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Public School, Homeschool, Parents and Gender Roles

February 2, 2010
by

One interesting side topic that came up in response to this post concerned the role of schools and parents. I suggested that, though my kids are all in or will be in public school, my spouse and I might homeschool her for the three middleschool years because that period is so destructive. A lot of comments that followed focused on the role of public education, homeschooling and whether it should be permitted at all, the intersection of race, class and gender in homeschooling, etc. I’ve cut off discussion of that subtopic on the I Fear This thread, because I worry that it crowded out discussion of the main topic, which is the intergirl aggression dynamics. But it’s a valuable discussion, so I’m opening this thread so people can have their say on it without it being a threadjack.

46 Comments leave one →
  1. February 2, 2010 1:36 pm

    MOVIE, REVIEWED had written:
    “(T)he whole concept of a one income couple, where he has the job and she sits home, is a deeply sexist concept – he gets to be part of the world, while she is a parasitic dependent – an able bodied adult with no job and no money of her own…For most Americans – and most people around the world – not working is simply Not A Viable Option… they have to work or they will be on the street sleeping under a cardboard box…as a man, I really have a huge problem with that whole idea that working should be a “choice” for women – because it sure as hell is not a “choice” for men. For men, it’s either work or starve…women get guilt tripped if they work and have kids, because they are ‘bad mothers’ and the only ‘good mothers’ are the women with affluent husbands who don’t have to work…it’s quite frankly rather parasitic and medieval for one adult to sit home idle and unpaid while the other one works like a dog to pay the bills…EVERY ADULT SHOULD BE GAINFULLY EMPLOYED, FOR WAGES, OUTSIDE THE HOME…part of being a productive citizen involves earning your keep and paying your own way in life.”

    A friend and I have been having a discussion about our experiences with mean girls over on my blog. She’s a stay-at-home mom and by MOVIE, REVIEWED’s definition “idle,” “a parasitic dependent,” “an able bodied adult with no job and no money of her own,” and unproductive. All of those statements are false. It seems to me that M,R comes from an experience of knowing one or two lazy stay-at-home mothers and has formed his opinion largely from a place of ignorance. I would like to take this opportunity to dispute his claims and also explain how I intend to work with my child(ren) to avoid a culture of cruelty at school as a stay/work-at-home mother myself. (I am three months pregnant and will work from home part time if possible after I give birth.)

    According to the U.S. Census Bureau: “The United States had an estimated 5.5 million ‘stay-at-home’ parents (in 2003) – 5.4 million moms and 98,000 dads.” I personally know two stay-at-home dads. M,R, your blanket statement that working “sure as hell is not a ‘choice’ for men” is hereby factually challenged.

    While having one parent stay at home with children is a privilege for some men and women, it is a necessity for others. American women and men who earn the minimum wage at their jobs cannot always afford childcare. It therefore becomes more cost effective to have one parent stay at home. And a lot of stay-at-home parents are also caregivers to elderly or handicapped relatives, a job that is certainly valuable to the family and to the person receiving care. True, many mothers feel guilty for working outside their homes. But many stay-at-home mothers also feel guilty for not bringing in additional income.

    M,R, you underestimate the role that stay-at-home parents perform. True, this role is played out largely in the home, but stay-at-home parents are also volunteers in the community and in local PUBLIC schools. As a former journalist covering a small suburban New Jersey town, I learned that stay-at-home parents were the people keeping art education alive and well in schools burdened by budget cuts. Stay-at-home parents were the people bringing charity works into the public schools so that children could learn to be kind and giving. Stay-at-home parents with a little time on their hands were the ones baking and crafting for fundraising events at school. In short, stay-at-home parents are often essential to the public education system that you champion.
    The work that gets done in the home does not qualify a stay-at-home parent as “idle” or “parasitic.” Laundry, cooking, cleaning, fixing up the house and running errands, are chores that can be done at home and do make stay-at-home parents “productive citizens…earning (their) keep and paying (their) own way in life.” As Gloria Steinem told the Smith (College) Alumnae Quarterly in a recent interview, “(T)he problem that affects most women in this country and in the world is having two jobs-one outside the home and one in it. That’s going to continue until we count the work inside the home as work and it is shared equally by men…we could attribute an economic value to caregiving through the tax code. Then we would begin to understand that a third of the work in the country is caregiving that’s done at home because it’s usually higher quality and less expensive than caregiving done in an institution. The answer for the individual is that the most important issue facing women is the one you can change. We have the most responsibility where we have the most power.” Bravo, Gloria!

    In the spirit of taking responsibility where I have the most power, my husband and I decided to wait to have a child until we could afford for one of us to stay at home. If that day never came, we wouldn’t have procreated. He makes much more money than I do and, as a writer, I am better equipped to work from home as a freelancer or even as I do now as an unpaid blogger. I plan on contributing to our local public schools when my child gets there in the same way that I’ve observed other stay-at-home parents do: I am a writer, a filmmaker, an artist, etc. and I’d like to bring those talents to the schools if their budgets cannot fund art extracurricular programs. I also think altruism and charity work done by young students – such as raising Pennies for Pearl Harbor or collecting money for Ryan’s Well – are valuable to character development. I’d like to help in that capacity too. Additionally, I am determined to become a volunteer crisis counselor in my town, supporting victims of domestic violence. All of these things are work and they are productive; and I resent being told by you or any other person that my not earning a wage in any way diminishes my contribution to society.

    As for how my and my friend’s decisions to be stay-at-home mothers help relieve the child-on-child cruelty culture at school: we’ve been pondering a New York Times Magazine piece entitled “Girls Just Want to Be Mean” (http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/24/magazine/girls-just-want-to-be-mean.html?pagewanted=1) and have decided that our volunteerism and vigilance during the fledgling public school years of our children might help them avoid some of the greater cruelties children, especially girls, tend to inflict upon each other. As Gloria points out, a mother has two full-time jobs; and we, in deciding to devote ourselves entirely or primarily to the mothering job, have more time to monitor up close the development of our child’s place in the school social structure. At the end of the Times piece, a girl describes the social hierarchy of her school chums. Jocks and cheerleaders reign supreme. It’s doubtful that budgets will ever or often cut glory sports activities. The arts get cut first. Part of empowering girls is making sure they know they can excel in areas they’re strong in. What if that area is not cheerleading? They need to find a community of artists, writers, photographers, etc. or else they’re lonely and weird to the other students. Even swimmers don’t make “the A list” clichés according to this article. What if I could drive a group of swimmers to the nearest pool for practice when swimming is not part of a school’s extracurricular menu?

    With classrooms filled to the brim in some public schools, it’s imperative that teachers, who can’t possibly cater to 30 children at once, have help from the parent population. And that help will make a teacher’s job of monitoring the kind of mean deeds that go on between girls easier to handle. Part of my decision to be a stay-at-home parent encompassed not wanting my child to become an object of bullying and torment the way that I was. I will watch closely. Some scrapes and scuffs are necessary and build strength. The world isn’t always a wonderful place to live. I hope that if my child is the victim or perpetrator of any cruelty at school that I will be able to recognize it and STOP it, full stop!

    Bottom line: working and stay-at-home parents need to do what they feel is best for themselves and their families.

  2. February 2, 2010 2:29 pm

    Well, let me toss in my two cents here (because I helped jack the middle school girls self esteem discussion thread with the homeschooling thing).

    There was a long and fierce struggle in this country to create secular public schools back in the 19th century – a struggle that was most fiercely opposed by the folks who supported slavery – which explains why American public schooling didn’t really come into it’s own until after the Civil War and the defeat of the slavowners of the Confederacy.

    Of course, that victory wasn’t complete – because the public schools of the post Civil War era were explicitly racially segregated in most of the country.

    Fast forward to the Civil Rights era – one of the many arenas of struggle for African American human rights in that era involved desegregating the school system.

    That would also be one of the fiercest sites of White backlash – almost as soon as schools were legally desegregated, many White parents began to find ways to evade desegregation.

    In the South it was the Segregation Academies – private all White schools set up so White parents would have an alternative to now integrated public schools.

    In the big cities of the North, it was so called “gifted and talented programs” which are set up in such a way where they actually function as segregated mostly White enclaves in nominally integrated public schools.

    In New York City, there is a dense thicket of applications, deadlines, special admissions procedures and outright patronage which keeps most Black and Latino children out of these programs, which become enclaves for the children of affluent Whites (and, to a lesser extent, affluent East Asians and South Asians).

    And then, there is homeschooling.

    Homeschooling was the product of a right wing White movement to water down mandatory education laws so White parents could take their kids out of school (….basically so they wouldn’t have to go to school with Black kids – the unspoken but very real reason for the Homeschooling movement’s origin).

    There was also another agenda – opposing the women’s movement.

