How to Educate Girls

Dear Reader,

As I have been working through my series on different approaches to homeschool, I have come across a couple of methods which distinguish the methods and goals used in educating girls from those used with boys. These are Christian approaches which see the role of women as different from that of men and therefore gear their education differently to prepare their daughters for those different roles. I have commented on this issue in passing in some of those earlier posts, but I wanted to give it a more full treatment in a post of its own.

So the question before us is: Should girls be educated differently than boys and if so, how?

For those who say yes, there should be a difference, the usual answer is that girls need more home ec and less academics. Here are some samples:

Trivium  Pursuit says that,

“A complete education should prepare a child for mature adult life. All elements of education should work toward preparing sons to make a livelihood and to be husbands         and fathers, and toward preparing daughters to be wives and mothers and to manage their households. True education will build a genuine family-oriented culture upon the foundation of God’s word.” [from “Transformation of Classical Education“]

It is not at all clear to me how this works out practically speaking. I am assuming that since the goals are different, the education would also be different. A girl, I presume, would be taught more about cooking while a boy might receive an education that is geared more towards getting into college or towards practical  work skills like computer programming.

The Puritans’ Home School Curriculum has a similar view:

“Feminism also fails to understand how God views occupations. From a Biblical and Puritan perspective, homemaking and child rearing are as honorable an occupation as engineering, accounting, and law. Women do not need to prove their value by engaging in occupations normally performed by men; God has declared their value and given them a noble calling. And homemaking and childrearing, if done right, require at least as much skill as any of these other occupations.” [J. Parnell McCarter, “Teacher’s Manual for Implementing the Puritans’ Home School Curriculum“, p.77]

They also hint at specifics in a couple of areas. Regarding physical education, they say,

“This is one area where we believe parents have a duty to differentiate boys and girls. It is improper to have girls involved in sports which are masculine in nature.”  [“Teachers’ Manual”, p.45]

And:

“For Rhetoric we recommend for many – especially boys – to take advantage of public speaking opportunities in which they can apply the skills they have obtained in logic, theology, epistemology, etc.” [p.41]

The implication being, presumably, that girls will not be as likely to need public speaking skills as they will be home-focused rather than out in the world.

The general impression I have gotten from those in the “educate girls differently” school is that we should be preparing girls to be a wife and mother. They do not need as rigorous an academic education. They do not necessarily need to be prepped for college. If they are to develop other skills, fields like nursing and teaching are encouraged which will also be of value to them when they do become wives and mothers. In fact, to provide them with a lot of academic training is a waste of resources and unfairly makes them want something that we later tell them they should not choose when the opportunity to marry and start a family comes along.

This is the view I have heard. But is it valid? Is it biblical?

I agree that women do have different roles in the church and family. I think God also made men and women, on average, suited to their roles. That is, it is easier for most women to be home-focused while most men have more of a need for career success. Women are also better multitaskers (again in general, there are always exceptions) which helps a lot on caring for a home and family. I also think it is the best choice for a mother to stay home with her children. These are choices I have made too. I dropped out of a Ph.D. program ABD (all but dissertation) to stay home with my kids and then later chose to homeschool them also.

But is this the only path or even the best path? I know, and I am sure you do as well, many examples of women whose lives have not worked out in the ways they would have expected to liked. Some go many years without finding a husband. Some marry but can’t have kids. Some are widowed. Some are divorced. There are many paths life can take, and we don’t know what God has in store for our daughters or our sons.

Of course, some of these paths are clearly not the ideal. Neither widowhood nor divorce is a good thing. We cannot really prepare for them.

But what about the woman who stays single and works? I can think of many examples of women I know who have either remained single or married much later in life and therefore had time for  a career. Moreover, they have a lot of time that wives and mothers often don’t have to serve the people of God. This is what the Apostle Paul is talking about in I Corinthians 7:

“Now as a concession,  not a command, I say this. I wish that all were  as I myself am. But  each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.  To the unmarried and the widows I say that  it is good for them to remain single  as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control,  they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” [I Cor. 7:6-9; ESV]

Do you see what Paul says here? He is not saying that singleness is a second-choice, that it is what happens when some poor girl just can’t find a husband. It is better. Married people, especially those blessed with children, just can’t devote as much time to serving God and the body. But if one is able to remain single or as a widow not to remarry, then they can do these things. And the mention of widows tells us that this is not just about males. Women too do better to remain single. It is  a hard calling, but it is a high one.

