It’s got snap, crackle and pop, but does middle school home ec have any substance?

Help. My youngest two children begin middle school in 10 days, and I just received their schedules. They are both in “family and consumer science,” for which there is no description on the school Web site.

Rice Krispies treats are tasty, but do we need a middle school course to teach kids how to make them? Can't they just read the instructions on the cereal box?

Rice Krispies treats are tasty, but do we need a middle school course to teach kids how to make them? Can't they just read the instructions on the cereal box?

I looked at course descriptions at other schools around the country, including this one from Illinois: Students will learn basic sewing techniques, operate a sewing machine and complete a project. Students will have an understanding of the food pyramid and prepare simple nutritional foods.

Sounds like a souped-up home economics class to me.

As a former consumer reporter — I once wrote  a column called “Check it Out” where I would test product claims — I think it is important to teach savvy consumer skills. I am just not sure 11-year-olds are the right audience as I think people become interested in consumer education when they become serious consumers.

I called my oldest who is about to start grad school in Washington. She recalls taking this class in middle school. The highlight, she said, was making Rice Krispies treats.

She contends that the class would be more valuable if it taught kids about writing checks and balancing checkbooks. I disagreed, questioning the value of teaching a practical skill that children aren’t ready to use in real life and won’t be for years. (It reminds me of getting training on new computer systems that I won’t be using for six months. When I finally have to sit down and do it, I have forgotten virtually everything I learned.)

I would love your views on family and consumer science and whether it’s valuable or a time waster, which I find is a problem in a lot of middle school offerings.

69 comments Add your comment

d

July 24th, 2010
11:15 pm

From Georgiastandards.org :

Family & Consumer Sciences (FCS) offers a unique focus on families, work, and their interrelationships, providing a solid foundation of success for any student. Through relevant coursework, community projects, student organizations, and internship/mentoring opportunities, students develop the essential leadership, life, and communications skills they need to become responsible citizens and leaders in family, community, and work settings. As a Family and Consumer Sciences student, you’ll learn to manage resources to meet the essential needs of individuals and families; to promote optimal nutrition and wellness across the life span; and to accept responsibility for your actions and success in family and work life. The career and educational opportunities available in Family and Consumer Sciences are varied and virtually unlimited, as are the postsecondary educational opportunities.

Family and Consumer Sciences graduates can either enter the workforce after high school or continue their educations at technical or two- or four-year colleges. Many courses in the concentration are available with dual enrollment at a local postsecondary institution. The essential knowledge and skills developed through Family and Consumer Sciences prepare you for a successful future in any field, as well as in family and community life. This program allows students the opportunities to experience classroom and laboratory components and instruction that meets industry validated standards, work-based learning in the form of internships, cooperative education, school-based enterprises and Youth Apprenticeship, and membership in the Family, Career & Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), is an organization which provides opportunities to build leadership and competitive skills necessary in the world of work and in the community.

Really

July 24th, 2010
11:19 pm

We still have home-ec even with all of the budget cuts?????????????????????

MS teacher

July 24th, 2010
11:24 pm

Totally depends on the teacher – my middle school has seen several FACS teachers come and go – some were great, and had the kids doing lots of good activities. Others were terrible and the kids hated the class. What I would worry about more than what the class offers is the “connections mentality” that sometimes comes with the middle school schedule – kids often only consider the academic classes to be worthy of their effort.

Really amazed

July 24th, 2010
11:24 pm

We still have home-ec with all of these budget cuts????? I think it is very sad that some of our children learn such high math but still have never been taught how to count back change or balance a check book. I do think this, along with cooking, cleaning and sewing should be taught, starting at home but also should be inforced in school. Just saying!!!! We need to get back to the basics first. Although the children that need more challenge…bring it on!!!!!!!

Atlanta mom

July 24th, 2010
11:35 pm

If this is a nine week class, it could be okay. Hopefully they do the egg thing (grab a partner and take care of an egg for two weeks). Research and find out how much it costs to live alone. They can pick their city. Maybe $8 an hour doesn’t sound so good anymore. And……tah dah, they can even do a little bit of math. Figure out how much food costs on a per ounce and per serving basis. . Now might even be the time for them to learn if item have already been reduced by 75% and they can take an additional 25% off, it still isn’t free. Throw in some food label reading, it could work. Look at the nutrition facts for fast food. It could work. For nine weeks. And being able to make rice krispie squares always made me a popular mom at bake sales.

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Atlanta mom

July 24th, 2010
11:38 pm

if AN item HAS already been reduced by 75%

No Maureen no!

