Saturday, November 5, 2016

Emoji Pillows

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. 

Hm.

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!

74 comments:

  1. For me, it was only offered as a grade 9 elective, called ''family studies''. I didn't take it, but based on what I saw, they learned a bit of knitting, hand sewing, nutrition, how to bake a cake, and I don't know what else. I don't think it was considered a very useful course by the students--it wasn't focused or practical enough. The follow-up course, ''parenting'', looked great, though, like a rigorous and well-organized course.
    MayravB

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    1. MayravB: We never had "parenting" back in our day, either. If only it were offered now - never mind the teens who are prematurely becoming parents these days, I myself would've benefitted from it when I had my first child in my 30s. What they covered in the hopsital's Nursing 101 or Babycare 101 was woefully inadequate!

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  2. I was homeschooled, so there was never a formal home economics class; just life. I learned to sew, cook, do all household chores, knit, crochet, and care for babies (cousins and nephew and niece).
    What I find truly fascinating is that my grandmother studied home economics in college as her major. Wish that had been an option during my own college days!

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    1. Homec as a college major! I'd have loved to have taken that, too! Much more practical than quantum theory (which I hardly remember and certainly never use in every day situations), and far more enjoyable!

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  3. We had what they called "life skills" ("Kemahiran Hidup"). It was the first year of implementation back in the early 90s, so we had to learn wood work, electrics/electronics and plumbing with the boys!

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    1. Electrics and electronics and plumbing! Now that's practical and ultimately useful! Not just because they're above and beyond what we might learn from our parents naturally, but because they're marketable career skills. Wonderful!

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  4. Learned to sew clothing and cook various things is what I remember - older than you and in USA, not Asia. Your program sounds more intensive. I do remember reading a book about caring for convalescents at home, but that was from the library. Wish I could find it now - some of the stuff is dated, but it was all in one place, not scattered all over the Internet.

    FYI, the Make and Mend for Victory booklet can be downloaded from Archive.org at:
    https://archive.org/details/MakeMendForVictory

    Thanks for helping me find it - I love to through those "how to make do" books. Especially since I don't HAVE to make do, as you say.

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    1. Thank you for the link! SO excited to find out it's still available. And sewing and cooking are universal - I love learning that we're passing on similar skills to the younger generation regardless of culture or time periods.

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    2. Thought I'd add a little more after reading some of the other comments. Home Ec was Junior High = Middle School. The girls took Home Ec and the boys took Shop. In high school [9th grade] I started the Woodworking class. They had let girls in for a couple of years. All hand tools except the lathe. I was just starting woodturning when we moved and that was the end - next school didn't have room in Woodworking for another student.
      I actually learned most of my sewing, quilting, knitting, etc. and cooking from my mother. She had taken lots of classes in addition to her professionial engineering studies because she liked to be able to do things right. Fortunately for her 5 kids, she didn't demand perfectionism from us!.

      One thing I did learn in Home Ec was to pick clothes that make you look good, not just ones that might look impressive. It wasn't part of the curriculum! Our teacher made a plaid suit for herself that she was so proud of - the plaid was matched perfectly at the seams. But it was a very loud, very red plaid with the wrong drape for the pattern she picked. Even I could see that the effect was "here comes a red plaid suit! - and oh yes, Mrs. Blank is inside it"

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  5. My girl also loves to make emoji pillows. We have a couple of them around the house now.

    In 7th grade I took a kind of homec/shop combo class that was required for all students and then I took wood shop in 8th grade because I thought I knew everything they were teaching in the homec class. I could sew and cook basic things, but in wood shop we got to make bowls on the lathe. That was cool! I don't think they allow that anymore.

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    1. You're so lucky, Alison! My brother did wood shop and some acrylics, I think. Wish I'd had the chance to do both homec and wood shop (they called it Technical Studies) - we had to choose, and my Dad said, "take Homec. You can learn woodworking from me." It turned out I never did. I almost wish I'd done wood shop - I ended up learning to draft and sew from Mum in the end!

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  6. I didn't have home ec. By the late 1990's the school district I attended had ended both shop and home ec classes. My high school still had the rooms and equipment but no class. Computers and the Internet as we know it was in its infancy then and I think the money that had gone towards hands on learning was diverted to computer science. I learned all my "home making" skills at home.

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    1. Whitney: what a shame! Yes, I remember that era when computers were all the rage. I do think it was a pity that people thought one might be more important than the other rather than both being as important. But budgets are the reality, aren't they? I'm so glad you were able to learn the important stuff at home!

