Thursday, March 14, 2013

Six Things That I Never Learned In School

Mama’s Losin’ It

I learned an awful lot in school. Really, I did.  I paid attention in class, raised my hand often, and almost always did my homework.  Even though we moved every two or three years, I was a good student, and none of my teachers ever had cause to complain about me.

Well, except for that one time in eighth grade with the substitute science teacher. That was pretty darn awful, and I am sure that poor woman is still in therapy over it. But it wasn't just me, I had help coming up with those particular shenanigans.  Now that the statute of limitations on being a horrible teenager has passed, I would be happy to name names.

As much as I learned in school, there were several areas where my education failed me.  I never, ever got Geometry or Trigonometry, and Physics was a bit of a reality check.  But for every sonnet I was able to recite, for all of the Civil War battles I was able to recall, there were some skills that my teachers neglected.  From the vantage point of hindsight, I can look back and pinpoint where the public education system done me wrong. 

How to Cook.   After one or two extremely messy fiascos, my mother banned me from her normally immaculate kitchen. I felt that I had been incorrectly tagged as a non-cooker, so I signed up for home economics in ninth grade.  In my mother's day, home economics was a class that taught cooking and sewing and all those nifty things that women needed to know in order to keep a house in good working order.  Good information that could be used to create a happy home.  In my time, home economics was a semester of cooking.  Also, everything was done in groups.  My group was not happy with me after I mistook some overly yellow butter for cheese.  They wanted to kick me out of the group, but I argued against my ouster, since failing home economics would have been the death of my mother.   After several rounds of intense negotiations and the presence of Henry Kissinger, the rest of my group did all the cooking, and I got to write the paper about the whole episode.  We all got an A.  Even Henry. 

How to balance a checkbook.  One moment I was a former college student, taking my diploma and starting a new job.  Then I discovered that my checking account was all wonky, at least according to the bank.  I was bouncing checks, the bank told me.  Stop it now, they said.  I was agreeable to their suggestion--there are pretty hefty penalties for rubber checks.  But I discovered that I had absolutely no clue how to balance my checkbooks, so that I would know exactly how much money was available.  My mother's idea of teaching was to tell me how to do it once, get mad when I immediately understand, and then just do it all for me.  Finally, one of my friends, who was an honest-to-gosh math teacher, sat down for two whole hours and showed me how to balance everything out.  Then she came back over the following month to show me again.  The third time was the charm.

How to jump start a car/change a tire.  I tried to learn these things in school.  I really did.  I wanted to sign up for auto mechanics for this very reason, and I told the high school counselor that very thing.  She informed me that auto mechanics were only for kids who were not going to college and needed a trade so they could get a job.  She suggested that I take journalism instead.  I grumbled, but my acquiescence to her request came back to haunt me on several occasions.  The very first time I needed to jump start my car, I nearly hurt someone by putting the red squeezy-thing on the wrong point.  My friend Cathy's father woke us up one Saturday morning to change the flat tire on a pickup.  He showed us the steps, and we learned that girls have absolutely NO arm strength to turn those stupid lugnuts.  Plus, once we put the spare on and let down the jack, we realized that the spare tire was flat as well. 

How to sew.  Ever had to hem up a pair of pants?  Patch a hole in a shirt?  Don't ask me.  My mother tried to teach me how to sew, until I broke three of her sewing machine needles in a week.  I thought that perhaps taking home economics would remedy my lack of skill with a needle, but that didn't work out(see above).  I was finally able to figure out how to sew on a button, but that is about it. Now, not knowing how to sew has certainly not caused me untold misery in my life.  Except when all the other moms are whipping up costumes for school plays.  Then it will probably hurt.  A little.

How to be married.  This would have really been a helpful class.  Not the religion aspect or the big stuff.  I am talking about the day to day, little things that married couples have to get used to.  The toilet paper roll orientation.  The division of labor.  Who gets to sleep on what side of the bed.  How long do you wait until you discuss your mate's horrible toe hygiene and offer to pay for a pedicure? I lived alone for a long time before I got married, so I had an even bigger growth curve.  There were days at the beginning where  I wasn't sure what the heck to do, and leaving seemed to be a viable answer. I was used to living alone, when I didn't have to share anything and could watch whatever I wanted on tv in whatever outfit I wanted.  Luckily, love conquered all. 

How to fight.  At school, we weren't allowed to fight.  They would read out the code of conduct to everyone over the PA system, and we would all look at each other as if we had no idea what the teacher was talking about, but we knew.  Which is why we would schedule our fights for later, after school.  My dad had to go and beg for the opportunity to have a little more time. My dad taught me how to throw a punch without breaking my fingers, and that made all the difference to my confidence.  I didn't even have to actually do it--it was the idea that I could. Punch a teenager who wants to fight you in the face, and they do tend to go away without too much bother.  Or if a man in a bar happens to want to manhandle you into a dance, a punch to the right spot will cause him to look elsewhere.

How about you?  Any interesting skills that you know that you didn't learn in school?


  1. Your dad seriously taught you how to throw a punch? A skill I still have not learned, though I have longed to try it a few times in my life!
    We actually did have a class in high school called marriage and family life. It replaced traditional home ec. I learned two things there that have served me well:
    When fighting with your spouse, do not bring up every shortcoming the man has ever had.
    Your children need consistency.
    If I learned nothing else that semester, these two gems have made a difference for my family.

    1. The consistency thing is difficult for a number of reasons, but we are working on it!

  2. That's cool your Dad taught you how to throw a punch without breaking fingers. (that's important). My Dad taught me the car stuff and my mom taught me to sew & 4-H with Mom's help taught me to cook. I actually did learn in school how to do checks & finances

    1. They always make it look so easy to throw a punch on the tv shows, but it really hurts!

  3. Marriage class would have been super helpful with a 101 on how to not date a jerk lol

    1. Yeah, I must have missed that class before I got married.

  4. I never did learn how to throw a punch. How awesome that your dad taught you that!

    I took home ec in the 8th grade. We didn't have sewing machines in there but we did learn to thread a needle and do a simple stitch. We made these little stuffed dinosaurs out of denim fabric that we stitched together by hand. Mine looked pitiful. I was so embarrassed. Sadly, my sewing never got much better and I never have learned how to use a sewing machine.

  5. I learned how to balance a checkbook by working for a bank. I did learn to sew and cook in home econ but mostly from my mom. I never learned to punch anyone.

  6. Excellent post. I'm lucky that early on, my mother taught me how to cook and sew. Daddy taught me the car stuff, and the two of them together pretty much taught me about marriage. But the check balancing thing totally threw me for a loop. To this day, I keep a ridiculous amount of extra money in our checking account because I'm so fearful of bouncing. And fighting? I'd say my husband taught me that one!

  7. My school didn't even offer a home economics class. I'm sure that would have been rather helpful to it is, I didn't learn to cook until I was 32, and even now the stuff I cook can be sketchy.

    Visiting from Mama Kat's :)


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