My induction into the homeschooling community began before having the internet was commonplace. The only way to connect or plug-in with other like-minded families was on the local level. Homeschool support groups provided outlets to share about curriculum, learning styles, extra-curricular activities, and other topics that were important to those taking on the task of educating their children at home. Nothing beats the physical presence of a support system, but if we are all completely honest there are times when we dread having another thing to do.
As the internet and utilities such as blogging and Facebook have become more and more common, a homeschool parent can find a tremendous source of support. The online community provides an outlet for sharing difficulties. The encouragement that comes can be widespread with a plethora of ideas to choose from when sharing a challenging situation. In a moment – a homeschooling mom or dad can ask for prayer, guidance towards resources, ideas on “how-to” accomplish a goal and this seems such a positive way to thwart the feelings of isolation that stay-at-home moms often express. However, the way technology connects us minute by minute to one another isn’t always a blessing.
In the days when I began my journey, we had magazines. Once a month the installment arrived in the mail, triggering a feeling of inadequacy that I wasn’t growing, grinding, and preserving enough to put up food for my family should we encounter a time like that which Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote of in “The Long Winter”. The cover photo on these magazines alone featuring families seated politely in front of their working farm, every hair in place, each face wearing a serene smile was enough to induce a feeling of utter failure. When my children were small, it seemed some days I was doing well to get everyone dressed at the same time.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Modern culture expresses this joyless suffering nowhere more acutely than online. In the same way encouragement comes in a moment, so do multiple opportunities to feel inadequate or jealous. It can feel at times like everyone else has it all together while we are just slogging along in our efforts to maintain. The years of homeschooling my children, I remember as being very child-centered and excessively busy. I don’t know how I would’ve managed in an online world of Pinterest-moms, even in the homeschool realm.
I was sitting at a restaurant not long ago having lunch, enjoying the conversation of my husband and son when another family caught my attention. It was a threesome – father, mother and a girl of about sixteen. Propped carefully in front of the mother was a hardback book, and she read, turning pages between forkfuls of food. Tilted to the side of her plate, the teenaged girl sat reading a book of her own. I felt a bit sorry for the dad who seemed undaunted by what must’ve been a common occurrence. I am quick to harshly criticize the technology when I see people ignoring their loved ones because of their phones or iPad, but I realized from this acute observation that technology isn’t the issue, the issue is our hearts.
The same goes for comparison. One of the things that helped me immensely in the onslaught of opportunities to compare my life to that of others online, related to homeschooling or otherwise, is that the sharer only presents the picture they want us to see. Perhaps the mom with the perfectly organized chore chart in her kitchen that she shared a picture of on Facebook this morning spent her time there while her own beds are unmade and the kitchen trashcan is overflowing. We are only seeing the picture in part.
Let’s all remember we are not in competition with each other. We are each living our uniquely personal story with the characters cast by the Lord. I hope we all make it!
Photo Credit: Graphic design by Charity Klicka.