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  7. We learned to cook and sew. We made baked fish and I got choked on a bone. Thank goodness for wads of bread I was made to eat to push the bone down my throat. Lol. I loved Home Economic, especially the sewing.

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    1. Unrelated to the homec discussion, I just had to share: I can't count the number of times I had a fishbone stuck in my throat, too! We ate a lot of those tiny fried fish in Singapore - ikan taman, they were called, if i remember right (I don't know the English name). We had to use tweezers to extract the bone because bread and rice didn't help. Good memories, but only on hindsight! Am glad we both survived our ordeals!

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  8. I'm 63 now, homec in those days was taken by those who did not intend to go on to college. It consisted mostly of cooking and sewing. I was blessed to have a my stay at home, wonderful mom providing detailed instructions in all home care taking and cooking by letting me learn at her side. Skills for which I'm forever thankful.

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    1. Hurrah for your mom! I learned most of my cooking and sewing from my mother, too. Formal principles and fancy stuff from Homec, but the practical tips from home. Best combination! How different things were back then to have homec taken as an "alternate route" for the non-college-bound. So many of us now attend college, then stay home with kids and live Homec out in practical ways everyday! Whether it's a temporary or permanent arrangement, we still live periods in which the home is our workplace and thank goodness for domestic lifeskills then!

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  9. My home ec class included making an apron, learning to knit slippers, make a fruit salad, basic nutrition, baking blueberry muffins which actually turned blue, cooked stuffed manacotti for the class. In high school, they split home ec into sewing and cooking...regretfully looking back I didn't take sewing, I love it now and am greatful to you for teaching me what I possibly could have learned back then. I did sew pjs for myself which ended up fitting my mom lol. (Size 5 turned into size 18).

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    1. Institches 18: I'm glad to be of help! And - funny: yours is the only comment so far about aprons. When i was in Homec, we were all given an apron and bonnet as our kitchen uniform and our first sewing project was to personalize the apron in whatever way we liked. And hurrah for repurposing a project for another family member! Nothing wasted, and everything gained.

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  10. That is fascinating. I had what was called EMT, Education Manuelle et Technique (manual and tachnical education... in French), in France. I loved the fact that it was boys and girls together, so we learned both woodworking and sewing: we made a wood and tile trivet that my mum still uses (I was in 6th grade in 1985), learned embroidery stitches, hems, buttons, sewed a boxer short or a skirt, and also basic cooking skills. It was one of my favorite subjects. Apparently they changed it and it's a lot less now.

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    1. Cecile: I love that your mum still uses your trivet! It must bring back so many memories everytime you see it in her kitchen. How wonderful that boys and girls both did woodworking and sewing. In Singapore where I did Homec, the girls could pick to do Homec or Technical studies (woodwork, acrylic and something else I can't remember) but the boys could only do Technical.

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  11. I finde your experiences very interesting. I live in Switzerland and we have a very different approach.
    From 2.grade on we first learn to hand stitch, crochet, knit, weave and the like, in about the 4.grade we learn to machine-sew, usually first something like a pillow, later on maybe some sort of easy pants. Only in 8. grade we have "Hauswirtschaft" = "Housekeeping", where we learn how to cook, do the dishes, about nutrition, laundry and cleaning. Its all very simple and not quiet thorough, I don't think, anybody could run a household only from the things they learned in school.
    I learned most of the skills I need as a mom of 7 from my own mother, and I think my kids know more then the average Swiss teenager, because they help me.

    I'm sorry for the mistakes I made, I don't wright much in english.

    Thank you so much for your blog, I love to read from your family and all your creative doings.

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    1. Regula: thank you for commenting and sharing your experiences in homemaking and school! I always love reading what international friends have to say about growing up in a culture different from mine. And no need to apologize - your English is excellent!

      We learned some sewing in elementary school, too, although it was more craft-like than fashion/garment-like. We did cross-stitch and hand-embroidery, and even macrame. But it was only in middle school that we began to draft and sew garments. And we never did crochet or knitting, to my disappointment. I would've loved that! I suppose Singapore, being tropical, had no use for knitted garments. What a shame, if that were the reasoning - I mean, I'd have enjoyed crocheting facecloths and other useful household items!

