If homeschool were an op, what would it look like?

  • It would frame homeschooling as the only way to protect your children from evil liberal influences.
  • It would frame economic fragility as a moral good and a sign of superior parenting.
  • It would, when families crashed into the income strains of dad not actually earning enough to support a family on one income, suggest that the solution was high-risk, low-reward occupations like MLM or online selling.
  • It would redirect grassroots organizing energy towards the most unstable and ineffective group structure possible— the co-op.
  • It would redirect lawfare and regulatory organizing energy, and political energy towards inventing a right to homeschool and then legally codifying that right. This drains the pool of legal talent that could pursue legal remedies within the conventional educational system. It also makes it much easier to ignore the wishes of parents within the conventional educational system. After all, they can just use their “legal right to homeschool” if they don’t like what’s being taught.
  • It would be avidly decentralist and fight any attempt to develop a baseline of skills or credentialing that might present a viable alternative to the conventional public education system.
  • If homeschool were an op, it would look exactly like homeschooling has looked for the last 35 years.
  • Homeschool is an op. And it’s the most effective op in half a century.

Notes on Letters from a Woman Homesteader

Letters from a Woman Homesteader is yet another bit of old writing that doesn’t quite match up to the myths around frontier and pioneer folks.

It’s some letters a homesteading woman from over 100 years ago wrote to a former employer she’d maintained cordial relations with.  She’d worked for the employer as a laundress.  What is fascinating about the letters is that yet again, she didn’t do all the work alone, but routinely had other women helping her, or she traveled to help them.  It is clearly normalized in these letters for the women to go around to each other and spend days or weeks assisting with, well, homesteading for each other, along with the demands of hospitality.  When parties and social events are undertaken, it’s just assumed that everyone (including men) will pitch in to help the individual household tasked with hosting duties.  There is, despite the fact that they all live ten and twenty and thirty miles away from each other, not actually that much rugged individualism.

Also, this woman’s body broke down having lots of babies (six, more or less, according to other information about her life elsewhere on the internet) and working hard.  The letters Mrs. Stewart writes detail multiple instances of being unwell and struggling physically due to pregnancies (and infant deaths/miscarriages) and the work of homesteading. Her marriage was a mail-order marriage, but it lasted and as noted above produced quite a few surviving little bundles of joy out of it.

Mrs. Stewart promotes homesteading aggressively, feeling strongly that however hard that labor is, it still beats being a laundress in an urban metro area in the early 20th century.  She really felt that women should get out there and grab a piece of land for themselves, with or without a husband.  That sort of feminine self-determination is American to the core, being in regular currency prior to the 19th amendment.  American women waving a flag of securing financial independence through earning income rather than marriage is older and as traditionally American as apple pie.

It’s a short read, plus she’s a capable and engaging writer.  There’s a reason her employer sent the letters to be published in a magazine.

Repost: The right loses politically and socially because it has its best organizers stick to homeschool co-ops.

Long ago, before the 1970s, the right wing in America thought it was a good idea for some of their wives to have household help so they could run around doing the very complicated organizing described by David Hines about lefty organizing strategies and processes (his usual example involves talking to 600 people to get 7 that will stick around paying dues and sending off letters for years to come).

Then, for “reasons”, a lot of the smart, driven women who had hobbies such as “taking down entire amendments to the Constitution single handedly” and “starting the conservation movement from scratch”, and “inventing American libertarianism”, and “La Leche League” ended up being sucked into homeschool and homesteading/prepping maws and the political organization skills were mostly left with pro-life stuff, and even there one can see a big loss.

I spent time during COVID writing all this up as twitter threads. Originally this linked to twitter, but then I remembered how ephemeral twitter can be and updated with the actual tweets in full, with some minor edits for clarity.

Here’s the one about why women who do well organizing righty stuff like homeschool co-ops end up going to the left:

you want more kids born, pay attention to what mothers tell you, a thread

“Mother friendly is child friendly” is why ex-fundie women do so well switching over to organizing for the left. Sounds contradictory, but it’s not. In very tight-knit fundie circles, what women do revolves around having kids, raising them and doing so with occasional social activities.

