Can a Woman Have a Satisfying Creative Life While Homeschooling?

This post originally appeared on another [now defunct] website with a different title. The story is gaining new relevance as I work on Chapter 3 of my homeschooling book, one about how the education of children remains, primarily, the woman’s responsibility in the home.

What does that mean for homeschooled children–and for homeschooling women? Can women “have it all”–not in the conventional sense but in the intellectual, creative sense–and homeschool? I don’t have any answers to share here… yet. And while the mother in this story was not a dedicated homeschooler to my knowledge, her story rings of a universal truth.

As a writer, I sometimes carry my camera with us when we’re “out and about.” And it’s because of this trivial fact that, on an ordinary trip to a suburban mall, our young son snapped this photograph.

It’s ordinary and extraordinary at once, that I would have carried, birthed and helped raise a tiny human being capable of prizing natural beauty.

Years ago while I was working at a major university, a popular art school dean related a story to several students. I think of it from time to time, especially when I encounter other suburban parents open to their entire family’s need for creative self-expression. The story was told to him, if I recall correctly, by his own art school chairman.

The chairman, recently retired, was traveling and arranged to catch up with his favorite former student. Once she’d been his star pupil, an exemplary studio art major. Because of this, he’d envisioned a vibrant future for her filled with gallery openings and travel.

On the appointed evening and after a long journey, he arrived at the woman’s suburban household and was greeted warmly by everyone, including her husband and three children.

Over the course of the evening, the gentleman noticed that a conspicuous absence of the young woman’s artwork in the home. He felt a dark cloud over him as he realized that this delightful, talented young woman’s schedule was consumed with tending small children. Plus, there appeared to be no secret studio in the suburban tract home, no place where she could escape to create.

The meal was delicious (she was a skilled cook), the children well-behaved, yet the man felt increasingly strange, uncomfortable even. All of the effort and energy expended by the woman to obtain a degree–all of the effort and energy of her teachers (himself included)–had it been for naught?

Had she wasted everyone’s time in pursuit of an art degree?

After supper, the mother turned to her children and said with enthusiasm, “Now, shall we show my teacher our work?” The children bolted up and out of the room, returning gleefully with a jumble of drawings and paintings. The young artists’ and their mother’s delight was almost palpable as they explained their work, just as studio artists are trained to do. The father beamed, too.

As the man realized that the gifts he’d passed to his former student a few years ago were being relayed to the bright-eyed children in a household where creativity and spontaneity were valued, he felt the cloud vanish.

Who am I,” he wondered later when relating the story, “to say who uses their degree best? And who am I to define a ‘studio’ as anything other than a space where creativity is valued.”

Indeed. Would that we say that we practice saying that of ourselves.


Update: If the issue of maintaining your intellectual and creative identity while homeschooling is a concern, then I invite you to read Chapter 3 of How to Work and Homeschool: Practical Advice, Tips and Strategies from Parents. Purchasing information can be found here

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  1. This post reminds of the book I’ve always wanted to write. About how when I first left my fun and challenging job in the corporate world to stay home and freelance and care for my family. It became instantly clear to me that the only way I would stay sane was if I did at least one creative thing a day. Some days, I was juicing out some of the best writing ever. Other days, the most creative thing I managed in any 24-hour period was a new way to braid my daughter’s hair or a new recipe for dinner. But I stuck to it, and I felt more fulfilled than ever. Expressing yourself and learning new things is truly one of the keys to happiness. (And that was long before Pinterest!)

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