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  12. I was in middle school in the early 80s, and the classes were separated. I didn't take cooking, but I did take a stitcher class that included cross stitch, needlepoint, quilting, crochet, and knitting. I took an additional course in sewing that included sewing pillows, including appliqué, as well as garment construction from a commercial pattern. In high school, cooking was offered, and a class called marriage, sex, and family. I didn't take either. I did get my own sewing machine when I was 16 and began my slow adventure to becoming more proficient (self-taught) in sewing.

    Your mention of learning to care for convalescing patients hits home. My mom recently died, after needing 24-hour care for several months. Some care was provided through insurance, but we had to provide the rest. It seems that skill is still much needed, because most people will not be able to afford to hire all the care that is needed. And it is magic when you learn to change a bed with a person who can barely move still in it.

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    1. Curator: I'm sorry to hear about your mom. Those (caring for convalescents) are some of the skills we wish we never have to use, like the Heimlich maneuver and CPR. But so useful when we actually find ourselves faced with the need.

      Re: sewing machine. I often think (and haven't yet seen evidence to the contrary) that many of us really take off sewing when we get our own machine. We might learn on someone else's - often our parents' - but it's only when we have our own, in our own house 24/7 so we can really take the time to get used to it, that we really let ourselves fiddle and play. And that's when the learning begins - self-taught often results in the most-well-remembered lessons!

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    2. Thank you, LiEr. I think the process of learning the caring skills would possibly prepare us better when we have the difficult task to face.

      I wanted to add that I applied to fashion design school, but got too scared to attend (I lived in a small town and wasn't ready for a big city - I would have gone to Los Angeles). I ended up with a math and computer science degree. There is a community college near me now that offers a fashion design program. I keep checking class times trying to convince myself that I can handle the classes, mom duties, and my part-time job. But then I think I'm too old to go back to school.

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    3. Curator: No, never too old to go back to school! And in some ways, mature(r) folks make better students because their minds are better able to multitask and multi-learn and multi-everything. At least that's what I found when I returned to grad school a decade after college. A fresh brain, was how it felt. I hope you find the perfect timing to do the fashion design course eventually. What a wonderful opportunity!

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  13. No such thing as HomeEc when I got to HS in the late 80s. They don't have it now in our schools either as far as I know. I think some basic life skills as people are describing would be useful for kids to learn, though I wonder about the ability to make it a full course that is meaningful.

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    1. Lori: yes, and "meaningful" varies from country to country and generation to generation. What's useful for my kids now might have been frivolous back when I was growing up. And what was essential to us back in the day is now probably done by some machine now! Like scrubbing a shirt clean on a washboard.

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  14. I was homeschooled as well, but with a mom who was clinically depressed and with a baby brother eleven years younger than me. I learned how to make menus and go shopping, how to convince a one-year-old to take a nap, how to clean the house - basically, how to do all the things my mom couldn't do during that time. The circumstances were less than ideal (and yes, my therapist agrees), but when I see so many of my friends who are floundering with budgeting and food preparation, I'm really glad that I was able to internalize those skills when I was young. They've served me really well!

    Some of the more aesthetic stuff my mom couldn't teach me - sewing, knitting, piano - not because she didn't know how, but because she was such a perfectionist that it pained her to leave my sloppy work alone. I started a few projects, but she inevitably finished them, and in the past ten or fifteen years I've re-taught myself how to knit and how to sew. I've also noticed how these crafts in particular have become, in America anyways, the domain of middle-class women who can afford to buy high-quality yarn and designer fabrics - no one is knitting socks because they have no other way to keep their feet warm. Which makes the nostalgia for these crafts a little...precious. Yes, you are engaging in the same activities as your great-grandma, but your children aren't depending on your industriousness to make it through the winter with all their toes. I'm not complaining - I'm a big fan of cashmere fingerless gloves, myself - just observing the occasional disconnect.

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    1. Heidi: How wonderful that you can look back on a challenging situation and bless the skills that came out of it. Brava! And yes - brilliant observation on the modern sewing movement. It's gorgeous, it's expensive, it's less about necessity and thriftiness than about self-expression. I'm inspired by it to be creative, but I'm moved by the stories of seamstresses who repurpose and upcycle and recreate something old into something new. There is immeasurable beauty and value in an act like that.

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  15. I attended school in Ontario, Canada (from grade 6 to high school). Home-ec (or its equivalent) was never available. This may have only been in my particular high school. I can't speak for other Ontario schools (although obviously it wasn't part of the provincial curriculum, at that time).