Because everything is mediated around their roles as mothers, it’s all “mom-friendly”, not “kid-friendly”. But if you don’t want to be a mother (and the circle isn’t tight-knit enough, which has become faaarrrr more frequent the last 15 years), then organizing socially is really about you being free labor for mothers and also judging your spinsterhood. Unsurprisingly, if you’re a go-getting girl who doesn’t want to have kids at 20 or at all, you leave.

And you bring the gift of your energy and organizing talents to the left. And that’s a big part of why righties aren’t as good at organizing. I’m tagging @hradzka (eta: David Hines, a commentator about the differences between left and right organizing strategies) because I think a lot of his insights are useful, but I also think he isn’t aware that the left brain-drains the right and *the right doesn’t even know it’s happening*.

What happens if righties figure it out en masse?

Lastly, “mother friendly is child-friendly” means that when you arrange social gatherings around the needs of mommy, she not only brings her kids, she has more besides. And children become accepted as a part of a grown-up world.

Here’s the one about the fallout of preaching homeschool as the sole solution to cultural issues, lightly edited:

Is the right wing attachment to homeschool uber alles about keeping right wing women from having any public participation? It kinda looks like it. How you’re supposed to fix the hysterical and rampant presence of left wing women in the public sphere by making it even harder and more impossible for right wing women to be seen or speak in public is rather mysterious. Because homeschooling doesn’t “scale up”.

It’s not supposed to be a mass movement…unless you really are serious about living up to liberal Handmaid’s Tale fantasies and Making Coverture Great Again. Keeping women pregnant and homeschooling for 25 years hasn’t led to the promised “pipeline” of “nationalist, conservative” anything.

It has produced a bunch of SJWs (ultra-progressive liberals) and feminists though. Hiding hasn’t protected kids. Many SJWs are homeschool graduates working very hard to strip homeschool legal protections from parents right now. But more to the point, homeschool en masse penalizes men even more harshly.

They’re trapped having to be slaves to globalism to support families on their wages while mom homeschools. And if it fails, if his wages fail to support the family, we all know about the MLM plague to produce income, which is not exactly less globalism and socially alienating behavior.

Conservatives have made a cargo cult out of homeschool and what the blippity-bleep is it getting us to respond to all these signs of left-wing educational dominance with “derrrr, homeschool HARDER AND MOAR GUYZ COME ON”? Homeschool should be legal and rare. There, I said it! Conservatives who are serious about creating a more socially harmonious, nationalist society should figure out how to make apprenticeships work (they scale up) and support noncollege paths instead of homeschooling. They have to figure out how to protect children AS A COMMUNITY. You CANNOT restore community by hiding from it at the intimate level of raising children to live and function outside the nuclear family.

And this one about why women were crabby in the 1950s and vulnerable to Friedan’s logic traps:

They demonized the 1950s because there was a massive postwar increase in college educated women dominating childbearing and *they* were massively unhappy with the very working-class housewifery available during that time. Housewife work was heavily oriented towards cleaning and scrubbing and not much direct child care.

But there was a new and large pool of collegegoing young wives who were educated to expect to do “more” and were dissatisfied. Ultimately they gave us the helicopter parenting we “enjoy” nowadays, but the right even back then was very silly about the legit beef that you had all these bright women who were told any hobby or interest outside of housework was bad.

Yes, they did the PTA and volunteering, but they were lambasted for moving into doing that stuff even back then. There were real conflicts in what women’s role as wives/mothers should be that commies exploited for their own ends. We as a society never did try to hash out the impact of labor-shifting devices on household work, and we could do worse than trying to hash it out now. Something to think about. I hate commies as much as any sensible person, but they had fertile soil to plant their poisoned seeds.

Anyway, I’ve been hammering on this topic for a while now, because COVID has blatantly exposed the con that mass homeschooling would somehow lead to liberals throwing their hands up and conceding the culture to the quiet, gently reared homeschool kids and their pleasant, shy, conflict-avoidant mothers.

We have politicians on the right homeschooling, and if one can’t see how “I want this government job, but I reject the idea that government is good and can provide for children in my community” is not exactly optimal for gaining political power, then one cannot be helped to the trough, one is quite lost.

Traditional Motherhood is collectivist

Another thread from twitter, this time about a viral meme:

Even in small scale, you can see it’s about how ye olde mothers had more kids and while I think the bottom is cut off, as it passes through time and lower fertility, it ends with a woman who is “mom” to a cat (the stereotypical modern careerist catlady).

