When I was in junior high (grades 7 and 8), all the girls took Home Economics. All the boys took Shop. Now Home Ec has been renamed Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) and Shop is called the …
When I was in junior high (grades 7 and 8), all the girls took Home Economics. All the boys took Shop. Now Home Ec has been renamed Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) and Shop is called the Industrial Arts. And boys and girls take both classes.
Home Ec was not really my strongest subject. I mean, they did teach us how to write a check and keep a checkbook, but we also had to sew a garment. Yeah, I know.
As I recall, my chosen frock was a V-neck shift made of a deep purple cotton. We ironed the ironically named Simplicity pattern, laid out the fabric, pinned the pattern to the fabric and began cutting. I’m sure this is where my lack of attention to detail started to make an impact.
There weren’t enough sewing machines for our whole class, so as I recall we spent a good chunk of time sitting around talking.
Eventually I got a turn at the sewing machine and sewed the straight seams of my shift and sewed some sort of hem. I can’t recall all the details of the construction, but I do remember that once completed, the shift wouldn’t fit over my hips. I don’t know if that would be considered a fail, but it sure felt like one.
I was better at the baking part of Home Ec. I’d had plenty of practice at home, baking with my Mom. Or at least cleaning out the bowl after she’d made chocolate chip cookies or a birthday cake.
I’m sure we also had to learn how to keep a budget and how to clean a house and all those useful life skills. Mostly, I’m ashamed to say, we girls felt that Home Ec was a chance to sit around and talk while our poor teacher tried to keep us in line.
I’m actually sorry that I wasn’t able to take Shop. I’m not sure what skills were taught down in the Shop, but since I have subsequently had to do lots of things around the house like painting, hanging wallpaper, and even in my more daring years, installing light fixtures and switches, it might have been useful.
My own children had to take both FACS and Industrial Arts. Not sure what the curriculum was but I do have a nice sconce hanging in the guest room. There may have been a decorative pillow or two produced as well.
Honestly, though, the skills that are taught in these classes are ones that students will actually use in real life. The eternal student question—Why do we have to learn this?—doesn’t need to be asked.
Word is that these classes are now considered electives and in many schools they are disappearing. That’s a shame. If we want to prepare our kids for life, their education should include useful information such as how to plan and prepare a healthful meal and how to balance a budget.
Ill-fitting shifts aside, Home Ec and Shop (aka FACS and Industrial Arts) still deserve a place in kids’ education.
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