    Curious, was your home-ec class just for girls, or were boys expected to take it as well?

    While home-ec may be significantly less today than what you experienced, at least the kids have YouTube!

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    1. My middle school was a girls' school and only Homec was offered, and only girls took it. The next-door school was co-ed and offered both Homec and Technical Studies (woodworking, acrylic projects and some other material - metal, maybe). The girls of that school could choose either, but the boys could only do Technical, if I remember right. At least in my day; in later years I'd hoped they'd revised it to allow boys to choose, too.

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  16. In the 1970's it was called Home Ec and only available in Junior High. In ninth grade it concentrated mostly on sewing your own wardrobe with a fashion show at the end and second semester was cooking a full meal and table set up. I took an elective in High School called Interior Design, much to the dismay of my advisors, but all that I learned has been useful to this day! How to arrange a room, how to make draperies and the different types, but most important, how to refinish furniture! In all of these classes learning to work within a budget was emphasized. Wish these classes were available now. I own a school of art and am now teaching students these skills, ranging in age from 9-87.

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    1. How wonderful that you're drawing on those skills in your work! I'd have loved Interior Design now that I have a home of my home and am utterly useless in beautifying it. I make curtains and drapes and so on, but to keep out the light more than to achieve a Better Homes and Gardens look (if only). I know of at least one daughter and one neighbor kid who'd love to have had a homec class like yours - what an incentive to have a fashion show at the end of the module! When I made a skirt in Homec, we were required to model it and given two grades - one for workmanship (I aced that) and one for fit (which I failed dismally because my skirt wouldn't even stay up with the zipper closed). I'm thankful we didn't have a fashion show - I'd have had nothing to wear in mine!

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  17. Homec in a small town in Oregon in the 60s...we made an apron, learned to sew buttons, how to use an iron and baked several simple foods. I loved it. Boys were not allowed to take homec, they had to take 'shop'. Ahhh...it was so simple then.

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    1. Sally King: yes, how odd for us now to remember the gender roles of ye olde days. I just replied to an earlier comment about aprons - I didn't make one in Homec but we were given one as part of our kitchen uniform and our first sewing task was to personalize ours with embroidery. Shoulda also learned to make the apron because - look - it's all the rage on sewing blogs now!

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  18. In my part of the world, many years ago, girls took Home Ec in junior high school (7th, 8th, and 9th grades). The boys took "shop". We learned to do basic cooking, hand sewing skills, and sewed clothing for ourselves. As an adult, I used these skills to make clothing for myself and my children, and eventually became a quilter. I'm now retired, and sew nearly every day, and am always grateful to Mrs. Bradley who taught me how to use a sewing machine so long ago.

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    1. quilt for fun: Yes! I, too, am grateful for all the people who taught me to sew - anyone from family members to Homec teachers to textbook authors to bloggers. I aim to be one of those teachers for my own kids, too, and am excited to see who else they will learn from over the years!

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  19. In the UK in the mid 70's there was sewing and Home Economics. I learned to cook puff pastry (and presumably other things) I remember beef cobbler, but not much else. Loved sewing (still do). We had to make a horrible crimplene (did you have that? 100% polyester fabric) A line skirt. Mine was in lime green, I assume it was cheap! I finished it really quickly so was allowed to make a very complicated stuffed toy dog with some very cheap fur fabric which I loved and came out really well. Sums up my attitude to home ec, hate cooking, love sewing.

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    1. Mo's Stash: So much fun to read your sewing and cooking adventures! We did puff pastry, short crust, and I can't remember what else. Fruit pies were not a big thing in Singapore, unless they were meat pies - very British! But pastries and quiches and tarts and flans - those were fun to make. Till this day I love baking but am ho-hum (at best) about cooking. I never made a crimplene garment - our Aline skirt was in tetron cotton. I hardly see that fabric these days. Your complicated toy dog sounds wonderful - a fun challenge during the process and a brag-worthy accomplishment when done!

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  20. In Maryland in the later '80s, 7th and 8th grade had a rotation of Art, Shop, and Home Ec, with 12 weeks of each. Home Ec included a tiny bit of interior design, cooking a few meals and sewing one project each year. Our pillows were vaguely animal-shaped and did include faces. I used my duffel bag for years. I liked my teacher, but felt rather snobbish about the curriculum--my mom taught me better than that. I was lucky.

