Home Economics

Home Economics

Home economics (also known as family and consumer sciences or Home Ec.) is the profession and field of study that deals with the economics and management of the home and community. Home economics is a field of formal study including such topics as consumer education, institutional management, interior design, home furnishing, cleaning, handicrafts, sewing, clothing and textiles, commercial cooking, cooking, nutrition, food preservation, hygiene, child development, managing money, and family relationships. This teaches students how to properly run a family environment and make the world a better place for generations to come.

Sexual education and drug awareness might be also covered, along with topics such as fire prevention and safety procedures. It prepares students for homemaking or professional careers, or to assist in preparing to fulfill real-life responsibilities at home. It is taught in secondary schools, colleges and universities, vocational schools, and in adult education centers; students include women and men.

In the 19th century, home economics classes were intended to ready young women for their duties in the home. Classes were first offered in the United States, Canada and Great Britain, followed by Latin America, Asia, and Africa. International organizations such as those associated with the United Nations have been involved in starting home economics programs around the world.

Etymology

The preferred name of the field of study and profession is Home Economics. Internationally, the field of study has consistently retained the name Home Economics and is recognized both within and beyond the boundaries of the profession.

Content

Situated in the human sciences, home economics draws from a range of disciplines to achieve optimal and sustainable living for individuals, families, and communities. Historically, home economics has been in the context of the home and household, but this has extended in the 21st century to include the wider living environments as we better understand that the capacities, choices, and priorities of individuals and families impact at all levels, ranging from the household to the local and the global community. Home economists are concerned with promoting and protecting the well-being of individuals, families, and communities; they facilitate the development of attributes for lifelong learning for paid, unpaid, and voluntary work. Home economics professionals are advocates for individuals, families, and communities.

The content of home economics comes from the synthesis of multiple disciplines. This interdisciplinary knowledge is essential because the phenomena and challenges of everyday life are not typically one-dimensional. The content of home economics courses varies, but might include: food, nutrition, and health; personal finance; family resource management; textiles and clothing; shelter and housing; consumerism and consumer science; household management; design and technology; food science and hospitality; human development and family studies; education and community services, among others. The capacity to draw from such disciplinary diversity is a strength of the profession, allowing for the development of specific interpretations of the field, as relevant to the context.

Areas of practice

It is also called Human sciences based on everyday work where the setting is our house. Home economics can be clarified by four dimensions or areas of practice:

  • as an academic discipline to educate new scholars, to conduct research and to create new knowledge and ways of thinking for professionals and for society
  • as an arena for everyday living in households, families and communities for developing human growth potential and human necessities or basic needs to be met
  • as a curriculum area that facilitates students to discover and further develop their own resources and capabilities to be used in their personal life, by directing their professional decisions and actions or preparing them for life
  • as a societal arena to influence and develop policy to advocate for individuals, families and communities to achieve empowerment and wellbeing, to utilize transformative practices, and to facilitate sustainable futures.

To be successful in these four dimensions of practice means that the profession is constantly evolving, and there will always be new ways of performing the profession. This is an important characteristic of the profession, linking with the 21st century requirement for all people to be "expert novices", that is, good at learning new things, given that society is constantly and rapidly changing with new and emergent issues and challenges. Human science is Human science.

Historical skills

In the past, household skills included: herbal medicine, converting hide into leather, soap making, spinning yarn and thread, weaving cloth and rugs, and patchwork quilting. More skills were cooking on a wood burning stove, churning butter, baking bread, and preserving food by drying and by glass-jar canning.

Cleaning

Home cleaning can be analyzed into four parts: litter removal, storage of belongings, dusting, and washing of surfaces. Laundry is a separate subject. Washing of surfaces is the most dangerous and complicated part because of the cleaning solutions. For example, hard water deposits are cleaned with acid solutions and dirt is cleaned with alkaline solutions; they both harm the skin and both weaken each other. Mixing chlorine bleach and ammonia together forms toxic gas. Solvents including paint thinner and rubbing alcohol are toxic and flammable. Disinfectants are poisonous. Even dish water requires rubber gloves.

Finances

The home economist deals with money. A budget is a plan of what to spend on based on gathered facts. Being frugal includes buying the inexpensive brand. Credit is lending. Budgeting how much to spend with a credit card is done, as well as how much to save each paycheck toward a car. Investments are ways to store extra money. They include bank accounts. Taxpayers sometimes get audited and show financial records to government officials.

Impact

The leading national professional organization for home economics in the United States is the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences. The leading international organization home economics is the International Federation for Home Economics (IFHE)

Home Economics is a vital profession currently enjoying renewed attention in the present era. Our contemporary world is characterised as one of unprecedented transition from industrial to knowledge-based culture and globalised economy, with all encompassing effects on society and culture. The information age is complex, diverse and unpredictable, yet has a strong commitment to retaining those elements of society that are valued, while looking ahead to the imperative of improving the world in which we all live such that sustainable development is possible. Herein lies the potential for Home Economics and the reason for renewed attention to the field of study, as this is the key imperative of the profession.

Examples of enacting the transformative powers of home economics professionals include:

  • Home economics professionals were instrumental to instituting the 1994 International Year of the Family which centred ‘family’ as a political issue and has impacted on family life in many countries of the world
  • Poverty alleviation, gender equality and social justice concerns are a priority of home economics professionals, with many projects and initiatives conducted in such areas
  • IFHE, or the International Federation for Home Economics, is an International Non Governmental Organization (INGO), having consultative status with the United Nations (ECOSOC, FAO, UNESCO, UNISEF) and with the Council of Europe
  • Home economists partner with other Non-Governmental Organisations to improve the lot of families world wide. Specific areas of collaboration/cooperation include: Peace Education, gender issues/ women’s empowerment, women’s reproductive issues, HIV/AIDS, intervention projects for families in distress and other human rights issues
  • Home economists are active in lobbying for issues that will improve the well-being of a diversity of families and households
  • Home economists serve as consultants in major businesses and organizations dealing with personal home economics, care and consumer services. They are also active entrepreneurs in their own rights
  • The current four-year theme on sustainable development for World Home Economics Day is a strong stand that impacts on family life positively
  • Home economists are strong advocates for individual and family well-being worldwide, evident in for example the development of relevant curricula for schools and universities.
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