Reviews of Homeward Bound

“3.5 out of 4 stars” - People Magazine                                                               “The brilliance of Emily Matchar’s new book is that it exhaustively describes what disillusioned workers are opting into: a slower, more sustainable, and more self-sufficient lifestyle that’s focused on the home. Matchar synthesizes dozens of trend stories … into a single, compelling narrative about the resurgence of domesticity….Refreshing.” -The New Republic                                                       "[P]rovocatively explores what the movement says about the role of women in society today.” – The New Yorker                                                                       "I unreservedly loved it…It’s empathetic and funny and thoughtful and smart, and I encourage all of you to read it."– The Hairpin                                                         “Cogently argues that choosing a more hands-on, DIY lifestyle – family farming, canning, crafting, can, without sacrificing feminism’s hard-won gains, improve on an earlier time when ‘people lived more lightly on the earth and relied less on corporations, and family and community came first.’” - ELLE                                                               “[I]ntelligent and insightful...essential reading.” - Christianity Today                                                       “A lively and perceptive reporter… a valuable and astute assessment.”—Publishers Weekly                                                         “A well-researched look at the resurgence of home life…. Offers intriguing insight into the renaissance of old-fashioned home traditions.”— Kirkus Reviews

What is New Domesticity?

This blog is a look at the social movement I call ‘New Domesticity’ – the fascination with reviving “lost” domestic arts like canning, bread-baking, knitting, chicken-raising, etc. Why are women of my generation, the daughters of post-Betty Friedan feminists, embracing the domestic tasks that our mothers and grandmothers so eagerly shrugged off? Why has the image of the blissfully domestic supermom overtaken the Sex & the City-style single urban careerist as the media’s feminine ideal? Where does this movement come from? What does it mean for women? For families? For society?                                                                                     My book, Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity, which explores New Domesticity in greater depth, will be published by Simon & Schuster in May 2013.

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What’s up with the homeschooling?

homeschooling

I’ve begun to notice that a healthy chunk of the women I talk to about new domesticity are either homeschooling their kids, or interested in doing homeschooling some day. Homeschooling is, in fact, on a crazy upward spiral in this country – in 1999 there were about 850,000 homeschooled kids in the US. By 2007 there were 1.5 million, and some experts put the current stat at more like 2.5 million. And all these new homeschooling parents aren’t the Creationist, libertarian French braid n’ ankle-length skirt crowd either. Most of the women I talk to are progressive, educated people who worry that conventional school just isn’t right for their child for one reason or the other – it squashes creativity, teaches bad values, forces kids to learn things they’re not interested in yet, the cafeteria serves crappy food, etc. etc.. Plus, many of them say that they simply like having their children around all day, which seems to be an extension of the home- and family-focused ethos on the rise these days.

I HATED school from Day 1. School, in my experience, was one big exercise in creativity-squashing, if not total soul-crushing. My Durham, NC public school was so overcrowded that we had classes in trailers and spent huge amounts of time sitting boredly on the rug watching videos. I was always the only Jewish kid in class, and I had teachers who would call my mom to ask if it was OK for me to watch the nativity cartoon they were showing for Christmas, or should they have me sit alone in the hall instead? My second grade teacher told me I was a “readaholic” and that reading too much was a disease. Public school, people. So then I got sent to a very feelings-y liberal private school, which promised to nurture our creativity through hands-on learning and doing interpretive drawings of Bach sonatas in crayon. I hated that one too – too much embarrassing song-singing (Cat Stevens!) and weird Freudian scrutiny (are you chewing your pen because you’re feeling anxious, Emily?). Hated it so much I managed to get myself expelled in the middle of 7th grade. Back to public school. Boredom. Bullying. Dumb teachers who TOTALLY DIDN’T UNDERSTAND CATCHER IN THE RYE. Used to cry and hyperventilate while putting on my makeup at 6am. My first day of high school, I told my mother I wasn’t going to stay there for four years, no way. I didn’t. Left when I was 16, finished my credits through a postal correspondence course.

If homeschooling had been an option (and my mother would NEVER have dreamed of doing that, not to mention the fact that she had a full-time job), would I have wanted to do it? Part of me feels like angst and the struggle to fit in and the trials of dealing with authority figures who piss you off is just part of life. I definitely spent a lot of time being bored in school, but I also wound up being “forced” to learn things I never would have thought I’d be interested in, but ended up (eventually) finding fascinating (or at least useful), stuff like chemistry and Spanish verb conjugations. My school experiences certainly helped make me the person I am today, and I consider myself not only functional and creative and happy, but tough and resilient too. Would I want to protect my own kids from the kind of painful experiences I had? Is it even possible to protect kids from that? Might I not have been an angst-y homeschooler as well? I don’t know.

I also wonder about the moms (and the vast majority of homeschooling parents are women – as high as 99 percent, I’ve heard) – what does it mean for YOU if you’re now committed to spending your day being not just a mom, but a teacher as well? What are the opportunity costs for them?

And does the move towards homeschooling mean that schools will be drained of some of the smartest kids and the most engaged moms, the ones who might have otherwise been big PTA advocates or lunchroom volunteers? Will public schools suffer? After all, most parents have neither the ability nor the interest to homeschool their kids, and a strong public school system is a damn important thing…again, it’s the whole “(perceived) individual good vs (potential) common good” conundrum…

2 comments to What’s up with the homeschooling?

  • The Soviet school I attended was complete and utter retardation – so I quit after grade 9, but also got a degree which allowed me to get into college the normal way. Looking at public schools in my particular area, those are non-options either, especially since I am wildly against early and too much academics, but I don’t really have to home school because we have a fabulous, private Waldorf school (2 – elementary and high) in the same town, and it’s totally worth the money. I would homeschool if I didn’t have this option, but I don’t think I would do as great a job (nor do I want to – I want to focus on babies that keep coming instead).

  • Homeschooling is a difficult decision to make for many reasons…its one our family has been struggling to come to a decision on for a while now. Mostly because it *is* such an incredible commitment of time and energy, generally for mom, that often leaves one in the position of being unmarketable as a potential employee down the line. With that being said though, I don’t consider myself as having some duty to the public school system. While I was lucky enough to have a wonderful public school education, the system as a whole has changed (I originally went to college with the intention of teaching high school science, and took quite a few of the classes to do so, ending up quite disappointed), I don’t feel compelled to take that gamble with my child’s education or well-being.
    One of the biggest advantages that I can see with homeschooling is that (if done well) it can actually socialize a child to deal with society BETTER–by exposing them to more real-world situations, teaching them to deal with people of all ages and abilities and differences in a variety of social settings, rather than the artificial segregation of their peer-group. I mean, really…when on earth do you actually hang out exclusively with a bunch of people born in the same year once you passed graduation? Additionally, (if done well) home schooling can allow for more in-depth learning, to tailor learning to ones interests, to expose them to *more* than what they would in a classroom, to let them have additional help when the need it, or move ahead when they don’t.
    …Of course not every family has the ability, inclination, time, energy, finances to allow them to do so (nor does the philosophical/religious/cultural stance of all families that decide to homeschool support that sort of homeschooling).