Is homeschooling illiberal? Part 2

homeschool child outdoors learning

image courtesy of flickr user spree2010

(My continued rant about Dana Goldstein’s Slate article, “Liberals, Don’t Homeschool Your Kids: Why Teaching Children at Home Violates Progressive Values”)

No one thinks that teachers or administrators are out to oppress parents or children.  It is the system that is, inherently and fundamentally, oppressive.  Public school staff are placed in an impossible situation.  They are given large groups of children who vary from each other in every imaginable way (except for chronological age) and are expected to teach these children the information they need to perform well on standardized tests created by people who know nothing of their particular students or situation.  Their schools’ funding, not to mention their jobs, depend on their ability to achieve this task.  No matter how hard they work, how much they sacrifice, they are told they are not doing enough.  Curriculum becomes increasingly standardized, laws become increasingly strict, and ultimately schools become little more than child management facilities.  No amount of vociferous debate will change this central fact.

How could it be any different?

If “government is the only institution with the power and scale to intervene in the massive undertaking of better educating American children” – the government that allows children to starve while bazillionaires drive around in private jets, that is more concerned with playing party politics than enacting legislation that will benefit its people – then we are doomed.  Perhaps other Western democracies enjoy a greater investment in public education because in other Western democracies the public enjoys greater government support.  Other countries provide guaranteed health care and paid family leave to citizens.  Other countries take food and environmental safety seriously.  Perhaps other Western democracies have earned their citizens’ trust.

As a counterpoint to Betsy Blanchette, I proffer the story of my friend F. whose son has Down syndrome.  At the time he was required to enter school in order to continue to receive special services, he was non-verbal.  He did, however, have an extensive sign language vocabulary; unfortunately, that did not do him any good.  You see, his school district refused to hire an aide who was fluent in sign language, saying that it was not necessary for this three-year-old boy who could not chew or reliably use the toilet to have the ability to efficiently communicate with a responsible adult.  Despite his parents’ retaining counsel and entering into litigation with the district, exercising their legal recourse, the school would not budge.  I have heard similar stories from other parents of special-needs children.

Are you f*&%ing kidding me?

Luckily, his parents had the means to move to a different school district, one more in touch with its “expertise, resources, and legal responsibility” with respect to this child.  But what if they hadn’t?

Broad scale buy in followed by kicking and screaming at school board meetings is unlikely to cause any meaningful shift in the behemoth that is American public education, at least not any time soon.  On the other hand, is it possible that the best way for education reformers to be heard is to homeschool – boycott if you will?  Gandhi, King, Chavez…need I go on?

Frankly Ms. Goldstein, your judgement regarding social values practiced versus preached is offensive.  Your accusation that I either enroll my children in public school or practice piecemeal philanthropy is disrespectful.  I want my children to grow up to be kind, compassionate, honest, generous, courageous, self-disciplined, wise and principled individuals who are motivated and passionate about making this world a better place.  After my daughter’s short time in our public school (in one of the top-rated districts in our state) it is clear to me that although lip service is paid to these qualities, they are not really valued.  Obedience, academic performance, and conformity are most highly prized.  In order to be taught, they must first be subdued.

If you can convince me that children who are trained to obey, conform, and be people-pleasers are well situated to bring about broad social change, then I am willing to reconsider the whole public school thing.

Good luck with that.

Is homeschooling illiberal?


is public school or homeschool more liberal, progressive

image courtesy of flickr user Pink Sherbet Photography

Dana Goldstein’s Slate article contending that homeschooling is antithetical to progressive social values has hit a nerve.  Homeschooling supporters Astra Taylor, Conor Friedersdorf, and Stephanie Baselice have offered rebuttals.  Since we are leaning toward homeschooling Bess and Harry, I am eyeing the debate with interest.

Goldstein’s thesis is this: Truly community-minded, liberal, progressive parents enroll their children in public school, become involved in the PTO and/or school board, and work to make things better.  I used to see her point.  I have come to understand that no amount of money or parent involvement is going to make public education anything other than what it is: too big and dysfunctional to be fixed.  I believe with every fiber of my being that each human being on this planet deserves an education.  American schools contain children but, unfortunately, fail to educate them in fundamental ways.