So my concern is, that when we are constantly preparing our daughters to be wives and mothers, when we say that this is the goal of their education, we are taking off the table and out of their consciousnesses something which the Bible tells us is an even higher calling.

Which brings me back to something I said earlier: I belive women do have a different role than men in the family. But not everyone is placed in a  family, or if they are, it may not be for all their adult lives. What I would like my daughters to know is not that it is great to be a wife and mother (it is though) or that that is their goal but that they are to serve God wherever He calls them.

Nebby

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9 responses to this post.

  1. I found your site through a man-blog that I thoroughly dislike because of it’s blatantly “women are not capable of leading in any capacity” attitude. I clicked on the link with your post’s title expecting to be angry at what I read.

    I’m not. I love it. Good job! I wish more religious folks of all stripes would adopt this sort of attitude.

    Reply

  2. I really enjoyed this post too and it’s helped me reconcile a niggling feeling, that you wouldn’t share, that I had ‘wasted’ all my education and high-level career when I gave it up for my kids (although it feels much, much less wasted now that I’m homeschooling my kids, I’m sure I’ll use my education and the skills I gained in my career a lot over the coming homeschooling years, which is lovely).

    Thanks to your post, I feel that it was right that I was prepared for a life w/o husband and kids. And, I think, it was right to ‘give it up’ for my kids – although it didn’t feel like giving up anything: I feel I’ve gained everything, the thought of working in an office again instead of being with my kids makes me feel sick to my stomach (as sick as the thought of them going to school again!) But who knows what the future may bring. It is a great comfort to know that I COULD go back and work in an office and be a breadwinner if I had to. I think it’s comforting for my husband too.

    This post has made me feel much more at peace with the ‘why educate women to a high level’ argument. My father always confused me by being really ambitious for me to go to a good University and have a high-level career but always expected me to give it up for kids. I never understood this logic. He never explained it. But I think this is what he would have said 🙂

    Reply

  3. Reblogged this on homeschoolingmiddleeast and commented:
    I also loved this post of Nebby’s. Great food for thought, however religious, or not, you are.

    Reply

  4. Thank you both for taking time to comment. Penny–I have had the same sorts of struggles when thinking about my education. But I am still not sure I would be employable if I had to get a job with an almost degree in biblical Hebrew.

    Em-I’m glad you found your way here even if it was through a man-blog 🙂

    Reply

  5. Btw, I wanted to say that I tend to write posts a little bit ahead of time and then schedule them to be published, so I can tell you that I have two follow-up posts on this topic coming up in the next week or so. Stay tuned!

    Reply

  6. […] 6. The stated goals of this curriculum are to train the child in the way he should go (i.e. God’s way) and to teach him to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Children are also seen to each have a special role God is calling them to for which they need to be prepared. There is, however, a distinction made between the role of girls and that of boys. […]

    Reply

  7. […] Educating Girls and CM on Educating Girls and Chesterton on Educating Girls […]

    Reply

  8. Nebby, another good post. The Puritans have forgotten about the Proverbs 31 wife! How could she be successful without having acquired some accounting and public speaking skills! She considered a field and bought it, and was often in conversation with those out in public, buying and selling things. Moreover, many stay at home and homeschooling moms have side jobs (usually via Internet) to help provide for their families. These require more than just “home-making skills.”

    ps. I was excited to discover you were working on a degree devoted entirely to Biblical Hebrew. I completed my undergrad with a theology degree just last May and I took three semesters of Biblical Hebrew, which I thoroughly enjoyed. (By the third semester the class had dwindled down to just one other female student and myself!) I’m hoping to encorporate my Hebrew materials in my homeschool “curriculum.” Many people would ask, “What are you going to do with a theology degree?” To which I would reply, “I am going to better myself and homeschool my children with it…duh!”

    We are to set out minds on things above and not on earthly things…and to teach our children to do so as well!

    Reply

    • That is a neat coincidence. I wish I did more to use my Hebrew in our homeschool. I have spent some time looking at Psalms with my kids and discussing how biblical poetry works (there are a number of posts on that).None of them seems that interested in learning Hebrew yet 😦

      Reply

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