In a recent discussion on social media about my post Gifted Children in the Classroom from a Teacher’s Perspective, the topic came up that one of the elephants in the room regarding homeschooling is that it devalues women personally and professionally. Some women agreed with that statement and others disagreed. It provided an interesting discussion focused on does homeschooling devalue women.
I disagreed and realized that I wanted to explore a bit here whether or not homeschooling devalues women.
I realize that some will read this who do not agree with my Christian beliefs, but I do want to make it clear I’m writing this from the perspective of a Christian. I also want to clarify our beliefs about women because they are important to us and impact what I write here. Based on extensive Bible study and reading, my husband and I believe that women and men are of equal value and standing before God. My husband and I do not believe the Bible teaches hierarchy in the home or church. We do not believe the Bible commands women to be at home. So that is a bit of background for you so there won’t be any wondering or reading between the lines.
The Personal and the Professional
There are many women who have no desire for a professional life. There are other women who choose to place their professional life over their personal life. There are some who attempt to juggle both equally well. There are yet others who choose to focus on one for a season and then the other for another period of time. I am not going to say one is right or better than the other and the rest are wrong, but simply acknowledge that women approach these aspects of their lives in a variety of ways.
Professional Status and Income
The question is whether or not homeschooling in and of itself devalues women. I think it depends on the filter though which you see life.
Homeschooling will clearly devalue women if I view life primarily through the lens of professional status and income. There is nothing wrong with money and wanting to earn lots of it as long as it isn’t an idol. There is nothing wrong with wanting to excel professionally as long as it isn’t to the neglect of loved ones and other responsibilities in my life.
But if I believe my value as a woman is based on my earning potential and my ability to compete with men in the marketplace, then I will see choosing to homeschool as devaluing. There is no way homeschooling can compete with professional advancement and income if the primary lens of life values those more highly.
If status and income is my lens and I earn less and achieve less, then homeschooling certainly devalues me.
However, I think it is dangerous to view life through that lens for a number of reasons. Let’s look at a few of them.
Less of a Role Model?
Some women feel strongly that they want to be a role model to their children regarding the value of women in the marketplace. For women who have worked hard to achieve in college and their profession, this can be incredibly important. Many women make significant sacrifices in order to compete professionally. They derive a great deal of satisfaction from what they have accomplished. Some are in fields that are very challenging to re-enter if they leave for a number of years.
However, I personally don’t want a young girl such as my daughter to learn that women are valuable because they go to work and earn a paycheck. I wouldn’t want her to think I was valuable because I had a prestigious job and outranked men. I don’t think girls should learn that women are valuable because they can compete with men and outearn them.
To start with, I want my daughter to know that she is valuable because of her standing in Christ. Not because she learned her multiplication facts quickly. Not because she scored well on a test. Not because she got her first choice university. Not because she has a college degree. Not because she has a husband. Not because she is a mother. Not because she beat out a man for a promotion. Her value is in Christ.
I want her to know that women have a value that is not based on performance. I was not a more valuable woman when I was teaching full-time and earning a full-time income. I am not more valuable because I’m married. I’m not more valuable because I am a mother.
I’m a valuable woman because I am made in the image of God and I bring gifts, skills, insights and the love of Christ wherever I go.
When the Ability to Compete is Gone?
I see the importance of this because my chronic illness has changed my personal and professional life in significant ways I could have never anticipated when I was younger. If I believe my value depends on my ability to compete in the marketplace and earn a paycheck, then my value disappears as soon as I am unable do those things. This is the very same trap that many men fall into when they lose their job and, therefore, their perceived identity.
Ironically, I feel the value that I can bring to the world as a woman has increased exponentially since I have had to make changes out of necessity. Thanks to the internet, I have the ability to add value to those I come into contact with. I can use my gift of writing to encourage and challenge people around the world. I can use my creative gifts to bless teachers and homeschoolers without ever leaving home.
The beauty is that I can do this while homeschooling my daughter. She is learning that I can bring value to the world even from my corner office on the second floor of our home. I am showing her how God can work through even a less than fantastic physical situation and open opportunities that I might not have had otherwise.
Homeschooling Brings Value
Homeschooling my daughter does not devalue me. It opens up new opportunities for her and me. It opens up new friendships in real life and online. It allows both of us to tap into gifts and abilities that would be lost in traditional school and job settings. Rather than forcing her to submit to the structure of a mass educational model that isn’t equipped to deal with her unique learning needs and skills, I can provide opportunities for her to grow and develop as a unique individual who will eventually become a strong woman.
Homeschooling allows me to mentor and disciple my daughter in meaningful ways. She is learning that her value rests in bringing her God-given gifts and abilities to the world despite whatever circumstances in which she might find herself. She is learning that life does not boil down to a university education and professional advancement. It can be quietly doing your very best from home in a cute little town in Michigan. This is, in my humble opinion, a far more powerful message and example to provide her.
Homeschooling is Often a Sacrifice
There is no doubt that homeschooling is a sacrifice for some women. It often entails making very hard choices, including giving up jobs and activities we previously enjoyed. Even before the changes necessitated by my chronic illness, I felt like I had to give up a lot to parent a high-need baby and now homeschool a gifted/2e child. Caroline is currently nine and I am profoundly thankful that her increasing maturity allows me more freedom to pursue my own personal and professional interests. To be sure there were minutes, hours and even days I honestly mourned what I have given up. But I would do it all again because I know it is what is best for her.
It’s a Matter of Perspective
I think the answer to the original question is a matter of perspective. If a woman believes that homeschooling devalues her worth as a woman, then it probably will. She will focus on what she has lost and how she no longer has the position and income she had before. If a woman believes that homeschooling is an opportunity or necessity that is worth the trade-off, then she will feel empowered for making a choice that best fits her worldview.
In the end, I believe it probably becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy.