Thursday, March 05, 2009

Learning to Be a Home Keeper

There are many things available to further the education and work experience of daughters at home, and it is never too soon to begin a unit study on these things. I have compiled a list of things that might be helpful when increasing the knowledge and understanding of daughters who desire to be home keepers. These are books that do not just require head knowledge, but will be things that they can put their hands to and practice in every day life.

A few years ago, someone emailed me with a link to a site that provided a curriculum for older daughters who wanted to make the most of life at home and prepare to be future home makers. It contained many things that a young woman would have had to know a hundred years ago, in the areas of homemaking, such as sewing and cooking, caring for the sick, being a hostess, teaching children, writing proper letters, or growing food. From what I remember, she got a lot of her ideas from reading the books of the past centuries, which gave her an insight into the lives of young women at home. In my search for a curriculum for daughters at home, I have not been able to re-locate this woman's site, so I have put together some similar ideas.

Besides the description of books that are listed here, I would like to introduce you to some ideas that many families have practiced over the years. I call it "Unit Career Studies" but you can label it anything you want. When a daughter gets interested in something, she may practice doing it for a day, a week, or whatever time limitations she wishes.

Before practical application of each "unit", the student should do some research and start a little hand made notebook on the subject. Afterwards, she can begin the career for a day or week or month, and add more things to her notebook. I have posted previously on how to make your own little books, but you could also just purchase blank books with pretty covers. When I was a girl, a home economics teacher taught us right out of a book she had made with a three-ring binder, of everything she had learned in home maker's college. She had little snips of fabrics glued into pages, with descriptions and laundry care, recipes, living room arrangements, cleaning procedures, and so forth, which she had recorded from her classes.

Family Librarian: In her youth, she may have read her parent's personal library of books and already be familiar with a great deal of art, literature, music, history, and other subjects. For a day or two, she may become the household librarian, by cleaning out book shelves and dusting the books. When she returns them to the shelves, she puts them in categories of subject matter or interest, (decorating, history, poetry, special interests such as aviation or ships, science, magazines, Bible reference books, fiction, art, etc) and then attaches a label on the edge of the book shelf with paper and tape.

Our family did things like this, thinking we were the only ones who did such things, but years later, learned that other young ladies enjoyed this activity. Some girls even attached envelopes containing index cards, to the inside covers of books, with a place to sign your name if you took the book. This was quite useful when actually lending a book to a friend. Books that went missing were easily recovered by looking at the card that was left and contacting the person who borrowed it.

Florist: Another time, she may become the home florist. It begins in the planting of a garden, including a cutting garden, and transforms into pots of plants around the house and vases of cut flowers with different color combinations. She can supply flowers for the home, checking to see if water needs added or changed, or if bouquets need to be replaced. The fun of this is the absolute joy of getting up in the morning knowing that her family is going to be the recipient of beautiful plants and flowers that help give life to a home.

When there is nothing in bloom, she can learn to use her imagination with boughs and branches and clippings from hedges, grasses, and even weeds, to make friendly little bouquets. This does not have to be kept up forever, but it provides the daughter at home with an idea of what effect flora and fauna have on home making. When we were children, we enjoyed taking an old bowl or basket or jar, filling it with colored rocks, adding ferns and flowers and things from outdoors, and using it as a centerpiece. This was something that was common in homes in the past.

Personal Secretary:Another unit of study can take place in the realm of the secretary of the home. Every home should have an office, and a system of managing phone messages, paying bills, sending out cards, putting things in files, and so forth. If her father has an office in the home, she can become a secretary for a week or so and get some experience in office work.

All these jobs should be treated with utmost respect, in the way the young woman dresses for the part, (for example, the florist can wear a flowered, full length apron or sew a special outfit for that particular job, and make other suitable garments for other jobs) and in the way she handles her time, not slacking, but not hurrying, just to get it done. She should think about the job at hand and ponder what she is doing, and think ahead about what she will do next.

Sick Comforter:The nurse's aid can learn to make a tray to take to someone in the family who is in bed-rest, and learn to make a bed with a person still in it. She should dress the part, not so much in a hospital uniform, but in especially clean and fresh clothing, and have a cheerful attitude, which always helps a sick person feel better. She should also spend a day learning how to clean and sanitize a bathroom or bedroom after there has been illness in the house. Web searches can unearth books and articles about Boldall the subjects I have mentioned so far. She should learn about activities for sick children and know how to tell stories and invent simple games to help them pass the time. She might have a special basketItalic or box of supplies for this sort of thing, consisting of things she has made, and a hand made book containing ideas for this sort of thing. She can find resources to study about how how to make people more comfortable in bed or how to make a place for someone who is sick (or just needing more rest) in the living room, with something to drink, a pile of interesting books or magazines. She should do a study on the subject first, and be prepared to fill this role when necessary.

Hospitality: Becoming the family hostess will provide knowledge and practice in caring for others and extending her hands to those who would need a little lift. It takes months to get ready for some events like this, and she should begin by making a list of all the house cleaning and shopping and cooking and clothing care that needs to be done before company arrives. She should know how to plan a menu and send an invitation. I have often suggested that an Afternoon Tea is the best form of entertainment, because it does not have to come right out of the oven to the table; it can be cold sandwiches and day-old scones with berries and cream and hot tea, yet it is served in such a bright and lovely setting, that people think they have been to a high-end hotel when they have partaken of it. It is less expensive than a meal and more casual, yet more delightful. The girl who wants to practice being a hostess, will enjoy it immensely and learn a lot from it. She should keep a hostess diary to record menus and guests and table settings, themes, etc. and make notes of sucesses and failures, for the future. It may be necessary to find magazines and books on the subject and circle some things she would like to try, or start a scrapbook to use as her textbook for hospitality.

