I suppose we can blame the Victorians, who created the idea that there are two spheres in the world: the public sphere, out in the world, where everything happens and the private sphere, which is just home. Somehow in that division — and we all know that these kinds of divisions are inherently problematic, of course — the idea came that “home stuff” was less important than “world stuff,” and we still carry that distinction around with us. Even if we don’t believe it — and most of us probably don’t — we’re still influenced by it. In order for the work we do at home to be important, it has to be perfect — in a way we’d never expect ourselves to be perfect out in the public sphere.
But we know, deep down, that the work we do at home is important. Homeschooling isn’t something we’re doing to avoid “getting a real job.” Homeschooling is a real job — and lots of us have those “real jobs,” too, which we manage to mold around the rest of our homeschool lives. (Talk about challenges!) Whether we are hands-on parents who structure learning every single day for our families or relaxed parents who trust kids to find their own way through their interests, we are doing every day the most important work there is: preparing our children to blossom in the future that matters to them. We don’t have to agree about ideologies or worksheets or tests to agree that we are doing the best we know how to do to give our children the tools they need to build the future they want. (And, indeed, even if we agreed, our children would probably end up doing something completely different anyway.)
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the hugeness of this project sometimes, but it is also surprisingly easy to take it for granted and to value this work less than it deserves. After all, this is not work that comes with easy-to-share metrics. It’s not even work where you’ll end up with a promotion: Do your job as a homeschool parent really well, and you’ll get fired at some point because your kids are ready for a different kind of learning. It’s a job that allows you to squeeze in a load of laundry or a little meal prep on the side — domestic tasks that seem to push homeschooling into the realm of the domestic. The world that’s lovely and warm and welcoming and supportive but that’s also somehow less important.
But that’s a fallacy, and we know it when we force ourselves to confront it head-on. Homeschooling is important work. It’s the work that shapes our children’s educations, of course, but through that, it also shapes their futures, their perception of the world, their ideas of success. It’s a project that requires the organization skills of a CEO’s secretary, the creativity of a budget-filmmaker, the curiosity of a science historian, and the listening and attention-paying abilities of a great therapist. We’re growing so much as individuals in this endeavor that we can forget to see how much our children are growing, too. When we pause and step out of ourselves for a moment to look into our lives from the outside, the magnitude of our importance may shock us. We matter so much. And what we do, even on a sleepy Monday morning, matters.
Food for thought
Do you value your work as homeschool parent?
How can you recognize and honor the importance of what you do?
Are there people in your life who make you feel less important? How can you manage those relationships without minimizing yourself?