I just watched this interesting video, which got me to thinking…….
Does unschooling portray women as
“The weaker sex”?
“Less than” men somehow?
I mean, the majority of unschooling families follow the “old-fashioned model” where the woman gives up her career, “doesn’t work” and is “just a housewife”, don’t they? Is unschooling anti-feminist because the model most prominently displayed is one where the wife stays home with the children while her husband goes out to work? Are we setting our kids up to believe that is the only way to live? The ideal model? Are we sending a message that women have a less important role if they choose to stay home instead of going out to work? Are we sending a message to our children that the man brings home the bacon and the woman does the dishes?
I beg to differ. Not just because my husband often does the dishes.
I have felt empowered by taking on the primary unschooling role. Prior to unschooling, I rarely went on wild adventures with the kids unless my husband was along for the ride, usually in the driver’s seat (so to speak). I mean, I took the kids to Playgroup with other mums, and things like that, but we didn’t step too far outside the realms of ” normal” unless we were all together as a family.
When we brought the children home from school, I quickly discovered that recreating school at home was too small, too limiting and, well, too boring! The world was out there waiting to be discovered, and my husband was at work. It was time for me to get into the driver’s seat!
So I found my strength,
my adventurous side.
I learned to navigate the streets of Sydney! Even in peak hour. And I haven’t looked back.
Just because my husband has a Master’s Degree in the filing cabinet, wages in the bank and recognition for his paid work, it doesn’t mean our kids see him as superior.
Just because I am the one who usually takes them places and walks beside them as they discover this big wide world, it doesn’t mean our kids see me as superior.
In our family, freedom of choice is prized more highly than complying with cultural norms. I didn’t choose to stay home with the kids because I am the woman, but because it was what we both wanted. Over the past twenty years, my husband’s career has progressed and I am still “Just a Mum”. Our choice to take on these roles has nothing to do with societal expectations or traditions, and it has no impact at all on who has the most value, who is the strongest, who is the most important, or who is the most capable and worthy of respect.
In staying home with my children or accompanying them on our adventures as the case may be, my children have not seen someone who is weak, or second rate. They have observed me living a full and interesting life, facing challenges and obstacles, and learning immensely in the process.
I am not an enigma, who rushes out the door along with the kids in the morning (kids to school, mum to work), and then rushes around when we all get home, trying to get through all the required homework and school prep tasks. I am present, available and known, 24/7, warts and all.
I hope that in giving them the opportunity to observe my humanity up close and personal, they have benefited from my transparency, as they have seen both struggle and strength, mistakes and growth.
So no, I do not believe that unschooling shows the woman as weaker or less than her working partner. I think it gives our children the opportunity to see strength in action. And struggles too, at times. Transparency and reality. Equality.
The other side of the coin
As the at-home-out-and-about parent, I think it is also important
– to “live out loud” our respect for our partner, just as we respect ourselves and our children.
– to verbalize our appreciation for their monetary provision, so we can live this wonderful unschooling adventure!
How the other half live
Whilst our family has chosen quite traditional roles, we do not live in isolation. In our out-and-about life, we mix with a variety of different families, including gay parents, single parents, nuclear families, grandparents as carers, and so on. Sometimes the woman is the primary-caregiver. Sometimes the man is. And again, our kids get to see that they all have equal value.
The take away message
It is not about which parent is the best, the strongest, or the most favoured. It is not about one parent using the other one for a leg up, standing on them to make ourselves look taller. It is about being confident of our own value, and appreciative of theirs.
As we live out equality within our home, our unschooled children will absorb a lesson that cannot be taught in a text book. They will have a birds’ eye view, a window into the world of their “stay at home parent”, not just during their toddler and preschool years, but during their entire childhood, including adolescence. They will experience directly that she is more than “Just Mum”, more than just the one who does the dishes and sweeps the floor (on a good day!). They will see her learning, growing, tackling projects and hard things, exploring her own interests, supporting them in theirs. During this shared learning journey, they will engage together in fascinating, incredible and deep conversations about all manner of things and they will know that their mother is definitely much more than a barefoot pregnant lady in the kitchen with rollers in her hair!
Unschooled kids have an incredible opportunity to share daily life with the stay-at-home parent, watching them sometimes fall but always rise up to meet the many challenges along the way, growing stronger and learning all the time, just as they do. When they observe the working parent treat the at-home parent with value and respect, not just as a “housewife” but as a capable, strong, intuitive and mindful parent, when they observe the at-home parent treat the working parent with the same respect and appreciation, when they witness both parents treating each other with mutual respect and placing equal value on their different roles, they will have a frame of reference with which to see others.
They will know from experience that just as their Dad is valuable, strong and important, so too is their Mum. And so too are they!
When our unschooled children are parented gently, they will directly experience a reality where neither mother, nor father, nor child, is better or worse than the other. All are different, and all have equal value. They will feel empowered and equipped for life, by seeing life lived out before them. They will experience the opportunity to partner with their parents, just as their parents partner with them. Listening ears, compassionate hearts and kind words go both ways! When they are treated with kindness, and their needs and feelings are respected, they will know that they have value, and they will be much more likely to treat others in the same way.
From that platform of witnessing and experiencing mutual respect, kindness and equality of value, they will hopefully see all people everywhere in the same light. They will not feel the need to use anyone else for the purpose of making themselves look better, or more powerful. They will know, through their direct experience, that all people everywhere have equal value, whether mother or father, male or female, black or white, homosexual or heterosexual, “special needs” or “normal”, old or young, rich or poor, leader or follower, academic or trades person, a woman who gets paid to work outside the home or a woman who chooses to stay home with her children.
And the world will, gradually, become a better, more equal, place.