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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 written by Dr Jay Deagon PhD, 18 October 2014.

A recent article in the Australian reported outcomes of the review of the Australian Curriculum. In that opinion article it was stated “many people seem to have been surprised at the mention of spirituality in the review report. Some people seem to think that the reviewers have made this up.”  The word ‘spiritual’ is not just made up and has an important role to play in curriculum. In a recent study, I reviewed the Melbourne Declaration and also a decade worth of historical Queensland syllabus documents. The study found that “the spiritual dimension of life” to be a key rationale for education. There were also a number of competing and complementary discourses located in the texts. For example, Indigenous perspectives, equity considerations, social justice, and active local and global citizenship were embedded with spiritual ideals and values – ideals that did not necessarily derive from religious perspectives. My study found that spiritual discourses fell into three categories:

  1. spirituality as a socially constructed, publicly expressed and communally validated concept – i.e. meaning is localised;
  2. spirituality as an aspect of whole child development; and
  3. spirituality as an integral part of overall health and wellbeing.

When approached from a balanced, cross-cultural perspective, spirituality is about providing opportunities for students to explore connectedness with self, others, the environment and natural world, and understanding the place of humans in the larger scheme of life on Earth and beyond. Spirituality is about “being-in-the-world”. Isn’t that what “education” is about? We teach people to be human beings – not recontextualised packets of unrelated subject material. Spirituality can play out in education as service to others; studies of philosophy and critical thinking; personal reflections and mindfulness; moral and ethical consumer studies; acting upon inequity and poverty issues identified in local and global environments; school based kitchen gardens; (re)connectedness with our food system; sustainable relationships; and so forth… If approached from a position of relevance to the students and families in the local community, are “hands-on” in their approach, and provide opportunities for an awakening of global consciousnesses, these types of activities in school contexts can contribute in a positive ways to spiritual health and wellbeing. For these reasons, spirituality is more than a nominal goal of education within Australian curriculum.

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Sometimes, when I come across a relevant passage of text in a historical home economics document, I feel completely breathless… *smacks self in the forehead*… why didn’t people listen then? More importantly, why don’t they listen now?

I have posted in this blog, for your amusement, or otherwise, a passage from 1902 (that’s right… 1902… and what are we now?… 2013!) from the Lake Placid Conference Proceedings Volume 4, pages 30 and 31 from an article entitled “Some Controlling Ideals of the Family Life of the Future” written by Dr Thomas D. Woods, Professor of Physical Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York. He wrote thus,

There should be more study of life and the world of living things; of man’s place in nature; more study of human life, of its nature, origin and development. There should be thru this study a larger racial and human consciousness on the part of young men and women, even of boys and girls. There is here the possibility of a reverence for life and its responsibilities which may steady and inspire in a wholesome way even the youth. There is a girls’ school in a conservative part of this country [America] where, I am told, instruction has been given for some time concerning life and health, responsibility for the home and parenthood and some of the obligations to the future. I am told that this instruction has seemed to be one of the most potent influences in the life of the school for fine scholarship and for earnest, wholesome and joyous girlhood. The standards of such phases of education as I have alluded to will of course affect, and in a vital way, the ideals of the home. This conscious responsibility for the future will help those who are living now as much as those of coming generations. Man can only attain his highest self-realization in the pursuit of ideals which are practical for the present and at the same time protective of indefinite but positive interests far ahead. When we strive for ends too near ourselves we lose perspective and balance, the saner judgment; in short, we lose ourselves and the largest opportunity of work for others. There is an inspiration and immediate uplift in working day by day for the interests of the generation ahead, without neglecting present duties, which can only be realized thru experience. This ideal, at first new and conscious, later, thru proper education and training, in many ways subconscious and automatic (but always controlling and farsighted) may be the mainspring, the governing principle of the individual and of the family. If it is to be effective it must be intelligent and scientific but, as [Benjamin] Kidd states so clearly, men and women will not sacrifice the temporary and more or less selfish interests of today for the indefinite values of the future simply thru intellectual understanding and appreciation or with a rational sanction alone. The religious consciousness must participate in all of this; the conscience must be touched, the heart thrilled and the imagination fired with a compelling devotion to this larger altruism, this cosmic service. There must be in the individual the effective consciousness of vital relation to a world progress; to the work of the ages. There is constant danger in these days even for the generous minded and philanthropic of being submerged in the technic and mechanics of life. This ideal which looks forward to the future, often vague but always inspiring, may furnish the sustaining and stimulating atmosphere in which may be accomplished all the smallest and homeliest details of each day and these may become not only endurable but worthy because of their relation to great things. Such ideas may seem to many theoretic and hazy but there are today individuals and families who are successful and happy in the consciousness of the fulness of life thru this relation to all life. Men and women may be imbued with the thought that salvation should include not so much or primarily the idea of present or future well-being for ourselves but rather the saving and protecting the best interests of the lives of others, those living now and those to come after. This scheme of salvation will not neglect the spiritual if the temporal and moral are given their proper place in relation to the permanent and infinite.