    My oldest son took a semester of Food Science in 9th grade, and learned some really good things. I've encouraged cooking, of course, and he's done a little sewing, too. He told me about a conversation he had with a fellow Boy Scout and a couple of girls. The girls said they didn't know how to cook or sew, but the boys did.

    Now he cooks for his roommates once a week or so. And when you have to do it, out on your own, that's when you really learn.

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    1. T: Hurrah for your son! Some of my lady friends who've married men whose mothers trained them in the "kitchen arts" as boy are singing their praises for the MOTHERS (not so much the husbands) for having had the foresight to do so!

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  21. In middle school (very early 90's) I took a cooking class in both 6th and 8th grades. All 6th graders took 10 weeks of cooking. I chose to take it as one of my electives in 8th grade. I also took a class called Skills for Living in 8th grade, in which we covered topics like meal planning, budgeting, child care, and sewing. For the sewing unit, we made stuffed animals from kits and the finished products were donated to the local hospital the give to children in the ER. I made an adorable puppy and was not happy to have to give it up! In 8th grade, I actually had the two classes back to back. I loved the teacher, Mrs. Green, and having her for the middle third of my day was a lot of fun!

    I know my high school offered cooking classes, but I never took any of them.

    I am a high school teacher now (math), and our Family and Consumer Scuence department offers Foods and Nutrition, Human Relations, Independent Living, Parenting, and Life Management classes, as well as the possibility of an Independent Study if you want to get more in depth on a particular topic than the general classes allow. I can't say as I remember seeing any independent studies in FACS come up in the last few years, however.

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    1. Jenny: I LOVE that your class gave back to the community! But oh, I can just imagine how hard it was to let the puppy go. Even now, my kids, initially excited about a project to donate stuff, become inexplicably sentimental and possessive when the time actually comes to do the donating. Especially if it involves something they love themselves.

      And 10 weeks of cooking sounds wonderful! My 6th grader gets something like 3 lessons. But she's excited about all of them, which makes me happy.

      Human Relations sounds fascinating! Is it like conflict management and communication? If so, that's such a valuable lifeskill. EVERYONE should learn it, and not just in Homec.

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    2. The course description for the Human Relations class is this:

      Human Relations will explore the topics of self-potential, communication, diversity, tolerance, family dynamics, dating, love, marriage, divorce and much more. The result of this class will be learning skills necessary to build successful and effective relationships with friends, co-workers, significant others, and family members.

      My 6th grader doesn't get any cooking lessons at school. He chose band over Life Managment/Exploring Theater, so he'll just have to learn about cooking and other such skills from me (and/or Boy Scouts- he'll learn a lot of useful skills there too!)

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  22. HomeEc was offered in junior high (US, late 90s), but my mom talked me out of it. She explained that she had already taught me everything they would cover so I would be bored. She was right; the curriculum was very basic. And I agree with the comment above about not really getting into sewing until getting your own machine. It wasn't until I got mine that I really got into it beyond knowing the basics.

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    1. Mindy: Good call, Mom! There will always be the student for whom the material in a class is too basic, and with most subjects, the teachers might find a way to challenge them with supplementary stuff. But with Homec it's hard. Short of having you sew a bridal gown, for instance, while everyone's still learning to sew on a button (I exaggerate, but you get the idea), it's hard to branch out in multiple directions from the principles without losing everyone in the process. At the end of the day, it almost doesn't matter where we learn something - school, home, books, blogs - as long as we can use it in some practical way later. It sounds like you have!

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  23. I took home ec in 7th or 8th grade. I remember learning some cooking (in particular, a pineapple upside-down cake that didn't cook because someone put in waaaay too much brown sugar), and sewing a simple tied quilt and a couple of stuffed animals. My baby sister had just been born, so I chose to make things for her.

    I also spent my junior year in Denmark as an exchange student, and I took sewing as an elective. I made a blouse with those European patterns (you trace the pattern pieces from a bewildering piece of paper where everything is printed on top of other pieces, and you add the seam allowances) and a pillow with paper-pieced hexies, but I'm not sure what else. One girl in the class just knitted herself a sweater the whole time--everybody I knew had learned to knit as small children. It was a really nice sweater, very fashionable.

    A friend of mine is a home ec teacher at a high school. They do a lot of job interview/work skills stuff, money management, meal planning, all sorts of things. The baby/child care class is a different one, and so is the fashion design.

