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Home Economics (also known as Family and Consumer Sciences) 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, caring for the home environmnet ( interior design, home furnishing, cleaning, handicrafts, sewing, clothing and textiles) cooking, nutrition, food preservation, hygiene, child development, and family relationships. It prepares students for homemaking or professional careers. It is taught in secondary schools, colleges and universities, vocational school and in adult education centers, where students include women and some men. In the 1800’s, home economics classes were intended to ready young women for their duties in the home. Classes were first 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.
The preferred name of the field of study and profession is ‘Home Economics’. Historical records of the Federation document the challenges various names, titles and terminology have posed for, including the complexity of translation. Internationally, the field of study has consistently retained the name Home Economics and is recognised both within and beyond the boundaries of the profession. The International Federation for Home Economics is committed to re-branding and repositioning, not renaming the profession.
Situated in the human sciences, Home Economics (Family and Consumer Sciences) draws from a range of disciplines to achieve optimal and sustainable living for individuals, families and communities. Historically, Home Economics (Family and Consumer Science) 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 also the global (glocal) community. Home Economists (Family and Consumer Science professionals)are concerned with promoting and protecting the well-being of individuals, families and communities, they also facilitate the development of attributes for lifelong learning for paid, unpaid and voluntary work; and living situations. 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 (Family and Consumer Science) 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. This disciplinary diversity coupled with the aim of achieving optimal and sustainable living means that home economics has the potential to be influential in all sectors of society by intervening and transforming political, social, cultural, ecological, economic and technological systems, at glocal levels. This is driven by the ethics of the profession, based on the values of caring, sharing, justice, responsibility, communicating, reflection and visionary foresight.
Areas of practice
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 twenty-first 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.
Home Economics 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, cooking, nutrition, food preservation, hygiene, child development, and family relationships. It prepares students for homemaking or professional careers. Home Economics is also known as Family and Consumer Sciences. It is taught in secondary schools, colleges and universities, vocational school and in adult education centers, where students include women and some men. In the 1800’s, home economics classes were intended to ready young women for their duties in the home. Classes were first 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.
The thread or essential ingredient that all subjects, courses of study and professionals identifying as home economists must exhibit has at least three essential dimensions:
- A focus on fundamental needs and practical concerns of individuals and family in everyday life and their importance both at the individual and near community levels, and also at societal and global levels so that wellbeing can be enhanced in an ever changing and ever challenging environment;
- The integration of knowledge, processes and practical skills from multiple disciplines synthesised through interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary inquiry and pertinent paradigms; and
- Demonstrated capacity to take critical/ transformative/ emancipatory action to enhance wellbeing and to advocate for individuals, families and communities at all levels and sectors of society.
- Ensuring the interplay of these dimensions of Home Economics is the basis upon which the profession can be sustained into the future. Because of these attributes, Home Economics is distinctively positioned to collaborate with other professionals.
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.
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.
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.
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 (Family and Consumer Science) professionals include:
- Home Economics (Family and Consumer Science) 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 (Family and Consumer Science) 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.
- Activities of daily living
- Daily activities
- Household management
- Psychiatric rehabilitation
- ↑ International Federation for Home Economics (IFHE): Position Statement in: International Journal of Home Economics, Volume 1, Issue 1, available http://www.ifhe.org
- ↑ Phillips, Robert, Editor-in-Chief et al. 1971. Funk & Wagnall’s New Encyclopedia. USA: Funk & Wagnall’s, Inc.
- ↑ Mack, Norman, Editor. 1981. Back to Basics. Pleasantville, NY: The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.
- ↑ Bredenberg, Jeff, Editor. 1998. Clean It Fast, Clean It Right. Emmaus, PA: Rodale.
- ↑ Mintzer, Rich & Kathi. 1999. The Everything Money Book. Avon, Massachusetts: Adams Media Corporation.
- Home Economics Archive: Tradition, Research, History (HEARTH)
An e-book collection of over 1,000 classic books on home economics spanning 1850 to 1950, created by Cornell University's Mann Library.
- International Federation for Home Economics (IFHE)
- American Association for Family and Consumer Science (AAFCS)
-  Home Economics, 1987, Wendell Berry. Holistic, enduring science.