I've decided to turn this into two separate blogs because I have a problem. One of them, which will stay here and have the same address, will carry on being about home ed and herbs. The other one will be a dumping ground for my gender-based obsessions. In my own mind, however, both of these belong together to some extent, and I want to look at both of them here before I split it into two.
"Home Education"Note the inverted commas.
Historically, we've been a home educating family. I want to deconstruct that before I go any further. Almost all families home educate. Children are born to their parents and on the whole learn in that environment to use language, walk, use the above implement and the like, and it's even been said that something like four-fifths of learning occurs in the first two years of life. This sounds unquantifiable to me, but I have to say it appeals to me that everything that happens after the age of two is just icing on the cake, filling in a few minor details, whatever. Children in the contemporary West then go to school, but over the course of their childhood time spent in lessons amounts to only 8% of their lives. That 8% is the major difference between families where the children went to school and us. Consequently, home education, which needn't take place in the home, is the norm, but also a form of parenting, and of nurturing from the general community, which is, I hope, why we're within our rights to consider ourselves still to be involved. There's so much to say about what's called home ed that, well, it would fill a blog. However, I also think it relates to gender in a couple of ways, one personally, one not.
The negative experiences Sarada and I had at school were a factor in our decision to make the children aware of and to facilitate their choice to go to school or not. When I pursued it, I found myself surrounded by women and found that the fathers tended to take a back seat and were even sceptical about the whole project, although this is a generalisation I feel bad about making because of course there are also plenty of fathers who are actively involved in it too, and even those who aren't might be playing a supportive role in other ways such as in financial terms. It did however seem odd to me that more of them weren't more involved in the way I and the mothers I knew were. Hence I found myself in the common position, for me, of doing something which was seen as typically female, but not because it was "female" to my conscious mind, but because it seemed natural and normal.
There is, though, another aspect of this. I was unable to bear children of course. Now, I stand by our joint decision to present the children with the possibility of opting for or against school and to change that choice at any time as a positive thing for our offspring, but I also think there was another factor in it which led to me taking a particular fork in the road of my life:
I've mentioned this before but seeing as not many people read this blog I should probably do so again. I am very reluctant to present home ed as anything other than the norm or something which needs an explanation, as to me it simply seems like a rational choice connected with things like the inefficiency of schooling as a way of delivering the overt curriculum, and in any case school wasn't something we needed to use because of the nature of our paid work. I'll come back to that, incidentally. Even so, I have to admit that it probably was a factor in my decision that I had a need to compensate for my inability to become pregnant by involving myself very directly and heavily in the children's upbringing.
The whole project, which has lasted two decades and is I hope still happening, could rightly be seen as a way to deal with the fact that my own babies grew inside someone else's body, and no matter how passionately I might feel for that person, and overawed at what she was motivated to do out of her love for me, things which I wouldn't dream of detracting from, it was her and not me who bore them and that is a loss. I would also say, though, that the kind of loss it is is not in fact any greater than the kind of loss which crops up in people's lives all the time in other circumstances and that just because someone happens to be female it should not be seen as implying that they have in any way missed out by not having children. Moreover, I fully recognise the potential burden and liability having a fertile set of ovaries can be, or at least I hope I do. That said, my approach to parenting did have an element of overcompensation to it.
There's a completely separate way in which home ed is relevant to sexual minority and conformity issues. Families whose children don't or can't conform may take their children out of school, sometimes after bullying. Additionally children who have never been to school may not feel the pressure to be in the closet in the first place. Transition is therefore likely to be easier for home edded children for two reasons. The general ethos of the home ed community is likely to be one of considerable tolerance. This doesn't mean that schools don't try so much as that their starting point is much further than the ideal and the inertia of intolerance is greater there. All of this applies to other aspects of nonconformity as well, not just LGBT issues.
A third aspect of our own lives also touches on the home ed situation. We are money-poor and time rich because both of us pursue stereotypically female and therefore marginalised occupations. Such employment is usually seen as an adjunct to a main income rather than a source of livelihood, and even both added together are insufficient for financial independence. It's also the case that we are both inclined to parent the children in a similar way, not in terms of similar parenting style - we are in fact very different parents - but in terms of interaction and time spent.
There's probably more than this, but mention of occupation leads me to the second major subject of this blog.
Over the period of my training, nine out of ten students were female. The same proportion applies to my patients. Earlier the proportion of female to male was even higher, and I've even heard that at some point in the 1980s the number of male students was in fact zero in the UK, and since at the time the course here was very popular internationally that would seem to apply more widely, at least in the English-speaking rich part of the world. I don't know why that is, and of course it applies across the board. I just do what seems normal to me but it gets construed as female. I'm just guessing here, but there could be some kind of social process here where women tend to approach health issues differently than men. The stereotype of female nurses and male doctors, however, is seriously outmoded, although as I've said, this is severely marginalised work. Most people don't even realise herbalists, Western ones that is, are practitioners and those who do often confuse us with homeopaths or traditional Chinese medicine people.
There are all sorts of reasons why I became a herbalist, but the tiresome self-analysis has already reached a peak on this entry, so I won't go there. I will, however, say that the perception that it was a way of getting hold of oestrogenic and anti-androgenic remedies and using them myself was one of the big motivations for me, and this in fact is another way in which gender issues and herbalism intersect. There is a particular issue which I'm currently burning to write about regarding publicly funded healthcare and transition, but leaving that aside for now, if you did want to dodge being a drain on taxpayers' resources and still address the problem, you would get a limited amount of mileage from doing it the way I am right now. There are gardens and fields with various plants growing in them, and also corner shops with various herbs and spices in them, meaning that you can avoid having to go to the NHS to stop yourself from killing yourself, since that's apparently not a good reason to go to them. More on this later, on the shiny new blog, except to say that one way of dealing with the not being dead problem is to decide that life is a punishment, so then you just hang around being a parasite instead, but there ain't nutin' wrong with being a parasite or there wouldn't be any men, would there?
There is a more difficult issue with reconciling holistic therapy and trans issues, which is the problem of integration with one's body. However, that's the kind of thing I'll be blogging about over in the other place rather than here.
Anyway, there's all that and more, and there clearly are good reasons for linking both home ed and herbalism with gender stuff, but were I merely to succumb to the urge to blog about whatever on here, it would make it unfocussed, so for now, this blog will be about home ed and herbs and the other blog, which is not yet in existence, will be about gender stuff. See you here and there, I hope.