For what it’s worth, here are my two cents:

  • The number of homeschooling families who fail to support public education with their children’s presence (an estimated 1 – 2 million children) represents only a fraction of the children not enrolled in public school.  There are 5.5 million children enrolled in private schools, yet the focus of Goldstein’s argument is on homeschoolers.  Why should this be? Is there some fundamental difference between withdrawing from the public school system and placing your resources in a privately funded school as opposed to no school at all?  Is her gripe really about taking resources (i.e., children) out of public school, or out of school altogether?
  • Homeschooling parents will be the first to tell you that it is hard work and it isn’t for everyone, but that even single parents and families who struggle financially can make it work.  This does not stop Goldstein from accusing  homeschoolers of exercising class privilege “rooted…in the dated presumption that children hail from two-parent families, in which at least one parent can afford (and wants) to take significant time away from paid work in order to manage a process—education—that most parents entrust to the community at-large”.  Does having money make it easier?  Of course it does.  But wealth or unemployment are not requisite.
  • Molesters in schools are bad for PR, but they aren’t driving people to homeschool.  Parents are afraid of school violence and bullying.  These things are not rare.
  • Homeschooling is about teaching children to respect and trust themselves.  If that means having a distrust of public institutions, maybe that lack of trust is justified.  When children starve and go without medical care in the richest country in the world, when lies are used to justify sending people to war to kill other people, such trust is hard to defend.
  • Low income children attending middle-class schools may earn higher test scores, but correlation does not imply causation (Statistics 101).  Is this a peer effect as Goldstein argues?  Or is it that middle-class schools have more money, resources, and good teachers?  If you created a school with identical conditions and filled it with disadvantaged children, would they perform just as well?  And what of those low-income kids, anyway?  Their test scores may be higher if they go to school with middle-class kids – but what does that mean for them in real life?  Anything?  Nothing?  Just because school is capable of addressing poverty doesn’t mean it actually does.
  • Goldstein declares that public school makes children better people.  As evidence, she cites research suggesting that “adult graduates of integrated high schools shared a commitment to diversity, to understanding and bridging cultural differences, and to appreciating ‘the humanness of individuals across racial lines.’”  Though I did not read the research, I think it is safe to assume that the comparison is between individuals who attended integrated high schools and those who attended homogeneous high schools. I wonder what such research would find if they compared either (or both) of these groups to homeschooled children.

To be continued…

(This post has been featured on the front page of BlogHer Family, and is part of the Seasonal Celebration Sunday Linky Party at Natural Mothers Network.  If you’re visiting from one of those places, WELCOME to Ahimsa Mama!)

Talking to kids about race

photo courtesy of flickr user voxefx

I have a guest post running today over at Humane Connection on talking to kids about race.  Head on over and check it out:

What I said was: “Shoshana is one of the girls who has very dark skin. She played ‘The Two Grenadiers.’”

“Oh, yes!” Bess said. “I didn’t tell her, but I will the next time I see her.”

Was that the right thing to say? I don’t know. It felt right at the time. Or at least it felt less inappropriate than the alternative. What I said is absolutely accurate. Shoshana’s skin is darker than my daughter’s Mediterranean complexion, just as my daughter’s skin, inherited from her father, is darker than my northern European shade of pale. In one sense, it is as simple as that.

And yet…in another sense, it couldn’t be more complicated. It isn’t accurate to pretend that the difference between Shoshana and Bess is melanin-related in the same way skin color differentiates Bess from me. To imply otherwise is insincere, and unfair, and disrespectful. It is easy for me to describe Shoshana that way, given that I am speaking from a place of relative privilege. I cannot even begin to imagine all the ways in which people of color do not experience the world in the way that I do.

I’d love your feedback, either here or there.  How do you talk to your kids about race?  How do you teach them about diversity, especially if you don’t live in a particularly diverse community?  What kinds of words do you use?

Hockey Hugs

The bunny team scores to go ahead 2-1 over the domino team!

It’s been a rough few days.  As I mentioned in my last post, we lost a very good friend on Wednesday.  While coping with my loss and sadness, I have been maintaining contact with his family, forwarding dozens of messages of condolence, setting up a memorial gathering at the rink, and lots of other little things.