    During the Civil Rights era, there was also a rapid growth of the women’s movement, which led to more and more women going to college and entering the labor force.

    Obviously, independent women with their own jobs and their own money is a threat to the patriarchy – so there was a massive media backlash against working women, that continues to this day.

    The propaganda goes like this – “good mothers” stay home with the kids and bake cookies, and leave wordly tasks like having a career and making money to the menfolks.

    In the fundamentalist Christian variant of this propaganda, this is explicitly because that’s how God wants it!

    Women are supposed to be men’s “helpmates” – Adam’s extra rib – not independent adults!

    “Bad mothers” on the other hand, try to be independent, make their own money and have their own adult lives, apart from their husbands and children.

    Again to our friends the fundamentalists – female financial independence is the work of Satan!

    [Incidentally, there are actually husband-wife teams of fundamentalist Christian Accountants who “counsel” Christian couples about why they’d be somehow financially better off if the wife quit her job!!! From a financial advice point of view, it’s unethical garbage – but from a Christian point of view it’s The Word Of God – which is far more important than Generally Accepted Accounting Principles!]

    Naturally, the homeschooling folks and the fundies were natural allies – since homeschooling, as a practical matter, involves one parent staying home, doing the actual teaching and also doing the elaborate and extensive paperwork required to get authorized to homeschool by state and school district authorities and to draw up all the lesson plans and do all the other work that needs to be done to teach a student.

    Homeschooling also pretty much requires, as a practical matter, another parent who makes enough money so the parent who is doing the homeschooling doesn’t have to have an actual job and can stay home full time.

    As a rule, this usually means the husband works and makes the money and the wife stays home with the kid.

    I’m sure I’ll get replies that will disagree with this, but just go to any homeschooler or parenting website, and I will bet you a year’s rent that the vast majority of homeschooling couples have a husband who has a job and a wife who stays home with the kids.

    There are a bunch of things wrong with this.

    One, the child is denied his/her right to associate with his/her peers – which is a huge part of schooling. In my experience both as a product of the NYC public school system and a former NYC Department of Ed employee, in a lot of ways, associating with one’s peer group is the most important part of schooling, and opens the child up to a world beyond the narrow confines of his/her family.

    Yes, bad things happen in school – I know, I was the target of bullying in school myself – but that’s a whole other matter, and can be solved by parents and the broader community FIGHTING TO MAKE THE SCHOOLS BETTER – not by the privileged parachuting out of the system.

    I mentioned privilege – that’s a problem here too.

    The cold hard reality is, to afford the 1950’s style marriage that you need to carry out homeschooling, the husband has to make good money – VERY good money if you live in an expensive city like New York.

    That excludes a large segment of parents, who don’t have it like that – especially single mothers, who don’t have a rich husband to pay the bills while they stay home with the kids.

    And that opens up a broader argument – the very idea that having a job is a “choice” for women – that women should have the “choice” of working or being parasitically dependent on another adult for their livelihood.

    That idea, despite being widely accepted, is sexist and patriarchal to the core.

    Men are expected, as a matter of course, to have a job – and any man who “chose” not to work as a lifestyle choice would be lambasted as a lazy bum and a social parasite.

    That’s because men are expected to have an independent life of their own beyond the family, and to make their own money.

    But women are viewed as dependents and their “natural” role is to sit home with the babies while the man makes the money, with no life of their own while the man makes the money and gets to be in the world.

    Of course, in this medieval world view, everybody has to be married, every man must have a wife, every woman must have a husband, no one is allowed to be single and nobody is allowed to be gay or polyamorous or in any way deviate from this patriarchal family model.

    I can see why fundamentalist Christians accept that reactionary garbage.

    But why do progressives and feminists embrace it so readily?

    Homeschooling is part of this whole reactionary constellation of ideas – which is one of the reasons I oppose homeschooling, and feel it should be outlawed.

    Every child belongs in a secular, racially integrated, coeducational public school PERIOD.

    Therefore, homeschooling, segregation academies, “gifted programs”, private schools and parochial schools run by religious institutions are all reactionary, patriarchal and privilege-laden, and all should be abolished, in favor of universal public schooling for all children age 5-18.

    Now, I’m sure there will be objections to this simple but radical idea.

    I’m sure there will be commenters who believe that they should be able to send their kids to religious schools.

    And I’ll say that you can do that religious indoctrination of your offspring on Friday afternoon, Saturday morning or Sunday morning in the mosque, synagogue, temple or church of your choice – but Monday to Friday 8:45 to 2:55 should belong to secular integrated coeducational public schools.

    And I’m sure I’ll here from middle class “progressives” who want to send their kid to a racially and class segregated “gifted and talented program” (and I’m sure they’ll have all kinds of fancy excuses and double talk to cover up the REAL reason they want their kid in that segregated bubble).

    And I’m sure I’ll hear from “progressive” homeschoolers, who will claim that their homeschooling program isn’t sexist and patriarchal (and in the next breath admit that …surprise… the husband works and the wife “doesn’t like paid work” so she stays at home all day with the kid).

    That kind of raw denial makes me just shake my head!

    In any case – let the games begin!

    • dcardona permalink
      February 2, 2010 11:04 pm

      Where to begin?

      With your offensive classification of at-home parents as idle leeches on an either hapless or villainous spouse? The total devaluation of the actual work that goes into homeschooling, raising children and maintaining a home? Your sexist/heteronormative attitude in assuming all at-home partners are women who are forced there by patriarchal decree? Or perhaps the ridiculous assertion that even the very best homeschooling program is worse than the very worst government program?

      A. Please take a step back and look at what you are actually writing. First you state the at-home teaching parent is “doing the actual teaching and also doing the elaborate and extensive paperwork required to get authorized to homeschool by state and school district authorities and to draw up all the lesson plans and do all the other work that needs to be done to teach a student,” then go on to accuse this person of not having an “actual job.” Surely you see the contradiction there.

      B. We need to remember that while some women are essentially forced into the domestic sphere – homeschooling included – others are not. The concurrent existence of both types of women-at-home must be recognized. This way the first type can get help and support to escape continued marginalization and the other can avoid being labeled as either coerced, stupid or betrayers of the cause.

      C. Homeschooling as we see it today came into popular practice as a reaction to increased efforts to standardize students (crafting curriculum and testing methods to create a classroom of machine-graded automatons), dissatisfaction with the school environment and a belief that the accepted teaching methods of the late 19th and early 20th centuries are not effective in meeting the needs of all modern students.

      Further, while “traditional marriage” as you seem to define it IS “fundamentally sexist, patriarchal and reactionary,” you are misidentifying millions of partnerships that have a passing external resemblance to it as flawed institutions. When man-outside-the-home and woman-at-home is not the rule of patriarchy, but rather a thoughtful, rational conclusion reached by two intelligent adults who’ve examined the issue in depth within the framework of their specific circumstances then it is most definitely pro-women’s movement and cannot be defined as 1950s-style “traditional marriage.”

      It seems to me that your concept of homeschooling is an uneducated, hapless woman, totally dependent on her “rich husband” and lazy to the nth degree, shoving a few books at a snotnosed brat while she watches TV. And while some homeschooling situations may look frighteningly like that, it is foolish to condemn the entire concept of homeschooling. Just as foolish as it would be to condemn all organized secular education on the basis of a few bad schools.

      P.S.
      In the early 19th century the largest obstacle to the creation of public schools was actually the issue of religion-based values instruction. Powerful elites feared the impact the uneducated masses would have on “their” democracy as these people migrated into large urban centers and began to demand their own voice in government. In a more charitable view, those truly committed to the fledgling government wanted the masses to be more able to take part equally (providing they were male and white). But how to teach the morals and ethics seen as crucial to civic participation without invoking a particular religion? Powerful religious influences from all denominations were brought to bear. And that is how first “nonsectarian Christianity” and then secular educational institutions became part of the American legacy. “Schools and Morals” in Noah Feldman’s “Divided by God” is a good place to start.

      Please note that I’m not saying racism alongside a host of other awful belief systems isn’t rampant or that institutionalized racism hasn’t become a part of the educational system or even that no parents make educational choices for their kids with racial animus, as Thomas says so eloquently below, as an impetus for those decisions; just that slave owners weren’t the huge anti-school bloc and origin of race and class segregation we see today that you are asserting. They never would have considered that slaves – or future descendants of slaves, for that matter – would have attended school at all, let alone the schools of their little darlings. You are conflating the creation of schools and the segregation of schools.

  3. February 2, 2010 2:55 pm

    Did you just declare in advance that anyone who disagrees with you is actually but secretly motivated by racial animus?

