dad seem like they were light years ago.

Now, I’m 30 so it’s not like I grew up with Betty Crocker and Donna Reed as major role models but I did get the chance to do cooking, sewing, gardening, carpentry, camping, and building with my parents.  I wish I had done more.  My sewing skills are extremely limited and Will and I are both desperate to have better home repair skills.  (The last set of trim we hung looks decidedly better than the first but I still wouldn’t call it professional looking.)

I feel that being handy and having a good grasp on basic life skills empowers people to discover new ways to live greenly, ways that aren’t delivered to us in the form of slick green marketing.  I do okay in the cooking department and have saved some money doing home repairs but there are still things I don’t feel ready to handle.  I know it’s ludicrous to spend $70 on a rain barrel but I get nervous when I think about making one my own out of an old barrel and $10 in plumbing bits from the hardware store.

I am hoping to teach some of these skills to the kids I interact with but I’m also hoping to improve my own skills.  My days of classroom learning are over (at least for now) so I’m focused on either finding people willing to teach me what they know or organizing a group to stumble through a project together.  Anybody want to have a rain barrel party?

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Susie said,

    August 29, 2008 @ 8:27 am

    Hey, a rain barrel sounds like the perfect project – if it doesn’t work, so what, the ground gets wet under the barrel instead of in the garden? Much less stressful that water heaters, or ceiling fans, or even door trim! 🙂

  2. 2

    Ian said,

    August 29, 2008 @ 10:24 am

    I have to agree in the wishing I had done more to learn basic home ec skills. Still, one of the more interesting things of living away from home has helped me realize just how much we still gained. Granted, your social peers are probably far more in tune with do-it-yourself things than mine, so that will change conceptions, but we are still fairly well off, and at least know that we can always try.

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