Sunday, July 02, 2006

Show, don't tell

It's a rule of writing: don't explain everything. Show the reader ... paint a word picture so vivid that the reader will be immersed in your world.

Sometimes, when it comes to homeschooling, the best thing is to let my kids "show."

We were at a gathering last night to watch our local (huge, huge, huge) fireworks display. [Editor's note: I'm telling, with my lame "huge, huge, huge" description ... sorry. I've had only one cup of coffee so far.] There were some people there I don't really know, and one of the women asked about our homeschooling. Her questions to Anne betrayed her assumptions:

"Do you know any other girls your age?" (Oh, yes, replied Anne. Lots!)

"Well, how do you meet them?" (Through all the different activities we do. We do a lot.)

"Oh. But, what about high school?" (Well, I'm not worried. Mom says we'll deal with that when we get to it.)

She asked me about annual testing (not required in our state) and about how I would handle Algebra and said she just didn't know if she was smart enough to teach all those things ....

She was very kind, and mostly just curious and just a bit worried that this weird lifestyle might not afford my sweet and sociable girls all the opportunities they should have (she didn't put it that way, but that was clearly her concern.) And when I thought about it later, I realized that the reason I don't mind these kinds of questions about and challenges to our decision is that they are a chance to educate. And I love education.

I view these encounters as opportunities to "evangelize" about homeschooling. I explained that we've always taken things "one year at a time" and that whenever I've had a concern that's grown into a worry, God has provided, and shown me that we can continue down this not-so-beaten path. She seemed to mull that over.

By the end of the evening, she was so enchanted with my kids (what can I say? I find them to be pretty enchanting, too*) that she thought a camp-out in her backyard with her granddaughter (who was also there and had made fast friends with all my girls) would be just the ticket.

I did some telling, to be sure, but Anne, Betsy and Ramona did the showing. They painted a vivid picture of homeschooling as a viable lifestyle that can produce normal, capable, happy -- and yes, even enchanting -- people.

Now, I'll get to work on how to describe those fireworks. On second thought, that's what the photo's for. I'm off to get another cup of coffee.

* Except at times such as yesterday afternoon, when they were playing baseball in the basement and the stuffed fish that was their ball was lobbed into my coffee cup, which was sitting next to the computer (it didn't spill, thank you) and I had to yell and then explain to them that, like Martha in the Little House prequel books, I tend to sound angry when something frightens me and the idea of coffee in the hard drive frightens me a lot. You know how it is. Times like that. They're not so enchanting.


Lissa said...

LOL, Karen. You know, that's my favorite thing about writing Martha, grown-up Martha--getting to show her as a mom who doesn't always hold it all together. Sometimes she makes mistakes. Sometimes she loses her cool. Now if only I had the opportunity SHE does to have my patching-it-all-up speeches written and rewritten and polished ahead of time...

Your story is great, and I am so with you. It has become really fun to see people's minds change after hanging out with my kids and finding out that they're not social outcasts. I think blogs help dispell those concerns, too, when people discover that they really like what you have to say and that there is reason behind the choices you've made. The perpective shifts from "that's a bad idea" to "hmm, it's still not for me but I see what you mean, it's got its perks" and sometimes to "you know, I'd sorta like to look into this for myself!"

BTW, I loved Anne's calm and reasonable answers to the lady's questions!

Liz said...

Ah, the next generation of homeschooling evangelists! I'm so proud of all of you. It's ALMOST like having homeschooled grandchildren of my own...Alas not yet.

You can do high school. High school is easier than grade school, believe it or not. The only thing that will be a bit different is that you have to start thinking 4 years down the road and figuring out what colleges are going to want of you for records, tests, subjects covered. Other than that it's such a piece of cake. I used to worry about high school, but frankly at the end of 8th grade my kids could easily have passed the GED and I'll bet you'll find the same to be true of yours. Homeschooled high schoolers are so MUCH nicer than the average public schooled teenager.