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    1. Jean: I love that you made things for your baby sister! And I'm so jealous that you - and all the other kids in your world - learned to knit at such a young age.

      Money management and meal planning is SOOOOOO important in running a household. Kudos to your friend/her school district for including that in their curriculum. I wonder if we ever had that in our time - I didn't do Homec beyond 8th grade, so perhaps they did and i just never knew.

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    2. Sorry, I wasn't clear! Danish people all learned to knit. I can't knit at all--they tried to teach me but I was pretty terrible. My baby sister, now adult, is big into spinning and knitting both.

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  24. (I forgot to say: I took home ec in the mid-80s, and it was co-ed. Also, I love that Make Do and Mend booklet, and once did make my baby niece a dress out of an old linen blouse of mine, to see if I could. It came out great!)

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  25. Growing up in India which is even more conservative than Singapore we had no home ec. The focus was all on Math and Science and good cursive handwriting! I guess the school administration assumed that we would pick up these skills at home, as all our moms were stay at home and had mad sewing skills and put out hot delicious meals in a jiffy. The overdose of Math and science ensured that we all got science/engineering/teaching degrees but sadly none of us have our mothers' expertise in sewing and cooking....

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    1. Shireen: I never knew that Homec wasn't offered in the schools in India! Isn't it sad, what the schools omit because it's assumed the home would supplement those lessons, and vice versa? It sometimes ends up with neither :(

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  26. This was still called Home Ec in my high school days, and yes - girls only. Boys got wood, metal and auto shop classes :-( Home Ec was cooking and sewing, I don't recall much about home health care.

    Personally I think every school should have a required class (classes?) called Home Survival Skills covering basic mending like sewing buttons or mending a seam when the crappy RTW stitching lets go, basic cooking skills, home care like fixing the leaky toilet or how to hang a picture or shelf, basic car maintenance, and basic finances (maybe that one should be a class of its own). Maybe I'll never need to fix a leaky toilet myself, but I'd sure like to know if the person I hire to fix it is charging appropriately or if they are thinking "what does SHE know about plumbing" add some $$ to thr bill.

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    1. JustGail: Leaky toilet- YES. YES. Also lightbulb replacement, and circuit breaker identification, and smoke detector battery changing. It's astonishing how many of these "little" things can overwhelm homeowners, especially brand new ones.

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  27. I went to small Christian schools and never had Homec. The closet we had was one winter when I was in Elementary when Seattle got an unexpected amount of snow and we couldn't go outside for PE. Us girls were taught how to crochet Granny Square pillows. My Mother had taught me to crochet when I was 5, but I never did anything with it until I experienced it again as an 8 year old in school. After graduating High-school I crocheted often and made lots of scarves and after college, blankets for expecting friends. That set the foundation for me to learn to knit which I can't imagine not doing all the time. Now I'm learning about canning and freezing foods from my MIL who grew up on a farm.

    As a child I didn't learn as much as I should have about keeping house and after moving out on my own I certainly wish I had. Now as a stay-at-home mother of 3 I've certainly had to learn things on my own. Though I'm grateful for several crash courses from various friends and mentors. I'm eager to share all this knowledge with my kids while they grow up so that they can benefit from the knowledge sooner than I did. Learning it once you're already out is harder. And if I can make it fun and enjoyable now it should feel like they're helping me and doing their part for the family instead of being forced to do chores.

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    1. Celestial: I agree - learn it young, so we can practice it for longer. Learning it once we're out in the world is harder, as you said, because it's just one more thing to tackle along with rent and mortgage and other "grown-up" responsibilities. And how much more confidence our kids will have with all these skills!

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  28. Interesting to read about other people's experiences with Home Ec type courses, because Home Ec wasn't offered at all where I went to school (California, late 90s/early 2000s.) In high school we could take auto shop or wood shop or culinary arts as electives, but there was nothing sewing related, or general life-skills related. I learned to sew because my best friend and I took private lessons.

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    1. teapotrabbit: Hurrah! Learning alongside someone is the best! Half the scariness and double the support.

