Friday, October 11, 2013

10 Reasons Not to Home School #9

10 Reasons not to Home School #9        To Raise Home Makers

This post is going to be hard to write.

  This post touches on an issue that is still a little tender in my heart. I’ve tried several times to sit and write on this topic while staying cool, and distant, and matter of fact, but I can’t.

   Recently I tried to answer a question for a class which had me define the roles I play in life, and what my goals, expectations, and desires are for each one. Each of us has many specific roles we play in life, (such as daughter, sister, mother, wife, employee, teacher, writer, volunteer, etc. ).

Two of the questions, ‘which role earns you the most compliments, and which makes you the most happy?’ were difficult. Here is an excerpt from my journal.
  “When I think about what things have earned me the most compliments in life, - it is my role of domestic housewife.
   Cooking for large groups elaborate from scratch meals, baking hundreds of cookies and sweets every year at holidays to give to business partners in the community, - (attempting) keeping a clean, organized home decorated for every season, throwing themed birthday bashes for my kids, designing, landscaping and maintaining our yard, growing fresh vegetables and fruit and canning the produce, photographing family and friends, the things I’ve been complemented on most are all an extension of being a housewife. Neither famous Martha has anything over me for effort.
   And yet, - the second part of the question gives me pause; does the role I received the most compliments on make me the most happy?
    Truthfully no.
   I wonder why.

   It isn’t necessarily that I don’t enjoy doing some of those things, I do; but the praise always seems so undeserved, a little upsetting sometimes even. Why?
   I realized that I was raised to be home maker.

   From the time I was young; I was encouraged to be a wife and mother. Not just that, - but by extension, a housewife.  I was taught that if I desired to be married, - children would be a part of it. (Receiving the blessings of children God gave.)

  Not only that, - but being a mother, (well, a ‘good’ mother anyway) meant being a stay at home mom. (After all, - a woman’s place was at home.)

    I was strongly discouraged from attending college almost to the point of forbidding (even when I received a full scholarship and showed interest in going) because my role was one of ministry. I was to bless others from home, either my parents, or my own. 

   Instead of college, I ‘prepared to be a home maker’. I was a mother’s helper to other Mom’s who needed babysitting, cleaning and more, usually almost for free. Even though I could run a home with my eyes closed and one hand tied behind my back I ‘practiced’ some more. Even though I’d been baking bread in six loaf batches since age ten, - even though I knew how to cook nutritionally sound, organic healthy meals for a group of 20 without breaking a sweat. Even though I knew how to menu plan, shop on a budget, lesson plan, teach, confidently manage a home, use natural cleaners, sew, plant, harvest and put up fruits, vegetables, and raise, butcher and store  farm fresh meat, still I practiced.

   In the past ten years I have had grown women watch me deftly make a salad and comment in awe at my knife skills in slicing and dicing. I have not really known what to say. I was just cutting up vegetables.

   “So THAT is how you cut up peppers!!” One girlfriend exclaimed. ‘I never know how I’m supposed to get the center out. – That is so cool!’

    I stare at her in utter confusion. I am just cutting up vegetables. Like brushing my teeth, it is a mindless action that requires little to no thought. I do not consider myself a cooking guru ( that is for those who use Sally Fallon’s book every day, soaking and fermenting everything, or cooking all gluten free foods).

  The thing is that this kind of comment kept happening. I eventually realize these women have something in common; working moms who never taught them to cook. It is moments like those that I feel confused. I don’t feel like I am doing anything special, and I feel sad.

   Sad for them; how do they not know these things?
   Sad for me, it is all I know.

   Being a home maker was never my choice. I did choose to get married; I chose to have children. The house wife part just kind of came with it all.

   And maybe that’s why it (praise) feels so undeserved.

    Being a house wife wasn’t a choice. Learning the skills that make me good at it weren’t a choice. I didn’t go to college; I didn’t focus on a career. I spent my years serving others and honing these skills; I better be good at them, right!?!