One of my tasks was to find grief counsellors to come talk to CP’s current team of eleven-year-olds.  Let me just say – HOLY COW were these women amazing!  They are the people who go into schools when there has been a traumatic loss – when a student has overdosed or committed suicide or otherwise died suddenly – and they sure know what they are doing.  I was utterly astonished at how they were able to get the kids talking – and pre-pubescent boys are not a population known to be particularly communicative – and to help them express their concerns in a fairly short amount of time.  The counsellors also spoke with the parents in a way that was kind and compassionate while advocating strongly for the boys and their needs  during this difficult time.  I was thoroughly impressed, and immensely grateful.

And now I am thoroughly and immensely drained.  Watching these boys process their grief, cry openly, support each other, and talk about their confusion and regret was undoubtedly one of the most painful experiences of my life.

I have an ambivalent relationship with youth sports.  I view the competitive nature of the endeavor as a necessary evil or revolting, depending on the day.  The parents can be mean, pushy, heartless, unreasonable, overprotective, manipulative, and on occasion even violent.  Of course they are not all like that, not even most of them, but unfortunately a few bad apples…you know.  It can be exhausting, frustrating, disheartening, and occasionally sickening.

But yesterday I was reminded of one of the positives.  These kids are put onto a team, and they may not necessarily like each other or have much in common, but they learn to tolerate each other’s differences and value each other’s strengths and respect each other in the service of a larger goal.  Seeing them passing the tissues, offering supportive pats and hugs, and being vulnerable together in their shared grief for their lost friend was a powerful reminder of this.

Harry loves hockey.  He watches the games with rapt attention and loves to play at home.  His current favorite version is the bunny team playing against the domino team.  Basically, he sets up the bunnies and the dominoes on the floor, they score and celebrate, and then they leave the ice so the Zamboni can come out.  I think it is funny that he sees the game in this way, since scoring is such an infrequent – though admittedly exciting – occurrence.

But recently I’ve noticed that it’s not just the scoring, but the celebrating that really appeals to Harry.   He loves when all the players on the ice share a hug after a goal is scored rather than the goal-scorer pumping his fist in personal glory.  Instead of calling for “group hugs” in our family, he gathers us together for “hockey hugs”.  The team element of the game, the shared experience, is what really captures his imagination.  I am grateful to Harry, and to CP’s players, for helping me to see the importance of community this week.

Now, if only he could get hockey parents to see it that way…

Why I don’t shop at Amazon.com

Reading, good. Amazon, bad. image courtesy of flickr user Derrick Coetzee

I recently learned that Eileen Straiton, Valarie Budayr and Joy Blaser have created a virtual book club.  The innaugural read is Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto.

I like books.  I especially like books about education.  I especially especially like books about alternative education.  And I LOVE discussing books with other smart, insightful, and interesting people.  So,I  joined the Facebook page.

If you head over there you will see that discussion has begun.  But last week most people were still in the book-obtainment stage.  There was a lot of “I ordered from Amazon today” and “My library doesn’t carry it so I’m going to get it from Amazon right now”.  I a little bit wanted to scream and rend garments.

Admittedly, that may be a touch dramatic.  But seriously – I wanted to comment on everyone’s status updates with something like, “Don’t you people KNOW that Amazon is evil?”  Since that might constitute harassment and get me kicked out of the group, I am going to write about it here instead.  Because it’s my blog and I’ll rant if I want to.

My own book buying habits are as follows, for what it’s worth:  I rarely buy actual books.  I love my public library, and if there is a book I can’t get or want to own I buy it from Better World Books.  BWB is an amazing organization that sells used and new books and donates the proceeds to literacy projects.  However, at least 95% of my reading is on my Nook.  In fact, if I can’t get a book on my Nook I am not likely to read it.  I have significantly increased my reading since having gotten it – the conveniences are numerous, and a topic for another post.

Certainly, Barnes & Noble is a far cry from a local, independent bookseller.  But my rationalization thinking is that I am supporting authors and no trees had to die on my behalf.

And….it’s not Amazon.

People LOVE Amazon.  You can get anything – out of print books, vacuums, gluten-free bread, patio furniture – at rock bottom prices and often with free shipping.  It’s convenient.  Good for consumers.

But HOW do they do this?  Possibly by using their size to negotiate low prices from suppliers and absorb losses that smaller businesses cannot sustain.  Given that they have tried to get out of charging sales tax and have offered discounts to customers who scanned products in stores with their smart phones, it is not difficult to see that forcing local businesses to close is part of their strategy.