Anyway, this was my response thread. It mentions the Hajnal line, which is a very modern way to talk about Anglo, Saxon and Scandinavian historical family formation norms.

“This image is loved among a certain kind of usually male person on the right, but it’s immensely silly. The top woman had 2-4 other women helping her out, the second woman had 1-2, and the third about 50% of the time has 1 woman helping. Also they all akshuly had more kids.”

“Traditional motherhood is collectivist. Among Hajnal-line women, it’s usually more informal, intensely conformist and paid support is downplayed/minimized (going back centuries). Among women outside that line, it varies by era, but mothers are expected to have at least one other woman helping, whether it’s a relative or a paid woman.”

“It does take a village, and the difference when people in your town/neighborhood/city really will keep track of your kids and look after them while you walk downtown to pick up a package vs. mom and dad doing it all is one part of the birth rate decline. Too many people on the right make a false idol out of frontier motherhood, except even those women sometimes had other people watching their kids. And they didn’t homeschool.”

One last quick note about this meme: it’s infected with its own modernity, as I noted in passing in my tweet thread. A lot of “trad twitter” and the dissident right in general believes that 3-4 kids is equally as large a family as 6-7 as 9-10, and they craft their memes accordingly. Most of their memes about a proper traditional wife DIYing her childrearing have her with as few as 2 children, but rarely more than 4. At least it reflects how rare normally-large families have gotten, albeit unwittingly.

Married parent demographics

A thread I put together on twitter during COVID, lightly edited into a blog post follows below. Just a roundup of the implications of demographic change beyond just income stuff.

Many believe married parents of children under 18 are mostly Repubs and make “middle class” 50-60k a year and work for small businesses and that college parents are a small % of all married parents. Here’s the reality.

The median household income for married parents is about 100k (~104k as of 2019 ACS) from current ACS data. The BOTTOM QUARTILE starts around 65k and below. Yes, making 5k/month puts you at the “top of the bottom” 25% of married parents. 4k/month, the top of the bottom 15% (only 1/6 married parent households make that much or less per year).

As for educational background, at this point a MAJORITY of married parents are college educated. Around half of ALL parents have a BA+. Mass college education has certain effects the right appears to be totally blind to. So the average married parent household is a six figure one, and at least one parent finished a BA or more.

Whatever that is, it’s not a recipe for traditional Republican political dominance among married people. And go figure, they’re starting to lose married folks.

Now let’s think about employment status. What are married parents doing to earn enough to have such a high, six-figure median income, where 50k isn’t even bottom 20%? Honestly they’re mostly working in STEM+education+government, in roughly that order.

This is why I’ve been pushy/testy about “muh small biz” stuff going around. They are important, very much so, but married parents are all-in on too big to fail institutions. Because we need the money/(illusion of) security. Millions of married parents get paid in stock grants and equity stakes. 100s of 1000s of married parents were the government workers making lists of essential businesses and are college administrators and public school teachers and administrators. The interests of the married parent class are, yes, in conflict to some degree with the interests of, well, all the rest of y’all. I don’t know how to square this circle terribly well, myself. We’ve broken civic life badly to pit our baby-havers against all others this way.

Speaking of baby-havers, married mothers do work full time, but not as often or in the ways that you think. Where they work full-time, it’s increasingly flex hours and getting to bring their babies. Why SAHM if you can get that sweet a deal? Much of the increase in married mother employment has been under conditions that don’t resemble what married fathers put up with. And they STILL are 50%! part-time or SAHM. The top half (100k+ households) are like 65% p/t and SAHM. Married fathers are workhorses. They continue to have 90% type workforce participation while married mothers were already retreating from their 90s peaks. They have never gone back to that in nearly 30 years. Bet you didn’t know that!

The point of this post is that married parents are college educated heavily, all-in on STEM and globalism allowing them flex jobs, high wages and retirement funds/pensions. Marriage isn’t conservative. Our children aren’t being raised traditionally despite high SAHM rates. Most married mothers who SAHM use daycare/preschool. Bet you didn’t know that! MOST. It is frequently part-time, but a lot of moms were chafing that they can’t put their toddlers in 3 day Montessori. I think right wing populism is best and that we should have a more production oriented, regional economy in America. I don’t think we can get there via the right pretending no major demographic shifts have happened regarding marriage itself and the kind of people who marry now.