   Certainly no house wife is a perfect Martha Stewart, but that’s kind of the goal, right? To create a beautiful, peaceful, clean, organized home, that is full of love and delicious food, and friends and parties and always a fresh batch of warm cinnamon rolls for any guest that might stop by; right?
 I mean, that’s what we were told. Cleaning toilets and finger painting and yes’ing our husbands, THAT is what heals our country.

    Doing a good job as a house wife has never seemed praise worthy to me because it never seemed like an option. Having no higher education, no career, in fact, - never even holding a ‘real’ resume worthy job, I brought NO financial assets ( let alone a car) to my marriage which seemed to make the point even more obvious.

   I had one thing to contribute to my marriage; being the best housewife possible. And honestly even that hasn’t always felt like enough. Not because my husband asks for more, but because something deep inside me does. It isn’t that I mind making beds and salsa, and reading bedtime stories, it’s just that it isn’t all I want my life to be.   

Praise hasn’t seemed earned when it comes to any domestic duties, (which is what they feel like much of the time) because it is my job. My one and only job. It is the only thing I was trained for, and the only thing I know I can do. Being a perfectionist means that I am determined to do them well, but being human means that I rarely meet my own expectations or standards.

    And so.

  I am a house wife. I was born and bred it seems to be one.”
   Do I sound ungrateful? Hmmm…
   I know I feel guilty, as if I am wrong; but I don’t believe I am.

     I can’t help remembering the women of my mother’s generation. Women bouncing (another!?!)  baby on their hip, talking about the revolutionary concepts of cloth diapers and homemade refried beans (actually, homemade any-&-everything was revolutionary).   I remember their frustration.

   If I had to sum up my impression of their struggle; it was that they felt unprepared, they felt cheated.
    Most of them were raised to be strong, independent women who were highly educated and took their place in the work force. Many felt that the role of Mommy and housewife were ignored at best, and despised at worst. When they chose to stay home and have babies and practice the traditional housewife role, they floundered.

They felt ill-equipped.

They felt misunderstood.

They battled their own (and others) doubts and questions.

  They had chosen a different life than many of their mothers, or what their mothers expected for them. They chose a life at odds with what the culture that raised them told them gave a woman purpose and value.

   Many took it farther than a personal choice. They made it a war cry. They had fought long and hard to prove their work (as wife and mother) was just as valid, that their choice just as empowered. (And as a choice it was).

    They declared they would NOT make those mistakes with their own daughters. They would PREPARE their daughters for this role in every conceivable way. Their daughters would NOT struggle so hard, not feel so un-prepared; they would not be forced to prove their intelligence through a career. They would TEACH their daughters the joy of home making, and the satisfaction of nesting, and they would NOT bind her to a cultural idea of a woman’s role.

    Except they did.

    And we lost our choice. We lost our voice. We lost our freedom to choose.
     We lost sight of who we were.

    And here I stand.

   I have chosen a different life than the one my mother lived, and I am not prepared. I feel ill equipped.

 I feel cheated, raised with the idea that a woman’s value and worth come from a certain set of skills, maintaining a role, a house, and prescribed way of (god commanded) living, instead of WHO God made her to be.

 I struggle. I feel alone.

I am defying and challenging the culture in which I was raised.

 I feel unprepared. I feel misunderstood.

   And I have a daughter.

   A daughter who loves her baby dolls and will barely do anything without them; a girl who loves doctors and hospitals and everything about taking care of sick people. A girl who sings and dances, and has climbed on ledges to give performances as soon as she could walk. A daughter who talks about when ‘she is gwown up’ without a single limitation.

   I look at her soul, vibrant and free and alive. I refuse to bind it.   I believe my daughter has within her passions and dreams and gifts that are uniquely hers, given by God. I do not believe he wastes gifts and dreams on people.

    I don’t believe my daughter needs to be President or a CEO to prove her intelligence and leadership, but it may be her dream, and it may be what this world needs. I don’t believe she needs to decorate and cook and have babies to prove her femininity and holiness, but nothing on earth may make her happier and through it she may better other’s lives.