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  29. When I was in junior high (around '85-'87) we had a half year of cooking and then a half year of drafting/printing in 7th grade, then a half year each of sewing and wood shop in 8th grade. This was only two class periods out of a six-day rotation, so there was nothing super involved. In cooking we made cookies and quick breads mainly and learned how to wash dishes. I remember almost nothing of drafting, but we got to make personalized pads of paper and whatnot in printing, which was fun. In sewing we made stuffed animals and whatnot from cut-and-sew panels -- there was a Care Bear and some other stuff like that. I hated woodworking - the class was crowded and noisy and chaotic and I had no idea what I was doing. There were some home economic type classes available in high school - cooking, child development (they ran a daycare one day a week) as well as a lot of types of shop classes, but I was discouraged from taking anything like that since I was in college track classes, so I ended up using my electives on French and Latin mostly. (One year I snuck in a drawing class without being talked out of it - it was my favorite class - but mostly I was discouraged from taking non-academic classes.)

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    1. Daisy: I would've LOVED to make personalized pads of paper. You're so lucky! And washing dishes is such an overlooked skill. I'm constantly astonished (although I shouldn't be) by the kids asking me how to do something I'd always thought was a common-sense thing. Like washing their water bottles, or wiping the table properly. I need to remember that kids are true beginners in everything (and therefore so wonderfully teachable)!

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  30. At my all girls secondary school in the 70s in England we had Domestic Science. It was compulsory for all for 2 years and then you had to choose between Art and Domestic Science. I can't draw to save my life so there was no choice for me. The needlework element of it consisted only of making a tabbard apron which we then had to wear for the practical cookery lessons. My mum did most of mine because she thought it was ridiculous to only sew the back seam and shoulders - the whole process was obviously meant to have been spun out to last several weeks - so I got into trouble at school when I turned up the next week with a completed apron. There was talk of me having to make another one but I don't think that ever happened. The cooking on the other hand was a very serious business and over 5 years we worked though all the basic methods and consequently I can cook anything. Knitting I learned at home, my grandmother taught me when I was 6 and I have never stopped. Sewing skills were acquired while sitting patiently beside my mother if she was sewing for me, you had to be ready at a moment's notice to try on, and I still find myself occasionally wondering when I learnt how to do something that I just found myself doing. Some of the modern stuff is all well and good but we still need to be teaching children to be able to care for themselves. I cannot understand why it is so fashionable to be proud of not being able to cook! I did some woodwork in Adult Ed a few years ago and loved it and I would love to have some basic plumbing skills. Thank goodness for YouTube!

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    1. Pamela: yes, thank goodness for YouTube. I learned to unclog my dishwasher from a Youtube video just recently. And a similar thing happened to me with my apron as to you! I was in Primary 3? 5? Can't remember and we had to embroider stuff on an apron (any style) and someone at home had to sew the actual apron when the embellishment was done. Like yours, my project was meant to stretch over several weeks in school, but I finished my embroidery at home within days and granny sewed the apron and I proudly handed it in, only to be told I had to make something else to fill the time (an embroidered tea towel, I think). The teacher specifically told me to "sew very slowly". It was a practical solution but I remember feeling like I'd done something dishonest and felt very ashamed! It's funny looking back at it now!

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  31. Like several other commenters, I had Home Economics in the late 1950s. It included cooking and sewing (first clothing, I made a blouse) and cooking, then millinery (after I made the required hats I got to crochet a toy teddy bear). I wanted to keep the pattern but lost it, and the bear disappeared from my locker! In high school I had a class that included wood working and basic mechanical drawing for science majors. The drawing skills helped with reading the blueprints for the house we bought. One interesting aspect to the sewing class was using a machine with the controller on the floor which was much better than the knee control on my mother's machine. When my son was a teen his school included a sequence of basic sewing, cooking, shop and something else (art??). On the other hand my daughters had the option of taking shop or home ec, so they took shop. By then they had been sewing for years (had their own machines) and cooking at home. IN the 1950s Girl Scouts included basic sewing in the badge options, but my daughters were among the last to earn the badge.

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    1. Anonymous: I've always wanted to try one of those knee-controlled sewing machines! Mechanical drawing sounds like the shop equivalent of drafting patterns - skills that at the time seem very adult and unstimulating (drafting was for me, anyway) but which come in unexpectedly useful later in life.

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  32. I loved reading this, and all these comments.

    My high school didn't offer home ec. I asked about it when we were deciding on schools I'd go to, because I wanted to do something with sewing. They said they didn't do it because their aim was to train 'business women' and didn't want to distract from academics. I guess business women don't need to know how to cook or sew on buttons or choose mobile phone or insurance plans (which my friend did a whole course on in her home ec class). They did offer a textile arts portion of the arts course and the teacher said that we could adapt it together to be more textile and less abstract artsy, but then she became ill and retired early and they stopped running that. So I just had to pick it all up myself and didn't really sew until my late 20s. I still think about it, and regret it.

