The Useful Book : 201 Life Skills They Used to Teach in Home Ec and Shop
David Bowers and Sharon Bowers
I am always looking for great tips and hints about all aspects of my, whether in print form or online, so when I saw The Useful Book pop up in my list of possible reviews I grabbed it immediately. I was expecting some great ideas within its covers, but it quickly had me thinking more deeply than that.
At 52 years old, I still remember a high school where we all had to take 1 quarter of Home Economics and Shop during our high school career. I was very non-traditional for the mid-1970’s though, finding Home Ec much more enjoyable than shop class, but I still remember being thankful for the exposure to both power tools and the basics of cooking.
As I have raised my own son over the last 17 years, I noticed and bemoaned the lack of instruction in the various “life skills” we all need as we grow older. Gone are lessons in making our own meals, replaced with AP Government and AP Algebra. That’s not to say I don’t think those subjects are important, but, for me, balance is important in all aspects of life. This is why I have made a point of helping my son learn about life in a variety of ways, from how to pay bills each month (and how much it costs for groceries) to cooking, home repairs and all the little things he will need to know as he reaches adulthood.
This is where The Useful Book really struck home for me. My son is about to head off to college and I immediately saw this book as the “Missing Manual” to life on your own. I plan on making sure he has a copy in his boxes whenever he moves out and takes the first steps in his adult life and I would recommend you do the same. Everyone needs a great starter guide to life on their own, and The Useful Book is perfect for that. The Useful Book has “graduation gift” written all over it! (SMILE)
Do you have a Senior about to graduate High School, too? Sure, you can send them a nice, fat, check for a graduation present, but you might want to stash it inside a copy of this book.
The tips and hints in The Useful Book range from cooking, sewing, domestic arts, to repairs and simple building projects to the basics of plumbing and electricity — just about every aspect of adult life They are presented in clear and complete language and enhanced by tons of graphics throughout. The section on Laundry alone is enough to recommend the book. I am sure we all remember that first time of having to wash our own clothes and the sometimes disastrous results. Why not give you child a head start in that department and help prevent a batch of white clothes that suddenly turn blue or pink in the wash.
The book design is great for use as a research book when you REALLY need some information, but can also be scanned or read as its own personal Home Economics and Shop class — for those who never experienced it. I plan on keeping my own copy around the house, too. You never know when you might need a reminder of how to “Remove Gum From A Rug” or “How to Patch a Hole in a Wall.”
Click for larger images
Sure, the recipes and techniques in JOC aren’t exactly gourmet or cutting edge, but when I have needed a reminder of how to best cook polenta or make a basic cake from scratch, it was always where I turned first. Your kids aren’t going to want (or be too embarrassed) to call you when little problems pop up in their lives, so why not give them a useful and comfortable life reference they can use to solve their most basic problems.
Parenting is all about education and The Useful Book is an educational gift that keeps on giving, long after your children leave the nest and start building lives of their own. Like many parental lessons, your kids might find a gift of The Useful Book a bit embarrassing at first, but I can guarantee you they will refer to it again and again — and be extremely grateful for your gift — for a long time to come.
David Bowers is a woodworker, painter, author of Bake Like a Man: A Real Man’s Cookbook, and stay-at-home dad.
Sharon Bowers contributes to iVillage and Parents magazine, and is the author of Ghoulish Goodies, Candy Construction, and The Idiot’s Guide to Cooking Chicken.