  A role is just a description of what we are doing, NOT who we are. Some roles we do not choose, but they are simply part of our life. Some we would like to chose but are not within our reach.
 You see, the problem with with glorifying certain roles and referring to them as ‘high callings’ for all women glorifies a fleeting thing that can change in a moment, or be snatched away in an instant, or something that may never come to be at all.  There are single women who may never have the role of wife or mother, but they can certainly be nurturers and make a difference seeking roles that highlight their strengths. There are women leaders and rulers who express those gifts through running a home, OR running a corporation or both.
  The beauty of woman hood and the way honor to God is not in the small, limited description of our affluent American idea of a stay at home mom (widely out of reach in so many impoverished cultures) it is in a woman BEING her flourishing self and finding those roles in which she can bring the best of what she has to offer.

   My role as housewife and homemaker is not who I am. It is a fleeting part of the tapestry of my life. It is not anymore honoring to God than any other role in which I seek to do my best. When I see it as a role, instead of my identity, I am free to put it in its place as I look to the bigger picture.

   God did not give us each an eternal soul, a unique perspective just for us to silence and destroy it.  I believe that this world does not need one more divinely created spirit crushed into a box of what we think it ‘should’ be.

   Instead the word desperately needs people who are aware of who they are and are brave enough to enjoy it.

      My daughter’s fulfillment will not come playing a particular role. It will be in relishing bringing her very unique spark, her voice, her perspective, strengths and passion to each role in her life. Each will stretch and grow her, challenge and reveal her.

  I will show her that her worth and value do not come from the skills she has, or the roles she plays, but her value and worth come from being made in God’s Image.
That her dreams, her passions, her gifts are from him, and should be pursued to the fullest, no matter where they take her.

  The feminist movement suggests that for a woman to truly be free and experience an empowered life she must reject older notions of nurture and domestic duties; rejecting roles like stay at home mom, or home maker, refusing to ‘limit’ her potential and ‘sacrifice’ her options in the world outside her home. They blindly see certain roles as demeaning. The problem is that there are many women who DO choose either for a time, or for life; to focus on the ‘softer’ side of womanhood, loving the roles which allow them to display their strengths, and in them they find great joy.

   The conservative culture in which I was raised promotes the idea that the feminists are all wrong. It is just the opposite. A woman is truly ‘free and empowered’ when she follows certain strict interpretations of biblically described roles and what they entail. It claims that if we are able to really live this exact certain way, we please God, and ultimately find joy because this is what woman are supposed to be . They blindly reject any role a woman might play that seems to interfere with certain ideas of being a wife, mother, or homemaker, seeing these as somehow rebellious.

    The problem is that God did not design all women to be wives, mothers and stay at home at all times. Neither did he design all women to be breadwinners, doctors and lead. Honoring certain roles as more biblical, godlier or the ONLY proper role a woman can have is just simply reverse feminism. It is focusing on the wrong thing, and both feminism, and reverse feminists miss the point.

  We as women are created in God’s image. We are strong. We are powerful. We are needed. We are diverse, we are gifted, we have dreams and talents that can and do change the world. We do not have to do it all,(we can’t) nor do we have to reject who we are and what we love to fit into what we are ‘supposed’ to be.

    God made us each unique, our lives should look different.

When we are not worried about all of us perfectly playing a prescribed role, we are free to be the best version of ourselves.

   There is an insidious arrogance of feminism. It is the same problem; one coin, two sides. One side seeks to elevate woman, to prove her value and worth by rejecting any need for man, or having any appreciation even in general for common male qualities and strengths; it suggests that traditional roles must be rejected in order to prove a woman’s worth and abilities and that she should focus on certain roles. Only then will other women be set free and balance restored.

  On the other side there are just as rabidly engaged and obnoxious crowd. They seem to feel that is the woman’s failure to subjugate herself enough, her failure to require fellow man to live up to their ‘given’ roles by refusing any position that looks like leadership, and her lack of willingness to live by certain specific rigid cultural ideas that have resulted in broken families and a nation ‘adrift’.

   I see both women as almost one and the same.

     Both give undue and extraordinary power and credit to a woman’s actions.

