Home Economics: All aspects of household management, including cooking, are taught in a school environment.

At its core, Home Economics is about home management. It covers many subjects, including human development, personal and family finance, housing, and interior design, food science and preparation, nutrition and wellness, textiles and apparel, and consumer issues.

The history of Home Economics

Initially, Home Economics education aimed to emphasize the value of ‘women’s work’ by intellectualizing and professionalizing housework.

The study of Home economics began in the USA after the American Revolution. Before this, young women had been taught the values and practices of Home Economics at home. However, it changed in the 19th century as Home Economics was introduced as a school subject. Some forces that influenced this change were a general spirit of humanitarianism across America, faith in education, and a belief in equality for women.

The grant-led colleges and universities established by the Morrill Act of 1862 were the first institutions to provide a space for domestic sciences like Home Economics education to grow. These institutions focused on delivering liberal and practical instruction for the industrial working classes. Many of the courses offered in these colleges and universities catered directly to the lives and needs of their students. Amongst these courses were some specifically constructed to serve the needs of female students.

For several years, courses centered around domestic sciences were only offered at these grant-led colleges and universities, but by 1890, they were widely available in American public high schools.

Some of the domestic science courses on offer were:

  • Cooking
  • Sewing
  • Millinery
  • Laundering
  • Home decoration
  • Home sanitation
  • Home Hygiene
  • Home nursing.

A few years later, in 1899, a woman named Ellen H. Richards, an instructor of sanitary chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), organized a conference for people interested in applying science to household problems. Again, many chemistries, biology, economics, psychology, and sociology specialists were in attendance. As a result of this conference and the meetings that followed it, the American Home Economics Association was founded in 1909.

The American Home Economics Association pioneered the improvement of living conditions in the home and the community, as well as working on accepting Home Economics education.

Over time, as the social sciences developed, many of their findings were incorporated into Home Economics education. For example, while a lot of the original teaching for Home Economics was focused on food, clothing, and shelter, it expanded to include subjects like human relationships. Eventually, by 1935, Home Economics teachers were encouraged to look at all fields of study to find whatever would best help improve families and family life.

What is Home Economics as a subject?

Nowadays, the study of Home Economics looks much different from when it began in the 19th century. The focus is much less on how to do things than on why we do them. For example, students are still taught how to cook and sew, but now they are also shown how to buy the food they eat and the fabrics they need to make clothing.

The emphasis in Home Economics education has shifted from home-making skills to consumer education. There is also another significant shift happening in Home Economics right now. Whereas Home Economics education used to be centered around individual and family issues, it is now moving toward issues of national and international importance, such as overpopulation, urban poverty, and the development of emerging nations.

What is the importance of Home Economics?

Home Economics is essential to children’s education, as it will teach them valuable life skills.

Some of the skills and information that students will learn about food and nutrition know in Home Education include:

  • Students are educated on the food system, from how it is grown to the manufacturing and selling process.
  • They also learn about food nutrition, enabling students to be their healthiest version. Children must understand what is in their food to make informed decisions on what they choose to include in their diet.
  • Students will also be educated on issues concerning ethical food production, including global food production and health-enhancing nutritional innovations.

While Home Economics was once just viewed as education on ‘women’s work,’ it now equips kids for several exciting career paths. Through learning Home Economics, students can go on to pursue a career as a:

  • Nutritionist
  • Dietitian
  • Medical Professional
  • University Lecturers
  • Food technologist
  • Food Writers
  • Health Practitioner
  • Food Product Developers
  • Chefs
  • Sports nutritionist

What are the seven areas of Home Economics?

Catherine E. Beecher was an American educator alive during the 19th century. She was known for her strong opinions on female education and was responsible for dividing Home Economics into seven main areas. Some of these areas are still present in Home Economics education today, but some have become outdated.

The seven main areas of Home Economics education are:

  • Cooking: Food and cooking are an integral part of Home Economics. Learning how to prepare balanced, nutritious meals for themselves and others is a big step in encouraging students to be independent and take control of their health. They also learn about food safety and ways to prepare food to prevent diseases.
  • Child development was more prevalent in early Home Economics education but is still a part of the curriculum. Students are taught about child development and how to respond correctly to children at various developmental stages.
  • Education and community awareness: Home Economics was more heavily emphasized in the past when mothers took on a lot of responsibility for their children’s education. During these classes, students would learn the best ways to teach their children basic maths and reading skills before entering school. In addition, students would also learn moral and ethical lessons to develop community awareness.
  • Home management and design: This area of Home Economics is centered around teaching the critical design elements for home decoration and maintenance. Cleanliness and organization were a big focus of this Home Economics area as these were almost always the responsibility of the women.
  • Sewing and textiles: Sewing and textiles are still a part of modern Home Economics education. Initially, women needed to know how to sew to make and repair their clothes.
  • Budget and economy: Learning how to handle money efficiently is a valuable part of Home Economics. Students learn how to buy food and other essentials on a budget, a skill that will serve them later in life.
  • Health and hygiene: In classes on health and hygiene, students learn how to prepare and preserve foods to prevent diseases. Home Economics education also focused on adequately caring for sick people as young women needed to understand how to manage the suffering people in their community.
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