July 24th, 2010
11:51 pm

These twins are girls right? If not, did you not learn anything from the other day with the kid injured playing hybrid T-Ball? Surely you didn’t come on here and let the world know your boys are taking sewing class! At least for their sake, call it “Basics of Tailoring” LOL

ScienceTeacher671

July 25th, 2010
12:12 am

I still have the embroidery project my son made during that class, many moons ago. Embroidery really wasn’t his thing, and he’s never done any since, but he does know how to sew on a button if he needs to.

ScienceTeacher671

July 25th, 2010
12:14 am

…since I’m using a pen name here, you can’t identify my son, and that’s why I can tell you about the embroidery project, which was the teacher’s idea in any case….not sure they were doing these “exploratory” classes when the other kids were in middle school.

No Maureen No

July 25th, 2010
12:23 am

“since I’m using a pen name here, you can’t identify my son, and that’s why I can tell you about the embroidery project”

Somewhere in America there’s a child saying “Thank God for pseudonyms, and the good sense to use them!”

No Maureen No

July 25th, 2010
12:45 am

“I would love your views on family and consumer science and whether it’s valuable or a time waster, which I find is a problem in a lot of middle school offerings.”

Even at this age, I’d like to see some consumer science in regard to advertising. Teach ways advertisers try to influence buying choices. Explain why grocery stores place candy bars in the checkout line and not broccoli. Explain why product often cost $9.99 instead of ten dollars, and why car dealers list the monthly cost in their ads, not the total cost.

Of course the downside is you might have an educated citizenry not as easily manipulated.

Kelly

July 25th, 2010
1:38 am

as a parent who grew up when prop 13 (CA) was passed, i feel i really missed out on practical skills in school. as a high school student i spent a year in MA, and the class i took there on marriage and family taught me more practical skills than any other subject that year (except perhaps typing). and while we did the egg thing, it was taken quite seriously – we had to budget, plan, feed, clothe, etc! as a high achiever i spent my life in MGM classes, but no one ever taught me how to balance a checkbook, pay a bill, or figure out pricing by volume (neither, for that matter, did my parents) until that one year.

i’m raising my daughter abroad, and it is so different for me to see the girls making their own clothes, growing & cooking their own food, and being so hands on – something downright frowned upon in southern california, where i was born and raised. but that’s the culture here – less shopping, more making and/or making do.

it sounds like you’re worried your kids will be doing something less “serious” – is that a worry for you? or do you think the class may offer too much over their heads info? i agree that students must be ready for serious consumer ed, and that learning about advertising and audience manipulation should wait for high school when they have gained some experience. there’s nothing wrong, however, with an introduction to cooking & sewing. i’ve recently started sewing myself ;-) as a teacher at an all boys school, i can confidently tell you that boys love cooking, too, and need to be able to mend and do basic sewing to manage themselves.

OTOH

July 25th, 2010
3:00 am

Yes, Family and Consumer Sciences is renamed Home Ec. It can be a useful class, though. Talk about a chance for hands on learning and putting theory into practice! As Atlanta Mom mentioned, the students should have projects that make them work out costs of living. My kids did. Simcity-ish but they had to do the research – look at want ads/job sites, real estate ads etc. The most important thing they should be taught is the time value of money ie interest. How it works against you using credit, how it works for you using investment. Putting the percent lessons to good use!
Mine learned a very little about sewing and cooking but then they had been cooking since they could stand on a chair next to me and doing minor sewing for a few years before middle school.

schlmarm

July 25th, 2010
6:32 am

There is something to be said for a course that will teach students what they will need in “real life.” Go for it!!

Middle School Mom

July 25th, 2010
7:00 am

Whether or not a school has FCS is up to the principal. Our school has two empty FCS labs for next year…the teacher points are being used for classes that remediate areas that were found lacking after CRCT. Pretty much all “fun” connections classes have been removed in lieu of more test prep.

Oconee County Mom

July 25th, 2010
7:08 am

My daughter took this 9 week class in middle school. She microwaved popcorn and baked store bought refrigerated “slice and bake” cookie dough. I thought it was a big waste of time.

36 years in education

July 25th, 2010
7:22 am

My three kids got a real wake up call in this class– but it all goes back to the instructor. I could have renamed it “Boot Camp for Life.” It was a connections course but all three got some invaluable skills that they still use– every day was filled with practical knowledge on what being an adult consists of– budgets, sewing, simple health meals, nutrition, taking care of your financial health….I still think of my middle school football star sewing a pillow (that we still have) and talking to me about having pride in his work. There was practical (yet fun) homework every night and the kids still talk about it and they’re in their late twenties. BUT, it all went back to the teacher.