    Because that’s what this:

    “And I’m sure I’ll here from middle class “progressives” who want to send their kid to a racially and class segregated “gifted and talented program” (and I’m sure they’ll have all kinds of fancy excuses and double talk to cover up the REAL reason they want their kid in that segregated bubble).”

    sounded like.

  4. February 2, 2010 2:58 pm

    For the record though I was never bullied, never homeschooled and always went to public school. I was also one of those kids in the “segregated” schools in the South. They weren’t really segregated. I was the lone white child in a class of all black children in a poor black part of town.

    I briefly considered homeschooling my son when he was born. All this fear of the outside world overwhelmed me that I didn’t want my children to experience all those horrible things that can happen. I wanted to do it to try to keep my kid out of trouble with drugs or bullies and hopefully have some time to build up his self esteem before someone decided he had too much of it.

    My husband on the other hand..well…he was against it because he knew a kid on his street that was homeschooled and the kid hated it. He didn’t have a lot of friends because of it.

    Now we are talking about a kind of hybrid…our kids go to public school, but I might get some homeschool materials to maybe add to what they are already learning to make their education better especially since my education was horrid.

    I don’t have a strong opinion either way…I know people who have homeschooled there kids for a few years for one reason or another and sent them to public school the rest of the time. The kids are fine and happy.

    But…I can see the above point in how it was a way to get around exposing kids to the system people don’t believe in . I can say that even though I was the only white kid in a black class for many many years…I can say that is did help with me not being racist like my family. I never understood what the issue was when most of my friends were black. I just couldn’t bring myself to hate my friends.

    I really don’t know if this comment has a point…I just wanted to have my say I guess. 🙂

    • corita permalink
      February 3, 2010 3:30 pm

      You can do a hybrid, many people do. I like Laura Berquist’s book about classical education, which offers tips on “supplementing” your child’s regular-type schooling.

  5. February 2, 2010 3:47 pm

    FWIW, ultimately I don’t think I could swallow homeschooling any of my kids for any length of time, in part because my spouse has a job that is both important for income and benefits, and that is also intellectually challenging and personally important for her. I don’t want to quit and neither does she, so I expect we’ll keep them all in public school and work with what we’ve got.

    Private was never an option for us. Several of my partners have kids in private school and I’ve always been completely intransigent that my kids will not go to private or religious schools. My oldest is in an elementary school with all kinds of kids; some whose parents are white and Asian professionals with advanced degrees and some whose parents are recent, undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America (the school is about a third Latin@, much higher than the surrounding towns, which is one reason we bought a house there). I value the diversity of that experience; to me, to stick kids in an environment where everyone has the same narrow, privileged experience is to set them up to be unable to deal with the way the world is, or to recognize and criticize how unfair it is.

  6. February 2, 2010 3:53 pm

    MOVIE, REVIEWED had written:
    “(T)he whole concept of a one income couple, where he has the job and she sits home, is a deeply sexist concept – he gets to be part of the world, while she is a parasitic dependent – an able bodied adult with no job and no money of her own…For most Americans – and most people around the world – not working is simply Not A Viable Option… they have to work or they will be on the street sleeping under a cardboard box…as a man, I really have a huge problem with that whole idea that working should be a “choice” for women – because it sure as hell is not a “choice” for men. For men, it’s either work or starve…women get guilt tripped if they work and have kids, because they are ‘bad mothers’ and the only ‘good mothers’ are the women with affluent husbands who don’t have to work…it’s quite frankly rather parasitic and medieval for one adult to sit home idle and unpaid while the other one works like a dog to pay the bills…EVERY ADULT SHOULD BE GAINFULLY EMPLOYED, FOR WAGES, OUTSIDE THE HOME…part of being a productive citizen involves earning your keep and paying your own way in life.”

    A friend and I have been having a discussion about our experiences with mean girls over on my blog. She’s a stay-at-home mom and by MOVIE, REVIEWED’s definition “idle,” “a parasitic dependent,” “an able bodied adult with no job and no money of her own,” and unproductive. All of those statements are false. It seems to me that M,R comes from an experience of knowing one or two lazy stay-at-home mothers and has formed his opinion largely from a place of ignorance. I would like to take this opportunity to dispute his claims and also explain how I intend to work with my child(ren) to avoid a culture of cruelty at school as a stay/work-at-home mother myself. (I am three months pregnant and will work from home part time if possible after I give birth.)

    According to the U.S. Census Bureau: “The United States had an estimated 5.5 million ‘stay-at-home’ parents (in 2003) – 5.4 million moms and 98,000 dads.” I personally know two stay-at-home dads. M,R, your blanket statement that working “sure as hell is not a ‘choice’ for men” is hereby factually challenged.

    While having one parent stay at home with children is a privilege for some men and women, it is a necessity for others. American women and men who earn the minimum wage at their jobs cannot always afford childcare. It therefore becomes more cost effective to have one parent stay at home. And a lot of stay-at-home parents are also caregivers to elderly or handicapped relatives, a job that is certainly valuable to the family and to the person receiving care. True, many mothers feel guilty for working outside their homes. But many stay-at-home mothers also feel guilty for not bringing in additional income.

    M,R, you underestimate the role that stay-at-home parents perform. True, this role is played out largely in the home, but stay-at-home parents are also volunteers in the community and in local PUBLIC schools. As a former journalist covering a small suburban New Jersey town, I learned that stay-at-home parents were the people keeping art education alive and well in schools burdened by budget cuts. Stay-at-home parents were the people bringing charity works into the public schools so that children could learn to be kind and giving. Stay-at-home parents with a little time on their hands were the ones baking and crafting for fundraising events at school. In short, stay-at-home parents are often essential to the public education system that you champion.

    The work that gets done in the home does not qualify a stay-at-home parent as “idle” or “parasitic.” Laundry, cooking, cleaning, fixing up the house and running errands, are chores that can be done at home and do make stay-at-home parents “productive citizens…earning (their) keep and paying (their) own way in life.” As Gloria Steinem told the Smith (College) Alumnae Quarterly in a recent interview, “(T)he problem that affects most women in this country and in the world is having two jobs-one outside the home and one in it. That’s going to continue until we count the work inside the home as work and it is shared equally by men…we could attribute an economic value to caregiving through the tax code. Then we would begin to understand that a third of the work in the country is caregiving that’s done at home because it’s usually higher quality and less expensive than caregiving done in an institution. The answer for the individual is that the most important issue facing women is the one you can change. We have the most responsibility where we have the most power.” Bravo, Gloria!

    In the spirit of taking responsibility where I have the most power, my husband and I decided to wait to have a child until we could afford for one of us to stay at home. If that day never came, we wouldn’t have procreated. He makes much more money than I do and, as a writer, I am better equipped to work from home as a freelancer or even as I do now as an unpaid blogger. I plan on contributing to our local public schools when my child gets there in the same way that I’ve observed other stay-at-home parents do: I am a writer, a filmmaker, an artist, etc. and I’d like to bring those talents to the schools if their budgets cannot fund art extracurricular programs. I also think altruism and charity work done by young students – such as raising Pennies for Pearl Harbor or collecting money for Ryan’s Well – are valuable to character development. I’d like to help in that capacity too. Additionally, I am determined to become a volunteer crisis counselor in my town, supporting victims of domestic violence. All of these things are work and they are productive; and I resent being told by you or any other person that my not earning a wage in any way diminishes my contribution to society.

    As for how my and my friend’s decisions to be stay-at-home mothers help relieve the child-on-child cruelty culture at school: we’ve been pondering a New York Times Magazine piece entitled “Girls Just Want to Be Mean” (http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/24/magazine/girls-just-want-to-be-mean.html?pagewanted=1) and have decided that our volunteerism and vigilance during the fledgling public school years of our children might help them avoid some of the greater cruelties children, especially girls, tend to inflict upon each other. As Gloria points out, a mother has two full-time jobs; and we, in deciding to devote ourselves entirely or primarily to the mothering job, have more time to monitor up close the development of our child’s place in the school social structure. At the end of the Times piece, a girl describes the social hierarchy of her school chums. Jocks and cheerleaders reign supreme. It’s doubtful that budgets will ever or often cut glory sports activities. The arts get cut first. Part of empowering girls is making sure they know they can excel in areas they’re strong in. What if that area is not cheerleading? They need to find a community of artists, writers, photographers, etc. or else they’re lonely and weird to the other students. Even swimmers don’t make “the A list” clichés according to this article. What if I could drive a group of swimmers to the nearest pool for practice when swimming is not part of a school’s extracurricular menu?

