I just met someone at work whose sole life goals are to get married, have children, and homeschool her kids. When she said this, I was floored.
My reaction bothered me, though. I’m a feminist insofar as I believe women should have the ability to choose what they want to do with their bodies and lives. If you want to marry a man and have children, what do I care? I did the same thing, despite my ideas to the contrary. I chose not to have children for most of my adult life, and then I changed my mind.
What seemed to get under my skin about this girl was twofold: First, she has no other aspirations and moved to “the city” in order to find someone to marry because she was homeschooled in a very small town that had no suitable prospects for her. She has no desire to go to college because her job will be as a stay-at-home mom, “so why go into debt over something I wouldn’t use?” Second, she apparently feels adequately prepared to homeschool her nonexistent children as a twenty year old with the legal equivalent of a high school diploma.
When she told me this, I admit I probably responded in an offensive manner. I asked her what sort of education one needs to homeschool one’s children. What if your kids have questions about science or physics or fractions? Can you do calculus? Can you really provide children what they need when you only have a high school diploma? Public school teachers have four-year degrees in education just to teach second graders! And so on.
I realized my barrage of questions was bordering on interrogation and backed off a bit. I mentioned that, when I found out I was pregnant with my first, I was still completing my undergrad and chose to take some child and human development courses. I also told her how Bea had not attended a daycare until starting preschool at age three. How she is so outgoing and social that I couldn’t meet her needs.
The conversation ended when she just said, “Well, if my kids are like that, that’s something to think about.”
I felt bad afterward, because I knew I was haranguing her about something that was none if my business. Here I am, sitting on three degrees and more student loan debt than I care to admit, working the exact same job she is. And those things were all choices I made. I chose to go to school and I chose to come back here and work weekends at my old job so I could be home with my kids. I don’t want to put a baby in daycare, so I’m not utilizing my masters any more than as a reference in conversation.
I still don’t feel an education is ever a waste and, if I could, I would just be in college forever. My experiences in Chicago were not something I would want to take back. If someone could erase my debt, but also my memory, I would say no. But that doesn’t mean this girl isn’t capable of going to a library and checking out books on development or traveling with her kids. Just because she was homeschooled does not mean her mother didn’t teach her to think critically about information. Who am I to assume she can’t learn as goes? What gives me the right to assume she’s made such terrible choices in life that she deserves a lecture on the value of education? Was I merely projecting my fears on her? Why am I so worried that “this is all” for her?
And yet I still firmly believe that the least she could do is take a few courses on early childhood education. I think what bothers me most about the whole thing is the idea that “homeschooling is good/right/best” versus determining whether each individual child is suited for that type of learning environment, or that people believe they are able to somehow protect and shelter their kids. But I’m making a lot of assumptions here, so I’ll just bid you good night.