sealPurdue Education and Careers Briefs

August 1998

Parents can set the tone for a successful school year

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The final few weeks of summer break are the ideal time for parents to help their children prepare for the upcoming school year, according to the dean of Purdue's School of Education.

"Parents can guide activities now that will make the classroom more enjoyable and a richer learning experience this fall," says Marilyn Haring, who also is a professor of counseling and development.

"This is especially true if your child felt school was boring last year, had learning or behavior difficulties, or avoided school or homework."

Haring suggests planning one or more trips related to the coming year's school work. They can be as elaborate as a tour of a historic site or as simple as a stop at the local courthouse.

"If your child is going to be learning about the judicial system in social studies, watching a court of law in action will give new meaning to classwork," Haring says. "A historic site will provide a firsthand experience that will stimulate further thinking, reading and discussion of that event and period in history."

She adds that a child who has had an interesting informal learning experience then has an opportunity to be a resource in class by sharing maps, brochures and postcards from the trip.

Haring says a scientific activity such as growing a garden, keeping an aquarium or stargazing will build some additional expertise that can be utilized in next year's work.

"The Internet is a rich resource for gaining more information on those topics -- and for building technology skills," Haring adds. "A student who becomes skilled at using the Internet often becomes an avid learner because it's fun and fast-paced, and those skills are transferable to gathering information on many subjects."

Finally, Haring says it's a good time to discuss and set some goals for next year that emphasize learning rather than just getting good grades.

"It's important to stress goals that address mastery of content, skill building and acquiring meaning," Haring explains. "For example, if your child will be studying fractions, a good goal might be to halve or quarter a complex recipe that you and your youngster will prepare together."

Haring urges parents to set meaningful learning goals that are creatively tied to competence in the world their child knows and enjoys.

"This can make learning fun -- and more likely," she says.

CONTACT: Haring, (765) 494-5832; e-mail,

Wanted: Family and consumer science teachers

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- What used to be called "home economics" is becoming a dynamic career field for secondary school teachers.

The curriculum, now known as family and consumer sciences, is taught at both the middle- and high-school level, and there are jobs aplenty for new college graduates nationwide.

"The field was stagnant for a long time because all the teaching positions were filled, so education majors were steered away from it," explains Wanda Fox, associate professor of curriculum and instruction at Purdue University. "But the teachers who started their careers in the '60s are now reaching retirement age, and we don't have enough graduates to replace them. Also, programs are expanding in many schools and that's further fueling the shortages."

The most recent national figures available from the Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences show that there will be an average of 3.5 teaching positions available for every family and consumer sciences education graduate through the year 2001. At Purdue, the placement rate is averaging 95 percent, with many new teachers having the luxury to choose among several positions in their preferred geographical area.

"Some Midwestern states are facing a critical shortage -- Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois in particular," Fox says. "But there are also lots of jobs becoming available in California, Florida, North Carolina, Texas and elsewhere."

Starting salaries vary from state to state, but generally range from $24,000 to $27,000 for essentially nine months of work per year.

The curriculum has come a long way from teaching young girls to cook a Sunday breakfast and operate a sewing machine. Today's courses have names like Orientation to Life and Careers, Child Development and Parenting, and Chemistry of Foods and Nutrition. Boys are enrolled as well as girls.

"We are still addressing an image problem, Fox admits. "Unfortunately, the cooking and sewing image for teachers has far outlasted what is really going on in the classroom, and this misguided view has stuck with career-minded students as they start college.

"But school administrators and parents are recognizing that the skills being taught in family and consumer sciences courses are going to have a direct impact on the quality of life for all students. That makes it a very rewarding field for teachers."

CONTACT: Fox, (765) 494-7290; e-mail,

Compiled by Sharon Bowker, (765) 494-2077; e-mail,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

* To the Purdue News and Photos Page