Tuesday, May 1, 2012

On Dating a Man Who Wants His Future Wife to Homeschool

[E]xpecting a woman to act in the place of an entire educational institution and raise kids at the same time is, like camping, deeply irrational. I'm not telling anyone to not homeschool; all I'm trying to do is point out is that men who have an idea in their heads about it should probably put some actual thought into what is or is not a reasonable expectation to have from a potential date.

If I said, "I want to find a man who is willing to live in the woods in a tent, away from civilization and running water, for the sake of the KIDS," would that be reasonable?

This seems to be the week that sacred cows are tipped by smart young Catholic women writers.


Lydia Cubbedge said...

Just read this and loved it. So many crazy-but-not-in-a-good-way people. Hopefully, men like that have a hard time getting dates.

ex-new yorker said...

Maybe I'm subtly influenced by reading too many advocates of the "free market" but it seems like something a couple can discuss in deciding whether they want to marry each other. I don't see it as crazy or that different from a woman deciding she never wants to marry a guy in a really demanding profession or a guy whose inability or unwillingness to earn good money will place completely different types of demands on her from homeschooling. Wanting to find a girl who "wants to homeschool" can be differentiated from an obsessive focus on making it happen no matter what and refusal to see the potential wife as other than a means for living out his fantasies of various kinds. What if he is looking for a woman who is interested in having a large family? It seems like a reasonable screening process to me. That doesn't mean he can't end up deciding to commit to someone who for whatever reason can't actually have the large family (and may not even have developed a desire for one because of that reason), or remain committed if those plans have to change or just don't end up working out that way.

I did read the post. Just feeling too introverted to go comment in unknown territory today (because it probably sounds more contentious when it's from a stranger/someone motivated to "delurk" over it. I'm not itching for controversy at all... just overwhelmed by state taxes and paid work in the other windows, and soothed in my Vulcan-like way by attempting an unemotional, "other point of view" comment.).

Anne-Marie said...

I'm with ex-new yorker.

I certainly don't think homeschooling is for everyone, but neither do I think it's only a stopgap, second-best, emergency measure. I guess if you really think it's "deeply irrational" to prefer homeschooling, then a man looking for a wife who would homeschool does seem creepy.

To me this man is akin to a woman looking for a husband who will live a frugal lifestyle so she can stay home with the kids. Like homeschooling, living on one income isn't to be prescribed for every family, but for couple who choose it it's a way of life with its own benefits and not merely a burden to be borne in a temporary crisis.

Sally Thomas said...

I'm with ex-new-yorker and Anne-Marie -- and I'm with e-n-y in feeling too introverted to go over and plunge into an obviously much younger crowd.

I understand her cynicism about the consumerism of university education, though the problem is at least as much a matter of student mindset as of the kinds of memos that filter down from above, saying, "We need to keep these students! Are you doing enough to reach the unmotivated in our midst?"

I also think, however, that while this is undoubtedly true of admissions -- colleges do, in general, let in more people than are going to succeed -- it may be less so of the eventual degree, since you do have to do something other than just exist as a warm body on campus to earn it. You *can* flunk out. You *can* be that student who doesn't get internships and whom professors don't want to recommend for things. Most professors, after all, (at least in the humanities, which is all I know) don't view themselves as service providers, or their students as consumers. Most of the faculty I know strenuously resist that whole paradigm, and they aren't handing out As and other services just because somebody's paid for them.

Meanwhile, doing what it takes not to be that student nobody wants to recommend, it seems to me, is as good a preparation for "success in the real world" as anything else I can think of. Obviously everybody doesn't go to college, but plenty of people do, and presumably some of them, regardless of their pre-college educational background, learn things which enable them not to fail at real life. Anyway, that whole argument breaks down for me, as being only partly based in reality.

And my husband's consistent experience, anyway, is that former homeschoolers are excellent college students, campus leaders, and so on. That doesn't mean that every single homeschooled student who turns up is a success, but overall, things do tilt in that direction.

The only thing that strikes me as possibly creeper-making about the date thing is the idea of a guy pulling that out as a topic for conversation on a first date. His intentions may be utterly unimpeachable (ie, maybe he's not just some guy looking for a girl to carry out his counter-cultural fantasy while he drinks beer), but I wouldn't blame a girl for feeling a little weird about it, as if the guy were carrying around a wife-template in his pocket and measuring her, right then, on that date, against it, without bothering with who she might be as a person. We have an old friend -- whom we haven't heard from for some time, so I don't know if he ever got married or not -- who used to add to his Christmas cards a message that if anyone knew a single woman, preferably with brown eyes and hair, even more preferably Asian, would they introduce her to him? This isn't quite that superficial, but it does seem more like looking for a *type* than a person. Though obviously I do think it's important, even early on in a dating relationship, to put those kinds of values issues on the table.

