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Why is research, publications and a strong online presence important for keeping home economics thriving? 

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I entered the home economics profession as a pre-service teacher in 2005. My many undergraduate assignments required that I search for literature that specifically related to home economics. Recent (within 5 years) and original home economics research articles were surprisingly difficult to find. I could see a void in the research literature and I wanted to play my part to fill this gap. For 10 years (bachelor degree, masters and doctorate = 10 years of study), I have pursued an academic career… but this path has not been without criticism.

One seasoned home economics teacher said to me “becoming an academic is a ridiculous decision – we don’t have enough teachers as it is”. My return argument was that without evidence-based research, we can’t influence policy, get funding and train more teachers.

My reason for becoming an academic: to influence policy makers and public opinion about the benefits of home economics.

My driving passion: home economics and the health and wellbeing of humanity and our Earth home.

My method: showcase evidence-based research that demonstrates the extraordinary work that home economists do on a daily basis.

My challenges: lots. You might say “yeah, yeah, we know we are awesome” but OTHER people don’t really seem to “get” what we do. Why? Because of a general lack of published research within home economics spaces and places; deficiencies in our collective online presence.

What can we do to fix this situation?

THINK BIGGER!
Keywords and hashtags: “Home Economics”, #HomeEconomics

There is plenty of online literature and print material in libraries about textiles, food and nutrition, consumerism, families and households (as examples) but very little with “home economics” as a keyword or mention “home economics” in the abstract. Without “home economics” specifically identified in the keywords or abstracts, database searches do not pick up the articles. Valuable home economics knowledge is being lost or buried. The development of “Google search” has made life a little easier – but still – there isn’t much scholarly information on the inter-webs with free and easy access for students, home economists or the general public.

If you call home economics by another name… use the “home economics” keyword to bring all knowledge and research under one banner. For example, Family & Consumer Science (aka FACS) in the United States does some amazing work – but when I was an Australian undergraduate – I didn’t even know FACS existed – therefore, I didn’t know I had such a wealth of knowledge and research available to me. The name “home economics” is used in more countries around the world than any other name you care to give it.  Think Bigger! We are a globalised world now. If we don’t share our information – we loose.

Publish, publish, publish or perish

Unfortunately, the old adage of “publish or perish” is a reality. If we don’t publish, the profession won’t thrive.  Without the evidence that our profession makes a real and sustained positive difference to peoples’ lives, we won’t get funding, media recognition, favourable government policies or a prominent place in the curriculum… the list of negative impacts is endless. A different seasoned home economist once said at a public event “oh, don’t worry, home economics will always be around in some form or another“. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! From my heart – survival isn’t enough – thriving is what we should all be aiming for! Therefore, publishing research is vital. I encourage home economists to publish their research far and wide. Again – think BIG and outside the square. Can you publish something in the International Journal for Home Economics or choose a journal or newsletter on the other side of the world from you?

What to publish?

Our ‘intellectual ecology’ is of vital importance (Green, 2001). Published research that specifically relates to home economics is rare. A collaborative effort will change this status quo. All teachers are researchers… but you may not realise it. So what can you publish?

  • Share insights:
    • philosophies, projects, learning outcomes. Classroom projects that you might think are boring – someone else might think are amazing – your teaching is worth more to others than you think. Classroom projects are research in action. Projects that engage the community also have a significant impact factor. The unique way you think and do things is important to record and share!
  • Share knowledge:
    • theories, action research, methodologies, literature reviews, book reviews, reviews of new technologies.
  • Share research:
    • journals, trade publications, write a book, blog, write a media release.

I see many home economics teachers on Facebook and Twitter asking for info, lesson plans, helpful tips – the range of topics is huge! If you don’t participate in the conversation – we loose.

Help a mate out! (yep – I’m Australian). Communication and collaboration is really important – especially for our colleagues in the rural and remote places of the world. Don’t keep the information to yourself. Share it.

Where to go for help?

Seek out a home economics academic with a similar interest to you! We are your friends. Among our many research, service and teaching roles – we also write publications for a living. Sorry (not sorry) for dobbing all you academics in! In addition, you can seek the assistance of your local home economics association. They will help to publish stuff. I often hear editors screaming for more work to publish in their journals and newsletters. Get on-board!

What content?

People will always find time to write about the things they are most passionate… hence why I persist with writing articles about home economics.

Is home economics your driving passion? Yes! Then write about it!

For this reason, what content you put in an article will also depend on your passions and audience. Different publications require different structures and content. Here are a few examples to help.

