By Lyn Saint
On making the decision to home educate their children many women often bring up the question – but what about my life, should I devote the next 10-15 years solely to bringing up my children – what about me…?
As we all know, society today does not appreciate, acknowledge and respect women who are fulltime mothers – quite the opposite in fact. We are lower even than the unemployed – at least they are seen to be looking for a job!
It is quite natural therefore that questions like these should come up – women who stay at home have to constantly explain the reasoning behind this decision – it is as though we have opted out of humanity. It is bad enough explaining staying at home – by the time you have explained this fact you have totally lost your audience anyway – we never even get to explain the fact that we home educate as well. If by some amazing miracle we do still have people listening to what we are saying their eyes inevitably glaze over when we mention that our children are home all day!
So to devote many years of your life to just raising children seems to be thought soul destroying to say the least. We have all heard the dreaded “How do you spend so much time with your children – I would go mad” or “You must have so much patience”.
The fact is that staying at home and raising happy, strong and confident young people is a career on par with the toughest of them all. The hours are long, we may work long into the night and we have to be team players; we have to have excellent communication skills, be multi-talented in dealing with many diverse issues and above all have a sense of humour. The rewards though are many – constant travel opportunities, meeting new people and the many prospects for advancement.
Women who choose this career though have two major things going for them – Freedom and Empowerment. These things are not obvious when you begin. As much as you love your life with your children and have decided to give them the greatest gift of all time, you do think its going to be a never ending slog of children’s’ demands. You do start to think but what about my time, what about the dreams I have, when am I going to get time for them?
The first few years of any career are going to be the toughest – the career of Home Education began, by the way, the day you gave birth to your child. It takes time to get to know everything about it and its harder for us because we are dealing with living entities and each entity demands a different set of skills that we have to perfect as we go along. As time goes by though we get better at predicting and perfecting these skills, so much so in fact, that time suddenly opens up.
Time – one of the most sort after dreams. Time for us. Not only does time open itself up but we have the freedom then to choose what we want to do with it. Freedom in a sense that the days are ours to do with as we wish – we make the schedules, we have no employer demanding that we come and make money for them. Our own lives are our employers and all that we work for benefits our lives and our families’ lives, and quite often the lives of our friends and communities both now and in the future.
During our career as home educators we change. The whole process of teaching your own children opens up for us a whole universe of change. A few years down the track and we are quite different people. All along the way we are being forced to deal with issues out of our comfort zone such as confronting an irate school principal, teachers and relatives, trying to find information on some elusive topic your child has an absolute passion about, buying bits you have never heard of for the latest electronic creation, planning and evaluating lessons, taking leadership roles in your local/state-wide group, researching courses and unique learning experiences for your children, money management, and most of all – being strong and confident in defending the path you have taken for your children. We discover that we have skills and talents in areas we would never have dreamed of.
Most of us become experts in dozens of different subjects through tireless research, research that we are only too willing to share with others through writing articles and giving talks. If we have a child with a disability we study and become experts on this subject. We are constantly learning and in doing this we become confident enough to tackle anything -including chasing after our own dreams (which can be the scariest thing of all to do).
So now we have the time and the empowerment. Our children have also gained this along the way and they also are busy with their interests. You start to live your lives side by side – the children doing their thing and you doing yours. They are always interested in what you are doing and are happy to give advice on your latest quilt, violin piece, essay or job offer and are jubilant when you pass your latest exam.
For most women who choose home education as their career it becomes all consuming. We are constantly on the lookout for new learning experiences, new friends, and new books, anything that might light up their eyes with interest. It becomes our life. Every minute of every day we live that life by choice. So I guess when women say ‘what about time for me’ you could say that all those minutes and days are time for you. You are doing something you love and feel very passionate about.
Time being time, it goes by very quickly though and as our children get older and have less need for constant supervision we can start to explore other experiences that we have had in our minds for years to try – other careers, works of art, volunteering. So in a short span of time we virtually do ourselves out of our jobs. 10 to 15 years of top class experience has now readied us for the next step in our lives.
Throughout history women have always been the nurturers and main caregivers within the family and community – binding them together – from the early tribal days, through to the pioneering women who raised, fed, clothed and educated 12 children. Women earned great respect for their roles – and society benefited from their strength. With the introduction of compulsory schooling in the late 1800′s control over children’s lives gradually passed from the family to the school system. With this change much of the meaning was lost from women’s role as home providers and educators. The shift to compulsory schooling did little for education standards – in Massachusetts, literacy rates dropped from 98% in the late 1800′s to around 91% 100 years later. (See John Taylor Gatto here and here)
Society today seems to have lost its way. To earn respect now, women are being coerced into the workforce and away from the traditional roles and their children are being raised in factories. What for? To maintain the retailers’ dream by spending heaps of money on their products and to pay outrageous fees to keep their children in fancier factories.
A career in Home Education means the return of children to the heart of the family and the return of learning to the heart of living. It means strengthening family bonds and raising young people who know what they want in the world and have the confidence to find it no matter what it is. We are good at what we do. It is an immensely satisfying career.
These are the questions you should ask yourself. Is this for me? Do I have the passion for it? What do I want out of life and what do I want to leave behind? What is real to me? What kind of life do I want for my children? Is there anything more important for me to do? What does money and all its benefits mean to me? How much do I really need to get by? Do I care what my relatives and friends might think?
It is always a hard decision to choose what path you wish to take in life. There are many wonderful careers to choose from these days. Choosing Home Education is harder because we are generally going against society (at this moment in time – hopefully it will change) and we face constant criticism in our abilities to do this job. However, women world-wide are turning back to tradition. We are wanting and demanding better lives for our children and our families – better health and education. Who better to achieve these goals than ourselves?
The world today is a precarious place. We never know what we are going to find when we awake in the mornings. I like to think that by home educating our children, and by choosing this different path, we as individuals have the opportunity to make a difference, a difference that hopefully will last on through the generations to come. By raising citizens who are not afraid to think and do things differently, maybe they will see the troubles of the world through different eyes. I think the world could do with this.
This career is certainly not for everyone, but for those who choose it, it becomes a life journey, giving us a glimpse into what life after all…. is really about.