    With classrooms filled to the brim in some public schools, it’s imperative that teachers, who can’t possibly cater to 30 children at once, have help from the parent population. And that help will make a teacher’s job of monitoring the kind of mean deeds that go on between girls easier to handle. Part of my decision to be a stay-at-home parent encompassed not wanting my child to become an object of bullying and torment the way that I was. I will watch closely. Some scrapes and scuffs are necessary and build strength. The world isn’t always a wonderful place to live. I hope that if my child is the victim or perpetrator of any cruelty at school that I will be able to recognize it and STOP it, full stop!

    Bottom line: working and stay-at-home parents need to do what they feel is best for themselves and their families.

  7. February 2, 2010 3:56 pm

    Hi Thomas,

    Don’t have long to read/comment right now, but just hopped over from my RSS feeds to say that I was home-educated by my liberal/counterculture parents from birth until college and now (approaching thirty) definitely felt it was a positive experience not just on a personal level, but also on a political-feminist level, since it really gave me the space to become confident in my own abilities. My mother was the primary at-home parent and I absolutely still see her as my original feminist role-model.

    Still, I also recognize folks’ real concerns about family isolation and parental control, as well as inequitable access to home education opportunities and resources.

    If you’re interested in further personal reflection at some point, feel free to email me: feministlibrarian (at) gmail (dot) com or stop by my blog http://www.annajcook.com.

  8. corita permalink
    February 2, 2010 9:31 pm

    Movie, Reviewed’s comment will undoubtedly do as s/he anticipates and cause commenters to try to defend homeschooling as a choice, whether their own or someone else’s. I say, give lots of reasons to homeschool…but don’t do it to defend yourself against that kind of attack. M, R: you are being overly simplistic, at best and, at worst, downright bigoted.

    There was a great opposition to universal compulsory schooling when it was first proposed and it was for many reasons. A large umbrella reason would be that a people who were one or two generations removed from the Revolution were wary of the State having a centralized and forced system which could be used for indoctrination.

    Some of those against it were undoubtedly slavery supporters, just as some people who homeschol today are afraid of their children mingling with unapproved Others. But the original proponents of compulsory education also included those animated by religious bigotry (wanting an alternative to Catholic education to fight the influence of the papists).

    The development of the public school system in this country has been influenced by two main, even competing ideas: the noble desire to provide a free education to every person, and the social philosophies related to making people “productive members of society.” (hmmm. now where have I been hearing about that recently????) Throw in the desire to make good citizens, the need to compete in a global market, and the radical notion that an education should serve a free society by helping a person to become free…and you have a lot of complexities in schooling. That doesn’t even begin to address economics, changing social values about learning, or political maneuverings.

    So, please, Movie, Reviewed: It would benefit all discussions if you could expand the scope of your ability to examine the topic. Importantly, the historical roots of a thing may or may not be the most important issue in how it exists today. So that bears contemplating, I would say.
    Some interesting authors on the way that *modern* schooling is failing its highest goals are Gatto (also a former employee of the NYC school system) and Crawford, whose “Shop Class As Soulcraft” partly addresses the issue of school and work that you seem to be interested in.

    Deepening your understanding of the topic would perhaps make the threadjack less interesting, or less about you and your abhorrent ideas about “productive members of society.” But it might advance the cause of actual knowledge, which is after all what schooling is partly about.

    • February 2, 2010 10:11 pm

      Corita,

      For what it’s worth, I’m a “he” [my actual name is Gregory A. Butler – “movie, reviewed” is the name of my wordpress blog, that’s why it appears here].

      Beyond that, my main point was, and remains, that the institution of homeschooling is sexist and patriarchal, since it grows out of the “traditional marriage” (husband has a job, wife sits home idle) – and that institution itself is fundamentally sexist, patriarchal and reactionary.

      That’s my main theme here, boiled down to a convenient paragraph for simplicity.

      Whatever the flaws of actually existing public schools are – and they are many, ESPECIALLY the 1,500+ public schools of the New York City Department of Education – they are inherently more progressive than even the best homeschooling program.

      • corita permalink
        February 2, 2010 10:43 pm

        Oh, hey Gregory Butler, I “recognize” you from Feministing, if that is the same ..you…Anyway, I do apologise for seeming too snarky in my comments.

        I appreciate the response but I am interested to know how your reservations about the institution of marriage translate to a proscription against all homsechooling, as it is impossible to say that all families that homeschool follow traditional roles.

        And also, my objection above to making “shoulds” about homschooling when to outlaw it and interfere in the private lives of free members of society is to go against the individual autonomy that is so important in your argument against traditional roles.

        Finally, I would love to know how you determine that public bad public schooling is inherently more progressive than the best homeschooling, not to mention how those things are measured and finally how progressive is defined when you are pitting it against individual choice in the matter of educating ones own children.

      • February 2, 2010 10:54 pm

        Yeah, I’m the same Gregory A. Butler who posts at Feministing – and a bunch of other places on the ‘net (small world, isn’t it?)

        The thing is, I’m looking at homeschooling as an INSTITUTION – and as an institution, it’s based on the “traditional family” – employed husband, wife at home full time, which, when looked at INSTITUTIONALLY is also sexist, patriarchal and medieval.

        Are their a few individual exceptions here and there?

        Of course.

        Does that negate the institutional sexism of both homeschooling and traditional marriage?

        Absolutely not.

        Add to that the whole racist ‘segregation academy’ roots of homeschooling in the modern US, then you have serious problems.

        As for this idea that the road to freedom comes through “individual autonomy” – I totally don’t believe that at all.

        I’m a communist, I believe that the road to liberation from all forms of exploitation is through COLLECTIVE STRUGGLE, not through individuals “doing their own thing”.

        Libertarians and anarchists believe that – and I am neither.

        As for why even the worst public school is better than homeschooling?

        Simple – having children taken care of in common, rather than by individual unpaid domestic servants (“stay at home mothers”) is a step towards the liberation of women, because it releases them from one of the more time consuming domestic tasks, and frees them to go into the market place to work.

        Are these paid jobs necessarily good jobs that are personally fulfilling?

        No – some of these women will end up working in sweatshops or strip clubs.

        Are these schools progressive paragons of egalitarianism?

        No – some of these schools are downright repressive and Dickensian.

        The liberatory content comes from breaking down the patriarchal family and enabling women to participate in the broader society as workers or self employed persons, just like men have been doing since the dawn of capitalism.

        Looked at from that angle, homeschooling is a throwback to the middle ages, and can NEVER be “progressive” no matter how leftist the married couple doing the homeschooling are.

        – GREGORY A. BUTLER

      • February 6, 2010 1:14 am

        Hm. I know a single mom who homeschools her special-needs child because the public school system thought that the appropriate means to deal with him was to lock him in a cell all day.

        Somehow I think actually getting that kid some education is a wee bit more progressive than incarcerating him for being brown and disabled.

  9. corita permalink
    February 2, 2010 10:09 pm

    And, er, I did what I cautioned aginst a bit there and allowed the threadjack to continue anew by not addressing the topic head-on.

    It seems to me that there is no way to link homeschooling and gender roles without overstepping the bounds of a free society.

    First, to address comments by Movie, Reviewed, it is silly to suggest that because a family’s situation resembles that of traditional gendr roles it s automatically opressive. Actually, it is ironic that you say so because your dismissal of the individual experiences, philosophies, and cultures of the women andmen in those families is deeply paternalistic, and thus oppressive in itself.

    To sugges that we can monitor homeschooing for the things we fight against, and somehow correct it by sending children to school, assumes too many things and is therefore flawed. It asserts tht a legitimate way to protect children from patriarchy is by monitoring the free behavior of private lives. (And, wherever the public/private line is, in your opinion wrt children, you have to agree that the way a family is structured is very much a private endeavor, or one that at the very least defies analysis by outside observers.)

    The idea of combatting patriarchy by outlawing homeschooling is also flawed because it assumes that the fix, namely the public school system, will actually solve the problem. Which may or may not be true on a school-by-school and case-by-case basis.

    For those who are deeply concerned that a homeschooled child will not get the chance to have the intellectual challenge and opening experiences that diversity of race, class and opinion cause, I say that the world is now impossible to shut out of family life, without great effort. It is ridiculous to suggest that a mindless zombie will come out of years of homeschooling in anything but the most controlling, backwards and belligerent family with the intellectually and morally laziest of children. And, frankly, short of totalitarian measures there is no way to stop that phenomenon of intellectual and moral laziness, in fact, public and private schools prodce such creatures every day.

    • February 2, 2010 10:16 pm

      Corita,

      There were progressive slaveowners – it may sound incredible today, but it is in fact very true – but that did not make slavery any less reactionary.

      Again, for the sake of simplicity, i would say the same about the “traditional marriage” – no matter how nominally “progressive” the particular couple may be, an institution that has one able bodied adult totally dependent on another for her livelihood and totally isolates her from a relationship to the economy independent of her husband, is an inherently reactionary, patriarchal and sexist institution.