Formal Communication: Academic journals

  • Specific word limits, usually between 3,000 and 5,000 words.
  • Abstract – abstracts usually contain about 5 sentences and goes a little like… “so what, so what, so what, so what, dead puppies” in 200 words or less.
  • Introduction/significance – why is this article important? who will it benefit? why will they benefit? what does this article contain?
  • Literature review – what has already been done/said about our topic?
  • Method – the who, what, when, where, how of the project.
  • Results/findings – pick the top 4 or 5 most important things you learnt from the project and report on them only – don’t get side-tracked!
  • Discussion/implications/recommendations/limitations – what we learnt from the project, is this consistent or inconsistent with the literature? What would we do differently next time? We need more money and resources to do this again, properly and on a bigger scale (with more people).
  • Conclusion – Home Economics is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G (or not) – we must contain our biases (or not)!
  • Reference list

Informal Communication: Media Releases / Newsletters / Blogs

  • WHO – The home economics teachers at Awesome College identified that students needed to…
  • WHAT – In home economics class we did a project on…
  • WHEN – For 5 weeks in first term we…
  • WHERE – In our local community we…
  • HOW – The method we used was…
  • WHY – It was really important in our community that we addressed…
  • OUTCOME – We were really surprised at the success because…
  • INSIGHTS – We are doing it again next year, but this time we will change…

Can’t think of where to start? Check out this phrase bank.

Maintain an online presence

Having and maintaining a presence online is important – the next generation are watching!!! HomeEcConnect is waiting for you! Come join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

Make time

In reality, none us have enough time… we are all very busy… I get that. Home economists are truly busy people. They start work very early in the morning cleaning out and restocking fridges and we finish very late at night cleaning up after a big day. We work under pressures, constraints and conditions that many other curriculum subjects don’t have to endure. BUT we do our work because we love our subject and we are passionate about ensuring positive outcomes for our students, their families and our communities. So, ask a busy person, they will do the work. I’m asking you to make time. Don’t hate me!!! I really really am on your side, by your side, behind you and in front! Teamwork makes it easier. Share.

Contribute to our common goal

As home economists one of our common goals is to ‘achieve optimal and sustainable living for individuals, families and communities’ (International Federation for Home Economics, 2009). Without an evidence-base to back up our home economics conversations, the conversations are ineffectual. This blog has been about the importance of publishing research. So often, research isn’t reported. This is a tragedy. A lack of published research may be part of the reason the home economics profession has struggled for legitimacy and recognition as a mainstream profession for so long.  Let’s change this.

Home economists educate about the purpose, function, purchasing and availability of food. We provide skills for creating and repairing clothes and textile items. We teach about responsible, ethical fashion and product consumption. We assist with building strong and sustainable relationships with families, peer groups, communities, businesses, industry and political agencies. We have empowered and inspired many thousands of girls, boys, men and women, families and communities who have successfully created happy and healthy environments of their own. Rather than the mere ‘survival’ of home economics – it is time for us to thrive. Help us create sustainable futures for all. Send out more positive messages and evidence based-research about home economics and publish publish publish!

Easy as!

My work is very serious and I take myself very seriously… but sometimes humour is the only way to stay sane.

Keeping home economics alive and thriving
Dr Jay R. Deagon PhD

These views and opinions are my own.

References:

Green, K. (2001). Our Intellectual Ecology: A treatise on Home Economics. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, 93(3).

International Federation for Home Economics. (2008). Home Economics in the 21st century: position statement. Retrieved from http://www.ifhe.org/

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Opinion letter written by Jay Deagon @HomeEcConnect

Sometimes things in our own neighbourhood need our attention… What is a stake here? My son’s teeth, my national identity and humanity in general. So here is my letter to my current Queensland State Government and our Premier, Campbell Newman.

Dear Premier,

Today I heard from a dental technician (who is too afraid to say anything because they don’t want to lose their job) that all orthodontic work (retainers, dentures etc etc) are being sent overseas and that our local technicians have been sacked… Queensland people, supporting their local communities with essential health services are now jobless. Also a vital aged care home closing down, in fact, many health support services have been decimated under the current Queensland Government. I am absolutely disgusted and becoming increasingly distressed.

I am Brisbane born and bred – a thoroughbred Queensland racehorse if race horses are your thing. I was very very proud to be a Queenslander. Queensland politicians (with a few exceptions) have usually looked after the health and well-being of Queensland individuals, families and communities. A misinformed friend of mine from Austria once asked me “Queensland? isn’t that a socialist state?” He was referring to how well the Queensland Government looked after its people… I corrected him “yes our government does look after us – we are very lucky – but we are still a democracy”. Queensland was known in international circles to be one of the world’s “best practice” models for happy, healthy and compliant citizens. However, our current government is seriously undermining the very things that made me proud to be a Queenslander and a human being living in Queensland.