For righties, 50 dollars is 50 thousand when it comes to funding normal living and healthy social dynamics.

The title says it all, really. Spending fifty bucks in a month to have someone else do some dropoffs and pickups a couple times a month so you can have time to prepare homeschool curriculum or run some errands all on the same day or do a couple more labor-intensive chores without interruptions is heard by the generic average right wing, conservative, Republican, etc person as “So you’re saying I need to spend fifty thousand bucks a year on a full time nanny/cook/housekeeper/whatever”.

Fundamentally righties are against spending money at all, ever, even on a minor, incidental, occasional basis for small tasks to help structure and smooth their lives out. They are all unwittingly echoing the evil and broke Lady Susan from the Whit Stillman take on Jane Austen, Love and Friendship: “As there is an element of friendship involved, the paying of wages would be offensive to us both.”

So the left slices, dices and turns into an antisocial, corporatized transaction every kind of task like that and the result is bad working conditions and pay for the people involved performing the services and tasks, further social atomization and isolation and just that little bit more difficulty in building and maintaining that kind of community glue. Because that sort of incidental labor used to be very common in American society. It was looser, more casual and certainly more occasional in scope, but Americans did used to pay people to do various tasks, at even lower-middle class and poverty-class income ranges. The complicated favor trading systems still present in some poverty-heavy communities are remnants of this broader pattern.

A couple years ago I paid an art student to draw and paint with my kids for about three hours five or six times so I could clean out the garage. Righties tend to be of the view that my husband should have watched the kids, or I should have done the clean out at some mysterious time where the kids weren’t around (but also homeschool because public school is too secular and icky) or that I should have a similarly mysterious large pool of people who will just show up and help out for any amount of time for free with zero notice.

And yes, righties say that paying money for services is an impossible luxury nobody should expect to have while…paying homeschool co-op teachers. I guess there’s the exception and why it has remained the exception (and not quite as much of one as you’d think, plenty of co-ops implode over lack of people willing and able to co-op it up completely salary-free) for decades is left as an exercise for the discerning intellect.

Practical Definitions: Conservatives and Multi-Level Marketing aka MLM

MLM is short for “Multi-Level Marketing“.  This is a form of sales in which the majority of the income is earned by signing other people up and receiving a portion of their sales (and the sales of those they sign up).  This is a variation of a pyramid scheme.  Conservatives tend to fall prey to MLM scams because the veneer of capitalism appeals to conservatives tricked into monetizing their relationships.  With liberals, the scam tendency is towards self-help, self-improvement and spiritual awakening cons, in which the veneer is monetizing friendships and relationships for “spiritual growth”.  Liberal scams cater to self-focus and individual autonomy.  Conservative scams cater, with their more pseudo-democratic pyramid structures, to the idea of community while horrifyingly undermining it in (ineffective) pursuit of money.

While both conservative men and women tend to fall prey to such schemes, the reason for this post is what I have observed among conservative housewives on and off the internet.  There are an astonishing number of schemes designed for them far beyond the kind of stereotypical makeup and cookware MLM businesses.

Three in particular that one runs into are book sales, essential oils (this one is health-risking as well, since they are not designed for internal use and yet that is part of the con), and even a bolting-on of MLM to real estate brokering.

There is nothing about books, essential oils or real estate sales or anything else that requires an MLM component and yet over and over I find “conservative”, “homeschool”, “Biblical”, etc. “work at home opportunities” seem to have MLM tacked on no matter what the supposed product or service for sale is.

If you’re discouraged from just selling the product or service without signing other people up, it’s probably MLM and you should walk away before you sink too much cash into startup costs (which MLM usually has more of than other at-home business opportunities).

The following conservative Christian SAHM, who is an excellent blogger in many respects, has written some insightful posts detailing the problems with MLM.

http://thecommonroomblog.com/2014/08/of-mlms-truth-and-beauty.html

http://thecommonroomblog.com/2013/09/essential-oils-and-mlms.html

http://thecommonroomblog.com/2013/07/mlm-some-of-my-concerns.html

Each of her posts is longer than this one and worth the read, she delves into the problems of monetizing your relationships with friends and family.  She also unpacks the flaws of MLMs as a business model, and most importantly covers the spiritual pitfalls of these terrible schemes.

