|Emoji pillows made by (L to R): Kate, Emily and Jenna|
Emily, my oldest child, is now in middle school.
Let's not talk about Where did the years go and What happened to diapers Remember those Cheerios in pincer grips and what-have-you.
Let's instead talk about Homec.
Did you know Homec is now extinct? I didn't. But it is. Or at least it's unfashionable to call it that now. Instead, it is now called FACS: Family And Consumer Science.
When I was in Homec, we learned about nutrition, table settings, how to cook, garnish and serve a full-course meal, the different kinds of spices and shellfish and cuts of meat, the standard proportions of fat-to-flour in the various pastry doughs, how to iron/press, how to care for a convalescing patient, basic floral arrangement, appropriate fashion options for the various body types, drafting garment patterns (which sent most of us into a coma, myself included), hand-smocking, zipper installation and machine-sewing a complete outfit.
In Emily's FACS class, she learns to sort laundry and all about kitchen safety, and they bake cookies, sew on a button and make a felt pillow using the running stitch.
Emily's FACS curriculum was such an eye-opener. I've often thought that more than any subject in school, Homec/FACS is a reflection of the needs of the times, is it not? Decades may separate Emily (and my other children) and me, but the goal of Homec/FACS is still the same: to equip a child to be independent and capable when they have a home of their own. For some of those children, that state of independence occurs when they leave home for college at 18; others fall into it when they start their own families at 25 or 30. For yet others who, like many single people in Asia, live with their parents well into adulthood, it's a seamless and somewhat bittersweet transition they make from dependent to caregiver.
I look back at all the things I learned in Homec as a 13/14 year old and marvel that, more than learning to be self-sufficient, we were also taught to care for others. The Asian society is a collectivist one in which the individual makes no sense defined apart from its social groups - family, neighborhood, class at school, religious organization. One of my favorite sections of my Homec textbook was about changing the sheets of a bedridden patient. Bordering suspiciously on Nursing 101, it detailed how to roll a patient from one side of the bed to the other in order to replace the bedlinen underneath with minimal disturbance. I was fascinated to no end because it was like a magic trick. A section like that would have no place today in a typical middle school curriculum but back then, our Homec syllabus was developed by colonial post-war educational bigwigs and we were all the benefactors of their particular view on caring for the larger community.
This brought to mind something I'd seen in the local history museum a couple years back. This was a war exhibit the kids liked because they could work against a time clock to build ammunition shells. Part of it was a display on how women (military wives, in particular) repurposed old clothes into new ones. I loved the diagrams showing how to specifically cut each old garment to extract the fabric to turn into particular new garments.
Sewing, I reflected, was not always a "fun hobby". Once upon a time, it was an essential lifeskill, a trade, a livelihood. Because of its potential to feed mouths, clothe loved ones and buy important things like medicine and lodging, it was a serious deal then. And it was taught accordingly.
How the times have changed! In many ways, I am sad that many of the rich layers of this skill have been lost over the decades of prosperity and modernization. But in other ways I am unspeakably grateful that our lives are so much safer and stabler now that we no longer need to sew for the reasons our mothers and aunts and grandmothers and great-grandmothers did. Now we have the luxury to craft sew and dabble and make felt food and join sewalongs to test out the latest designer cottons.
And I love that Homec (or FACS) is now about sewing stuff like this:
Again, a sign of the times. In my day, we did not put faces on pillows. Or at the ends of sentences. Or stick our tongues out. Ever.
These two larger pillows were actually made by Kate (above) and Jenna (below). After seeing Emily's FACS project, they wanted to make their own. I was in the throes of costume-making but I thought, "Well, what the hey. If I want the girls to eventually make their own wedding gowns, they'll have to start somewhere."
All the accent details were running-stitched on, applique-style. Then we machine-stitched the pillow pieces together and stuffed it and the girls learned to ladder-stitch the opening shut.
Over to you now: what did you learn in (or remember from) Homec? What was it called in your world and your time? Share in the comments so we can all read and reminisce!