But here’s my bottom line:  The circulation of books, and by extension of ideas, is vital to our development, maybe even our survival, as a species.  The growth of self-publishing has made it fast and easy to get books to market, which is mostly good except insofar as a flooded makes it more difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Of course, the Internet has reduced the importance of books as a vehicle for sharing and developing ideas, but they are still an element of the equation.

But Amazon is using its considerable weight to gain increasingly more control over book publishing and distribution.  They have opened their own publishing house, and it doesn’t take a Harvard-educated economist to know that they will market their own books at the expense of other worthwhile titles.  They have demanded that print on demand (POD) publishers use Amazon’s service, called Create Space (formerly Book Surge), and many POD publishers succumbed to the pressure.  The word “monopoly” has been bandied about.

And from where I sit, any time one company has that much control over the distribution of ideas and information – that’s bad.  Very, very bad.

What I’m reading: The Monster Within

This is a book review that I wrote and posted in the MOTHERS Book Bag group on Good Reads.  I’m happy to have you read and discuss here, but really, you should head on over and join!  It’s where all the cool moms hang out.  Tell them I sent you!

In The Monster Within: The Hidden Side of Motherhood, psychoanalyst Barbara Almond takes an in-depth look at the issue of maternal ambivalence. Drawing from personal experience, her work with patients, and literary examples, she examines the range of ways mothers deal with their feelings towards their children and about motherhood.

While Almond’s prose is less than artistic and the psycho-babble can become a bit tedious, the overall message is profound and important. Ambivalence (defined as “both loving and hating feelings for the same person”) towards one’s progeny, and towards the condition of motherhood and all that it entails, is normal. It is universal. It is to be expected. It is not a problem. Ambivalence “characterizes all [emphasis the author’s] human relationships, not just that of mother and child.”

Problems arise when a mother denies her ambivalence, which is becoming increasingly common in today’s culture of competitive parenting. “Modern ‘maternally correct’ mothers are literally driving themselves and their offspring crazy in their quest for maternal perfection, which can only be proven by the perfection of their offspring.” Those are pretty strong words, to be sure – but they can hardly be seen as anything other than truth.

The book describes patients who, either consciously or unconsciously, were unable to resolve their ambivalence and remained childless, and others who had children but struggled to reconcile their conflicting emotions. These women suffered psychological maladies which brought them to therapy, including depression and crippling anxiety. In several chapters, the author delves into some extreme examples of über bad parenting, including “vampiric mothering” whereby a narcissistic mother uses her child to obtain gratification – think Toddlers in Tiaras, super-size – and even child murder. It is easy to look at these disturbing case studies and to feel smugly secure in the knowledge that we are not like these mothers. But…are we? Are these women simply the “identified patient”?

Of course, most of us are able to negotiate the terrain of child-rearing and emerge intact, having raised relatively healthy children. But at what cost? Do we all suffer to some degree with “the effect of rigid social expectations of ‘correct’ child rearing on a mother’s capacity to be confident and flexible with her child?” In reading this book, I was often reminded of the discomfort our society feels regarding negative emotion in general, and negative emotion towards children in particular. It is the fictional parent who never feels any frustration or anger towards her child, but a search of Mommy Blogs implies that the world is replete with such mothers. You know the ones: they blissfully homeschool their ten children while sewing their own clothes, installing geothermal power systems in their log cabins with their own two hands, and singing a happy tune as they make stew from the chickens they raised and slaughtered in their backyards.

I, and Barbara Almond, are here to tell you this: these mothers, the ones who portray their lives as unendingly happy, feel ambivalent. Even if they don’t admit it to you or even to themselves, some days they hate having to wash the eleventy-millionth load of handmade f*&#ing clothes this week. What it all comes down to is this: “Being able to tolerate both kinds of feelings, at different times, without having one feeling destroy the other, is a sign of good mental health [emphasis mine]. Having to deny or suppress either love or hate leads to depleted and rigid relationships in which the other person is not experienced in his or her emotional reality.”

So I say: Viva l’ambivalence!

Helicopter? Tiger? Just a plain old worried mom

I miss this smile

Bess is still having some difficulties in school.  The problem, in a nutshell, is this: we have raised her to be respectful and kind in her dealings with others, and to resolve conflicts by seeking compromise and taking everyone’s needs into consideration.

As it turns out, not all children are raised this way.  My daughter is finding it very difficult to deal with people whose interpersonal skills are, shall we say, less evolved.

