Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Feminism and Unschooling
I have. Here is an interview I did with Becky Ellis in March 2008 for the Briarpatch Magazine.
What do you think the public perception is of homeschoolers, in regard to women and family structure?
The response I often get from people is"Wow! you're brave!" This can mean that they genuinely think "I admire you. I wish I could do that." This response, I think, is derived from an awareness of the negative aspects of school, it's not necessarily coming from a place that honours authentic learning- learning that honours the passionate interests of the leaner.
Or the response might mean, "You must be crazy; or stupid." Seriously, I actually had a guy say that to me.
Then they're thinking "Why the sacrifice lady? Why would someone actually want to hang out with their kids for such a large hunk of the day? Weird. Give up your freedom and your chance at a career?"
They forget that there are many ways to have a full and satisfying life. That children can be a significant part of that satisfying life.
From a feminist point of view, do you feel that homeschooling provides benefits to mothers and/or children? Please explain:
If feminists care about a good future for women then looking at institutions that oppress and degrade women and children ought to extend into looking at the places where some of these have their beginnings; namely the school.
If, as a facilitator of your child's education you're modelling self-directedness and initiative to your child, and if you are encouraging your child's curiosity, inquisitiveness and questioning of all that they see, then I think you can raise some pretty tough minded feminist children - female or male.
From a feminist point of view, do you feel that homeschooling provides any challenges for feminist mothers or to feminism?
The challenge for many women who have taken this route is that often the family has to live on less-money, as often they are full time at homeschooling or working part time hours (often from the home). In our society where worth (including self worth) is measured by how much money you make you can see that homeschooling poses a problem.
Also if you are at home you tend to be making more messes and those messes need to be cleaned up. Who cleans them? The woman. Sadly, doing chores still does not inspire admiration. So you certainly don't get an overabundance of positive strokes.
Is there tension within the homeschooling movement between feminist homeschoolers and more conservative homeschooling families? How do these manifest?
I don't know. I tend to have my own group of people my family and I do things with and they tend to be more of the unschooly type. I think the same can be said about conservative homeschoolers. So there is a fairly distinct divide, two largely separate spheres of influence driven largely, I'd venture, by isolationist and/or ideological parents, rather than the children.
Have you received (or heard of) critcisms from non-homeschooling feminist or other progressives about homeschooling? What are they and how did you respond?
I have heard this criticism: that the idea that it is an unfair situation since not ALL families can benefit from this kind of education (either they are economically disadvantaged, or there is illness, or less educated, etc), so why should only some?
The concern is that it is only an elite that can do this - and where is the social equality in that? But I respond "it's like saying free people shouldn't have helped those escaping from slavery because not every enslaved person could be helped." That makes no sense at all!
Please share any other thoughts, ideas, and experiences:
Homeschooling or unschooling are just one way of getting educated, there's a lot of choice out there. It's great to have many alternatives available because we all learn differently and at various stages of our lives we might need a different approach. So that flexibility is great to have in the way culture approaches learning.
What I like best about unschooling is that my kids really have the freedom and the time to engage in meaningful ( to them) learning. For example, my nine year old has just come up to me asking me to help her with a campaign to alert residents of our town about the plight of species facing extinction due to climate change. They are curious and confident and not afraid of trying out new things. I think that's a pretty good way to be in this world.