      If the husband makes 100% of the money, he is in control of the wife’s destiny, even if he is a “progressive” man, simply because he has another adult as his unpaid domestic/sexual/childbearing servant.

      It really is that simple.

      • corita permalink
        February 2, 2010 10:50 pm

        Again, why does why does not “making” the money mean that you are automatically “isolated from a relationship to the economy?” If one spouse makes all the money, the money for the family is cerainly dependant at the very least on the job that the one spouse has…but I fail to see how everything else you claimalso follows.

        And while we are on the topic, why do you feel that 1) everyone is morally obliged to participate in an economic cystem in a manner that you determine, especially when that economy serves to reinforce destructive stereotypes and reactionary ideas?

        And why is it that a man who is arguing against the denial of women’s autonomy keeps saying what her relationships ought to look like? Is not a person free to choose the role of servant if that person desires to?

      • February 2, 2010 11:09 pm

        Corita,

        Let me illustrate my point with a little example:

        ====================================

        I’m sure you’ve seen a paycheck.

        The humble paycheck is the reason that workers get out of bed and go to work in the morning, and it is the symbol of what we Marxists call Wage Slavery here in North America.

        And the most important part of a standard US paycheck is the Pay To The Order Of line.

        If John Chen has a job, and his wife Jane Cho does not, his paycheck says Pay To The Order Of JOHN CHEN – and Jane Cho’s name is NOT LISTED because it is NOT HER MONEY.

        He went out and sold 40 hours of his labor power to XYZ, Inc and XYZ, Inc paid him back a portion of the value he produced – which is the Marxist definition of a wage.

        Jane Cho has nothing to do with that transaction – she didn’t climb up that stepladder with John Chen to install that light fixture, he did it all by himself, and consequently he’s the only one getting paid for that labor.

        Yes, under New York State matrimonial law Mr Chen has an obligation to support Mrs Cho – but as a matter of social reality, whatever money Mrs Cho gets from Mr Chen is pretty much left up to his whim.

        He could hand over his entire paycheck to his wife, to let her spend it as she sees fit, he could give her half, or he could hang on to the money and dole it out like a miser.

        And, as a practical social reality, Mrs Cho’s livelihood is dependent on exchanging her domestic/sexual/childcare skills with Mr Chen, in return for however much or however little cash he feels like doling out to her.

        If that sounds like DOMESTIC SLAVERY – it should, because IT IS.

        And that’s why the “traditional marriage” as an INSTITUTION is fundamentally sexist, patriarchal, medieval and reactionary , no matter how “progressive” an individual husband may claim to be.

        That’s why the first step to women’s liberation is their direct access to the paid labor market, to get their own name written on the PAY TO THE ORDER OF line on a paycheck.

        Ironically enough, the road to women’s liberation lies through gaining freedom from domestic slavery by becoming wage slaves.

      • dcardona permalink
        February 2, 2010 11:21 pm

        M,R, an institution is only as strong as the people in it. Tweak your example only a tiny bit and it falls apart. Perhaps Mr. Chen has direct-deposit paychecks that go into a joint Mr and Mrs Chen account. The moment his labor is paid for by his employer it legally belongs to husband and wife equally. It’s her money now, too. So who decides whether the money goes to Mr. Chen first or to M.r and Mrs. Chen? Why, they do, of course!

        Your position speaks to an attitude that one partner works only for personal gain rather than for the good of the partnership and that this partner is always a man. That sounds like a pretty awful worldview to me.

      • February 2, 2010 11:55 pm

        dcardona,

        Like I said ON PAPER Mrs Cho has a right to a portion of Mr Chen’s earnings but if Mr Chen chooses not to let his wife have any of his money, she’d have to go to court to enforce that right.

        That involves money – even if she goes pro se there are still court costs involved – and if she wants to go to court and actually WIN that involves attorneys and they cost a lot of money.

        As a practical matter, it’s HIS money, because it’s his name on the paycheck.

        He doesn’t have to put it in the joint checking account – there are check cashing places, after all, and, in real life, I’ve known married guys who do just that precisely so their wife does not know exactly how much they make.

        Realistically, the only way for our hypothetical Mrs Cho to have her own money is to go out, apply for a job and have her own paycheck.

        And, in reality, there has long been a direct relationship between female labor force participation and women’s freedom – because nothing liberates you under capitalism quite like having your own direct cash relationship to the forces of production, rather than being dependent on the whim of some guy.

      • dcardona permalink
        February 3, 2010 11:51 am

        It’s true that ON PAPER Mrs. Chen has a right to household income (please note in an equal marriage that’s how it is perceived, rather than the particular wage-earner’s sole property) but she also has that right IN REAL LIFE if her marriage is not comprised of people who are sexist/patriarchal.

        You are confirming my argument! Your example and support for it is a textbook example of a sexist/patriarchal marriage structure because of how the people in it behave. You are presupposing a dependent/independent social contract. Some marriages are still like that – too many – yet others are not. When one partner has to ask for money, take the other to court or is viewed as an unpaid servant an equal marriage does not exist; but that doesn’t make all marriages of the form “woman-at-home” unequal.

        The existence and growth of egalitarian woman-at-home intramarriage arrangements combat a sexist institution of marriage from the inside and one can no longer make a blanket statement claiming marriage to be wholly anti-woman simply because it includes a woman at home. Women today have opportunities to either do the work of a homemaker or to “go out into the world” in addition to real-world examples of more egalitarian partnerships and therefore are not forced en masse to participate in traditional marriage with men who would subjugate them.

        Further, one day the value of at-home work will be widely recognized, I fully believe that. And on that day, a couple’s choice for one partner to forgo laboring for a company and instead labor for the family, generating very real, though non-monetary value, will contradict the definition of so-called traditional marriage.

        So homeschooling with a woman at home is not sexist if the choice for her to be the one teaching did not rise from a sexist worldview. Therefore homeschooling as a concept is not sexist.

        That being said, the choice for one partner to become the full-time caretaker and teacher of a child is a privileged choice because for homeschooling to be effective the teaching parent must have a sufficient education and the ability to create numerous opportunities for the child(ren) to make friends and enemies in an enduring social environment. Many families cannot do this. At the same time the choice to homeschool should be upheld the public education system must be improved so that fewer of these priviledged families opt out of it.

      • February 3, 2010 12:18 pm

        dcardona,

        How can be the relationship REALLY be “egalitarian” IF THE MAN MAKES 100% OF THE MONEY?

        At the end of the day, she’s still dependent on his money and his good will – whereas if she had her own money and her own job, she’d be in a more equal position.

        As long as one partner has control of the finances, that partner is the boss, even if he chooses not to act as such.

        And let’s face facts, as long as the check is in HIS name because he’s the one with the job, THE MAN IS IN CONTROL – even if he’s a nice guy and chooses not to exercise it.

        Beyond that, I’m sorry, but in the 21st century, the idea that an able bodied grown adult would be totally dependent on another able bodied grown adult for 100% of her financial needs is kind of backwards!

        And about this “choice” business – as I’ve stated above, the idea that a woman gets to “choose” weather to do paid work or not while men do not have that choice is in and of itself sexist – I’m of the quite radical view that ALL ADULTS – including women – SHOULD BE GAINFULLY EMPLOYED FOR WAGES OUTSIDE THE HOME – period, no exceptions.

        Since homeschooling is tied up with that whole sexist family structure whereby the man has a job and money and the woman is his dependent, homeschooling is therefore inherently sexist, no matter how “progressive” or “feminist” the homeschoolers might think they are.

        Beyond that, it never ceases to amaze me that feminists would defend the idea of a grown woman not having her own job or money and being totally dependent on a man!

        There isn’t a damned thing feminist or liberated about a woman being a man’s unpaid domestic servant – which, basically, is what a stay at home mother in a traditional marriage is.

        All the talk about “choice” does not negate that cold hard reality.

      • femspotter permalink
        February 3, 2010 1:41 pm

        M.R – I challenged your choice scenario in my comment, please read. I think you place too great an emphasis on money in relationships. If two people in a marriage have jobs but one makes less money than the other, does the poorer partner stay home while the other dines out at a fancy restaurant? Is the one who makes less money supposed to come home after work and handle more of the home chores?

        My husband and I don’t think or behave like that. We don’t think about money but rather time: how are we each employing our time and who is available to do the chore that needs doing? If I worked extra hours at my job, even though those hours pay less than his, my husband won’t expect me to come home and cook for him after this long day’s work. And when I’m a stay-at-home mom – with or without a part time home job – he won’t expect me to cook dinner if I’ve been coddling a sick child all day…just because I didn’t bring in any money too. Your referral to me et al as a husband’s “domestic/sexual/childbearing servant” is totally off the mark!