Her teacher is an amazing like-minded woman (I first met her when she joined my Attachment Parenting group a few years ago), and I know that she is supporting my daughter’s efforts to affably relate to her classmates.  But there is only so much that can be done.  After all, it’s half-day kindergarten ; they are only there for 2 1/2 hours a day.  She can’t control what her students learn in the other 21 1/2 hours.  Plus weekends.  Plus the previous five years of their lives, give or take.  Not to mention the bus.  Ugh, the bus.

Since September, there has been a marked difference in Bess.  She is becoming increasingly withdrawn and socially anxious, and is electing (begging) to forego many of her favorite activities in favor of staying home with us.  And this, with a gentle and devoted teacher, in a kindergarten classroom.  It is difficult to imagine the situation improving very much in the coming years.

And thus…we are seriously thinking of homeschooling Bess next year, and for the foreseeable future.  I was apprehensive about public school to start with, and I am underwhelmed by the outcome to date.  Bess has always loved being around lots of other people, and was thrilled with the prospect of having lots of new potential friends, all of whom live close enough for impromptu playdates (as opposed to her friends at her previous school, who all lived at least 45 minutes away).  Even she is coming to see homeschooling as a viable, even desirable, alternative.

But am I being “that mom”?

Am I being overprotective, sheltering her ?

Is this about me not wanting my daughter to grow up and go out into the world without me?

Are the changes I am seeing just part of normal growing up, or something more?

What are the risks of allowing things to go on this way, and are those risks acceptable to me?

By permitting her to stay in an environment that is not working for her, am I implying that I think what goes on there is okay?

Is there anything wrong with giving her more time to be a child, to grow up a little more before she has to learn to function in the cold, cruel world?

Wouldn’t she benefit from a little more time spent learning the values and interpersonal skills I want her to have?

Doesn’t my daughter deserve to live in a world where she is treated with respect and kindness, at least most of the time?

Is it fair for me to expect her to treat other people with consideration, and then send her out into a world where she will not be treated in kind?

Won’t she better be able to cope with the range of personalities that exists in the world when she is a little older, more mature, more confident, stronger?

Would I be depriving her of the opportunity to learn how to deal with all sorts of other people by picking and choosing the people with whom she spends time?

 Is it so bad that I have a different vision of the world I want for my child than most of the rest of the world seems to have?

Isn’t it my right as her mother – my prerogative, indeed my responsibility – to do everything I can to create the kind of world in which I want her to live?

Am I even asking the right questions?  Do these questions even have answers?

Disney Corporation: Yoo hoo!

Not Harry's finest smile...

Today I have a guest post over at Humane Connection describing some of my observations from a recent trip to Walt Disney World:

I know, I know.  Disney, the the embodiment of what ails us as a society and a species.  It’s not my favorite place, but it holds fond memories for my husband, my kids enjoy it, and their grandmother lives in Orlando.  And so we go.

As a student of humane education, I found abundant opportunities for considering all sorts of issues and for practicing critical thinking with my kids; an entire book could be (and has been, many times over) written about the company.  For the purposes of creating a blog post of reasonable length, I’ve decided to focus on four popular rides that could use some tweaks – minor ones, really – in order to truly “weave the importance of diversity and inclusiveness” into guests’ experiences.

Go check it out (please), and add your own ideas!

What’s the big deal about Santa, anyway?

On our recent visit to see Santa, we asked six-and-a-half year old Bess what she was going to ask him to bring for Christmas.  She had already sent her list, but we wondered if there was anything in particular she wanted to mention.

“I’m going to ask for something, but it’s a secret,” she told us.

She, you see, is testing us.  Or testing Santa.  She is conducting her own little experiment as to the existence of the jolly man in red.

It was inevitable, of course.  As children age, they begin to question.  As they go to school with classmates who have older brothers and sisters, they hear rumors that it’s all a big hoax.

So what’s the big deal, really?  I mean, there is no actual flesh-and-bone person who is Santa Claus and lives at the North Pole and rides in a sleigh full of toys pulled by magic reindeer and comes down the chimney to deliver said toys and scarf down a snack of milk and cookies before moving on to the next house, and the next, all around the world.  She will know this soon – maybe not this year, maybe not even next year, but her Christmases of belief are numbered.  Would it really make a difference if she learned the truth now?

