STUDENT ARTICLE: Time to offer more Home Economics learning opportunities
It’s an interesting situation when students have memorized that a mitochondrion is the powerhouse of a cell and y=mx+b, yet most of those same students are unable to plan a budget or cook more than a basic meal.
Huntsville High School (HHS) English department head Jennifer Rosewarne says, “I absolutely feel like we are not preparing kids to go out in the world, and less so as the years go on.”
In the late ’90s to the early 2000s, when the Ontario education system canceled Home Economics (commonly known as Home Ec), the once-popular, all-inclusive class has since been divided into separate courses of their own.
Regarding adjustments to the Home Ec course to prepare students for our ever-changing society, Huntsville High-school guidance counselor Allison Myers says, “I would be supportive and would hope there would be an interest.”
Several local students say they are interested in Home Ec. However, time-tables are crammed with courses deemed “necessary” – and Home Ec options being four distinct courses – it is difficult for a student to take the course even if it can provide a basic understanding of life skills.
Another HHS guidance counselor, Nico Byl, says students occasionally return to school for an extra year to take courses they are interested in but didn’t have time to do before.
“There are different reasons that students will come back for a Victory lap,” says Byl.
Emma MacKinnon, a graduating student from HHS, believes victory laps can be helpful for those wanting more time to take courses they are interested in.
“I think taking a victory lap all comes down to personal preference and if you feel ready or are prepared for life after high school,” says MacKinnon. “At the end of the four years, I didn’t feel that there were any classes that I wanted to take that I wasn’t able to and I was excited to move on to university.”
HHS offers classes such as cooking, basic financing in grade eleven and twelve essential maths, a sewing course that runs every two years (with enough students registered), as well as auto mechanics class.
When students were asked what they would have in a modern Home Ec course, some of the responses were basic home maintenance skills, financial planning, first aid, and basic cooking.
While HHS offers these subjects in more detail, students typically prefer to learn the basics, and then choose to enroll in a subject-specific course with a base knowledge.
With the ability to learn the basics in one course, making it easier to pick courses needed to graduate, requirements for post-secondary careers/education, or the fun courses, allowing students to feel more prepared for life after High School.
“I think it would be wise to make Home Ec a mandatory class because not everyone has the same opportunities at home for learning all of the skills it could provide, such as how to change a tire,” says MacKinnon.
The Home Economics class was founded by Adelaide Hoodless, and designed for women back in the early 1900s. In 1902 Adelaide’s book Public School Domestic Science became the first textbook used in Home Economics. The course was renamed Family Studies 1973 to move away from the sexist ideals and help bring in a more diverse class.
While the course still taught the basics of sewing and cooking it also incorporated topics like self-image, building relationships, and dealing with emotions.
With new books introduced to the course such as This Is the Life! (1977) students learned how to build their personal values, and covered topics ranging from dating and sexual identity as well as dealing with conflicting values with their parents.
The course changed during the seventies, Mrs. Pauline Webb, a teacher in the Canadian and World Studies department at the HHS believes a shift to providing up-to-date life skills would be beneficial.
“As society shifts our education system has to shift and I think because families are so busy and it's a real challenge to get everything done in a day then having a practical course on life skills would help to fill the gap for some students,” says Webb.
Graduating student Olivia Luttrell agreed there is a need to integrate basic life-skills in the education system.
With most households having both parents working, Luttrell believes that not all children are getting the required lessons at home.
“In kindergarten, we should start teaching kids lessons like consent in small amounts and basic skills like how to pour water, get cereal for breakfast, hygiene lessons like brushing teeth and hair, and then continue to build on these skills throughout their schooling,” she says.
“Having the opportunity to learn at school would fill in that gap. No child should grow up missing basic skills because the people running their schools and the education system were too privileged to bother considering they may need help.”
With life after high school uncertain, the average family dynamic from one household to the next is drastically different. It could be time to bring back the full home economics course to fill in the gaps to better prepare the future generation.
By Danielle McPherson, for HuntersBayRadio.com
Danielle is an aspiring professional photographer – and media member – with a passion to be behind the lens. Already with a strong portfolio, Danielle is doing her Huntsville High School media co-op with Chris Occhiuzzi of Dockside Publishing, Muskoka Unlimited and Hunters Bay Radio.