        Some women are oppressed in their marriages, true. But taking away women’s choices to be home caregivers is the opposite of feminism.

      • dcardona permalink
        February 3, 2010 10:49 pm

        M,R, men certainly do have the choice to stay home or not. Just because one of the options is difficult and not widely accepted doesn’t negate its existence. For men, the hard choice is staying home. Not too long ago for women it was leaving home. Now it’s not as controversial and hopefully parity will win out and make a man’s choice acceptable at large in the future as well. You are aware some men currently stay home, right?

        I know a couple who is a prime example of this. Mrs. made a great wage in a professional job, complete with benefits. Mr. did not work but rather furthered his education (paid for out of the family income, or as you would put it HER money) and maintained the household. Baby was in daycare. Fast forward and now both are working, baby still in daycare. Fast forward again and now Mr. is supporting Mrs. as she cares for the baby per their mutual agreement even though the household income has been cut in half. Fast forward to the future and both will work again while children are in school. Does this mean the marriage was oppressive to the man, then equitable, then oppressive to the woman and in the future will become equitable again? The people in the marriage and their own view of the rights/responsibilities therein are the measure of the partnership, not the detail of who is at home doing what.

        You seem to really be stuck on this money thing. As I, Chrematisai, femspotter and corita have all mentioned, work that takes place in the home does have a value. Despite the fact a homemaker doesn’t receive a paycheck, there is still an impact on both the financial stability of the family unit and the economy at large.

        So let’s take a look at some numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to place a value on the duties of a homemaker, shall we? The median wage of either childcare workers or nannies happens to be the same: $9.12 per hour. Withholding a conservative 10 hours for the time a child is asleep and not paying overtime, that’s roughly $128 for a 14-hour day. $900 a week. $3,900 a month. $46,500 a year. To avoid misogyny perhaps a female homemaker should invoice her spouse and any man whose wife does nothing but take care of a child (no housekeeping, cooking, homeschooling, etc.) and makes less than $46,500 net is a parasite, completely dependent upon a woman in the realm of rearing his own children. /snark

        As a communist M,R, you of all people should see that even in marriage “from each according to ability to each according to need” makes sense, especially when all within the household have decided among themselves what they deem to be equitable regardless of gender lines.

        Thank you femspotter for this: “Some women are oppressed in their marriages, true. But taking away women’s choices to be home caregivers is the opposite of feminism.” A homemaker is not a servant if she retains the autonomy to determine what exactly she will do, when and how. She is a servant the moment her husband says jump and she responds how high because there is no other option for her.

        Ultimately in deciding that ANY woman-at-home modern marriage and the concept of homeschooling are both sexist and patriarchal and therefore wrong, you ignore significant social and economic changes that have taken place since the 50s which contradict this claim in the 10s and beyond. The all-encompassing decrees are what taint your opinions on this subject.

  10. cmb permalink
    February 2, 2010 11:41 pm

    although i hated it, public school was really good for me. middleschool is like being exposed to a lot of viruses and bacteria, you get sick, but then you get better and you’re stronger for it. homeschool kids wind up with an emotional boy-in-the-bubble problem in that they haven’t been exposed to a lot of nasty stuff in the world.
    i’ve read a lot of homeschool parents arguing that their kids have more exposure to the real world through field trips and such but i haven’t seen homeschoolers sucessfully interacting with their peers. there’s a lot of cultural context you miss out on if you didn’t go through gradeschool with your fellows. on the other hand, some of us are going to go through life acting like aliens anyway so maybe it didn’t do me as much good as i thought.
    i agree that public education sucks. it’s not that great at teaching academic subjects or social equality but it can be good for teaching how withstand extreme social pressure. i can’t see learning that at home.

    • February 3, 2010 12:03 am

      I’ve heard accounts of homeschool kids having problems relating to their peers precisely because they didn’t have the social experience of school and were therefore isolated from the mainstream of American youth culture.

      I’d be interested to hear from folks who were homeschooled about their experiences with that.

      As far as public education “sucking”, let me paraphrase Winston Churchill: “Public schools are the worst educational system …EXCEPT FOR ALL THE OTHERS”

      • corita permalink
        February 3, 2010 3:28 pm

        “Mainstream youth culture”? Do you agree that it is full of good values that should be passed along to all children?

        “Teh Socialization!!!!” is a load of crap, actually. Taking your kids anywhere at all helps teach them to realte to other people. And while there are certainly homescooled children who are socially awkward, I know one family that is like that– I know about 35 others who have their kidsinvolved in all sorts of activities with a diverse range of kids. Sorry your snobby richies up there in NYC are giving you the impression hat the whole world is either like them, or some nightmare evangelical stereotype. I read about the common practice of cutting your dog’s vocal cords in order to keep your condo, this morning in the times. Bastards.

        Anyway, Greg, honestly you only seem to be able to talk/think in categories, like those stereotypes, or “institutions.” If you privilege categories over individual people then you deny the human being who is supposedlythe locus or benefitter from the liberation that Communism supposedly brings. You do the same thing that sexism does. Denying the free choiceof the individual in order to do what is good for her is laying the groujndwork forall kinds of evils, including totalitarianism. I reminds me of the groups of (white) communists who came into Chicago and other cities to help the civil rights struggles there but, by god were going to tell the blacks how it had to be done. But I am sure that you have headr this all before.

        It just further convinces me that the measure of a free society is in the way it views education. Is it an activity of a free human, working to become more free, more human? Or is it just a way to herd the citizenry into a more common thought & behavior, based on somebody ELSE’s ideas (“progressive” or not) of what is good for them?

      • February 3, 2010 3:53 pm

        Ever heard that corny old cliche “No man is an island”?

        Well, it’s a cliche for a REASON – homo sapiens are a social species, we live in a society with others and its important for us to be able to successfully interact with other humans for us to have a healthy and productive life.

        That’s why it’s good for children to be with their peers and to interact with the culture of their peers – the good and the bad alike.

        Locking one’s kids away to keep them from the bad in society also keeps them away from the good.

        Incidentally, I’m actually surprised that you know so many people who homeschool – THIRTY FIVE COUPLES?

        Literally every single person I know who has children has them in some kind of school – for the most part, in the NYC Department of Ed’s much maligned public schools.

        And I literally do not have a single family member or friend who isn’t a product of a school system (either the one here or the school system of wherever it is that they are from).

        Is homeschooling THAT COMMON where you are from – or do you just know a whole lot of homeschoolers?

        Basically, my knowledge of homeschooling comes from reading about it in the papers and on the internet – it’s far from mainstream here in NYC, except among some affluent Park Slope-types and among some hardcore religious extremists.

        And I think that’s a VERY GOOD THING – because there is a whole lot wrong with homeschooling (I’ve discussed that at length, i won’t rehash it here)

        derail

        As for removing dog’s vocal cords – don’t believe everything you read in the New York Times!

        I live in a co-op (condos are very rare here, because of the technicalities of New York State tax law and real estate law), there are people who have dogs here, and their dogs still have intact throats.

        Again, I don’t know anybody who had their dog’s vocal cords cut out – it sounds like the Times made that up, or wrote a story about one person who did it and tried to pretend that all dog owners do that!

        /derail

        To conclude, yes, I do believe that social change comes from collective struggle to change institutions, not from individuals ‘doing their own thing’ – that kind of hyperindividualism is a hallmark of capitalism (and, under capitalism, only a handful of highly privileged and wealthy men get to be individualistic – everybody else has their individuality sacrificed on the altar of the individualism of those few privileged men).

      • Chrematisai permalink
        February 3, 2010 4:16 pm

        Well, I certainly have encountered people who were homeschooled that have difficulty relating to people, but I think that really depends on the quality of care they received from their parents. My best friend, S, (who I met when we were 4) was homeschooled straight through to grade 11, at which point she switched to public school.

        Clearly, the concept of homeschooling in our society can be a problematic issue. The majority of stay-at-home parents are women, and the hard work they put in in the home (because mark my words, not all stay-at-home-moms are parasitic leeches, nor helpless) is undervalued. That’s the real problem — not that stay-at-home-moms are parasitic, but that they work they do is not appreciated as work. It is this lack of appreciation that keeps so many mothers tied up with guilt complexes: if you stay at home, you’re a parasite, but if you work, you’re a terrible mother who doesn’t spend enough time with her kids. (Note: this isn’t to say that some women who stay in the home are either lazy or exploited; just that the assertion that all of them are is bunk)

        Anecdata: S’s mom has got to be one of the women that I respect the most. She married in her mid-20’s after teaching for several years, had S at age 30, and at that point quit her job. S’s parents continued to have children (5 in total — oldest is 22, youngest is 10), and S’s mom raised and homeschooled the lot of them, and their dad supported them financially on a trucker’s wage. I’m not close to the two boys, but the three girls (S, who is 22; L, who is 16, and T who is 14) have all become some of the most brilliant, loving, confident people I have ever known. Their mother was incredibly dedicated to seeing that they got the very best education, were involved in tons of extracurricular activities outside the home, and grew up to be well-balanced individuals. I feel that many parents underestimate the amount of commitment homeschooling really takes.

