Feminist Homeschooling Concerns

In response to my post on feminist homeschooling, I received this interesting comment:

So, if being a mom is a full-time job, does your husband have 2 full-time jobs? Or is being a dad just a hobby?

And what about women who can’t afford to stay home? Should they not have children, or just feel ashamed about sending their kids to school?

I’ve been holding on to this, because it’s a really good set of questions, and I needed to think about it for a while. Being able to see things from the different perspectives is so important. So, I’d like to try to do that.

Q. So, if being a mom is a full-time job, does your husband have 2 full time jobs? or is being a dad just a hobby?

A. Well, depends on how we look at it. Generally, homeschooling moms, are working just as hard as the dad who goes to work. Not more, not less – the same. Being a homeschooling mom is a lot of work. The same is true when the roles are reversed. I believe what makes me a feminist on this issue is that I do not believe that having a woman or man in any familial position is “better” or “more work” or “more important”. All the roles we play in the family are important and worth lauding – whether that be caretaking, money making or whatever.

Now, on to the subjective side of it – yes, to some dads, being a dad is a kind of “hobby”. And, for some moms, it’s the same. The way we see our responsibilities as parents has nothing to do with whether we are working or not. That is irrelevant. But what is important to recognize, is that a parent who takes on the responsibility to stay home and take care of children, and homeschool, is doing an important and meaningful job. Just because they are not being paid doesn’t mean that they are wasting their lives or being anti-feminist.

So, this question, in and of itself, reflects a zero-sum game mentality. That if someone’s work is valued for being worthy, than somehow that makes someone else’s work less worthy. For me, that’s what I see as anti-feminist; the idea that certain decisions are less valuable than others simply because of their social value of who is doing “more” or doing “better”. If we think like this, the essensce of what “social equality” means can’t exist. Social equality can’t be measured in numbers. Every time we try, we are back at square one.

Q. And what about women who can’t afford to stay home? Should they not have children, or just feel ashamed about sending their kids to school?

A. Again, this is coming from a zero-sum game approach to the argument. That if someone is choosing to stay home, that it somehow deflects from a woman’s choice to work. If we see that one choice is “good” and the other is “bad”, everyone loses.

To me, it’s not about the actual choice we are making. It is not about working vs. staying home, not about having children or not, it’s not about sending kids to school or homeschooling. To me, it’s all about how we came to those decisions. Are we making our own choices? Do we see ourselves as helpless women who have to bend to everyone’s whim in order to survive? Or are we making these choices based on our own self-image of a strong, powerful woman, who doesn’t need to wait for approval or the OK by a man (or society) in order to take action? Are we making choices that show our respect for ourselves, or are we making choices because we feel trapped?

This is why I think homeschooling moms who stay home are part of a grander feminist movement. It is extremely rare for a homeschooling mom to make the choice to homeschool based on what society says she should be doing. This does not mean that I think those who choose other routes are not making a powerful choice. It’s not black and white like that. For women who cannot afford to stay home, or have kids but do, or who send their kids to school – there are so many reasons for these things, it’s impossible to make a blanket statement about whether or not their decisions are based on personal empowerment, or being trapped by the lot of being a woman in our society.

I see homeschooling moms, who stay home and take care of their kids instead of working (and often while working at home making money at the same time), as generally a feminist decision. (Always exceptions of course.) But that, by no means lessens the value or importance of the decision not to homeschool.

To think that it does, is anti-feminist. And it sounds like it’s coming from a masculine point of view where if someone succeeds, someone has to fail. The truth is, there is no one right answer. That’s what the feminist movement is based on. Not on whether or not women are making as much money as men or whether they are in the work force like men. I have no interest in turning women into men.

On the contrary, I think women should stay solidly women, but without fear. And have power in their own way. Not have to find power by being more masculine. Making the choice to homeschool (BTW, in most families, it’s the mom who has to convince the dad to let her stay home and homeschool) is decidedly powerful. Just as powerful as standing up as a women deciding to work for her family. Either way, her choices are valid. And there is no need for her to become more of a man in order to find equality.

That is what feminism is. Being a strong woman – not more of a man.

