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Home and Family in Career Education

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Education and work as basic values in American society are in peril. The family is much more basic and more troubled in its role and values. Increasingly it is recognized that many, if not most of the social and personal issues with which educators wrestle daily are problems emerging within the home and emanating from the failure of the family experience to inculcate the values and develop the skills necessary to function successfully in the society. The whole of the educational effort seems unable to generally overcome and dispel the handicaps of inadequate early environment. Yet that recognition does not and cannot justify retreat.

Homes which have serious weaknesses are least capable of reforming themselves. The family has its own educational needs, and education, particularly elementary education, cannot fill its role without the support of home and family. This is as true of career education as it is of any other aspect of education's many objectives. This chapter explores the desirable role of home and family in career development for young children. However, since this book is addressed primarily to the elementary school teacher, its first intent is to suggest ways that the elementary school can supplement and strengthen the role of home and family.


Traditionally, the family has been a closely knit, compact unit, the cornerstone for building a composite society. It has been there that human interactions were first observed and experienced and values developed. There work as a concept and a fact of life was also observed, participated in, and attitudes toward it and skills for it developed. However, the structure of our society and the nature of our living patterns make it less likely that children today will acquire major segments of their value systems from the family unit. This factor is particularly true for work values, but in some cases, may be too true for education values. Children seldom have the opportunity to see their parents in work settings, to say nothing of working alongside their parents, as was the case when much of the economy had an agricultural base. And although parents may discuss their work in the home, they seldom talk about the positive aspects of it, verbalizing instead their complaints and disappointments. Children seldom perceive the creative expression their parents derive from work since they cannot glimpse the total picture of what the work setting offers in terms of personal development and satisfaction. The abstract, work-associated values of loyalty, punctuality, job advancement, or performance compensation are vague and difficult for children to understand. Thus they fail to develop the idea that work can be a privilege and an opportunity.

A similar problem exists with education, for as educational facilities and personnel become more remote from the home, parents tend to become less involved in day-to-day processes of education. School, work, and home life have become three separate activities which are never integrated into one systematic, value-producing unit as once they were. As a result of these and other factors, many families rear children who do not value work as a generator of satisfaction and pride of achievement. Other families do not perceive education as possible for them and related to their economic welfare.

In the interest of the individual and his society, it becomes important that education does not usurp the role of the family in creating values. Instead, education should seek to complement this role, not only by providing guidance but also by involving the entire family in the educational process. If education attempts to replace the family as the unit for teaching values, it will contribute to the breakdown of the family unit while increasing the problems inherent in value formation. On the other hand, where the family lacks the strength to fill its role, education is one of the social institutions most available to buttress it or to substitute for more of its functions.

The demands for more parent involvement in school are increasing. Parent groups are becoming alarmed by rising costs in education, many federal programs are requiring parent participation, and research findings continue to demonstrate the importance of the early years of childhood in cognitive and affective development. Research continues to point out the importance of the parent as the first educator of the child, as well as the effect of the home as the first classroom of the child.

Our purpose here is to explore ways in which the elementary school might support the home and family in making more positive and meaningful their contributions to the career development process. Together with that exploration, we shall discuss techniques through which the home and family can add dimension to the education process by cooperating with and supporting the school in the area of career education. All of this may require some changes in the attitudes of parents toward the school; it will require basic shifts in the teachers' approach to the needs of the students, particularly at the elementary school level.

If the elementary school teacher is to understand the children he teaches, he must see them as part of family units. Within the family, the child, mother, and father have all embarked on careers-all have different roles to perform. The child is in the school phase of his career. The mother's career may be twofold, encompassing a working role outside the home with the role of homemaker within the home. Likewise the father may have a twofold role, working both outside and within the home to support the family as he plays a father and homemaking role. If the teacher ignores the family unit and attempts to see and work with the child as an isolated case, hostility might be created within those parents being excluded from the educational process.