Finally, I really can't ever quite get over being startled by the idea of homeschooling as a sacred cow (or staying home, either, for that matter). But then maybe that's because I came at it all backwards: we sent the kids to school, then were converted to homeschooling, then Catholicism, in that order. My default mode is to steel myself continually against (polite) derision from my extended family and oldest friends, who disagree with me vigorously about virtually everything at the heart of my life. It's hard not to be at least a little emotional about this sort of backlash from Catholic twentysomethings, though I understand that their response to these issues of womanhood, motherhood, education, and so on, is framed by experiences utterly different from my own.

Sally Thomas said...

By the way, I mean "converted" to homeschooling in a tongue-in-cheek way. It's not my religion, though I think that something like this can take on the appearance of a plank of orthodoxy -- as someone mentions in the comments on that post.

I tend to joke that we're converts to pretty much everything in our life -- we tried other things first, and they didn't work, and here we are, and this does work.

J.C. said...

Ditto, E-N-Y, Anne-Marie and Sally Thomas! I can't tell you how many of my mental comments have gone unpublished after reading yours and thinking, "My thoughts exactly! Why bother?" I just wanted to add that throughout this series of "sacred cow"-tipping posts by "smart young Catholic women writers," I have been a little amused to observe myself processing the ideas they express largely from the point of view of a mother, even to the point of identifying more with the authors' mothers, than with the authors themselves. I was not quite prepared for that! :)

priest's wife said...

ditto again!

...and I believe that it is always a good idea to discuss big things with a possible future spouse- before all that LOVE gets in the way of good choices ;)

Charming Disarray said...

Bit late to say this, but thanks for the link. :)

To those who are saying that it's simply a matter of finding someone who shares your goals in life, I think it's a lot more complicated than that. For a practicing Catholic, having a big family is closely tied up with not using artificial birth control, and is therefore a question of morality. Homeschooling is not required by moral law, but many Catholics act as though it is simply because they prefer it. That's problem number one. Problem number two is that the burden of homeschooling is nearly always placed on the wife, and this is justified because the man (presumably) has a full time job. But raising kids is MORE than a full-time job, so why is the wife expected to take on this other enormous job?

How many times have you heard anyone in conservative Catholic circles, or anywhere else really, say, "It should be the man's job to homeschool if anyone is doing it because that's his duty as head of the family and he has is more likely to have more time." How many times have you heard a woman say, "Hopefully I can find a man who will spend his evening giving our kids an education." You don't see it. Ever. Because in conservative Catholic circles, in my experience, women are generally expected to carry the heaviest loads by men.

I even saw a comment on a different blog, in response to my same post, by a woman whose husband had told her when they were dating that he wanted a big family but wasn't going to put much effort into making money. The fact that any man would even consider making such a bald statement of neglecting his duty as a husband, father, and provider shows that something is way off in Latin Mass circles in the way men approach their obligations. If this wasn't the case there would be more men saying, "I would never ask my wife to homeschool because I wouldn't want to place that burden on her."

Pentimento said...

Glad you weighed in, Disarray. My thoughts right now are not so much about the men who advance these notions, but about the entire ethos you describe, in which it's acceptable for men to speak of them at all. This is very much the public face of most homeschooling in my area. A caveat: I'm not a homeschooler, though I have friends I respect who are, including some who have commented above, and I considered it myself at one time. One thing I sometimes find off-putting about the Catholic homeschooling ethos -- something that is not, however, practiced by all Catholic homeschoolers -- is the way homeschooling becomes a self-selective identity, a sort of cult unto itself, and one based upon a kind of Manichean fear of the world and its taint.

The most prominent group of Catholic homeschoolers in my area is made up of Latin Mass-goers, who are also providentialists, live in the woods, are all related to each other somehow, and drive long distances to ensure that their children receive the sacraments in the old rite. They have the reputation (earned, in my opinion) of not welcoming strangers who are unlike themselves. I am one of those strangers, and one of the most salient ways in which I am unlike them is their stance of retreat from and resistance to the world. Their homeschooling very much shares that sense of opposition to and fear of the dominant culture, and, frankly, I'm not at all sure that's the right tack for a Catholic, whether TLM-ish or not, to take.