It’s an interesting situation when students have memorized that a mitochondria is the powerhouse of a cell and y=mx+b, but most of those same students are unable to plan a budget or cook more than a basic meal.
Jennifer Rosewarne, head of the English department at Huntsville High School (HHS), said, “I absolutely feel like we’re not preparing kids to go out into the world, and less and less over the years. .”
From the late 90s to the early 2000s, when Ontario’s education system canceled Home Economics (commonly referred to as Home Ec), the once-popular all-inclusive class has since been split into separate classes.
Regarding adjustments to the Home Ec course to prepare students for our ever-changing society, Huntsville High School guidance counselor Allison Myers said, “I would be supportive and hope there would be an interest.”
Several local students say they are interested in Home Ec. However, the timetables are crammed with courses deemed “necessary” – and Home Ec options being four separate courses – make it difficult for a student to take the course even though 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’re interested in but didn’t have time to take before.
“There are different reasons why students will come back for a victory lap,” says Byl.
Emma MacKinnon, an HHS graduate student, thinks victory laps can be helpful for those who want more time to complete the courses that interest them.
“I think taking a victory lap comes down to personal preference and whether you feel ready or ready for life after high school,” MacKinnon says. “At the end of the four years, I didn’t feel like there were classes I wanted to take but couldn’t take and I was excited to move on to college.”
HHS offers courses such as cooking, basic funding in essential eleventh and twelfth grade math, a sewing course that runs every two years (with enough students enrolled), as well as an auto mechanics course. .
When students were asked what they would get in a modern Home Ecology course, some of the answers were basic housekeeping skills, financial planning, first aid, and cooking basics.
Although HHS offers these subjects in more detail, students generally prefer to learn the basics and then choose to enroll in a subject-specific course with a basic knowledge.
With the ability to learn the basics in one course, making it easier to choose courses needed to graduate, requirements for post-secondary careers/education, or fun courses, leaving students feeling better prepared for life after high school.
“I think it would be wise to make Home Ec a compulsory course, because not everyone has the same opportunities at home to learn all the skills it could provide, like how to change a tire,” explains MacKinnon.
The home economics class was founded by Adelaide Hoodless and designed for women in the early 1900s. In 1902 Adelaide Public School’s book Domestic Science became the first textbook used in home economics. The course was renamed Family Studies 1973 to move away from sexist ideals and help create a more diverse class.
While the course still taught the basics of sewing and cooking, it also incorporated topics such as self-image, relationship building and managing emotions.
With new books introduced to the course such as This Is the Life! (1977), students learned to construct their personal values and discussed topics ranging from dating and sexual identity to managing conflicting values with their parents.
The course changed during the 1970s. Ms. Pauline Webb, a teacher in the Department of Canadian and World Studies at HHS, believes it would be beneficial to offer up-to-date life skills.
“As society changes, our education system needs to change and I think because families are very busy and it’s a real challenge to do everything in one day, so having a hands-on life skills course would help fill the void for some students,” says Webb.
Graduate student Olivia Luttrell agreed that there is a need to integrate foundation skills into the education system.
With most households having both working parents, Luttrell believes not all children receive the necessary homeschooling.
“In kindergarten, we should start teaching children lessons like consent in small amounts and basic skills like how to pour water, get breakfast cereal, hygiene lessons like brushing teeth and hair, and then continue to develop those skills throughout their schooling,” she says.
“Having the opportunity to learn in school would fill this gap. No child should grow up without basic skills because the people who run their schools and the education system are too privileged to care about needing help.
With life after high school uncertain, the average family dynamic from household to household is drastically different. It might be time to bring back the full home economics course to fill in the gaps and better prepare the future generation.
By Danielle McPherson, for HuntersBayRadio.com
Danielle is an aspiring professional photographer – and member of the media – with a passion for being 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.