Monday, February 18, 2008

Homeschooling and "The Mommy Myth"

According to the authors of The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined Women, I must be a failure as a homeschooling mom.

Why? Because I'm not totally fluent in quadratic equations, the XYZ affair, and the literary symbolism of Banquo's ghost in Macbeth. Forget about the existence of such things as oh, I don't know, teacher's manuals, literature guides, reference books, online and community college courses, tutors, etc. Forget the fact that the typical elementary schoolteacher would almost certainly have equal or greater difficulty in teaching these concepts without any kind of reference material. Not to be too much of an educational snob, but I scored more than 400 points higher on the SAT than the average new elementary teacher and had a higher college GPA than >60% (the study unfortunately lumped together all the 3.5+ students so I'm not sure exactly at which percentile mine would place me).

Didn't you get the memo from Professors Susan Douglas of the University of Michigan and Meredith Michaels of Smith? The one saying that home educators need to be omniscient, spend the absolute entire day imparting knowledge into our kids, and feel a compulsion to have our kids step over others, be the envy of others, rise above the mass of the others, "to be, and to be seen as, well, a star"? That we are self-righteous zealots who consider ourselves to be the perfect examples of enlightened maternal virtue?

Pardon my French, but that's a big, fat, steaming load of manure. It's quite clear from reading the discussion of homeschooling in The Mommy Myth that Drs. Douglas and Michaels don't know the first thing about real-life homeschoolers.

The authors' bias is obvious in their treatment of the National Center for Educational Statistics study statistic about 30% of the homeschoolers surveyed citing the desire to "provide religious or moral instruction" as their primary motivation for educating their kids at home. Now, those of us inside the homeschooling community know how broad that statement is, and how extremely diverse the group of families are who might concur with it. No one group has a monopoly on morality and people of any faith or none whatsoever might decide to homeschool in order to teach their children in accordance with their family's values. Yet to Drs. Douglas & Michaels, they're all ultraconservative fundamentalists motivated by:

"an insistence that their kids never encounter the words 'evolution', 'birth control', or 'Oscar Wilde'."

Even the most conservative Christian homeschoolers I know teach *ABOUT* Darwinian evolution and sexuality. Drs. Douglas & Michaels may not like the way those topics are being taught by conservative homeschoolers, but it's a myth that homeschooled kids are totally sheltered from controversial topics.

The authors of The Mommy Myth truly seem to believe that homeschooling is super difficult for the parent doing the primary teaching. But honestly, I see what they would have me do instead of homeschooling to be way more stressful. Throughout the book, they make it abundantly clear their preference for women to hold full-time employment outside the home by glamorizing careers and presenting an excessively negative portrayal of homemaking. Yes, it can be tedious to do housework, change diapers, and so on but the corporate world isn't all fun & games either. I could go on at length about the tedious aspects of my last paid position. The point is, Drs. Douglas & Michaels would have me employed 40+ hours per week, and on top of that somehow find the time & energy to devote myself to the "rehabilitation of public education" by "[joining] the PTA and [giving] the local school board h***."

Forget the fact that the local school board has very little power to fix the problems with government-run schools. I'd have to try to influence things on the state or even Federal level, which would be a full-time job in and of itself. Maybe it's a generational thing, but I'm a lot more cynical about the chances of me actually being able to bring about a significant improvement in the schools. Frankly, I'd rather spend my time and effort on giving my kids a good education at home than on some idealistic but likely futile crusade.

That's what I think truly bothers the authors of The Mommy Myth. They have this attitude that I should feel some sort of noblesse oblige to sacrifice my kids' well-being for what Drs. Douglas & Michaels see as the collective good. However, I don't see why the fruits of my labor should go to benefit "free riders" rather than my own family. Why should I invest my time & effort to help out the kids whose own parents are too lazy or disinterested? It's like the children's story of the Little Red Hen or 2 Thessalonians 3:10 "if any would not work, neither should he eat."


Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Excellent post!

It is clear from the article that these two are very ignorant of what homeschoolers do.
As a homeschooling mom, I also have the freedom and time to study, to think and to enjoy my kiddo. But of course, that's exactly what the authors of the Mommy Myth don't want. Elites like them are the only people who should think.

jugglingpaynes said...

Out of curiosity, do either of the authors have children? I sure wouldn't want one of them as my mom. I love being with my kids, I've learned more from homeschooling them than in my entire school career, including college. They mean more to me than my phi beta kappa membership. I am exercising my freedom of choice by staying home with them instead of subjecting them to life raised by strangers. Isn't choice what it's all about?
Wonderful post, by the way.

Karen said...

Wonderful review. I haven't read the book but I suspect that it wouldn't be good for my blood pressure to do so.

I guess I'm cynical too but I'm confident that I can educate my children well and I'm equally confident that I cannot fix the problems of the entire public education establishment.

cnugrrrl said...

yes they are mothers. Just because you challenge the culture's ridiculous standards of motherhood does not make you a bad mother. And as far as "exercising your freedom of choice by staying home" did it ever occurr to you to ask why it is ALMOST ALWAYS MOTHERS who are forced to make a choice between career and family and HARDLY EVER FATHERS???????????

Crimson Wife said...

cnugrrl- it's not always moms who make the choice to become stay-at-home parents these days. My cousin who has a master's from Columbia and a successful career in sports journalism decided to become a SAHD when his daughter was born. There are also several SAHD's in our local homeschooling support

Feminism was supposed to be about allowing women (and men) the freedom to make their *OWN* choices based on their own personal circumstances rather than a preconceived gender stereotype.

"Feminists" like Linda Hirschmann, Leslie Bennetts, and Professors Douglas & Michaels who want to force all moms into the paid workforce aren't any better than the bad old patriarchs who would confine all of them to the kitchen.

cnugrrrl said...

They never said that all women should enter the workforce. They talked about the ridiculous pressures place on mothers working in the public and private realm.

And I suggest you look more closely @ my post. I said it is ALMOST always mothers forced to make this choice. I am well aware of the existance of SAHDs, but they are few and far between. Perhaps they will become more common in the future. But as it is right now, raising children and keeping house is still largely considered the female's job and I resent that.

Crimson Wife said...

According to the the "Rebel Dad" blog, 17.3% of all children aged 0-4 with an employed mother have a SAHD. That doesn't sound to me like "few and far between" but a significant (and I would presume growing) number.

Many of the younger Gen X'ers and Gen Y'ers I know tend to be a lot more open to having the wife's career be the high-powered one and the husband's be the flexible/sequenced one. Something like a quarter of all married couples now have the wife as the higher earner. When these couples start having children, it's likely that the dad would be the one to be the SAHP.

cnugrrrl said...

Well I guess it all depends on your definition of “few and far between”. That number’s looking pretty measly to me. But, I do hope you are right in that the # is growing. I have a feeling it is…..let’s just hope and pray that there isn’t a backlash.

Anyhoo, I was looking for information on this subject and came across this article:

I think you’ll appreciate it.