Tommy Lo

July 25th, 2010
8:07 am

I am a middle school teacher, and Home Ec is a waste of time. The kids HATE it. I too, am very surprised that they kept it with all the budget cuts. Based on what grade you are in, you do different things for 1/2 a year. Mostly it’s a souped-up arts and crafts class where you make things for your home… oven mitts, etc.

lucybee

July 25th, 2010
8:14 am

My girls (now rising 9th and 10th) took it in Middle School — it was brand new. There was no written curriculum. Every child who took it thought it was an utter waste of time. They did not learn how to sew, they did not learn how to cook, they did not do the egg thing, they did not learn how to balance a checkbook. Honestly I’m not sure what they did.

Thelma

July 25th, 2010
8:40 am

Best Middle School Connections class any of my three children ever had, and they loved it. I agree with 36 years in education that it is “Boot Camp for Life”. Just like any other class, the success depends on the quality of the teacher. I hope parents will pay attention – with budget cuts, there may be up to 50 students in each connections class.

Hank Williams Jr.

July 25th, 2010
8:47 am

get the watermelons and collard greens out of skool and you can start feedin em CoCo puff patties…

just a thought…………

YOURS ????

Bryan in South GA

July 25th, 2010
9:30 am

Our middle school just dropped FCS. We now have a fully equipped lab space that will probably be used for Response to Intervention classes. Is this a wise move? It is a necessary move.

Teacher&mom

July 25th, 2010
9:34 am

Why not go into the course with an open mind? Since it is a 6th grade course, it may or may not be very in depth but it will provide the foundation for future FCS courses. Since it probably only meets for 9 week/45 minutes a day, the teacher will be limited in how in depth s/he can go. Keep in mind that the budget has probably hit this teacher’s classroom hard forcing the teacher to re-vamp the classroom activities. I know in my high school, the FCS has to pay for all the supplies out of her own pocket.

If your twins don’t like the course, then the next time it shows up on their schedule, you can request a schedule change. Who knows…they may love it and it could open up a new world of possible career choices. You’ll never know until you try. If it ends up being a dud, well it was only 45 days out of 180. Chalk it up to experience and move on. It won’t ruin their chances of getting into college ;)

Hey Teacher

July 25th, 2010
9:52 am

In my system the culinary arts teacher at the high school level has been begging for this class in middle school so that the 9th graders would come to her knowing how to boil water. Of course, like any elective, it depends on the teacher and how this information is delivered. Having a hands on class at this age is great at this age — even with my seniors, their favorite classes are always art, graphic design, PE, culinary arts — NOT my English class or math or science.

Average guy

July 25th, 2010
9:54 am

Yes, money is tight. And, yes, everyone is looking for something to cut, but there is far more to education that reading, writing and arithmetic. Life skills are important. Kids aren’t learning them at home. Many kids don’t work these days. So, they don’t learn them on the job. These kids arrive at college underdeveloped socially, can’t relate to adults, have no work ethic, have never assumed any responsibility…..and on it goes.

Since the public schools aren’t doing so good on the reading, writing and arithmetic, did anybody ever think that what’s missing is life experience? I say put back PE, music, art, debate, literary, FFA, FCS (Home Ec), prayer, the Pledege of Allegiance, civics and community service in every school in Georgia!!!!

Oh, I forgot, whatever happened to neighborhood schools, PTA, parent volunteers, bazarres, Halloween Carnivals, bake sales. How dumb and old school of me, we replaced that with iPods, Blackberrys, Wii’s, End of Course Tests, AYP, and other stuff!!!

Involved Parent

July 25th, 2010
10:13 am

We sewed paper and microwaved meals in my middle school Home Ec class twenty years ago. As a stay at home mom today, I really could have used lessons in sewing real projects, cooking over a real stove, and managing a home. To this day, I still don’t know how to sew a button. I think there are definitely valuable things to learn in a Family & Consumer Sciences class as long as they are actually teaching kids how to do real, valuable things – not just microwaving food.

Back In The Day

July 25th, 2010
10:50 am

About 50 years ago when I took Home Ec., we learned to cook, sew, and shop. Yes, our field trip was to the supermarket. It all centered around how to become the perfect June Cleaver type of wife. LOL, but I loved every minute of it!