This post is just an introduction and overview, a lot of conservative people truly don’t understand that business structures don’t have to look like Amway or any of the other MLMs I’ve linked to because all the stuff they see and pass around does look that way.  But no, these are a bad deal and should be avoided.

Fraud Alert, John Taylor Gatto edition

If you’re going to set up alternative sources of authority, you need to vet them for fraudulence.  John Taylor Gatto is demonstrably set up as a homeschooling authority figure and even when his name isn’t directly mentioned, the boilerplate about the “Prussian system” and “everyone was college-level literate before the evils of public school” shows up in plenty of conservative advocacy of homeschooling. But Gatto’s claims are not vetted, and when they are questioned, the response is that *footnotes are a tool of the man to keep you from going on a heart journey*.  An example of not vetting Gatto is the claims he makes about literacy being higher before compulsory public education by comparing WWI literacy *data* with literacy *reports* from before WWI.  Subjective reports that ranged from being able to compose a complex essay to being able to sign one’s name are not really a useful way to assess historical literacy or compare it to hard data after the World Wars, yet that very digging into the primary sources and trying to get at the heart of things is ostentatiously absent when it comes to Gatto among homeschool advocates. This is part of a larger problem with modern people conservative and liberal alike running screaming from explicit authority, but then becoming ensnared by the allure of false authorities.

When you can’t afford to be frugal, or unexamined assumptions conservatives have about frugal tips

Frugality and being a good steward of the household income are not impossible goals.  However, what “frugal tips” are available to housewives these days rely on a bevy of unexamined assumptions that don’t apply to an average SAHM these days.

It is possible to make your own curtains, to store meat in small portions, to bake your own bread, to make your own household cleaning products and to keep a price book, to name some fairly typical tips one will run across on the old intertubes with a quick google.  But frugality of these types is generally not compatible with the current domestic setups of most American housewives.  They have no spare capital for a deep freezer, or to buy meat in bulk quantities to take advantage of sales or direct-purchase opportunities.  They don’t have domestic help even on an occasional basis, so whatever they do has to be compatible with kids underfoot.  And of course kids aren’t young forever, but how can good habits be established when it’s full-tilt survival mode when they are young?  Teaching little kids to be useful or even to consider other people and obey adult rules about where and when to talk/run/etc. takes focused effort and isn’t readily done with a casual phrase here and there.  That can be the way of it only after the habitual behaviors are in place.

Thus you have a pretty major obstacle to frugality early on, even if you are “saving money on daycare”.  The other obstacle is pregnancy.  A lot of frugal tips involve large amounts of ongoing physical labor that is difficult to manage during pregnancies.  If you haven’t spent your years growing up doing that kind of labor, you are unprepared for the extent of it later in life.  You’re also out of luck if pregnancy is hard on your body.  And some women never get back to pre-pregnancy fitness/endurance levels whether it’s one kid or seven.

I come back a lot to the physical stuff because there’s a parallel unexamined assumption among conservatives (not just the male ones) that modern technology means no real physical labor is necessary for a housewife to expend.  Pregnancy is always easy and quick to recover from, barely a speed bump, nursing is also no big, not even requiring extra food or effort (except of course many women switch to formula with “many” kids precisely because they can hand a bottle off and let the older kids feed baby so they can get stuff done).  And even if all that stuff is a little bit difficult, KIDS R FREE.  There’s a weird fixation on the infant and toddler years as being super-cheap by default among conservatives and this is used to extrapolate that children are extremely cheap to raise to 18-21 years because somehow breastmilk production costs nothing (not even calories, it’s like magic) and you can just rely on an infinite supply of thrift stores with appropriate clothing and insert all the rest of the stuff you hear from conservatives about how totally cheap it is to raise infants/toddlers, so therefore have eight.  I guess they’re supposed to drink breastmilk and wear cloth diapers until they marry at 18 somehow?  It’s a quirk I never really noticed until a recent clickbait article about tradeoffs appeared on some home decor site and conservatives tore into the writer of the article for being selfish and stupid, didn’t she understand kids aren’t expensive because BREASTFEEDING and CLOTH DIAPERS?

