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. 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: Parents and the Privatization of Education, published by NYU Press in 2021, 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.
My research on homeschooling has led me to pursue a new research project in response to the coronavirus pandemic. From March to August, 2020, I interviewed over 100 parents across the United States about their experiences with remote learning during COVID-19 related school closures. These interviews are revealing some of the ways in which the pandemic has exposed tensions in the relationship among families, schools, and the state. I am currently working on several articles based on this study.
Averett, Kate Henley. 2021. The Homeschool Choice: Parents and the Privatization of Education. New York: NYU Press.
Articles and Book Chapters
Averett, Kate Henley. 2021. “Queer Parents, Gendered Embodiment, and the De-Essentialization of Motherhood.” Feminist Theory 22(2):284–304. DOI: 10.1177/1464700121989226
Averett, Kate Henley. 2020. “A Feminist Public Sociology of the Pandemic: Interviewing About a Crisis, During a Crisis.” Gender, Work & Organization 1-9. DOI: 10.1111/gwao.12616
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, Kate Henely. 2021. “Review of ‘Save My Kid’: How Families of Critically Ill Children Cope, Hope, and Negotiate and Unequal Healthcare System by Amanda M. Gengler,” Social Forces 99(4), e12. DOI: 10.1093/sf/soaa136
Averett, Kate Henley. 2020. “Review of Growing Up Queer: Kids and the Remaking of LGBTQ Identity by Mary Robertson,” Contemporary Sociology 49(4):388-390. DOI: 10.1177/0094306120930218aa
Averett, Kate Henley. 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, Wen-Ling & Averett, Kate Henley. 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.