Going beyond home ec to teach life skills to kids

Next year, Ohio will require more personal finance issues in its curriculum.
CINCINNATI (AP) -- In Pat Pritz's family and consumer science classes, Mount Healthy High students baked cookies one day and learned how to ace job interviews the next.
Amid the sinks and stoves, they practiced looking into a job interviewer's eyes, answering questions confidently and accentuating the positive about their summer jobs. Classmates pointed out when they slouched or used slang.
Next door, Renee Martin's "On Your Own" class cooked turkey sausage, sweet potatoes and green beans -- then learned how to fill out W-2 tax forms.
What used to be called home economics has become more about economics and less about the home.
High schools in the Cincinnati area are injecting their family and consumer science courses with more personal finance and career planning.
It will accelerate next year, when Ohio revises standards to put more personal finance and consumer issues in the curriculum, said J.C. Benton, education department spokesman.
"It's not about being a homemaker," said Pritz. "It's about being a whole a person, someone who can keep all the balls in the air -- your job and your home, balancing your work and family life."
Range of topics
At Seton High, for instance, life management courses cover college and career searches, job shadowing, even sexual harassment. Students learn how to buy and maintain a car and balance a checkbook.
There's still class time for sewing, interior design and nutrition, but "we've come a long way from the Suzie Homemaker image," said Sue Bien, Seton's department head.
Princeton High's college and work life teachers bring in zoo handlers, park rangers, accountants and clothing designers to talk with students. A Kings Island resource officer even talked about handshakes.
"During all of these, we stress the value of education and how it directly affects your income now and for your entire life," said Princeton's Susan Butts.
Parents welcome the changes.
"When I was in high school, I learned to bake a pie and sew an apron," said Kym Poellnitz, a financial counselor and parent of Princeton High students.
"Young people today are taking on more adult roles sooner. This prepares them."
Gaining in popularity
About 206,000 Ohio students take family and consumer science courses, which are taught by about 1,000 teachers, Benton said.
That's an improvement from the 1970s and '80s, educators said, when home economics fell out of vogue at many schools. Some teacher colleges dropped home economics training.
The reasons were many, including women moving toward professional careers and schools increasing emphasis on math, science and other subjects on state standardized tests, educators said.
Badin High in Hamilton replaced the sinks in its home economics classes with computers years ago, said Dirk Allen, its development director. Now consumer economics is part of its marketing education course.
Cincinnati Public Schools in recent years revamped high schools into smaller, career-oriented schools.
Now 5 percent of its high school students take family and consumer science, said Paul Ramstetter, career-technical manager.
Elsewhere, though, home economics departments thrive, in part, because of career and life planning, said Carol Schroer, a longtime teacher at Mother of Mercy, where 75 percent to 80 percent of graduates take the courses.