Yes, I concede that it is a bit of a Christian sermon, patriarchal and Darwinian (blah blah blah), but, regardless of religious orientation, gender or evolutionary perspectives, it still makes sense – don’t you think? I can recommend reading the whole article. He covers selfishness, breakdown of marriage, neglect of children due to working parents, overfeeding, fads and fashions, waste and consumerism. Home Economics = visionary!

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King & Amy O'Malley 2011

Getting my postgraduate King & Amy O’Malley Scholarship in 2011

I recently attended the World Home Economics Day celebrations of the Home Economics Institute of Australia (Queensland) division.  It was really inspiring to see the new King & Amy O’Malley Scholarship recipients. I have received two of these awards and I know how hard they are to get and how much it means when you receive one. The board has recognised you as a visionary and you are the future of home economics. I am deeply encouraged! I am a member of the HEIA and also a member of IFHE. I encourage everyone to become a member of their local association – it keeps you connected to local people and ideas but I also strongly recommend becoming a member of the IFHE because it connects you to the world in profound ways. With this said, I noticed something at the HEIA brunch and this is what had prompted me to write this article.

I think that there may be a general misunderstanding about who I am and what I do – because I am not a teacher. A significant number of people do not see the important role that home economics specific research and professionalisation has for the quality of life of the home economics profession. Because we have traditionally been an interdisciplinary subject, we borrow our information from other disciplines – food and nutrition is a good example. Very little research has been carried out on home economics populations (teachers, students, clients) and the effectiveness that home economics has on teaching and learning about food and nutrition. This means that there is a severe lack of literature to inform, not just home economists, but everyone else (politicians, policy makers, nutritionists, doctors etc etc) about home economics and positive relationships and the empowering nature it has with food literacy. Mostly, it is anecdotal evidence. Good stories will not persuade governments to hand over money and resources.

Without the evidence-based research to back up our claims, it is very difficult to convince politicians about the essential work that we do – hence we are overlooked and do not receive funding or recognition. Take the physical health dimension as a comparison. I read a review of literature which found that 79% of research reported physical health studies… only 1% of research reported related to the spiritual health dimension. Physical health is easy to see and measure – spiritual health is not so simple to see and measure. Physical health gets all the attention – spiritual health gets marginalised. The same is happening with home economics. Home economics is equally as important as physical health. However, home economics is overlooked because there is very little research. This is the very problem that my doctoral work is tackling. My research is twofold: home economics is my target research paradigm and spiritual health and well-being my topic.

In this regard, I strongly encourage undergraduates and teachers to pursue home economics specific postgraduate work – we need the research! The more people who ask to complete postgraduate studies in home economics – the more demand on the universities to include home economics in their programs and employ qualified home economists – the more distinction and funding home economics receives – the more home economics teachers we have in schools.  Simple… isn’t it?

For this reason, my work and the work of leaders in the field such as Donna Pendergast is extremely important. The world we live in now is very very different from twenty years ago. Today is fast paced, technologically facilitated, political and economically driven. If Home Economists do not keep up with the pace, we all suffer. One lecturer at my old university believes that home economics will always be here – and I agree with her – but it is not longevity that is at stake – quality of life for home economics is the issue.

My mission for many years now has been to boost the research base of home economics. Also, I advocate for home economics to non-home economists. No point in me preaching to the converted! We know what we do… yet, other’s have preconceived notions about home economics that are usually misinformed or incorrect – so they are the people who I target. Anyone who knows me knows that my mission in life is to educate others about home economics.

