My primary goal as a scholar is to understand parents’ and children’s experiences of family and education, particularly those related to gender and sexuality, and how these experiences relate to broader cultural understandings of childhood. Methodologically, I use primarily qualitative methods, including interviews and participant observation, to reveal the cultural beliefs and discourses that people use to make sense of their lived experiences in families and schools. My work draws on, and contributes to, several areas of sociological theory: of the family and education as gendered institutions, of the effects of neoliberalism on family and intimate life, and of changing and contested understandings of childhood. My research contributes to, and bridges, the sociological subfields of gender and sexuality studies, childhood studies, family studies, and sociology of education.
My book, The Homeschool Choice: Children, Parents, and the Privatization of Education, examines the cultural beliefs about childhood, education, and parenting that frame the contemporary homeschooling movement. I demonstrate that contemporary homeschooling gives us insight into three important areas of social concern: (1) the shifting relationship between the state, public schools, and families, especially in light of the increased privatization of both education and social reproduction, (2) changing beliefs about childhood gender and sexuality, and (3) the implications of intensive mothering for children’s education and for gender inequality more broadly. I argue that these three theoretical conversations are not, in fact, separate conversations, but that in the case of homeschooling, they are intimately linked. At its core, The Homeschool Choice is a book about how American families have responded to increasing polarization around issues of gender and sexuality in an era of privatization. It offers a window into how parents feel both empowered and constrained by the recent changes in education policy motivated by the ethos of school choice. While they reveal a variety of motivations, the narratives of homeschooling parents illuminate the changing relationships among the family, the state, and public schools under a neoliberal policy model, and the infiltration of neoliberal beliefs into our broader cultural ideologies of childhood, education, motherhood, and the state. The Homeschool Choice will be published by NYU Press in 2021.
My research on homeschooling has led me to pursue a new research project in response to the coronavirus pandemic. I am currently carrying out interviews with parents across the U.S. about their experiences with COVID-19 related school closures, and the sudden need for their children’s education to take place within the home. If you are interested in being interviewed for the study, you can find more information here.
Averett, Kate Henley. In Press (expected 2021). The Homeschool Choice: Children, Parents, and the Privatization of Education. New York: NYU Press.
Peer Reviewed Articles and Book Chapters
Averett, Kate Henley. 2020. “Anxious Publics, Disruptive Bodies: Online Discourse about Transgender Children.” In Gender, Sexuality, and Race in the Digital Age, edited by D. N. Farris, D. Compton, and A. P. Herrera. Springer.
Averett, Kate Henley. 2016. “The Gender Buffet: LGBTQ Parents Resisting Heteronormativity.” Gender & Society 30(2):189-212. DOI: 10.1177/0891243215611370.
- Reprinted in Ferguson, S. J. 2018. Shifting the Center: Understanding Contemporary Families, 5th Edition. Los Angeles: SAGE.
Averett, Kate Henley. 2013. “The Catholic Worker Ethic and the Spirit of Marxism.” Pp. 95-109 in Unruly Catholics from Dante to Madonna: Faith, Heresy, and Politics in Cultural Studies, edited by M. DiPaolo. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.
Averett, Kate Henley. 2013. “The Stories We Tell.” Pp. 143-149 in More Than a Monologue: Sexual Diversity in the Catholic Church: Voices of Our Times, edited by C. F. Hinze and J. P. Hornbeck. New York: Fordham University Press.
Averett, Kate Henley. 2009. “Mass in the Dining Room.” Pp. 140-144 in From the Pews in the Back: Young Women and Catholicism, edited by K. Dugan and J. Owens. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.
Long, Kate Henley. 2009. “On Sex, Sin, and Silence: An Islamic Theology of Storytelling for AIDS Awareness. Pp. 154-168 in Islam and AIDS: Between Scorn, Pity and Justice, edited by F. Esack and S. Chiddy. Oxford: Oneworld Press.
Averett, K. H. forthcoming. “Review of Growing Up Queer: Kids and the Remaking of LGBTQ Identity by Mary Robertson,” Contemporary Sociology.
Averett, K.H. 2018. “Review of The Cost of Being a Girl: Working Teens and the Origins of the Gender Wage Gap by Yasemin Besen-Cassino,” Work and Occupations 46(1), 98–100. DOI: 10.1177/0730888418795247.
*Kung, W. & Averett, K. H. 2018. “Review of Masculine Compromise: Migration, Family, and Gender in China by Susanne Yuk-Ping Choi and Yinni Peng,” Gender & Society 32(1):149-151. DOI: 10.1177/0891243217732015.