I know that the idea of telling children the Santa myth is controversial in some circles.  There are those that view this cultural tradition as a bald-faced lie told to children, and who would say that this is disrespectful of the children, and that they will never forgive us when they learn the truth – namely, that we have been brazenly and willfully misleading them.  There are those that see him as a symbol of out-of-control commercialism.

I see it differently.  I think that there is enchantment and wonder in the idea of Santa.  Just as I view garden fairies as the personification of nature that give my children a concrete and developmentally appropriate way to understand the cycles and processes of biology, ecology and even chemistry, I view Santa in similar terms.  He is a person who embodies and manifests qualities such as generosity, forgiveness and love, things that are too big and complex to be understood in the abstract (even by many adults).  I think that there is value in giving our children a little magic, a little faith, a little hope in their lives.  So, in our family at least, long live Santa!

BTW, when we went up for our family photo, Santa was kind enough to share with us that Bess had asked for a rainbow yo-yo so that we could keep the magic alive for a bit longer.  (The logistics involved in actually procuring such a yo-yo is a topic for another post!)

Mother lit – what I’m reading these days

It's a beautiful thing, isn't it? image courtesy of flickr user nSeika

One organization that is near and dear to my heart is MOTHERS (Mothers Ought to Have Equal Rights), an organization which works for policy changes that will increase the economic security for care workers, especially mothers, and especially especially mothers who take time out of the paid workforce to care for their children.  I occasionally guest post on their blog (see here and here), and I do book reviews for their MOTHERS Book Bag group on GoodReads.  I hope that you’ll visit, leave some feedback or suggestions for future reads, or maybe even join the group.  Some of my latest reads include:

Blue Nights by Joan Didion

Fans of Joan Didion’s previous works will find something entirely different between the covers of Blue Nights, but then how could one possibly turn an objective, journalistic eye towards the topic of the death of one’s child? In this effort to understand, to come to terms with the loss of her daughter, Quintana Roo, Didion does what she does best – she tells stories.  Read More…

 

Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood by Cori Howard

Cori Howard’s collection of essays, Between Interruptions: 30 Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood (now available for Kindle and Nook), falls squarely and beautifully into the category of Non-Fluffy. In each essay, Canadian writers offer honest explorations of the agony and the ecstasy of motherhood in a way that is easy an interesting to read. In sections exploring the topics of ambition, anxiety, guilt, devotion and redemption, writers explore each of these experiences that is shared by all mothers, everywhere. Marina Jimenez leaves her toddler son to travel to Baghdad as a foreign correspondent for the Globe and Mail. Joanna Streetly gives up her beloved house boat for the love (and safety) of her daughter. Randi Chapnik Myers has a complicated relationship with her nanny. Susan Olding is an adoptive mother; Lisa Bendall, the mother of just one. Rachel Rose attends cocktail parties looking for the sperm donor who will make her and her partner, Isabelle, mothers. Cristina Sampang leaves her children in the Philippines to find a job caring for someone else’s children in an effort to give her own a better life. Every mother will find herself between the covers of this book.  Read More…

Making It Up As I Go Along: A Novel by Maria Lennon

For a woman whose previous identity hinged on bearing witness to the atrocities of war as a reporter for the London Times, attending pool parties and lunching with ladies for whom only Catherine Zeta-Jones’ favorite diaper cream will do represents a bit of culture shock. Heaven was a self-made woman who had taken over her husband’s real estate company and earned millions with it, but she raised her daughter to value ambition over comfort. Even as Saffron settled into live in Malibu, more or less, she continued to long for Africa even with its danger and hardships.  Read More…

Reading Women: How the Great Books of Feminism Changed My Life by Stephanie Staal

In an effort to understand where she had gone wrong, or perhaps where feminism had gone wrong, Staal decided to return to her alma mater, Barnard, to re-take the course Fem Texts to see if the words and ideas of her foremothers were able to shed any light on her situation. First commuting from Annapolis to Manhattan once a week (pretty sweet, right?) and continuing after her family moved back to New York, Staal re-studied the works of such thinkers as Mary Wollstonecraft, Virginia Woolf, Betty Friedan and Kate Millett. From a different vantage point than the other students in the class, as well as from the person she was when she first read these texts as a young and idealistic college student, she begins to understand herself as a wife, mother and person in a different way. Throughout the story, we watch as the author comes to peace with her marriage and motherhood as she studies patriarchy, society, and feminism again.  Read More…