Putting Theory into Practice

Image credit: members.jacksonville.com
Image credit: members.jacksonville.com

Remember “Home Ec” class in High School? In my secondary all-girls school, this session specializing in information about what to do when you became a woman and had to run your own household, wasn’t offered until you were halfway through.

The exact details of what went on in the class are a little hazy right now, but I remember being glad when I finally got there since I had heard that they were bestowing pearls of wisdom on us women-to-be. But sometimes there’s a teensy difference between what they tell you in class and what’s done in  everyday practice.

I’ve also realized these many years later, that not all Home Economics classes were equal in scope. My sister remembers that her teacher taught them about deportment including admonishing them never to leave their homes with rollers in their hair. In her class, they were also taught how to make a dish or two, which may have been where my sister’s cooking skills were born.

One thing I do remember from my class, was having to draw how I would hang certain items of clothing on a line after washing. Since my drawing skills were never any good, I’m not too sure whether the big red X’s were because the pegs were in the wrong place on the pants, or because the pants didn’t really look like pants.

I think the teacher in my year was probably a little tired too, because I don’t remember being taught an awful lot in terms of cooking or baking. When I baked at home, my specialty was the jelly roll, which was a flat rectangular shaped piece of cake which I would slather with jam, roll up and then cut into slices. Pretty to look at, easy as pie (which I also couldn’t make), and difficult to mess up.

Image credit: tasteofhome.com
Image credit: tasteofhome.com

So whenever we were tasked with making a cake, out would come my trusty baking sheet (because cake pans were for wusses), and the only variation on my theme would be a different flavor of jam. So suffice it to say that I was never encouraged to push my limits as the teacher accepted yet another cylinder filled with preserves, which after awhile meant that even I couldn’t look at another jelly roll again.

I don’t remember being given practical examples about how to choose vegetables at the market or how to recognize a bargain when I saw one. We weren’t told that it wasn’t worth paying a higher price for some items – like soap – and that you could be fooled into paying a higher price for the very same item that also came in a different (and less expensive-looking) package.

Luckily my mother took over where these classes left off. I don’t think they were ever meant to replace what you should have been learning at home, but years after I left school I continued to learn practical things that I didn’t learn in class.

One of the things Home Economics class didn’t give me was the hands-on experience of squeezing a tomato to see whether it was ripe and then having the market lady tell me to stop feeling up her fruit, otherwise I’d have to buy it. So it was a surprise when she also warned me not to even bother looking at the limes unless I was prepared to pony up for the squash that she was selling with them, too.

Another thing Home Economics class didn’t give me was the practical experience of engaging the services of a seamstress to have a dress made which I’m told would be ready by a certain time, only to have to return multiple times as the date for completion stretched farther away, while my deadline for its use got closer. It also couldn’t prepare me for the way she’s neither ashamed nor apologetic about it. 

I could go on and on about all the things I learned outside of Home Economics class. It makes me long for the good old days, when the only thing I had to worry about was making sure that my skirts didn’t look the same as my shirts.

Image credit: dsargent.blog.us
Image credit: dsargent.blog.us

 What do you remember from your Home Economics class?



2 thoughts on “Putting Theory into Practice

  1. I vaguely remember learning to change a baby’s diaper using a doll as practice. Knowing what I know now, they really should have the students practice putting a diaper on a cat or other small animal. Until you can change a diaper while holding down frantic limbs and deafening yourself to screams of protest, you really can’t say you know how to do it.

    1. Ha ha. I don’t think we ever did the baby thing – they probably didn’t want to give us any ideas. But your example is exactly what I mean about theory as opposed to the real thing.

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