I am pleased to say – that I am having small successes all over the world. The HomeEcConnect website is doing a good job at getting the message out there. By Home Economists interacting with the HomeEcConnect social networks in a public space we are doing our part to secure a better quality of life for home economics. To those who already participate, I salute you. To everyone else who looks but doesn’t participate – it is time to jump on in!

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Some days I love home economics… other days I wish I could bash my head up against a wall and shout I give up… Why is it that only a few visionaries have ever seen how important home economics education is to society? Hammurabi, Aristotle, Socrates, a few chapters in the Bible, Count Rumsford, King O’Malley and Ellen Richards – now come on! That is a pretty impressive celebrity line up of advocacy supporting us!

Today I read a section of a doctoral thesis written by Margaret Henry in 1995…  I will quote the section that has upset me:

Home Economics today [1995] is at the crossroads of its history in this country [Australia]. With the decisions regarding the outcomes of the National Curriculum debates, Home Economics is in a position to determine its future. It can decide which way it will take. Again, with the establishments of the newly constituted Home Economics Institute of Australia, Home Economics is able to determine the future of the area. Home Economics has [or better still Home Economists have] the potential to become a powerful voice in Australian society (p. 336).

Ok, so here is the rub… it is now 2012 and we are having the same National Curriculum debate… the HEIA and the HEV have submitted position papers to the National Curriculum debate (follow the links to read the papers)… but where are we now?

The point being made here is that first, history does indeed repeat itself, second, why are our powerfully voiced Home Economists still ignored? Simple answer is… I don’t know… but gee I wish I could change the status quo. Home Economists are awesome! I know that – you know that – why can’t “they” see that??? Hmmmm… back to work.  The bruise on my forehead hurts a little but it gives me inspiration to not give up.

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Written by Jay Deagon @HomeEcConnect, June 2012.

In March 2012 I attended Interdisciplinary.net’s 2nd Global Conference on Spirituality in the 21st Century in Prague, Czech Republic. It was amazing. Here is a little summary of my trip:

Every time people ask me about my research they mainly struggle with two concepts… first, they do not know what “Home Economics” is… beyond “cooking and sewing”, and second, their eyebrows do strange wiggling things when I say “spiritual health and well-being”. For the first time in five years when I mentioned my research at the conference in Prague – I only got strange eyebrow twitches from mentioning Home Economics. For many of the conference presenters, spirituality research forms part of their everyday practice. I finally found a group of like-minded people I could relate to on an Interdisciplinary level. “Excellent!” *she thinks* “now, all I have to do is educate them about Home Economics”. So I started by explaining that Home Economics was a global community of practitioners. Some were surprised by this. Then I introduced them to the International Federation for Home Economics Position Statement. I highlighted an overarching purpose of Home Economics by explaining that Home Economists are concerned about “the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities”. On completing my presentation several people approached me and said “I will never look at Home Economics the same way again”. Success!!! So, what did I say that made a difference? I pointed out some synergies between Home Economics and spiritual health and well-being.

A very brief summary of my presentation: Synergies between Home Economics and Spiritual Health and Well-being

“Thumbs up” for Home Economics!

For my research, spiritual health and well-being is a fundamental aspect of the human condition as well as planetary health. Spiritual health and well-being is an umbrella concept that (may or may not) inspire us to pursue quality relationships with self (individuals with self-awareness), others (families and communities), the living and non-living environments (sustainability) and the Transcendent domain (human beings living within a local and global (or “glocal”) reality or realities). Most people can relate to the first three without a problem – it is the transcendental domain that causes said eyebrow twitching. For my research, the transcendental domain is that “place” or “an essence” or “matter and energy” or “God” or “Gods” or “ancestors” or… or… or… the place where “faith” and “hope” meet reality. All the stuff that binds everything and everyone together – all the unexplained stuff – all the spaces in between – “the Mystery bit” – you know what I’m talking about – that “thing” that scientists, religious, secular and mystical people and philosophers have been searching for, for thousands of years and never resolved to anyone else’s satisfaction. The point being, regardless of your belief system – this proposed framework is capable of transversal inclusivity and diversity and is respectful of all humans.