        In recent years, S’s mom discovered that her husband had had several affairs, and after some counseling, decided to leave him, and did it successfully, as these things are measured. The two oldest kids have moved out to attend university (S and her brother, R), and the three youngest I do believe are now in public school, though I’m not certain. As far as I know, none of them have had a particularly difficult time adapting to the public sphere.

        Certainly, I wouldn’t be at all shocked if I was to find that many fundamentalist parents use homeschooling to segregate their children from other ideas and class/racial/ethnic/religious groups. Saddened, but not shocked. However, this is not an indication of the inherent wrongness of homeschooling as a practice. If homeschooling were illegal, or otherwise restricted, these bigots would still find other ways to pass their ideas on to their offspring.

        In the case of homeschooling, as in the case of so many other loaded subjects, it’s not really so much that we have the wrong sort of system, it’s that we have the wrong sort of people. No matter what we do, be it with regard to homeschooling or anything else, there will always be bigots and bad people who use the existing system for their own ends; be it to train children to believe the same bigoted things as their parents, or to keep a woman subordinate to her husband.

      • corita permalink
        February 3, 2010 9:42 pm

        I meant co-op, not condo, about the dogs. And I hope it is not common, although the Times article suggested it is “growing”, which I am sure you have noticed is a frequently employed scareword in the press lately. The story IS a good example, on a micro scale, of how the collective can go horribly wrong. These people live in a building with laws everybody has to follow and can lose their spot if they don’t abide by the rules, crazy or not. Instead of mangling a dog, why not think on an individual level about your own situation and the individual dog, instead of mangling it? How about dog training? Or how about giving it more attention or better yet not buying a dog that barks all the time when you live in a building like that?

        Wrt the number of people I know who homeschool, yep, I do know a lot because I belong to two homeschooling co-op as well as a community of un-schoolers and Sudbury schoolers. No upper-class folks here, although perhps the unschool/Sudbury types have a better-than-average education level. Some of the homeschoolers I know are quite poor. It is a somewhat racially diverse group, although I wish it were moreso; I live in Baltimore where race is difficult and the issue of sending your kids to the public schools does indeed get mixed up with racial tensions, although most families I have known to express such things are more likely to pay for private schools, of which there are many, ala white flight.

        Your remark that “hyperindividualism is a hallmark of capitalism,” and subsequent critique of capitalism is quite true, I think. IT does not negate the validity of individual human freedom, however, as they are not one and the same. Nor does insisting that individual people have unique rights to personal choices mean that struggle for social change must be an individual one.

        Human beings are social animals with a unique & individual ability to make moral choices and have both social and personal dimensions to their lives. ( I would add that I see in your srguments a kind of circularity; indeed, I still am unsure why feminism is even a consideration for a communist because, on what basis are we entitled to be free from the oppression of sexism, or slavery? )

        The issue of homeschooling is an excellent example of the tension between the demands of the social order and the rights of the individual. I still come down on the side that says we can not “enforce” what we believe to be proper relationships between people, without encroaching on the very freedom that we are claiming to uphold.

      • February 3, 2010 10:58 pm

        Corita,

        On the dog vocal cord thing – honestly, I do not know where the hell the New York Times got that story from!

        I’ve lived in a co-op in Manhattan for 24 years, I know people in the real estate game and I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF THAT BEFORE, EVER until I read that story in the Times.

        Don’t believe everything you read!

        I see you’re part of the movement that I’ve spent so much bandwidth criticizing on this thread – obviously, we’re going to have to agree to disagree on that.

      • corita permalink
        February 4, 2010 3:10 pm

        Greg, I appreciate your catuion about the NYT and do always read with skepticsm, no matter what the source.

        If you think we can not discuss the topic further because I am part of a family that homeschools, then more is he pity.

        I would appreciate it if you address the issue I have raised multiple times, though: how can it be feminist to restrict freedom of the private person, especially wrt educating oneself? Or, put another way, on what basis does someone like you argue for struggling to end oppression if NOT because human beings deserve as individuals to be freed from oppression? How can we violate human rights in order to advance them?

      • corita permalink
        February 4, 2010 3:25 pm

        I finally got to read “I Fear This” and in addition to the topic itself, got a little more insight into your thoughts on homeschooling, specifically secular education.

        I actually agree with you in that all peope have aright to a good, free education. And I also agree that there is privilege in my life that enables me to homeschool and know that it will work out ok. I always have the discussion with my friends in which I say that hmeschooling is just a choice that we are making for now, based on what is est for the tme, our family and our resources. I would never in a million years put my kids in a preschool program because I think they are too young to get stuck into a behavioral/thought mode that school does (and it DOES need reforming), But I recognize that for some families going to school at three and gettin attention, meals and safe structure is waaay better than staying at home.

        But I do not think that this means everyone ought to go to school at 3. Or 5 or any age,actually, if you want to be really radical about it. Education is a right, not a privilege, and the state ought to support it happening in the best way possible. But attempting ONLY to do the most good for the most people gets you into a mess like we have now.

        And also, as a person who desires reform, as I do, don’t you shudder at the idea of what could happen if ideological shifts mean that the state tells you now….”these are the REAL moral values you must have….” and all that could entail? With no alternative to that kind of 35-hours-a-week indoctrination?

      • February 7, 2010 12:30 am

        My ex was homeschooled until mid-high school, I believe. Apparently his mother was talking to a school administrator once, and the fellow said to her something like, “Oh, you homeschool? Your boys must have amazing social skills. We’re just not equipped to handle that sort of thing.”

  11. February 3, 2010 7:16 pm

    I’m a feminist mom who homeschools my two kids and has from the get-go. This conversation is interesting but rife with misinformed stereotypes. We’ve always lived close to the bone in order to afford homeschooling and I’ve slowly but surely built a freelance (sometimes more than freelance) career that’s allowed us to keep on unschooling our kids at home. For me, it’s a feminist decision and also because frankly, I don’t like school. I don’t want my kids in school (although if they wanted to go I’d honor their wishes around that). I have no desire to try to change an institution that can never fundamentally be what *I* want it to be (because it’d still be an institution) but am glad that my taxes continue to support public education since I know that most parents DO want it and most parents DO need it.

    I don’t usually get into homeschool vs. public school debates because I don’t want to dictate what other families do anymore than I want them to dictate what WE do but the anti-homeschool stereotypes here just annoyed the heck out of me.

  12. February 4, 2010 1:57 pm

    Movie, Reviewed asked: “I’ve heard accounts of homeschool kids having problems relating to their peers . . . I’d be interested to hear from folks who were homeschooled about their experiences with that.”

    I was home educated from birth on (and, as an older child, chose to continue learning at home until college) and while I can’t begin to tackle all of the stereotypes and generalizations Movie, Reviewed is making about a very heterogeneous subculture, I can speak about my own personal experience making social connections beyond my family.

    I have always been a very intense one-to-one relationship sort of person; from a very young age I preferred time spent with one or two other people to large groups of folks, which I found overwhelming. I don’t believe this is because of my home education, but rather a personality thing that my home education allowed me to build on as a strength, rather than getting me stereotyped as “antisocial.” I have been able to choose and invest in friendships with a diverse bunch of folks irregardless of age; I have never been sure why the emphasis on fitting in with one’s age-peers is such a huge issue in our society; I prefer spending time with people at all different stages of life — it leads to much more diverse conversations and opportunities to see things from new perspectives.

    My girlfriend and I have conversations about the relationship of homeschooled kids to mainstream youth culture. She learned at home until high school and then went to a public school in 9th grade. It’s true that she has more pop-culture references (popular music, clothing styles) than I do, but again I think this is a superficial marker of “mainstream” experience: she has cultural references from her youth and I have cultural references from mine. Much like if I had grown up in a different country, I have a different body of knowledge that in the end just means we have a more diversified pool of experience to draw upon than that I have some how lost out (or that, possibly, both of us have lost out to “mainstream” experience).

    I would make two further, relatively brief, observations. The first is that unless you choose as a parent to remove your children from the society of others altogether and isolate them in a remote location with no internet or media connections, there is little danger of them not imbibing some measure of dominant cultural understanding. By definition, dominant cultures demand some level of understanding even from those who are forced (or choose) to live on its margins. So I feel that the panic about home-educated kids not experiencing mainstream culture is at least overblown if not totally disconnected from the reality of a highly inter-connected world.

