Thursday, February 14, 2013

Teaching The Mechanics Of Housekeeping

From Vocational Guidance for Girls, Chapter 7:


The elements of housekeeping are the ABC of homemaking. We shall do well to teach them early, incidentally, and with no undue exaggeration of their place in the scheme of living. We simply familiarize the girl, by long and quiet contact, with the tools of the homemaker, for future scientific use, just as we teach the multiplication facts for later use in the science of mathematics.
A definite list of the simple homemaking tasks suitable for little girls to undertake may not be out of place here:

  1. Setting the table. (A card list of table necessities is useful. Such a list may be given each little girl when she undertakes home practice work.)
  2. Clearing the table.
  3. Washing the dishes.
  4. Sweeping the kitchen. Sweeping the piazza.
  5. Dusting.
  6. Making beds and caring for bedrooms.
  7. Arranging her own bureau drawers and closets.
  8. Simple cooking.
  9. Hemming towels and table linen.
  10. Ironing handkerchiefs and napkins.
The talk in this chapter is mainly about school courses in home economics, supplemented by training at home. The way I see it, homemaking is best taught at home, and there is no, no, no replacement for an orderly, well-managed home to teach basic life skills. But of course it goes without saying that home economics taught at school is much better than nothing at all. 

Sadly, at around the same time parents became too busy to teach housekeeping skills, schools canceled their home economics courses. I personally had a little hands-on class where I was taught to work with glue and scissors and make pretty little ornamental boxes and such like, but I think I would have been much better off learning how to knit, sew, cook and bake.

"After careful consideration it seems wise to urge that the greater part of the practical household work be taught during the period from eleven to fourteen." It sounds like a very good plan to me, too, especially after I've lived the first twenty years of my life without knowing how to operate a washing machine (surely a basic skill these days). I came to marriage knowing very little about housekeeping (and I'm still actively learning every day), which was a cause of stress and strain. 

And I'll finish with this last great quote:

"Of all distinctly vocational training, it is only fair, however, that the homemaking training should come first, as a foundation for all later work. Whether the girl thus trained ever presides over a home of her own or not, the training will have made her a broader woman and a better worker, with a finer understanding of the universal business of her sex."

16 comments:

Laura Jeanne said...

I'm not sure that home economics classics in school are always better than nothing. I did have that class, and when I eventually moved out of my parents' house I was still utterly clueless in housekeeping skills. All they taught us in that class was how to make spaghetti, jam tarts, and sew a simple bag. No mention was ever made of the dreaded word, "home," because somehow it would have shamed the students to be told they might have to do work in a home, rather than be an astronaut or Nobel prize winner.

It would have been great it we had learned basic skills like cleaning and organizing, setting the table, laundry etc. It would have helped me a lot in later life.

Kim said...

I too wish now that I had taken home economics in school. Housekeeping is a very valuable skill. As an adult I once substituted for a Home Economics teacher. The lesson for the day was how to set a table. The students looked at me and said "Miss why do we have to learn this? Nobody eats at the table anymore, everyone sits in front of the television. How is that for social commentary?

Kim W

becka said...

I learned a great deal about homemaking and in various home economics classes at school. One amusing thing that my dad insisted that my sister and I do was to learn to dress a chicken. (We lived in town and did not raise chickens.) He got one from a friend and killed it (fortunately we didn't have to do it!)We then scalded and plucked it. I haven't had to do it since, but I do know how. :)

Joluise said...

My sons did very limited home economics at school, I taught them how to cook, clean, grocery shop, home maintainces etc... I think it's the roll of all parents and I'm a full time working parent and still managed it so there is no excuses. My 25 year old son is now married and does all cooking and loves to grocery shop. I can now see all the efforts of my early work.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Joluise for pointing out that not ALL working moms are deficient in homemaking and that with the easiness of today's homemaking due to machines, that there is no excuse to not know how to do these things. Between dishwashers, washing machines, electric vacuum cleaners etc I am baffled by the women who say it takes allllll day to clean house. I work full time and yet keep an immaculate home, always have a table set with real dishes and a pretty centerpiece with a healthy homecooked meal on the table. I just don't get how hard it is to stick laundry in the machine after work. I don't have a dishwasher and still find that handwashing dishes is not a difficult task. The majority of out of the home jobs are A LOT more stressful than the cushy slothful life of a homemaker.