Other outcomes of the conference

  • Spent some quality time discussing Spiritual Health and Well-being with Dr John Fisher and John Hochheimer. Dr John Fisher is the originating author of the Four Domains Model of Spiritual Health and Well-being and the SHALOM survey which was used as the theoretical foundation of my PhD. John Hochheimer was our conference facilitator, academic, New York D.J. and general all round legend.
  • I made invaluable collegial friendships and other contacts with international researchers in the field of spirituality and spiritual health and well-being.
  • I was exposed to so many alternative perspectives about spirituality research. To name a few – chronic illness, space exploration, psychology, drug, sex and alcohol counselling, architecture, radio, music, film and television, family studies, primary and secondary school education, Atheist, Christian and Buddhist philosophy.
  • Successfully advocated for Home Economics to a non-Home Economics specialist international audience.
  • I am contributing a book chapter in an upcoming eBook – due for publication later in the year.

Will keep you posted about the Book Chapter to be published. In the meantime – click here for a draft version of the presentation.

Other random fun stuff I learnt about Prague:

Order the chicken!

The food was filling. When you order “the chicken” – you got a whole corn-fed chicken.

Sand shoes are a must in Prague

Sensible people wear sensible shoes on the streets of Prague. Cobble stones and high heels do not mix – lucky I love my sandshoes!

Prague is obviously an old city because the town planning has a LOT to answer for! The streets are narrow and don’t necessarily go anywhere. I got lost more than once.

Charles Bridge, Prague

Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge has a lot of religious statues. People rub certain statues for “good luck”. The strangest one being where a man jumped off the bridge and committed suicide – how can that be considered good luck?

Public transport is pretty good – if you could read and translate the street signage.

Overall – a very successful visit to Prague to advocate for Home Economics to an international audience, share my research with interested and interesting people and generally a great fun adventure was had.

Final note: A special thank you must go to the Home Economics Institute of Australia (HEIA) for their financial support as a demonstration of their commitment to research in the field of Home Economics. Special thanks also must go to the Griffith Graduate Research School for granting me an International Conference Travel Scholarship.

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Written by Jay Deagon @ HomeEcConnect

To keep you informed of progress, I wanted to thank everyone who participated in the first or second surveys. The second survey is a shorter version of the first and is still open but only until 20 February 2012.  If you have not already done so, I invite you to please complete it.

https://griffithisbr.us.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_0TIQDdgC6uqp9Kk

There are some really fascinating, insightful and truly honest responses so far. I can’t wait to get into analysis and provide detailed reports. As a matter of interest, I will be presenting some initial findings in my presentation at the 2nd Global Spirituality in the 21st Century Conference: An interface of theory, praxis and pedagogy in Prague in March and again at IFHE World Congress in Melbourne.

Me at work
Me at work

If you completed either of the surveys – I ask you, is spiritual health and well-being what you first thought it was? An often taken-for-granted assumption about the spiritual health dimension is that it is an exclusively religious concept. Often people say “I’m spiritual – not religious”. This is a common response found in other similar research projects.  Religion is also a vital aspect of many peoples’ lives. I believe we cannot ignore either of these positions because… spiritual beliefs are important to many people globally. 15 countries where Home Economics is practiced are represented so far in the results. We know that each of us, our colleagues, students and clients come from many different cultural and religious backgrounds – but what do we do with this knowledge? It seems that many of us put it in the “too hard basket” or believe it too personal to address. My research investigates ways that Home Economists can understand and relate to each other and those they work with. From the survey data and the literature I propose to build a conceptual framework to enable us to respect an extraordinary array of human diversity.

In the past 10 years, there has been an explosion of research into spirituality within nursing, clinical psychology, business and education. The reasons for this are various. Applicable to Home Economics are finding solutions to lifestyle diseases, excessive consumption of food, materials and resources and the global consequences, cultivating stewardship, empathy and compassion, sustainable family and community relationships, drug and alcohol counselling… and the list goes on. The results from the surveys are a valuable insight into current perspectives, beliefs, attitudes and understandings of spiritual health and well-being in Home Economics contexts. So, a big thank you to everyone who contributed so far – and to those who are yet to contribute.

I have started a discussion forum on the HomeEcConnect website, which I invite you to participate in. If you do not wish to participate in an open forum, you are welcome to email me your thoughts and I will ensure that your anonymity is respected in any reporting of results.

Wishing everyone health and happiness!

Yours sincerely,

Jay

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