MS Man

July 25th, 2010
11:14 am

Most FACS classrooms are built in labs in schools and don’t require much additional funding. Our district uses CTAE funds to the tune of about $1000 a year to buy supplies for sewing projects, cooking from scratch, and learning about proper ways to store, handle, and prepare foods. In addition, they do work with balancing meal plans, planning shopping trips to the grocery with coupons and a list, and some other basic life skills. Its a pretty good class that isn’t particular rigorous academically but provides a lot of good common sense approached. I know a good deal of our male teachers bring their dress shirts and pants to get buttons fixed, hems mended, and the kids love doing that for them. The idea of connections classes in the middle school is to expose kids to different routes that they may want to pursue as electives or career pathways in high school. If they are designed correctly, the middle school connections should mirror the electives offered at the feeder high school.

ScienceTeacher671

July 25th, 2010
11:43 am

By the way, I’m impressed that you received your childrens’ schedules 10 days before school starts.

catlady

July 25th, 2010
12:10 pm

Hank, that’s FRIED chocolate coco puff patties, Sir!

I actually never heard anything about that class from my two childen who went to MS in Georgia. I am sure with a good teacher and NOT being used as a dumping ground for the less academically oriented, it could be a very good class. I think the exploratories were 9 weeks each, as I recall. I know my daughter did Spanish one term and keyboarding one term and Ag one term and lots of PE, plus she had band every term.

We have so many kids growing up in “disorganized” (I am being nice here) homes with no planning going on, I think this could be a wonderful opportunity to instill some basic skills that ADULT parents used to teach their kids.

ASHLEY

July 25th, 2010
12:28 pm

Since most women are far better educated than men wouldn’t it be nice for their male counter-part to take this class also. If you look around you’ll see that there are plenty of male fashion designers and top chefs. We offered general business when I was in school so I learn how to write and balance a checkbook but of course kids don’t work in this day and age . Must admit life-skills classes are very important since most preteens and teenagers lack social skills or manners.

Echo

July 25th, 2010
1:25 pm

I was put in a Home Ec class because of “scheduling issues” when I was in high school (1980’s). I thought I was going to hate it, it ended up being one of my favorite classes. I didn’t particularly like the Nazi teaching it but she ran a tight ship and we were always doing something meaningful. I also recall taking a wood shop class in 8th grade. We used REAL tools and there were a few accidents…no one died and I still use those skills today. I teach science in high school now and I really believe the vocational classes have a significant value. I wish they would bring those types of classes back into schools maybe even an automotive repair class so I could get an oil change while at work :o >

love2teach

July 25th, 2010
1:45 pm

At my middle school, this is one of the most popular classes. The teacher is dynamic and students frequently request to repeat this class every year.

The students cook, sew, learn about nutrition and basic baby care (they do the egg project). The parents were actually distraught when they heard about the possibility of this class being cut. Of course, the teacher of this class is outstanding.

Ole Guy

July 25th, 2010
2:15 pm

WRONG WRONG WRONG! This would be like teaching the student pilot aerobatics, gunnery, and the fine points of instrument flying…before the first solo. Before they start teaching things like how to bake cookies and Rice Krispies Treats, ya think maybe they should be taught skills which, someday, might enable them to acquire the things necessary for cookies and treats…LIKE A GOOD JOB, so that they might someday be able to afford the house in which they can afford to purchase the materials necessary for cookies and treats. In other words…ENSURE MASTERY OF BASIC ACADEMIC SKILLS.

If good instructional time is to be expended on home economics skills, let these skills be in areas of home finance. A basic basic basic accounting course could/should be established whereupon the kid might…I SAY MIGHT…learn the crux of reality; ie a dollar earned DOES NOT translate into a dollar and a nickel consumed.

I realize the educational gurus insist that education should be fun, which is fine, however, fun at the expense of WHAT? Let’s stop crapping around with these kids’ lives. If we teach em how to read, comprehend, do their “gazintas”, etc, they can research the raw materiels necessary for cookies and treats, read the directions, and go for it.

catlady

July 25th, 2010
2:16 pm

Can we talk about the Dekalb Co SS administrator who sold his books to some of the schools in the school system? Not just the ethics of it (used federal money), but how did they get an administrator with a “doctorate” who scored 480 on the SAT. And please tell Mr. Eberly, the AJC writer, that in the old days you got 200 PER SECTION (total 400) JUST FOR SHOWING UP.

Teacher

July 25th, 2010
2:20 pm

I think this course is very important. When I taught fifth grade many of my students were home alone frequently and also caring for younger siblings while their parents worked. How valuable for these children to know how to put together a basic healthy meal! Times have changed and many adults I know still don’t know much about cooking or what is in the food they are eating. In today’s society children know much more about going to the drive through than preparing a meal. So in that regard, I think this type of learning can be for now, and not just when students are older.

