Thursday, February 18, 2010

Teaching Home Economics through Apprenticeship

Library of Congress:  1939 Home Economics Class, Ashwood Plantations, South Carolina

I took classes in home economics for 3 years as a teenager. We basically studied 6 subjects:

1. Sewing.
2. Cooking and Baking.
3. Child Care and Development.
4. Keeping a Sanitary and Clean Kitchen.
5. Nutrition.
6. Hospitality.

Recently, I found out that public schools are no longer offering these kinds of classes. I even looked it up in Colleges and found a name change. It is now called "Family and Consumer Sciences."

As a Homeschooling parent, It falls to me to teach this course to my daughters. Here is how it went:

1. Rachel (my oldest at 21) - She worked right along with me throughout her childhood. We made menus, pored over sales ads to plan shopping trips on a budget, baked and cooked from scratch, served the family in a pleasant way, cleaned the house, did laundry, studied nutrition labels on food packaging, Took care of the four younger children, and did basic sewing (she can mend and put on a button, but doesn't care for more than that.)

2. Nicole (my second child, 20) - Well, let me just say this... Nicole had a serious vision problem. This made it hard to see crumbs on the counter or a mess to be swept on the floor. But she did learn to make Pillsbury quick bread and eggs. She can sew and do some designing. She is brilliant when it comes to nutrition, and very good at keeping a budget. I do have to mention something about Nicole. When she was a teenager, she wrote a series of short stories called, "Domestically Challenged." These were her own hysterical (but exaggerated) attempts at cooking.

3. I am now working with Amy (15). I am teaching her everything I taught Rachel. Here is what Amy can do so far: She can take care of children. (She helped me run a small daycare for four years.) She is a brilliant shopper and can make a small amount of money go far in the supermarket. She can come up with creative dinner ideas. She can cook or bake anything- with occasional help or questions. She can sew, mend, put on a button, and even do some designing. She can also embroider a little. However, at this moment, Amy does not love housework or the kitchen. I am really working on this with her.

My idea of apprenticeship with Amy is having her work along with me throughout the day. I will tell you what happened tonight as an example:

I pulled out the ingredients for our supper and placed them on a counter. I called Amy into the room. It was an easy (and boring) supper - hot dogs, beans, Pasta Roni and carrots.

She put on a pan of water to get it boiling for the noodles. Next, she pulled out a frying pan. I watched her work, and then said, "While that is cooking, put away all the dry dishes." She was being a bit 'surly' but she did it (smiles).

Next I told her she needed to set the table. She thought I should be doing that while she cooked. I just smiled and said it was her job. I was folding laundry in the living room.

Amy put a few slashes in the hot dogs while they were in the pan so they would cook faster. I just observed. When they were finished, she asked me to cut them up so she could mix them in with the beans.

"Umm... no..." I said, "You should have cut them up before you cooked them."

She gave me an exasperated look, so I said, "Just get a plate, use a knife and a fork so you don't get burned, and cut them yourself."

She sighed, but managed to do it just fine.

I sat down.

She had the noodles cooking and was getting the beans ready to add to the hot dogs. I reminded her to set the table. She gave me this horrified look and said, "How can I? I am trying to do all the cooking."

I told her she had to. Then I left the room.

When I came back a few minutes later, everything was finished. She even set the table (well, kind of!) She laid out plates- but no cups, no silverware and no napkins.


Well, there is always tomorrow night!

I did, however, find an incredible resource that may help me with Amy.

It is an exact replica of the very first Betty Crocker Cookbook! It is the loveliest book in the world and should be given to every girl who wants to learn about homemaking. It centers entirely on the kitchen and teaches all about cooking and baking, in the sweetest possible way.

It is a binder/style book and has all the pictures, words, lessons, and recipes from the 1950's. It is packed with information and I love it!

Inside you'll find pictures, and nostalgic drawings of kitchens from that time period. As Amy and I read this cookbook, we will be inspired to make our kitchen the center of our home! It will be my main textbook for teaching home economics.

My next lesson for Amy is to teach her how to set an inviting table, rather than having her run off with her plate to go watch Television!