Anonymous said...

I also think it is very necessary and useful to teach children about homemaking. But it is necessary for girls AND boys. Nowadays young people life often on their own for some time, so young men need to know how to cook, clean, wash, etc. as well.

And also in a partnership or marriage today partnes share their duties, so I think it is important both, men and women, can do everything necessary for running a house.

Sabeth

Mrs. Anna T said...

Opposed to a common stereotype, "the cushy slothful life of a homemaker" is waaaaay more than a day spent between four walls, cleaning. Some of us homeschool, others just have little children at home full-time, which makes our houses a 100 times messier than a house where people are away all day. Some of us live on homesteads, grow vegetables, and take care of livestock. Some of us are "outsourced" to help our husbands with our jobs on top of it all. We plan the family budget, run errands, cook, and do a myriad other things apart from cleaning.

Anonymous said...

There are MANY women who cook, run errands, take care of small children,grow vegetables...AND work outside of the home. It can be done. Running errands and preparing meals are part of being a functional adult, not highly specialized skills that take all day.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Anonymous, this isn't an argument about who does more and who does less. There are many ways to live a good, productive life, without calling others selfish careerists or lazy slothful potato couches who smooch off their hard-working husbands.

I do have to say, though, that it isn't usually possibly to have small children full-time at home, AND work outside the home (unless both parents work alternative shifts which do not overlap). So, for those of us who choose to keep their little ones at home, it really is a full-time occupation.

Anonymous said...

Being a homemaker is not an accomplishment. Anyone aged 14--40 with a functional uterus can get pregnant and give birth. Even the animal species does it all the time. ANY other job requires a lot more training. I just don't get the women who see having babies as an accomplishment. Since when is getting pregnant and giving birth some grand thing unless you went through infertility first?

Mrs. Anna T said...

Almost anyone is biologically capable of having babies. Raising them well is an entirely different matter, however.

Anonymous said...

Well said Mrs. Anna, popping out kids is one thing, raising future adults is another! When I had my 3rd child and started being a SAHM I remember crying to my mother about how nothing seemed to get done! She reminded me that I have 3 children under 4 and it is 100x easier to keep a house clean and orderly if people are only home to eat and sleep in it! :)

maria smith said...

We also work hard at teaching our kids to care for a home. It's an important part of education. We have a cleaning service that comes sometimes, but for the most part we all help keep our home working. I like teaching the kids to contribute to their home and family.

Ganeidaz Knot said...

I used the CLE program with my girls ~ which covered things I hadn't thought of or was not very good at. All my children can cook & clean but things like sewing & fancy meals were for those more interested in those things.

I did home ec at school & the only subject more useless to me was algebra! The only real way to learn to keep a house ~ is to keep a house!

Anonymous said...

My mother was very annoyed that my school didn't offer home ec so she taught me how to cook.

Cleaning was pretty easy since it was part of my every day life with my chores. Running a dishwasher or laundry machine isn't very hard to learn.

For me the challenging thing was figuring out a meal plan and shopping list. When I was first starting out I wasted a lot of food and money because I'd buy things and forget to cook them an they'd go bad. Now I have a meal plan and a shopping list and I waste a lot less food.

Mrs. Anna T said...

To Anonymous who keeps posting comments of an insulting nature: save your efforts. What you write is not going to be published any more.

I do have to say that people who are content with their choices generally do *not* choose to waste their time trolling blogs/websites of people who chose a different lifestyle. If we homemakers and full-time Moms are such miserable lazy sloths, surely you will be better off in different company.