Yes, that’s a bit of a tongue-in-cheek title, it’s more of a coincidence that in our family, our son goes to school while our daughter is educated at home. During Jane Austen’s era, very few women attended schools, especially girls in the country. Most were educated at home with governesses, or in the case of the Bennet sisters, by their mother and what personal pursuits they managed on their own.
The first school reforms began in England during Jane Austen’s time as a continuation of Church on Sunday, hence where we get the term, Sunday School. Much like some of the education reform battles we face today, such a good deed like teaching children age 7-11 would not go unpunished. By the 1780s, the schools that had begun in the middle of the century were no longer permitted to teach writing because Christians may not do any work on the Sabbath.
For children of Jane Austen’s financial status, there were schools available, if you could pay. I am finding in my modern time as mother of a special needs child, many parents fatigued by the fighting with the public school often decide to just place their child in private school. This is not a feasible financial option for us, but homeschooling does have its costs and I think I’m a great Second Grade Teacher. 🙂 Jane and her sister Cassandra attended boarding school until her family could no longer afford it.
The contrast between Jane Austen’s time and my own comes down to a question of rights. In Austen’s time, children were at the mercy of their parents for what was right or wrong for them, even if that resulted in gross negligence and abuse. There was no right to an education like a current plank of the United Nations 17 Goals for Sustainable Global Development. In fact, today, both England and the United States, and many industrialized nations, have compulsory attendence laws. This legislation, at face value, is a huge benefit for society as a whole, for an educated childhood leads to a more productive adulthood. But it also means a subtle erosion of parental rights.
It wasn’t until I needed to pull my daughter out of school last November that my eyes were open to the invisible controls we have on us as parents. It’s not sinister, it’s not even malicious, but in attempting to legislate and regulate for the majority, kids like mine in that gray area are left disserved. The short version of the story is yes, my daughter is diagnosed by multiple doctors in different states even to be on the Autism spectrum. But, because she can test average in a quiet room, 1:1, with multiple redirects to the testing, she is expected to be able to perform to that ability in a chaotic classroom, loud, bright, with seemingly little consistency to her. I know she’ll fail to learn in that environment just as she failed to complete any classwork the 9 weeks she attended public school last year. The school’s team even admitted they know it won’t go well. But it has to go not well long enough first before they give her the supports every adult in that room understood that she needed. It’s a bureaucracy Austen herself would have heartily lampooned in a novel of hers, I am certain.
Jane Austen was homeschooled when she became sick with typhus and nearly died. They almost lost my daughter at recess as she walked away to calm herself down. No the area is not fenced in and they didn’t realize she was missing until they lined the kids up. Not quite the same degree, certainly, but like Mrs. Austen and Rev. Austen, I didn’t wait for things to get worse. After filing my paperwork, my curriculum, and quarterly reports, I feel like I’ve got this. I’m kind looking forward to Second Grade.
And the beauty of it all is that I decide when we start studying Jane Austen. 🙂
Quick update on the book front 🙂 The audio version of A Virtue of Marriage is in final checks as we speak! WOOHOO. Click the cover for a SAMPLE!!! (and anyone who wants a review copy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I should get some codes).
Jane + Hamilton is almost done, I know delayed. To be honest, going through all that nonsense with the school over evaluating my daughter, listening to their promises of support next year only to have them yank it away at the actual meeting for her 504 Plan, drained me. And I had to suddenly have my letter of intent done and full curriculum for second grade done to submit by July 1 to the state. That’s all done, we are 4 weeks into our new “normal” with 2 days a week I participate in a homeschooling playgroup so I get to write while my daughter plays with other kids. It’s an awesome opportunity. I am this week happy to announce I wrote words! I feel like I’m back climbing my mountain.
A huge shout out to fellow Austen Author April Floyd is my very best friend in the whole wide world and who without, I wouldn’t be able to still be publishing books. She helps me contain the crazy in my life, in a good way! 🙂
You can stay up to date on A January for Jane on Fanfiction.net : https://www.fanfiction.net/~elizabethannwest7
I also share our adventures in Homeschooling on my Facebook profile, one friend who happens to be an education researcher, wrote up a little blog post about a funny thing that happened in May. You can read if you need a smile today 🙂 A Door Can Be Happy