    The second point I would make is to question the assumption that “relating” in the sense of agreeing with or having the same experiences as one’s peers is a worthy goal to have for one’s children. Many home educators choose to allow their kids to learn outside of the institution of school precisely because they are wary of the values that are imbued in institutional education, or wary of the lessons their children might learn about power and worth from the hidden curriculum of school spaces. Home education is often consciously counter-culture in its aims (although, as I suggested at the beginning of my comment, the direction of that counter-culture impulse is far from uniform).

    On the other hand, I prefer to think about “relating” to others in the world as the process of developing skills such as listening, curiousity, empathy, and the ability to learn from those whose background and life experiences are vastly different from your own. In that frame of reference, the site in which those skills are learned (at home, in a school) are irrelevent: home-based education can equip young people to go out into the world curious about the diversity they will find there.

    In my own experience, not being confined to a classroom for X number of hours a day socializing mostly with people of my same age actually broadened the realm of my social relations. In contrast to my schooled friends, I spent much more time interacting with people who were younger and older than I, and who spent their days doing different things than I did. I don’t feel impoverished because of that, nor do I feel unequipped to navigate the realm of the “grown-up” world: it is the world I have lived in my whole life.

    I realize home education will not magically make this sort of openness to experience and social interaction happen . . . but I also think it is dangerous to assume that schools will either. Neither are a panacea for addressing the inequalities of our society or the social isolation that many people feel. I think the answers to those issues need to happen on a cultural level rather than putting out faith in one particular institutional framework (i.e. public schooling, a relatively recent invention!) as the solution.

    • corita permalink
      February 4, 2010 3:06 pm

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience, anna… I believe in what you are saying and the experiences of my friends who homeschool bear this out as well. I hope my child/ren are as thoughtful and articulate as you are after their homeschooling experience.

      • February 4, 2010 6:01 pm

        Thanks, corita! I appreciated your thoughtful reflections as well. Best wishes for you and your family…

  13. February 5, 2010 4:23 am

    well its encourage me to make any improvement, thanks

  14. Egyptgirl permalink
    February 7, 2010 6:51 pm

    There seems to be a heck of a lot of people who really don’t know shit about homeschooling. First off, religious fanatics DON’T make up the majority of home-schoolers, despite their claims. Some home-schoolers keep a strict curriculum, while others have a less structured one or, like I had, a classical education of learning Latin and reading great books. For my home area, many home-schooled because ableist public schools repeated refuse to actually teach special-needs children. One advantage of home-schooling is it really does teach a kid to take responsibility and make independent decisions, such as deciding what textbook works, including using more informative college books.

    People also seem to cling on the stereotype that home-schooled kids have zero socialization. There is in fact NO scientific evidence to support this claim. In fact, a number of studies had shown that home-schooled kids do BETTER in socialization. Most home-schoolers participate in a number of outside activities, such as joining a kids’ orchestra program, or do volunteer work. I can say from my own experience that I probably did better socially from being able to meet people from a range of ages from my outside activities.

    Forcing children into a place with a bunch of others does not automatically socialize them. Certainly didn’t help with my brother, who was constantly bullied.

    M,R: it is from my experience that not all homeschooling families are the traditional wife-stays home types. For example, a geologist mother who works during the work-week used to offer science classes at her home for other area home-schoolers.

    Does home-schooling work for everyone? Of course not. Some really do need lots of structure. Some families only home-school a particular child while doing something else for the other. Are there some people who abuse their parental position to indoctrinate children? Yes. However, please refrain from painting the whole group of us as fanatics (in case your wondering, I’m an unapologetic atheist along with my parents). It’s hard enough for the non-fanatic ones to be seen as legitimate with the damn fanatics claiming to represent all home-schoolers.

  15. February 7, 2010 8:36 pm

    We were the token heathens (lapsed Methodist at the time) in our local homeschooling group.

    We homeschooled because my daughter was unsafe in her public school. We could not afford to replace her supplies every week because they had been stolen. The day my long-haired daughter came home from kindergarten with a butchered pixie cut (courtesy of two classmates during nap time) was the last straw. The fact that she was reading on a third grade level while her class reviewed the alphabet was just gravy.

    We homeschooled for two years. She was passing my husband’s junior high science tests by the end of it. We eventually opted for public school because my number of kids had outstripped my ability to teach. (yes, we had some Quiverfull issues, despite being lapsed)

    For the poster who thinks GT programs are simply modern forms of segregation, I would like to remind the readers that they fall under the umbrella of special educational services. We do not deny the speech-impaired child therapy or the dyslexic child aid in reading. Where is the justice in denying the advanced child extra stimulation? All four of my children qualified, but only two opted to participate in the G/T program. None of them had a choice about speech therapy.

    Homeschooling can be anything the parents make it. It can be an attempt to force the children into a specific narrow mold of thought. For the very bright child, it can be an escape from tormentors who take pleasure in destroying you for that brightness.

  16. anarchofemme permalink
    February 7, 2010 8:50 pm

    I was home-schooled until I was 14, in both the UK and Australia (where I was born) and for me it was a wonderful experience. I think comments like Gregory Butler’s are based on a very limited understanding of the scope of home-schooling.

    In the US there may be a greater proportion of people who home-school in order to religiously indoctrinate their children, but in the UK and Australia the majority of people who home-school are liberal and progressive and have a problem with the somewhat simplistic “one size fits all” approach to schooling that is present in many schools.

    Personally, I loved home-schooling. I was (and still am) a voracious reader and allowing me the freedom to expand my English skills independently helped me greatly. People often ask me if I was behind other students when I came to high school, but (sadly) I was far ahead. I ended up scoring in the top percentage in my state in Australia in my end-of-schooling English exam.

    As to socialisation, my family would regularly meet up with a group of other home-schoolers of all ages, which is common practice for many home-schoolers. I think there is a real argument, however, for not constantly surrounding young children with other children of the exact same age. I have always liked socialising with adults (I am 19), which I attribute partly to home-schooling. I also think home-schooling helped make me a self-confident person, as by the time I got to school I was old enough to be able to stick to my convictions and not feel the need to needlessly conform to others expectations.

    On the economic argument against home-schooling, again people would benefit from looking to see how the rest of the world deals with this. In the UK my mother was a single parent and home-schooled my brother and I while not working. Or, more accurately, this was her work. The UK system allowed us to receive enough benefits to live on and live in a council house free of charge. I agree that home-schooling done by both parents is not an option for some, but I have known plenty of home-schooling parents who both work part-time to deal with money issues, or in which the father is the primary educator.

    Gregory Butler’s ideas that ALL people should be forced into the public school system and ALL people should be forced into paid work (as our society sees it) are very oppressive in my opinion. While public schools remain flawed, there will always be people who will prefer to educate their children themselves.

    For example, I knew a girl who was home-schooled who had ADHD. When she went to school she was forced to take ritalin (which is not a very pleasant drug, I can assure you). When home-schooled, however, she didn’t need this drug, which worked very well for her family.

    It would be great if society paid people for ALL types of work, rather than a selected few. But, unfortunately, carers, full-time parents, those involved in unpaid community work and political activism are not deemed worthy in our societies.

    I whole-heartedly agree that public education should be invested in and continually improved to get rid of some of the problems it encounters, but the way to do this is not to force people to adapt to the system, but to make the system adapt to them. Limiting people’s right to home-school only hurts those who do not fit into the limited schooling system.

    So, does anyone think that the form of home-schooling I experienced is negative and worthy of being banned? (I’m talking mainly to you, Gregory Butler).

    • corita permalink
      February 7, 2010 9:16 pm

      I do want to mention that I notice in the discussion a frequent differentiation between “religious” homeschooling — with the readin of conservative, and therefore oppressive– and the liberal, progressive homeschooler.

      I think that there can never be laws restricting homeschooling based on religion. We have to be careful that we don’t say, “homeschooling is ok as long as it communicates certain ideas and not others.” Because how do we regulate or restrict that? There is no way to go into a home and moniter the ideas that are being passed along to the children. At th most, communities can make laws to ask for homeschooled children to show a minimum level of academic achievement, although this too is controversial and can’t be too restrictive. But society can and should not gt into th practice of, through the law, intruding on education in the home.

      • anarchofemme permalink
        February 7, 2010 10:35 pm

        I agree. I have heard though that home-schooling with the purpose of teaching a particular religious belief is more popular in the US. Is this accurate? Whether the religious education benefits the child would depend on the parents and yes, it would be hard to regulate.

  17. February 17, 2010 4:39 pm

    I don’t think I gained much at all from middle school, really, except the knowledge that people are mean. Academically, though, middle school was awful. My public school did nearly nothing with us–that’s why we had the lovely available extra energy to be monsters to each other.

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