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11 Responses to “Feminist Homeschooling Concerns”

  1. Sheri Says:

    Hey Tammy,

    Great post.

    “I think women should stay solidly women, but without fear. And have power in their own way. Not have to find power by being more masculine.”

    Absolutely.

  2. Dana Says:

    Great thoughts. I don’t know why so many people seem so bent on telling women what we need to do to be good feminists. This isn’t exactly what G.K. Chesteron was talking about with this quote, but I think it apples:

    “it is mixed up with a muddled idea that women are free when they serve their employers but slaves when they help their husbands;”

    I am “free” when I make choices based on what I think is most important right now, not what the feminist movement has decided, not what my employer has decided, etc.

  3. tobeme Says:

    Tammy,
    Great answers to what first appeared to be tough questions. You gave an excellent explanation!

  4. celticmuse Says:

    hmmm, great answers to angry questions. I think the person who asked them just wanted a fight. I tell people all the time that there are 3 stages to making decisions~
    1. You want everyone to do it because it is so great
    2. You defend you’re right and choices to do it.
    3. You just say with confidence, I do it.

    When you get to #3, you don’t offend anyone it is just what you do in your life.

    I also think people feel judged by the choices we make because we stand up for what we believe in. Many people are not at the place in life and will never get there.

  5. anna Says:

    Powerful answers to provoking questions. Amen, preach it!

  6. Kim A Says:

    Found you through the Carnival of Homeschooling.

    Thought-provoking questions and answers! I’d like to add that we’re not really free until we can make our choices based on what’s best for those we have been called to serve: our children, our husbands.

    As long as we are making our choices based (primarily) on what fulfills us, we have slipped back into enslavement to our culture’s expectations for us.

  7. Alasandra Says:

    Wonderful post.

    I have never understood the mentality of people who insist that because I homeschool I either think women who work are bad parents (I don’t, it’s their choice) or that I am somehow enslaved ( I am not).

    I think everyone should have the RIGHT to make the choices that are best for their own family. Which means that all of us will choose differently but everyone’s choices are equally valid.

  8. Elizabeth Says:

    Great post, Tammy! I love your approach. I’ve felt this way for quite a while, and it’s so nice to hear someone put it into words and then expand on it. Woo Hoo!

  9. Susan Says:

    You are so eloquent! I could not have put it better!

  10. Antoniabologna Says:

    I have always thought of myself as a feminist, but it is only in my 40’s that I have felt like saying it out loud to anyone who asks. When I was younger I thought to be a feminist was to not have a family or be married. I am both now, and feel just as strongly about my feminism. It is our choices that make us feminists. I want everyone to get to choose what they want to do, and my choice of homeschooling our kids and trying to have my writing career at home does not reflect on yours out side of your home or your kids going to public school.

  11. Stephanie Says:

    I have long found the contradictory nature of feminism and staying at home to make for interesting discourse. I have always considered myself a feminist and have operated always on the premise that I’m a strong woman with thoughts, opionions, and decisions that are as worthy of being honored.

    I was always greatly humored by those who called themselves feminists but belittled my decision to get married, then the decision to have children, and then — egad! — the decision to stay at home and raise my children.

    Somehow the notion of being enslaved by my husband because I am raising a family seems oxymoronic to me. Who makes the daily decisions in the family? Who spends the vast majority of the day nurturing the children and thereby imparting the foundations of their adulthood? (I know that may sound a bit pretentious, but it is true.)

    Yes, it is true, that I don’t officially receive a paycheck, but is it necessary to use such a strict definition of “enslavement?” Should money be the only portion of the definition to which we adhere? Staying home and home educating were decisions I made based on the two human beings entrusted to my care. And, afterall, isn’t that what feminism is supposed to be about — the OPTION and the CHOICE?

    I don’t believe I gave anything up by staying home. In fact, I’m quite sure that the two strong girls in my home are benefiting from having their opinions heard, their decisions respected, and their strong personalities reinforced. One day, when it comes their turn to choose, I will revel in the knowledge that it was my example and my own choices that helped them to be strong enough women to choose wisely, whatever their choice.


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