Even my 11 year old son is getting distressed about hearing so many local people losing their jobs (last count was about 20,000ish). My son is worried about where people will live and how they will eat and who will fix his teeth – he is 11 years old! Why should he have to worry about these things? What is the Queensland Government doing to the psyche of Queenslanders? Do they want us “the people” to take a leaf from the French – stand up together as a united front and have our Premier sacked? Because, quite frankly, this is the way things seem to be heading…

We have joked in our house for years that if you don’t like something (a pothole in the road or street lights out) that you should write a letter to government… I have acted on my family’s advice because I am not a happy Queenslander!

So, Mr Newman, my son needs a new retainer. Can you please organise and pay for it to be fixed? The local technician who made it has now been sacked… so he can’t fix it, I am a fulltime student and can’t afford private health insurance for my family so I can’t pay for it yet, my partner is an actor who also works voluntarily at an Arts organisation that isn’t funded, so he works for the love of it and regular weekly pays are rare, so he can’t pay for it, my son’s farther is regularly out of work, so he can’t pay for it, my father is a retired teacher, so he can’t pay for it… Before I started study, somewhere in the last 20 years of me working full time – I think that I have well and truly paid enough tax. What am I supposed to do? I thought the Queensland Government was there to serve its people… all people. Many Queensland citizens actively participate in community life and positively contribute to the betterment of Queensland… I’m here Mr Newman – doing it – being a Queenslander – with my biggest loudest “Queenslander” voice. My whole family are yelling it too!!! BUT where are you Mr Newman?

I am still a privileged Queenslander. I have a home, food to eat, my son and I are well educated, we are loved and have amazing family support but I can’t even begin to imagine how other less fortunate Queensland families are faring. We can’t eat money, especially if we have no teeth.

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Written by Jay Deagon @HomeEcConnect 
Theo sleeping on the job

Theo doesn't like ironing either

I’m getting a little disheartened by some of the behaviours we have adopted since the 1980s. Today, I thought to myself “what if Home Economics was an Xbox?”. HomeEcConnect has 64 Facebook fans and if I’m lucky one person per week might share one of the stories I post. On the other hand, Xbox has 15,843,451 Facebook fans and this week 598,197 people are talking about it. There is something inherently strange and a little disturbing about this. For me, Xbox games represent a fantasy world – it is fun and exciting – there is no doubt about that… but what are you actually doing? I mean, did you do the housework before you sat down? Did you talk to your family over the breakfast table? Did you take the dog for a walk or the kids to the park? Did you write a blog about your recent adventures in the ‘real’ world? I’m asking – how did you – while playing the Xbox – make a positive contribution to your family today? Hmmmm… This has wider implications – and many of us know it.

I’m not saying get rid of the Xbox – no way! I’m not vilifying Xbox nor any of the computer games. I enjoy a game of Spiro or Dance Star occasionally too! What I am saying is that while we have our faces in the screens – not much is actually getting done. Clean Up Australia was today – who went out and cleaned up something?

Healthy family life means taking actions in the immediate environment that surrounds you. Some jobs we hate doing (I’m not a fan of ironing) – but housework needs to be done – and it is inevitable. A constant never-ending story – just like a computer game!!! Before we fade into the nothingness – why not make housework fun? It’s all in the attitude. If your attitude isn’t conducive to enjoying housework – then change your attitude (p.s. I’m talking to myself here as much as I am talking to you). Prioritising is a necessary skill – and a skill that Home Economics education helps to foster.

To get started – some housework suggestions that can be done right now:

Bromeliads in flower

Bromeliads in flower

Cook something for your family to enjoy tonight and eat at the dinner table with the TV off

Clean something – the toilet is usually a good place to start

Vacuum the lounge room

Wash the dishes

Clean all of the horizontal surfaces that have accumulated “stuff”

Hand craft or sew something beautiful for yourself

Clean out the cat litter tray

Wash the clothes

Change the sheets and pillow cases

Mow the lawn

Clean off your study desk

Do you tax receipts

Clean out the gutters or the swimming pool

Weed the garden

Bromeliad in flower

Bromeliad in flower

Or have a cup of tea with your partner on the back porch and look at the beautiful red flowers that just came up on the Bromeliads and smile together about that enormous butterfly that just floated past. Teamwork is another excellent strategy for making housework fun.

There is so much life out there to be enjoyed… even housework.

Right – I’m off to make sure my son has clean uniforms for the week. Happy housework!

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