Thursday, August 21, 2008

Home Economics?

My son starts 8th grade next week, and recently got his schedule for the year. Looking over it and recalling my own days of middle school education, I couldn't help but wonder: whatever happened to home economics classes?

Back in the late 70's when I was in middle school, during at least one of the grades (6th, 7th or 8th), we took a rotational sequence of classes that included wood shop, metal shop, sewing and home economics. The idea was in each of these classes for ten weeks or so that we'd pick up some skills we might not currently possess, learn about the tools used in each area, and work on projects.

In wood shop, I recall making a lamp that resembled an old water pump in shape (had that lamp in my bedroom until I was in college). Sometimes folks would make wooden paddles with a name or phrase on them (my brother had one of those he made - it stung like you wouldn't believe if you got smacked in the behind with it). In metal shop, we typically did decorative trays or the like. In sewing, I made a three foot tall stuffed tyrannosaurus rex (What? It was a pretty complicated pattern with a number of integrated parts. What else were guys supposed to make in sewing?).

Now, I'm sure I don't recall today much from most of those three classes (I can probably still make something reasonable out of wood, and I can thread a needle for a quick few stiches on something), but the skills I picked up in home economics are still useful today. There we learned how to cook various things and how to use kitchen appliances and such. We learned about kitchen safety and nutritional facts about various foods. These cooking skills are important to have. We did group and individual projects, following recipes and planning out meals. And we got to share our results with the class - so everyone got to taste what was prepared by everyone else.

I would hope some schools are still teaching these kinds of skills today around this grade level. I can only vouch for the local schools in the county of NC that I live in now though, and they don't appear to be doing that. Not sure why this is the case. Maybe they're assuming that kids are learning these skills at home, from their parents. I know we try to involve our son in the cooking process whenever we can pry him away from his computer and video games.

Kids today certainly need to understand these skills. From what I read and hear in the media, the obesity rates in both adults and children in this country are rising at an alarming rate. People find it easier and convenient to eat out, especially with fast food, or to heat some kind of frozen, prepared food - which, if you've read the labels, often have high sodium content and other things that are not good for a healthy diet. If the kids today can learn to prepare foods from fresh ingredients, they'll be doing themselves and their future children a great service.


Jim McClain said...

We have it, Martin. It's called FACS: Family and Consumer Sciences. It's not a whole year course, though.

Anonymous said...

We have these classes in our middle school. The kids take art, technology (an updated version of metal & wood shop), health, music, computer, art and home ec (which is cooking/sewing). They rotate them throughout 5-8 grade. I'm surprised your schools don't have these classes!

Martin Maenza said...

Jim, glad to hear the school system you teach in has something like this.

Martin Maenza said...

Darcy, good to hear. It sounds like the home ec might be on the same level as that you and I had back in the middle school.

We switched counties in NC during 5th grade (two months in) but I am certain our current schools did not teach anything like home ec. They have rotations with computers, health, careers and PE for all students. My son is in Band so he does not get the second rotation. That has art, drama, chorus and creative movement (dance).

We just must be a funky school system not to have home ec.

Jim McClain said...

Check out this document:

There's a seminar about the course taking place in your town.

KC Ryan said...

Our Home Economics classes were just the baking-balancing the chekbook stuff. We had wood Shop classes and Metal Shop classes and Auto Shop classes - maybe one or two more. You had to sign up for at least one of these for one entire year. You could take Wood Shop the first and second semesters, for example.
Nowadays, around here, I don't know that such classes are available. I assume they are, but no school has the huge Auto Shop and Wood Shop rooms like we had in upstate NY.