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Home Is Where the School Is

The Logic of Homeschooling and the Emotional Labor of Mothering

Jennifer Lois

Publication Year: 2012

Mothers who homeschool their children constantly face judgmental questions about their choices, and yet the homeschooling movement continues to grow with an estimated 1.5 million American children now schooled at home. These children are largely taught by stay-at-home mothers who find that they must tightly manage their daily schedules to avoid burnout and maximize their relationships with their children, and that they must sustain a desire to sacrifice their independent selves for many years in order to savor the experience of motherhood. Home Is Where the School Is is the first comprehensive look into the lives of homeschooling mothers. Drawing on rich data collected through eight years of fieldwork and dozens of in-depth interviews, Jennifer Lois examines the intense effects of the emotional and temporal demands that homeschooling places on mothers’ lives, raising profound questions about the expectations of modern motherhood and the limits of parenting.

Published by: NYU Press

Contents

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pp. vii-

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

When you spend more than ten years on one project, you have a lot of people to thank. The first round of my deepest gratitude goes to the homeschooling mothers who told me their stories. I would never have understood what homeschooling means...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-22

More than 1.5 million children in the United States are homeschooled. This number, a conservative estimate, represents 2.9 percent of the schoolage population1 and is up significantly from the mid-1980s, when the U.S. Department of Education estimated that fewer than 300,000 American children were homeschooled.2 Since 1993, every state has provided a legal option for parents to educate their children...

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1. Homeschooling Mothers

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pp. 23-40

Because PATH served as a support group for more than 600 member families and its events were open to the public, I attended my first meeting assuming I would lurk anonymously to get a feel for the issues homeschoolers faced. But when I arrived and saw only a few dozen chairs set in a circle in the middle of the...

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PART I. THE EMOTIONAL CULTURE OF GOOD MOTHERING

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pp. 41-44

There is a substantial body of research covering many aspects of mothering in the contemporary United States. Some of the main findings with regard to mothers’ emotions are important to lay out now, since they provide a framework to understand homeschoolers’ experiences and their identities as mothers. To trace the many...

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2. Coming to a Decision: First- and Second-Choice Homeschoolers

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pp. 45-68

The vast majority of homeschoolers are stay-at-home mothers in two-parent, heterosexual families with a husband supporting the family in the paid labor force. That is not to say that homeschooling is impossible when a mother works, when a father is in charge of the children’s education, or in single-parent families— indeed, homeschooling happens...

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3. Defending Good-Mother Identities: The Homeschooling Stigma

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pp. 69-88

Non-homeschooling strangers, friends, and family members, whom I have called “outsiders,” frequently criticized homeschoolers for keeping their children out of conventional schools, often implying—and sometimes stating outright—that they were irresponsible mothers for doing so. The criticism was constant, and over time homeschoolers...

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PART II. THE TEMPORAL-EMOTIONAL CONFLICT OF GOOD MOTHERING

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pp. 89-92

In the previous chapters, I explained how the emotional culture of intensive mothering affected homeschoolers’ lives dramatically. The beliefs about how mothers should feel, along with how they should demonstrate their commitment to their children, drove homeschoolers to extend their commitment to stay-at-home motherhood...

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4. Adding the Teacher Role: Domestic Labor and Burnout

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pp. 93-113

The way household labor is divided in most families disproportionally taxes mothers, affects their time greatly, and influences their feelings about their husbands and families. Not only do mothers do more work than fathers in the majority of heterosexual, intact families with children, but they are more likely than fathers to become run...

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5. Losing Me-Time: The Temporal Emotion Work of Motherhood

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pp. 114-130

So far, I have examined mothers’ time in a variety of ways. When the mothers I studied talked about the emotional difficulties of homeschooling, time was almost always implicated in some way. When they were stressed about their children’s lack of progress, it was often because they measured it against their temporal expectations...

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PART III. HOMESCHOOLING MOTHERHOOD OVER TIME

The twenty-four interviews from 2002 illuminated many ways that the emotional and temporal aspects of homeschooling affected mothers’ experiences. However, I wondered how mothers fared over time: How did emotions, time, and other factors affect their commitment to homeschooling throughout the years? And how did these...

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6. Looking Back: The Homeschooling Journey

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pp. 133-150

The twenty-four interviews from 2002 illuminated many ways that the emotional and temporal aspects of homeschooling affected mothers’ experiences. However, I wondered how mothers fared over time: How did emotions, time, and other factors affect their commitment to homeschooling throughout the years? And how did these...

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7. Taking Stock of the Present: Perceptions of Success

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pp. 151-165

The previous chapter presented mothers’ look back on their homeschooling journey and discussed some of the struggles they encountered along the way. This chapter focuses on the second of my three purposes in conducting the follow-up interviews in 2008–9: to ask mothers to take stock of the present— where were they now? Because so many early-career homeschoolers had expressed insecurity in the first interviews...

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8. Looking Forward: Empty Desks, Empty Nests

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pp. 166-179

In 2002, mothers talked a great deal about how labor-intensive homeschooling was and how it sapped them of any time for themselves. Although they often wished for a lighter domestic load and time to themselves, over the years I also heard many mothers express anxiety about the direction their lives would take at the...

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9. Savoring Motherhood

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pp. 180-194

Throughout this book, I have explored the experiences of homeschooling mothers. I have examined how mothers made decisions to homeschool, responded to outsider criticism, handled the increased domestic labor, dealt with losing me-time, understood their journey in retrospect, viewed their children’s successes, and planned...

Notes

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pp. 195-216

Bibliography

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pp. 217-224

Index

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pp. 225-228

About the Author

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pp. 229-


E-ISBN-13: 9780814789438
E-ISBN-10: 0814752519
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814752517

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2012