So, let’s recap some of the unexamined assumptions conservatives dump on housewives regarding frugality:

  • Assumption of “traditional” domestic economy skills that actually date from the middle of the 20th century and rely on a pretty vast industrial infrastructure (including exploited labor by women and children in foreign lands) to be feasible as “economizing” at all.
  • Minimizing the physical risks and stresses of childbearing and nursing, as well as the physical labor that is still necessary to run an “economized” household.
  • Fixation on the early years as being so cheap that there are no real expenses added by having more and more children
  • Parallel dismissal of the importance of child spacing or domestic support in being able to have children doing chores effectively at young ages.
  • Dismissal of chaotic early years as a major obstacle to domestic tranquility and structure, while assuming that such structure is there (no need for a sitter while homeschooling, for example, because infants and toddlers and young kids will just play quietly while you instruct older children…somehow, or alternatively that older children will not resent the play of younger children who aren’t ready for academics partying in front of them because no big kid ever envied a little kid getting to play instead of write an essay or do math problems).  Without structure, frugality is hard to consistently achieve.
  • Assumption that the average housewife was educated in domestic skills by her mother, and if she was not, that she can instantly acquire these skills in a few days’ time via youtube and blogs and immediately apply them effectively.

Feel free to toss more into the comments.  The core issue with having all these assumptions is that without them, it’s nearly impossible to economize systematically.  And that means rebuying things, buying more expensive versions of whatever because you don’t have the skills or time to go with cheaper approaches, and stress spending.  But to help people who need to be more frugal, the assumptions have to be dropped and conservatives have to start looking at the actual conditions people are living under, not the idealized conditions a small percentage of conservatives manage to live under.  Here’s hoping!

Money does matter

I don’t think poor people shouldn’t have kids, but I talk about a high household income earned mostly by Dad because money does matter in a world where people are always running away from their duties and obligations to people outside their immediate nuclear family.  Obviously yes, even in America you can totally raise six kids to adulthood on 20 thousand bucks a year.  But the big conservative lie around this is that it’s a middle class upbringing.

Further, refusal to accept that individualistic, disconnected society really does have high financial costs attached keeps a lot of families dancing without a net over a ravine.

Take the often promoted “telecommute in the boonies!” plan.  Well, where’s the internet to do that?  In most of rural America outside of city limits, high-speed, telecommuting-friendly internet is several hundred dollars a month, not fifty.  In practice, people “telecommuting” this way are either defining “suburb with large backyards” as “rural” or they are commuting the old fashioned way.

And if you live rurally, it is easier to let the kids scamper around while mom stays home with no other adults nearby doing stuff around the house.  But eventually the kids need to go places, and now mom is on the commute-train too.  Even the very rural homeschool types can’t actually sit at home all day every day and never leave until the youngest of nine is 18.

Having no money, and no ability to earn a large income leave the entire household vulnerable all the time.  Dad’s car breaks.  It’s a fix requiring shop access (car lift).  Those kinds of homes exist in rural areas, but they’re not the cheap ones you could afford because “how dare you suggest we not have mom stay home when dad’s earning capacity maxes out at 40k a year!”  A lot of people get forced into really tough positions a lot faster.  It can get really ugly really unexpectedly.

Like romanticizing herb lore because you can’t afford doctor visits for chronic ailments.  Or buying the kids off with cheap filling food because you aren’t really rural, but exurban and there’s nowhere safe for them to play (busy streets, no way to walk to the nearest open play area, and you’re a one-car household).

Money would matter less if everyone was aggressive about using the interwebs to maintain clannish-style community ties to keep people matched up if they were far-flung.  Or if living twenty to a 2000 square foot house was normal mode in America right now.

In America 75+ years ago, homes used to be built with very small sleeping areas and larger shared spaces.  Shirley Jackson’s family moved into a home not much bigger than the 2500 square feet places of now, but it was split into four completely separate apartments, with very tiny sleeping areas, almost no built-in closet space and bigger social and cooking areas.  But large homes aren’t built or even modified this way anymore.

Money also wouldn’t matter if people accepted that leaving everything in the hands of one woman on the baby having and raising front will lead to fewer children if she’s really struggling and even if she personally isn’t because it always has and it’s even more the case with reliable contraception and sterilization and delaying marriage for those who take the other two options off the table.

This one’s pretty open for discussion.