Reader: Being able to read aloud, fluently and with expression and good elocution, is a very valuable thing. It is much appreciated when someone needs to keep alert while doing a task. Reading aloud is appreciated by those who have no time to read. A daughter could do a study on the different aspects and skills needed to read aloud. I would suggest the McGuffey readers, which have a section of elocution, at the beginning of each, with vocal exercises to correct slurring of words, run-on sentences, or poor pronunciation. The practiceBold pages include things like voice inflection, and soft/hard sounds.

Laundress: This unit could be quite creative and fun. The laundry room should not be a dark hole that everyone dreads. This is where daughters at home can really make a difference. Mothers are often too busy or too tired to change things or organize things, and these girls can make themselves useful by designing on paper a system for the laundry room. Then, they can search through pictures in magazines, cutting out features they like, and putting them in the little scrapbook on the subject.

Learn about different fabrics and how to wash them. Learn to make soap, if only just to know how and experience it at least once. Clean up the laundry room and do the family laundry for a week. Notice things that need to be changed and notice how to make the job easier. Learn about pressing clothing and note the difference, even with our modern fabrics, between an ironed shirt and an un ironed one. Learn to iron a shirt and men's pants, and learn what fabrics need cool iron or hot iron, and why.

Collect information about doing laundry from different sites on the web, and study old books as well. Becoming the family laundress for a week will provide experience that will carry on into her own household later on.
Family Newspaper: This can be a great way to record things that will later be forgotten. Daughters (or sons) can have a great time researching the way their grandparents used to live and putting it in the historical column of their personal paper. They can include recipes and photographs. Great family events can make the headlines. Doing a family paper each month for a year, or quarterly (spring, summer, autumn, winter) is a valuable experience. While big, commercial newspapers record what they think is important, few people record the daily existence of the humble souls that make a big contribution in the lives of their loved ones. A family newspaper shows the importance of the family members. Once a daughter publishes her own family newspaper, she will see the value in building up others.

One thing that is prevalent in all these unit studies, is the propensity for enterprise, if necessary. Women who were widows who needed income, would often taken in laundry and ironing, from people who could not do their own. Do a study on the Chinese Laundry in America and you will see how these energetic people made a bustling business out of washing, starching, ironing and mending, bringing the labor to a professional status. Include some of this history in the notebook.

There are many other subjects that can be treated as unit career studies, including seamstress, maid, cook, music or singing teacher, children's teacher, or ladies aid, which could be addressed in another post.

Be watching for book list in the next post. In the meantime, if you have daughters and are looking for curriculum, the above information will possibly give you the ideas you need to form your own curriculum.
(I do not have a source for the above photograph, so my apologies for not giving proper credit)


Anonymous said...

This is something I grew up with. I am also teaching my girls this to and boys(so they can respect their wives 1 day).
I do wish they enjoyed it more. They see how happy having a clean & organized home makes me but until they have their own home they just don't seem to understand. But they do a great job and are always asking if there is anything they can do.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for sharing this very useful info!


Anonymous said...

Thank you Lady Lydia. I have to say that over the years of parenting a big family my children have just naturally learned these things especially because we do not overdo the curriculum of our homeschool! Sometimes I have felt as though we need to do more academics yet my husband and I committed very early in our marraige to "keep the HOME in homeschooling". TO us this has meant regular hospitality and serving others. Hospitality very naturally leads to learning all of the homemaking skills (including hostessing) and because I can't do it all myself my children have learned all these skills!They can cook, bake, decorate, serve, plan a party and hostess with the best of them!

I would encourage mothers to take a deep breath and make curriculum secondary to building a home! I've always tried to remember that I don't want my children to grow up and say, "Oh I remember the wonderful tests and schoolwork of my childhood" (!), I want them to say that they remember a wonderful home full of laughter and feasting and beauty. Of course, doing this while I was having babies and many young ones was a challenge and there have been seasons when we did much less but even having someone over for popcorn and iced tea gave us the incentive to brighten up the home and decorate it a bit!

Jill (mom of 8 with three teen girls who know far more than I did ten years after I got married!)

Anonymous said...

I just ordered this for my daughter. It might be what you were talking about.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Ah, dear Lydia. How I enjoyed being an older daughter at home, once I set my heart on learning domestic skills. What a sweet time it was, and what an important period of preparation to my marriage - which came sooner than expected, along with blessed motherhood.

Unknown said...

These are some wonderful ideas. My Mom used many of them to teach my sisters and I the art of homemaking. I am so thankful to have been taught! I hear other young ladies that are newly married or older women say it took them so long to learn to do such and such, and I remember when my Mom taught me about that at a young age. I know that I still need to learn so much, but I am glad that when I marry, I will have already had the basic training!

Stacy @ The Next-to-Nothing House said...

These are great ideas and I will immediately start working with my daughter. Thank you!

Lydia said...

I just found out the photo came from a Shabby Chic site. I will try to find the link soon!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Lady Lydia,
I have just found your blog and will be reading more of it later. I especially commend you on your efforts to foster, in our daughters, the merits of being trained to be "Keepers of the home". Another thread that seems to run through your mind is to be proud of being a wife and mother and not being a "slob" even when doing housework. I believe, not only that you are what you eat , you are what you wear. To this end we always try to look nice even when doing housework. We wear only modest feminine dresses and usually pinafore style aprons. As you say in one of your posts , wear a floral apron when dealing with gardens and flowers, wear a crisp clean apron when providing comfort for an unwell patient. We have aprons for this and aprons for that, gardening aprons are robest with big pockets, laundry aprons are plastic lned, hostess aprons are a bit "fancy" and so on. I think the only time I don't have an apron on is in bed!!!