Why Home Economics is More Relevant Than Ever

Why Home Economics is More Relevant Than Ever

February 15, 2017
By Sarah Kenny, Caroline Sykes, and Kelly Poole, CHS Senior School

As Home Economics teachers, we are often faced with many stereotypes that question the legitimacy of our subject. The all too common historic lens on our classrooms is outdated, however in 2017, our students are thriving in an enriching learning environment. They are offered the space to test recipes, patterns, techniques, and acquire skills that they typically no longer learn in the home. As our society shifts to dual working parents, there is less time for life skills to be passed down the generations.  It is important to teach future generations to consume consciously, prepare healthy food, and make sustainable life choices, all essential skills (Hira, 2013).

Although the home economics curriculum has changed since its early days of teaching housekeeping skills, the core philosophy continues to promote the health and wellness of individuals, families, and communities. The curriculum has evolved to satisfy a variety of essential outcomes; critical and creative thinking skills are the building blocks within these subjects (Smith, 1991). The classroom is a space where students explore essential life skills and negotiate problem-solving and time management on an ongoing basis.  

Home economics begins with the student and connects them in meaningful ways to other disciplines. Although there are fundamental skills that underlie a home economics program, it is a subject that is rich with choice for students. Placed in control of their learning, students own their work and put their best effort forward. Further, the practical, hands-on nature of the learning provides real-life connections to other subject disciplines thus enriching education across subjects. There are numerous examples of the cross-curricular applications of home economics. Mathematics is required for both measuring ingredients and manipulating patterns. Baking requires an understanding of science to appreciate how ingredients react. Cultures and history are reflected in food and fashion. When students are able to connect knowledge from different classes, they are able to enhance their learning.
The new BC curriculum has recently highlighted the importance of an applied skills based education and now requires that students take a full year of Applied Design, Skills & Technologies courses in both grades 8 and 9. This new category encompasses both Foods & Nutrition, and Textiles, which are both offered at Crofton House School. When asked why home economics education is valuable, a grade 8 student answered: “I believe that home economics is a course everybody should be required to take because we need to learn how to cook and sew to live independently. Furthermore, this course has tested our teamwork abilities through the numerous recipes in Foods, and our ability to help one another in Textiles. It has also deepened my appreciation for the complicated task of making clothes”. By giving them a taste of both subjects in their grades 8 and 9 years, students are then able to elect Foods & Nutrition and/ or Textiles for one semester in grades 9 and 10 and a full year in grades 11 and 12.

Home economics was introduced into secondary schools at the beginning of the 20th century with the purpose of improving the health and wellness of families and individuals (Peterat, 1995) and to educate students about economic, environmental, and ethical issues. Throughout its history, home economics has adapted to help students navigate and thrive in modern society. It is that adaptability that makes it a subject that is relevant today, and will continue to be a vital part of our student’s education in the future.
Hira, T. (2013). Home economics literacy: investing in our future. Journal of the Asian Regional Association for Home Economics, 20(3), 113-118.
Peterat, L. (1995). Family studies: Transforming curriculum, transforming families. In J.S. Gaskell & J. Willinsky (Eds.) Gender in/ forms curriculum: From enrichment to transformation (p. 174 - 190). Ontario: OISE Press.
Smith, G. (1991). Home economics as a practical art: preparing students for family in a global society. THESA Newsletter 32(1). 13-15.