Honoring Women in History the Homeschool Way

March is designated as Women’s History Month and today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day. A day to celebrate “the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.”

When I talk with people interested in homeschooling, one of the questions they often ask is, “How can I possibly teach my children things I don’t know myself?” This is a great question, because none of us can possibly know everything. We can’t be experts on every field of science, all of mathematics, the entirety of world history, or the vastness of literature. The answer I usually give to this question has many parts, but one of the most important in my own life, is the idea that as a homeschooling parent, I am my children’s partner in learning. I don’t need to be an expert who can answer every question; I just need to be interested in exploring the answers with them. 

Every day, I come across things I don’t know. Today, Women’s History Month is making me aware of the gaps in my own understanding. I love the idea of Women’s History Month, because I want my kids to know about the important contributions of women to our society. And yet, when I look at the way women are portrayed in history, it so often seems to be as an adjunct to men. How Sacajawea helped an essentially male project conceived by President Jefferson and led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. How Sibyl Ludington aided in Paul Revere’s efforts to notify the patriots. How American women facilitated the male-led war effort in the 1940’s by building airplanes and acting as nurses.

I have this nagging suspicion that there’s something wrong with a view of history in which nearly everything important was done by men. Where the main narrative is a kind of framework of names and dates, of conquest and treaties and political developments accomplished by men. Where those few women we learn about are outliers who overcame their nature as keepers of the hearth to act on a broader, male stage. I don’t really know what to do about that, and yet, having identified it as a problem, I have time to work on it.

I am my children’s teacher today, and I’ll also be their teacher for years to come. If I realize two years from now that I should have explained something differently this week, I will still be able to do that. If we visit Seneca Falls three years from now, I’ll be able to help my children make connections between the historical site of the first women’s rights convention in 1848, and things we’ve learned together this year. I have time to find books and articles that will help me see this issue of women’s history more clearly. In the meantime, I can do my best with what I know today. I can choose books to read with my children as thoughtfully as I can, and have discussions at the dinner table based on what we all understand now.

This week, my daughter is loving a book she picked up at the library, Girls Who Rocked the World by Michelle Roehm McCann and Amelie Welden. I’m reading aloud a chapter about women in early America from Howard Zinn’s A Young People’s History of the United States to both of my kids. For myself, I’m reading the inspiring stories of this year’s National Women’s History Month honorees at the National Women’s History Project website.

That’s good enough for right now. The future will take care of itself as we learn together as a family.

— Sonja

Sonja Kueppers is a homeschooling parent of two children, aged 10 and 8, who have never been to school. She is an enthusiastic lifelong learner with an eclectic academic background. In addition to homeschooling her children, she works part-time in the IT field and enjoys playing board games. She has been married for over 20 years to her college sweetheart, a dedicated co-parent who also finds time to bake all of the family’s birthday cakes.

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