Saturday, March 31, 2007

Teaching Your Own: The Next Trend?

Here in Chicago, it’s time for the Auto Show*. For the next two weeks, it will be relentlessly promoted on radio and TV until we’re sick of it. Already this morning, my radio/alarm clock woke me to the radio personality’s excited announcement that this year’s show will be honored with a visit from none other than Rachael Ray.

Now, if it weren’t for my daughter, I wouldn’t have a clue who Rachael Ray is. But in the bookstore where my daughter works, Rachael Ray is a big name, because she apparently has a television cooking show, and more importantly, sells a ton of books. In an era when people are reading less than ever, someone who writes best-sellers, no matter what the topic, is famed among booksellers.

Of course, Rachael Ray is just one of a herd of famous cooks that are selling books, cookware and probably even the kitchen sink these days. A little research reveals names like Paula Deen, Bobby Flay and Sandra Lee, and of course, Martha Stewart, who I have heard of (I haven’t completely withdrawn from society…..not yet, anyway).

I find this cooking trend to be amazing. I grew up at a time when women were urged by society to throw off their aprons, run from their stoves and embrace the business world, where they would find True Fulfillment. When I graduated from college in 1980, most women knew how to cook but weren’t about to brag about it, because it was not a very cool thing to admit. But now, after several decades of fast-food meals in place of home-cooked ones, people are evidently ready to give up processed foods and embrace real, from-scratch cooking again.

I find this so interesting! Do you suppose a trend is starting where all the true home arts that were traditionally the province of women come back? Now that I think about it, the recent resurgence of knitting and scrapbooking could be additional signs of a revival. I shouldn’t get my hopes up, but if it’s becoming socially acceptable for women to cook, and knit, and scrapbook (and even, according to Martha Stewart, keep a clean and fashionable home), isn’t it possible that one of the most time-honored traditions of them all will come back…..raising and educating our own children?

OK, maybe I’m stretching a bit here, but if cooking can become such an honored activity that its proponents get invited to appear at none other than the 99th Annual Chicago Auto Show, can’t I hope that some bubbly brunette will eventually spring forth with a television show about having children and raising them yourself? She could teach about pregnancy, and giving birth, and nursing the baby, and introducing solid foods….imagine the possibilities!

And once her show is all the rage, generating books and products galore for new moms to buy, her producers will look for a spin-off idea that will generate even more tie-in books and products to promote. That will be the perfect time to introduce her new show about raising preschoolers. None of that preprocessed preschool education for her! This show will present all the ways women can educate their preschoolers at home, from scratch. She could bring on her mom friends and they could demonstrate how to let your three-year-old finger-paint at home (without an art class!), how to let your preschooler run in the rain, how to set up a sandbox and let your little ones spend happy hours playing in it with no interruptions for group bathroom breaks, instead giving them the freedom to decide when they need to go potty …..all the things those poor kids locked up in daycare can’t experience.

After a few years of this, our bubbly brunette will really have the attention of advertisers everywhere. Celebrity actresses will appear on her show to give viewers all the dishy details about how they quit gallivanting around the world hitting fashion shows with Madonna once they discovered the joys of spending more than one day in a row with their little ones. A new line of books and products promoting the show’s theme of “Keeping your children home where they belong!” will spring up.

And just as her fame has reached a level equal to Oprah’s, our bubbly brunette (our Mommy Icon, if you will) introduces her newest show, the equivalent of grad school for moms: Homeschooling! After all, once you’ve put in the time and effort having your children, nurturing them and teaching them up to age five, why stop now? Putting them in school after all that would be like Rachael Ray giving up cooking to eat at McDonald’s every day. So there’s the next trend….television shows will spring up with high-profile guests like Mary Pride and Laurie Bluedorn. Homeschool catalog companies will be overwhelmed with inquiries. Homeschool conventions will require larger venues because of the demand. Soon it will become apparent that anyone in the know teaches their children at home, and the biggest names in homeschooling appear everywhere, like Rachael Ray, even at the Auto Show…..

Uh-oh, here’s that d.j. harping on the Auto Show again. I must have hit my snooze alarm. All that stuff about mothering and homeschooling becoming de rigueur was just a dream. But aren’t we homeschooling moms fortunate that we’re living the dream? Let them have their business trips and their designer shoes….we know where the real fulfillment is.

In our society, we hear endless talk about the importance of education. But we somehow manage to forget that the primary place of education is the home. Chesterton says, “If education is the largest thing in the world, what is the sense of talking about a woman being liberated from the largest thing in the world?” In other words, if education is really as important as we say it is, then certainly domestic life is more important than we currently make it out to be, and everything else, especially public life and commercial life, is less important than we hold it up to be.

Dale Ahlquist in Common Sense 101: Lessons from G.K. Chesterton

*Note: this post was first published in January 2007 for "The Imperfect Homeschooler" newsletter's January 2007 issue. Free subscription here.


sarah said...

I hate to say it Mom, but 99% of the people who buy Rachael Ray's books are men (both gay and straight). What does this mean for the ladies of my generation? We don't have to know how to cook anymore. That's what boys are for! ;)

Home By Design said...

I buy Rachael Ray's books. Okay, I'm lying I check them out at the library cause I'm cheap...and I print the recipes from the Food Network site.

But...I do give them as wedding gifts to brides who can't cook and their thin hubbies who need food.

Really...mostly men? Interesting.

I awaiting the day for the master's in mommy, the DHE: Doctorate of Home Education.

LOVED the blog!

Barbara Frank said...

Sarah--since your store is in the theater district, I think your stats could be a bit skewed. But there's no doubt more men are cooking.

Home by Design--thanks for stopping by :) I'm like you, I go to the library first.
And I love the idea of the DHE!

Rona's Home Page said...

I think that men are more interested and enjoying cooking. My teenage son is even considering culinary school.

Jenny said...

I think that homeschooling is becoming more acceptable and that some people ARE interested in it because it is trendy. My husband had someone at work ask him about homeschooling who said "yeah, homeschooling, I've heard of that. It sounds cool." My husband was terrified of this guy possibly homeschooling his kids. I agree and I don't necessarily thing that the people who look at the homeschooling option for those reasons would make the best teachers for their children.

Barbara Frank said...

Rona, from what I've read about your son on your blog, I'm sure he'll be good at whatever he decides to do!

Jenny, thanks for your comment. You just never can tell about people. Sometimes those who try homeschooling just because it's trendy find themselves and their children changing. Homeschooling has a way of making you look at everything differently!

Also, we have to be careful not to judge who should homeschool their kids and who shouldn't, unless the parents have a history of neglect or child abuse.