Mrs. White

Find Home-keeping Inspiration, in Mrs.White's book -Mother's Book of Home Economics .  Paperback, 312 pages.

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Michelle Gibson said...

Mrs. White, this is a lovely post.

Do you have any advice for how mothers with young children can love housework?

I only love it when everyone else is gone, but that rarely happens!


Mrs. White said...

Thanks Michelle!

I will work on a post about this! I know it is a big problem!

Mrs. White

Anonymous said...

i so admire your perspective on homemaking.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. White, I thought I would share a curriculum that we used for home ec in our homeschool. It is the Christian Light "Home Ec" booklets. My daughter now 17, is very capable of running our home. It covered subjects I never would have naturally covered. (Like making a room pleasing to the eye, or how our care of our home is really a blessing to God and our families.) Some of it I have to admit was dry and seemed a bit over kill. But we plugged away at it.

I will be using it again.


jodi said...

Just wanted to say i enjoyed that post. My daughter is 2 1/2 and she loves to help me cook dinner, bake, rinse the dishes after i wash them, and wipe down the table after we eat. (her toys after playing is a completely different story).

Heidi Mitzelfeldt said...

I taught my boys home economics because I wanted them prepared to take care of themselves when they are out on there own.

I have many cookbooks from 1932 to the 1950s. They are definitely worth their weight in gold! Some actually have menu planning in them with examples and chapters on setting the table and entertaining!

Joyce Ackley said...

Your girls are lucky to have a Mom who is interested in teaching them homemaking skills. One day they will thank you for it.

Do you think boys need training in cooking and homemaking skills as well? I do. I think they should know some basics.

My son-in-law's mother died when he was twenty years old. But when he was a teenager, she taught him many useful skills. He learned to sort laundry, wash and fold his clothing, read laundering label instructions, etc. He knew how to sew on a button, iron a shirt to perfection, and press a sharp crease in his trousers.

As an adult, he developed an interest in cooking and has become a gourmet cook. He attended culinary school for awhile and is "King" of the kitchen! He prepares all the family holiday dinners and most of the everyday cooking. For Valentine's Day, he made my daughter a special dinner. It was Boursin steak filet, portobello mushrooms stuffed with mozzarella and tomatoes, a fancy salad with homemade pear and pecan vinagrette dressing, and baked potato. He "plated" the meal garnished with fresh herbs. My daughter loves having a hubby who cooks! He's a good daddy, too, and helps with the laundry and housework. What a guy!

Amy's meal of hot dogs and beans with pasta sounds delicious. That's something I might prepare - simple, good, and nourishing!

Deanna said...

Blessings to you, Mrs. White!

This post brought back memories to me about HomeEconomics class I took. I remember the large classroom we had with desk area, sewing machines and kitchens. Now that I think about it, the kitchen area looked alot like the picture you have here.

It was really a good classroom situation to help teach young girls the domestic arts.

It's amazing to think that it's been nearly 40 years ago!!!!! That's a while. Still fresh in my mind.

I am recalling just how special this time was and thankful to have had it in my life.

Have a sweet week-end and God Bless you!

Mrs. White said...

Michelle, here is the post I wrote to help encourage Mothers with young children to enjoy housework:

Mrs. White

java girl said...

Mrs White,

I love this darling picture and the kitchen!! I have been doing research as well on home economics and how sadly it is no longer taught even at the university level. At Kansas State University long ago, their home economics class even adopted a young child to live in their home to send to him during the year, instead of an orphanage. How fun to learn like that :O)
Also I am really enjoying your music selection!

Beth said...

I found your wonderful site while looking for homemaking tips. I have transitioned into a "work at home" mom (which I think is redundant). I am the mom of three ages 14, 10 and 9. My wonderful husband runs his own business and I am now the "Office Manager". Before this role I have worked in offices since I was 18. My mother worked and my mother-in-law also worked. I was not taught how to run a home growing up so I would love to learn from your series of posts on the subject. Help! :) I know that where God guides he provides and I have been feeling utterly lost, inadequate and quite a failure.