On a homeschooling message board, we were invited to post a general overview of our homeschooling. I wrote about what my kids do, what the rhythms of their days and weeks is like. I was reminded again that when we post the notable aspects of our homeschooling, we give a warped view. We don't post about hours spent in the minivan doing nothing, or about our kids playing interminable computer games, or about the weeks and months our teens seem to spend doing little besides sitting on the couch with the laptop. We don't post about the things we can't do, the things our kids are uninterested in, the kids they're not very good at. Instead, when I post I mention all the music, the community activities, our garden, our friends' farm animals, the math programs the kids enjoy, a favourite science resource. I talk about what's in our lives, rather than what's not. And that can provoke a certain amount of homeschooling envy I guess, if the reader doesn't recognize that this is the notable 5% in lives that are 95% ordinary and unimpressive.
So here's a paragraph about the other 95%, the stuff that's boring, or doesn't happen even though it should, or happens even though it shouldn't, or is worthy and vaguely interesting but no one cares enough about to make happen, or just can't happen because we don't have the resources. We don't have zoos, swimming pools, a recreation centre, a science centre, ethnic restaurants, children's museums, a nature centre, a symphony orchestra, a ball park, public transit or even a public library. My kids can't do gymnastics, children's choir, science fairs, dance, park days, art classes or T-ball, they can't attend swim lessons or be part of a science co-op or church group or 4H or scouting or any of that. In our bilingual country they have no ready access to French instruction or native speakers. My kids don't like to do the things I suggest for the most part, so I've all but given up suggesting. They're difficult to 'teach', even when they ask for help. They often burst into tears at the first suggestion of difficulty. They spend way too much time on the computer, playing games that are too violent for my liking. They spend private time surfing through shallow pop culture sites for reasons that aren't clear. Most of them can't manage a cursive signature, let alone handwriting a simple story.
But it's really all in your perception. Not too long ago on the discussion board of our unschooling-friendly, outside-the-box DL program a mom piped up and said "I figure almost anything is worth reporting on as a learning experience, except maybe a trip to the mall, LOL." And coincidentally I had just reported the week before on my middle kids' first eye-opening experience at an upscale shopping mall during a trip to Calgary, and how their eyes had been as big as saucers and we'd got involved in a huge discussion about consumerism, environmental considerations, cultural values, rurality, personal space and so on. So I described this, and then pointed out that there's no way I would report on my kids collecting the eggs and feeding the hens as a notable learning experience, because to them it's really no more notable than brushing their teeth or putting their dirty clothes in the laundry hamper. Whereas for her kids, tending and collecting eggs from a small organic chicken flock would probably have been a highlight of their learning week.
So yeah, it's important to remember that any time you read about another family's homeschooling life you'll tend to be struck by the things they are doing that you're not. You'll be envious of the opportunities, skills and inclinations they have. But it can just as easily go the other way ... the aspects of your own life that seem ordinary, unremarkable and banal can strike others as amazing and impressive. It's important to recognize that while others families can inspire, there's absolutely no reason why we should aspire to, or measure ourselves against, any other family's example. That's the best thing about homeschooling -- it can look like whatever we want, and whatever that is, is just fine.