 One side says she cannot choose to remain helpless, and her only salvation is to throw off all conventions and live an empowered life, leading and relying on no man because THEN she can solve all the problems of the world, and the other says her only salvation is to quit being empowered, to submit, to be quiet and follow, and if she will only live a certain way, THEN she will solve the problems of the world.

    Isn’t it really arrogant to believe that if all women just confined themselves to _____  role, that we would change the world, right all wrongs, and there would be no injustice? (Remember, 50% of humans on this planet are not women and they are responsible for their actions too!)

     I propose something different.

    What I believe to be true; is that ONE person (man or woman) who KNOWS who they are, who lives fully and freely in WHO God created them to be and learns how to excel in their areas of strength, be it nurturing, or leading, or debating, or comforting, will change their world.

   Our daughters do not need to know how to bake bread, OR learn to present their ideas more effectively to male colleagues to better our world. (Although both are very useful skills.) Our daughters need to know what THEY have to offer, and fearlessly run with it, whether it is diapering babies, or signing contracts. They need to know we support them 100% and believe that they will make a difference by living intentionally, with integrity, and with intelligence.

     Why is this discussion on homemaking on a list of reasons not to home school? Because it is out of the home school movement that reverse feminism has become the force it is today.

 (Ironically, it is woman authors such as Mary Pride, Nancy Campbell, and Edith Schaefer that led the charge of reverse feminism and strict interpretation of the ‘right’ roles for womanhood and how to follow them. Their writing and that of others actually convinced many to home school. In the last 40 years it has actually been women leading the charge to out-do each other in efforts of false submission and more’ feminine’ living.)

    I look around and I see daughters. Like me they were raised to be home makers. ‘Keepers of home’, which in practice became ‘kept’ at home. It is not unusual for home school girls to still not have driver’s licenses in their late teens to early twenties. It is not uncommon for them to work long hours of manual labor helping family, friends and others for little to no pay. It is not uncommon for them to write books, and draw, and sing, and teach piano lessons, and raise children and go on missions trips all to benefit others expecting little or nothing in return. While there is nothing wrong with these things, there are many girls who would/could pursue so much more if they had the freedom.  It is not uncommon for them to have serious health and emotional problems covered by smiles and patience.

   There are many girls I know my age, still unmarried who have spent years of their life, trying desperately to keep busy in their parent’s home, traveling for ostensibly appropriate reasons, throwing themselves into any ‘acceptable’ activity trying desperately to develop joy and contentment, the elusive qualities they are told they must have first to attract the right man, and later to keep him.

  The girls who decide at some point to try and live life on their own, who face fear, and uncertainty, and are completely unprepared for independent living, who on top of it all face judgment from others.

 Girls who have never really lived.

Girls, whose development and inner person has been stunted, deformed.

Girls in their twenties and thirties that smile with an odd, both appealing and appalling childlike carefree and innocent gaze; the smile of a girl in a woman’s body.

   This girl knows how to serve. She knows how to say yes. She knows how to accept with smile and silence a life that is outside of her control. It is all she has ever known. She knows how to agree without complaint, to think what she should, to comply and conform; to make herself what she is told is desired.

    She has never truly made her own choices. She has never really grown. She has never been given the chance to try and to fail. Her fight has atrophied, her will is still born. Her yes; it is all she has.

   She is not well prepared for life.

  A lost generation of women.

  The potential, the power, the unrecognized possibility of those girls makes me want to weep. The driving workforce behind the scenes of anything that is accomplished in the conservative culture is fueled by the free labor of those waiting for their shot at the ‘most godly’ role they will play instead of fighting every day to live the best version of the dreams inside them.

    Ironically, the damage doesn’t disappear when they marry; when they finally attain the ‘perfect’ role of womanhood; when they are a home maker at last, when they are wives and mothers and face the reality of raising children.