People have mentioned budget cuts, but I think this class is even more important in tough economic times. Families are making tough choices and these basic life skills can be put to use right away.

ABC

July 25th, 2010
2:30 pm

My brother in low has a degree in Food Science. I always teasing him about having a degree in Home Ec, but he has a dynamite job with a Fortune 500 company and makes great money.

Justin Murell

July 25th, 2010
3:11 pm

They should keep it because it teaches you basic skills of stuff you will actually need to know in life like how to cook and also teaches good nutrition.

Fayette Teacher

July 25th, 2010
3:39 pm

Hey, AVERAGE GUY (and I quote): “Since the public schools aren’t doing so good on the reading, writing, and arithmetic…” Looks like you could do with some remedial English courses yourself. What is your basis for blasting the public schools? Too bad your kids ( if you even have any in public school) don’t go to Fayette County schools – just guessing here. Another public school naysayer without any substance…

Online Reader

July 25th, 2010
3:50 pm

As another reader said, go into it open minded. My son took the class in middle school and learned the basics of cooking and sewing. Now that he is away at college both skills are valuable. He can sew his own buttons back on as opposed to paying someone to do it for him. (I too have kept the embroidery that he did in the class.) If you want a wasted course, look into the 9 week lanaguage classes they offer, those are a joke.

AJinCobb

July 25th, 2010
3:55 pm

@Fayette Teacher: Your response to Average Guy is right on the money. Furthermore, almost all the things he lists to “bring back” never left Cobb County schools and are going strong. “Another public school naysayer without any substance” is a perfect description of this nonsense.

Susan

July 25th, 2010
4:01 pm

@Teacher…my thoughts exactly! Children need to be given information to make help them good decisions in life.

Susan

July 25th, 2010
4:06 pm

“to help them make good decisions” Maybe I need a course in proof reading!

fultonschoolsparent

July 25th, 2010
4:53 pm

It seems to me that you’ve got a choice between sending young adults out into the world to eat nothing but fast food, or actually having somebody teach them some nutritional and practical life skills. Has anybody heard that we’re in a crisis of over weight kids and adults because of too much fast food and poor nutrition as it is? Parents aren’t teaching these skills and they’re essential for a healthy society. While we’re at it, let’s throw out PE so that nobody knows how to exercise either. Those that want to get rid of these things are just members of the “keep testing and testing, and testing because academics are the only things that’s important” crowd. Seems short sighted to me!

Andrea

July 25th, 2010
5:00 pm

My son, who is now 23, took FACS when he was in middle school. He didn’t want to take it but he ended up enjoying parts of it. He learned how to cook simple meals and that fostered an interest in cooking that he has to this day. Now he is an excellent cook and often cooks meals for his graduate school friends who are hungry for a home-cooked meal. He also learned how to budget and balance a checkbook, and how to sew on a button and make simple repairs. It was beneficial to him. I thought it was a worthwhile class. There is nothing wrong with knowing how to manage your home, since most of us can’t afford full-time housekeepers and chefs.

HS Teacher

July 25th, 2010
5:41 pm

If there is a course like home ec, there needs to be a course on social graces. So many parents today do not teach their own offspring to say “yes ma’am”, “yes sir”, etc. They don’t children basic social skills needed to be viewed as successful.

If parents don’t bother to teach their kids how to cook and so we provide a course in middle school for that, so should there be a course for social skills.

oldtimer

July 25th, 2010
7:21 pm

In my former Middle School Mrs. MCD taught FCS..to boys and girls twice during MS years. It was a great class. Yes, it was mostly cooking and sewing but everyone loved it. I think at that age diet habits are one of the best things taught to everyone. They planned and cooked meals..healthy ones. The career, checkbook balancing etc can be saved for HS when students actually begin to make choices. In TN where I now live, that type of class is required for all students and it has a wonderful curriculum, even including resume writing.

teaching 7th!

July 25th, 2010
8:06 pm

The balance a checkbook isn’t for home ec, because K-8 do a personal finance unit in SS every year….in middle school, students DO learn to make checkbook entries, balance the book, budget, etc in this unit. It HAS to start way before they must use it and practice it each year so our youth can manage money one day.

Jessica

July 25th, 2010
9:28 pm

I think a class like this could be very useful, if it’s taught well. Everyone approaching adulthood should know how to put together a simple, healthy meal, make a budget, balance a checkbook, sort/wash your own laundry without ruining it, sew on a button, etc.

Ideally, kids should be taught these things at home, but that isn’t always the case. Also, a lot of the skills taught in ‘home ec’ are a practical reinforcement of what they are learning in academic classes. Balancing a checkbook is math, and cooking is science.