After some consideration, I have decided to rerun a series that I wrote on my previous blog. It was a series based on a 1948 Home Economics book that I found during one of my vintage shopping excursions. I adore this book. Although dated in some content, it is spot on for much of today’s living as well as it’s intended 1948 audience. I hope you will enjoy this series. (click here to read my original introduction)
(this was originally written and posted on February 17, 2011)
“Welcome to our premier unit. I would first like to say that as excited as I am in doing this series, I am sad to report that I am still in want of an “original” idea. I thought this was it–a modern woman taking the time to explore vintage textbooks and see how what she learns from the past can be applied to the present. Are the ideas and techniques of home management the same or relevant for now? Does the moral decline, lack of class and disappearance of grace in our culture have anything to do with these basic concepts, or “survival skills”, not being taught in the schools or in homes anymore? Is there a way to recapture that poignant time and live it now?
In preparing to do this series, I thought I would try to find a 21st century Home Economics book to have on hand as an additional reference. On Amazon.com one can find plenty of cookbooks or home maintenance manuals or housekeeping tutorials or money management tools or how to dress guidelines–scads of them really–but it is harder to find an all in one volume that comes close to what “Your Home and You” is (or was). Remember, this was a textbook used in schools to instruct young people (so they wouldn’t have to invest hundreds of dollars in self-help books once they hit 35, realizing they know nothing about home management). Once these young people hit adulthood, they actually had a clue.
But here is what I did find (which coincidentally shattered my “a-ha” moment),“Home Economics: Vintage Advice and Practical Science for the 21st Household”. AGAIN, a greater mind than mine (not hard to find, mind you) has already been at work and compiled a book, not just a blog, to record her findings. No book deal for me (as if!). And that’s OK because I still want to do this and have some fun in the process. As cute as the new “Home Economics” book is, it is a very thin volume in comparison to Greer’s monster book. Jennifer McKnight Trontz takes information from many such books and condenses it for an easy, enjoyable read. Most of her illustrations come from “Your Home and You” which is charming indeed.
Now to begin. I would like you to know a few facts about this book first. It was written in Seven Units and was designed to be covered in one to two school years depending on the instructor, the curriculum, etc. The author wanted the information to be adaptable to the needs of the students so the order in which the information was presented could be changed around accordingly. I am going to do this. The first Unit is the longest (over 200 pages) and deals with food, “FOOD IS MORE THAN FLAVOR”. As interesting as it looks, it is not the topic I am the most interested in. Therefore, we are starting with:
UNIT II. HELPING YOUR FAMILY
When was a topic like this ever discussed in school? In wracking my brain, I think maybe we talked of manners and the like in grade school but I don’t remember ever covering this foreign concept (at least as evidenced by today’s world) in a high school course. I love this opening quote, “[One's] conduct and attitude were decidedly affected by the things and persons about her, i.e, herenvironment…Our neighborhoods, the places we go, our daily associates, the houses in which we dwell, the families with whom we live, all influence us decidedly.” Isn’t that the truth? And a solid, first clue in our search for reason. It has to start at home. The book then goes on to break down how one can contribute to a successful home life. Note these suggestions:
being considerate of your mother: It mentions how long and hard moms work. Because of their hard, tireless work, they may not always be in a happy mood but “their love never fails”. The book admonishes the student to remember how mom was always there for her as a child and now it is “your turn” to show appreciation by not making unnecessary work for her (clean up after oneself) and to “be on time to your meals”.
being considerate of your father: The basic thought here was to convey that he’s not just the guy with the money and car keys. He should be treated as a friend. If he says “no” to something you ask for (like money or car keys), try to understand why and give him a chance to explain; he should be “the person to whom you go for advice and the right answers”.
being considerate of younger brothers and sisters: Teasing is unkind. “To tease or take advantage of a younger person, whose lack of strength or experience makes him helpless in your hands, is more than unkind. It is cowardly” (imagine teaching this in schools today…would bullying be such a huge problem?)
being considerate of your sister who shares your room: Thankfully, I didn’t have to do this. My brother and I shared a room when we were really little but from age five forward I always had my own space. Some of the points highlighted were really interesting (and made me think of the Brady Bunch girls). The book mentions using boxes in drawers or closets to divvy up space. Once an agreed plan is made, “do your part to conform to the plan and not trespass on the other’s rights”. Each person has a right to privacy…example: if one party is in the room with the door closed, it is polite to knock and wait to be invited in regardless if it is your room too. If you do not go to bed at the same time, be considerate and quiet…”uninterrupted sleep should be the right of every person”.
learning to give and take: The book encourages the student to strive to see the other person’s point of view. This serves as a” basis for the solution of problems both in and out of the home”. Do we live in this type of considerate world? Do people today take the time to really listen to one another, try to understand another person’s viewpoint? The book continues to give the example when winning a game or contest…”the honor or prize should be taken or accepted with a feeling of gratitude, but not of exalted superiority. On the other hand, the loser should have no hesitation in giving or conceding the game to the winner. A victor should take the honor gracefully (there’s my word!); a loser should give it to another graciously (awww.).” Have any of you been on the sidelines of a youth soccer game? Have we not heard of parents and coaches in the news losing it (to the point of killing a person) over a “foul”? It is r.i.d.i.c.u.l.o.u.s.
customs or rules in a family: Here is where the book emphasizes the importance of the family sharing at least one meal together each day. And other common courtesies were discussed; how to share bathroom time (written back when most homes only had one–again, remember the Bradys? Six kids sharing one bathroom…miraculous), use of the living room, sharing “radio” time (could this be TV and video game time today? : ) ), the importance of “family councils” which is where the family meets together to discuss the family budget, determine allowances, and settle other family money matters. How many families do this today–involving the children in debt worries, how to pay for school, how much to spend on clothes? I think most do not. I was not involved in these discussions growing up and I know we didn’t involve our daughter in them either. Whether it is to protect them or matter of pride or both–I can now see how this is really a disservice to a child. I remember growing up and hearing “we don’t have money for that” but I never knew why we didn’t because I didn’t have an understanding of where the hard-earned money was going (OK, I wasn’t an idiot–I knew there were house, car, utility payments etc, but I never knew how much these things were in relation to what was being made). I can really see how this could be an important and responsible thing to do with children. Maybe the trickle down effect would be less debt for our future generations?? What are your thoughts? Thankfully we will be covering “Wise Budgeting and Buying” in a later unit.
the family and the neighborhood: This section is nicely summarized with this quote: ” One of the best ways to have a good neighborhood is to be a good neighbor. No family or individual has a right to spoil a neighborhood by neglecting his home and yard or by behaving obnoxiously.” (I feel like getting this printed up on posters and hanging them throughout my town–but then would this make me obnoxious?)
your father’s home and your own: “One last admonition–remember that an ideal family life usually proves to be highly contagious…you are apt to carry it into your own family life when the day comes that you establish a home of your own…In doing everything you can to make your present home successful, you are building a good foundation for your future home.”
I love how the tone of this book puts the responsibility on the reader, the student. The choices “you” make will dictate the life “you” will have. There is no blame game to be played…”well, I can’t cook because my mom never taught me”, “I have debt because no one showed me how to manage money”…no, no. It is on “you” and attitude has everything to do with it.
The chapter concludes by mentioning that there are at least two other things that contribute greatly to a successful home; 1. good health and 2. preparation for earning a living. Our next chapter will deal with the former: Avoiding Illness. Helping the Sick in Your Home.
So, what do you think so far? Can we learn from this antiquated textbook?”
I will try to get these “re-runs” posted on Monday mornings through the next few weeks. Hope you enjoy them!