    Home school girls are the most highly driven and self sacrificing work horses I know. We say yes. We not only do it, but we do it well, WITH a smile, a flourish, and a cherry on top. 
 Simply put, - being raised as a ‘home maker’ just meant that we expect ourselves to be Martha Stewart, Mother Theresa, Maria Von Trapp and the Energizer Bunny, at all times, to everyone, but to NEVER ask anything in return.

   We also have the highest levels of health problems of any demographic I know. I can hardly think of a home school girl I know in her thirties that hasn’t faced health issues (married or single). There are countless girls that face serious auto immune illnesses, thyroid dysfunction, adrenal fatigue, severe allergies and special food requirements, depression and more in their twenties, decades before these types of illnesses usually surface. We are burnt out. We are tired. We do more than anyone we know and yet we still feel like failures.

    We may know how to cook and clean and rock a baby, and most of us do it fantastically well while shouldering significant obligations to family, local church and other ministries or business. But that doesn’t mean we have a clue who we really are or where we are going.

  Many of us know how to be what everyone else needs, but we still don’t know how to be ourselves.

That confidence; that power and strength is one that was never allowed to develop.

    Ironically the one thing that will allow us to raise children to be the BEST of who they are; the confidence and authority over our own lives; the power of knowing how to make good choices; to freely exercise our will; to say no. Knowing how to figure out what WE really want from life and to have the courage to pursue it. THAT, is not a domestic skill learned helping mom, nor a text book assignment learned in graduate school, - yet it is the most important key to living a successful life.

   Home schooling for the purpose of raising home makers misses the wonderful, rare yet desperately needed opportunity intentional parenting offers; the chance to raise a woman who does not define herself by what she does or what she knows, but by WHO she is and help her discover her unique way of impacting the world.

How are you raising your daughter?

 Are you preparing her to only feel comfortable filling a certain role in life?

 (Seriously how can a parent possibly know what wonderful roles she will have?? How much better to encourage a strong, confident, focused woman who is capable of any role she chooses??)

Do you believe that God looks on certain roles with more favor!?

 Are you teaching her that her worth and value come from what she does or does not do?

Are you allowing her develop inner strength and courage, and the ability to fight for who she is and what she wants?

Are you encouraging in her any and all skills in which she shows interest or ability?

Are you teaching her to listen to and trust her instincts and to walk fearlessly?

Are you encouraging her self sufficiency and independence?
   And a final thought about girls and education. The number of parents who talk about how their daughter does not need to study _____ subject because ‘she wants to be a wife and mother’ infuriates  me. This is basically saying that being a wife and mother is a sub-par job that does not require an educated head, but simply a good heart. Usually these are the same parents who fully expect their daughter to home school her own children, regardless of her academic ability. If you truly expect she will want to run her own home, and raise her own children, or even take on the enormous responsibility of educating her children, ALL THE MORE reason your daughter should be the most driven, independent, academically proficient, well exposed and broadly traveled individual she can be.  It is beyond gross irresponsibility, it is wrong to with hold any good thing from your child because of their gender.

So did YOU feel you were well prepared for the life that you live now?

 Is it the skills that you did or didn’t have that hindered  or helped you, or the courage and knowledge of how to pursue them?

 If you are a woman; were you prepared for a specific role in life, or encouraged to learn how to choose and balance the roles you play in life?

What was the single best thing that your parents did to prepare you for life?
    I cannot end this post without saying that I am incredibly grateful to my Mom who poured her life into giving me all that she wished she had. She would have given anything to have felt free to pursue such home making skills instead of a fast track career plan, and wanted to give me the best. I love her deeply and honor all she has done over the years. I am forever grateful for her love and all she has and continues to teach me.  However, I am a very different woman than my Mom as we both like to remind each other.
Some of what I share we regret equally, as our perspective has changed so much in the last 15 years. I do not doubt for a moment her desire to offer me the best, just as I know there are many women out there who want the best for their daughters. However what we choose to believe does have consequences. It is for the Mother's and Father's of younger daughters I write; hoping that these questions, and the uncomfortable parts of my story will cause them to re-examine the way they prepare their daughters for life. 
This Present Mom,

This is #9 in a series called 10 Reasons not to Home School. To read the rest, please go here.