With cooperation of parents and educators, a child's chance to learn can be greatly enhanced. Educators must take the lead to establish relationships by inviting parents to school and by home visits to exchange ideas. Progress may be slow at first, but continued attempts of working with parents by involving them in such ways as resource persons, volunteer helpers to create materials, or organizers of activities will bring results as parents will gain an understanding of what the school is doing, while educators receive an understanding of how the school can assist the home as a learning center.

As an example of the kinds of changes that will be necessary, we can point to the field of home economics. The need for change is evidenced by society's reluctant but increasing acknowledgment that women should be afforded the same opportunities for career satisfaction as men have always enjoyed, whether that career be in the home or outside it or, as is increasingly likely, in a combination of homemaking and professional pursuits. In response to this change in the attitudes of society, home economics education has taken on the new terminology of "family living" with the resultant move away from its concentration on teaching cooking and sewing into other vital homemaking skills such as budgeting, efficient use of time, child care, relating to people, and other subjects. Family living no longer can be concerned with only maintenance-type tasks in the home, but in its expanded role must cover all aspects of life in the home, as well as life outside the home. In addition, more emphasis must be placed on attracting male students to home economics classes as the male assumes more and more of the homemaking responsibilities in his role as father and family member.

Another area of drastic change which has received all too little attention is the economic role of the family. Once regarded as a productive unit of society, the family has become primarily a consuming unit, a buyer of goods and services produced by professional individuals or large industrial organizations. And yet there is virtually no educational training to prepare individuals for the consumer role. As a result, members of our society often consume irrationally or make poor decisions in the selection of goods. Family life education can logically be expanded to include a large component of consumer education in order to better prepare all members of the family for this role.

This one small example is just an indication of what can and must be done if education is to assume its responsibilities in our society. Consumer education should not be a subject limited only to home economics ... it should also be a concern of such courses as mathematics, sociology, psychology, history, economics, and even English, where the literature of consumer consciousness might be equally as valuable a teaching tool as traditional storybooks.

As the purpose of career education is to prepare people to become meaningful members of society, students and their parents should receive training in decision making. Educators can assist parents in this area by helping them to understand that children must gain experience in making their own decisions. They also need the opportunity of learning the consequences of their decisions and should be allowed to make mistakes so that they can benefit from their errors. As decision making is a process, students need activities both in the school and in the home which will provide them with the opportunity of considering alternatives, gathering and organizing information, and making choices. Through cooperation of teachers and parents, children can learn the process of decision making which will lay the groundwork for career choices.

Career education-whether concerned with the career of a home-maker, a laborer, or a professional person-has as one of its fundamental principles the concept that all classes at all levels of society have a career component. In this chapter, we are concerned with the essential reinforcing partnership between the home and the school, and the mutual roles they each have in teaching home and family living, consumer education, and work values. Since more teachers than parents are likely to read this book, we emphasize those things that the elementary school teacher can do to reinforce the child's positive attitude toward the home and family as an integral part of career education.


The home environment is the foundation for the development of fundamental values, attitudes, and skills which are the central factors of career success. The influence of the school and society on the child is infinitesimal in comparison to the home influence during the first five to eight years of life. If a child has had an unfortunate beginning, he can have attitudes altered; but this is a process that could take a lifetime.

Society's future depends upon widespread recognition that parenthood and successful homemaking must remain the underlying career roles for men and women producing the greatest satisfaction. Successful parenthood is not a natural instinct. It must be learned; therefore it can be taught.

The home environment is the most central factor in the development of basic values, attitudes, and basic skills which are the foundations of career success. All of the school's influence and that of society outside the home will never satisfactorily offset a bad home start. Parents are also the key educational decision makers whose support or lack of support will determine career education's future.

All children will have a career whether they are bright or dull, impoverished or richly endowed. The discovery of the career occurs in a developmental process of life-long duration, but the habits of discovery are formed in the childhood years. It is important that there be an alliance of elementary school teachers and parents at that critical time.
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