    One of the schools we looked at had home ec but it was very very traditional - cook a five course meal, sew a pillowcase - all stuff I already knew how to do or couldn't see myself needing. And it wasn't enough to choose a school over. The one I ended up at really was an excellent school and I learnt a lot but I would have dropped one of my history classes or similar in a heatbeat to be able to do home ec.

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    1. Kaviare: Choosing a mobile phone and insurance plan are something I hadn't heard of yet as a Home Ec. inclusion but they would be so useful! I mean, if Homec is supposed to be about equipping kids to be independent and take care of themselves, debt-avoidance via mobile phone overuse is right up there in the list of lifeskills. Seriously.

      And the school that saw Homec as mutually exclusive from business probably never foresaw the modern sewing movement, which has given so many stay-home mothers the opportunity to be businesswomen while caring for their young children. If that's not entrepreneurial and/or multitasking genius, I don't know what is.

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  33. It's so interesting, to read about all different expiriences.
    I'm from Russia. I was in secondary school in 80's and we had something like HomeEc for girls and Shop for boys. During 4 years we learned a little cooking (starting with sandwiches, then salads, fried potato, some baking that we loved most of all), sewing (apron, nightdress, skirt and actual dress), some embroidery and, strangely, some electric stuff like how to change broken electric plug etc.
    I learned all kinds of needlecrafts by myself or going to classes in local... children club, i think, it can be called.
    Later in 2000s I worked at school and find out they didn't teach much cookiing now, but concentrate more on selfcare and style and even cosmetics, what suits you, what's not. It looks good but I still thing that our cooking classes were most fun. I remember we cooked together and some things we just brought from home and we will set up table and at the end of the class we would call boys and eat all together.
    Irine

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    1. Oh, Irine, your cooking classes sound like so much fun! And isn't it funny how, all over the world, boys and girls seemed to have been segregated in the "old days"? It isn't that way now, and that in itself is a sign of the changing times - men helping out more with home tasks, and women leaving home to join the workforce.
      I remember making sandwiches in Homec too! Cucumber and sardine! It was all about presentation, like a high-tea setting. Funny.

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  34. Home economics at my catholic girls' school started in grade 3, with a sampler of embroidery stitches: cross, satin, back, daisy, outline. In 5th we did crochet but not knitting. By 6th we had lessons on old-fashioned manual treadle sewing machines that only did one stitch but built like tanks. In high school it was divided into quarters -- we had health, consumer math, Foods, sewing, typing (later replaced by computer.)
    I didn't realize how much these skills would come back to me, and sometimes i imagine that i would like to teach it -- i've only ever taught college and adults, but there has been many times that i think practical stuff gets short shrift in younger people. Maybe someday.

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    1. Reeni: that's so true! The skills I learned in Homec were some of the most practical. Even the floral arrangement - I was and still am very, very bad at it, but it gave me a starting point for making hand bouquets for gifts at a fraction of what it would cost at a florist. Same with sewing and baking. But the ones that really stuck were the foundational conceptual things e.g. the proportion of fat to flour in the different kinds of pastry (short crust, puff etc). We weren't just taught recipes; we were taught methods and techniques and concepts. It makes deciphering, remembering and creating recipes now so much easier!

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  35. Oh my, it has been so much fun to read everyone's comments!! I had Home Ec in 7th and 8th grades, late 60s. We did cooking one semester and sewing the next, both years. I was able to take shop (woodworking) in summer school after 8th grade, which I loved.
    I remember the pink cotton A line skirt and unlined long vest I made and wore for the end of school performance. This was before polyester fabric came in. My mom was so tickled with fabric that didn't have to be ironed!
    I learned how to embroider, knit and crochet at church, in our Primary classes. At age 9 we were separated into boys and girls classes, and the boys did scout-like stuff, while we girls learned handwork. We embroidered a cross stitch sampler the first year. Then learned how to knit a potholder the second year, and crocheted a small coin purse the third year.
    I recycled dresses and shirts into toddler clothes when my husband was in the service and we had no money. I made two bridesmaid dresses once that turned out lovely. Nowadays, I prefer simple quilts that I imagine up myself. Scrappy string 4" squares are my favorites to work with.

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    1. Welcome to the Homec Party, Ruth! How awesome that you learned all those handicraft skills at church!

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