Comparison Shopping: A Homeschool Emporium Story

Artboard 1

Welcome to the Homeschool Emporium, the one-stop shop for homeschooling parents!

The front doors of the Homeschool Emporium opened, and a new homeschooling couple stepped out onto the sidewalk. Their arms were full of bags and packages, and they both looked excited and a little overwhelmed.

“Are we ready for this?” the husband asked anxiously.

“I think so,” his wife answered. “But how do we know if we’re doing everything right?”

“Psst! Hey, I can help you with that!” The voice came from the shadows. They turned to see a lone vendor set up among the hedges.

“Obviously you want to be sure you’re doing everything exactly right,” the vendor said. She held up a gleaming yardstick. “You definitely need this.”

Together, the couple moved closer and looked at the yardstick. Instead of numbers, each interval was labeled with phrases like Teaches kids math or Cultivates children’s life skills.

“Just hold it up to yourself to see if you measure up.” The vendor had a dazzling smile.

The husband placed the yardstick alongside his wife’s head. The words Teaches kids math was even with the top of her head. “You’re good at math,” he said.

In an instant, the yardstick stretched above her head. The wording changed to Teaches math at a co-op. “Oh,” she said, embarrassed. “I guess it’s not enough to teach my own kids.”

She took the ruler and held it against her husband, lining up Cultivates children’s life skills with his head. “You work with the kids a lot,” she said. But again, the yardstick grew a little taller, and the words now said, Cultivates children’s entrepreneurial endeavors.

The husband cringed. “I didn’t know I was shortchanging the kids.”

The vendor spoke up. “See? It shows you how much more you should be doing. Every homeschool family needs one!”

The wife handed the ruler back. “I don’t know; I find that very discouraging.”

The vendor’s dazzling smile grew even wider. “I thought you’d say that. That’s why there’s the flipside!” She turned the ruler over and handed it back. “Try it out!”

The ruler’s words had changed. Now it said things like the Roberts family or the Jones family. The wife hesitated, then held it up to herself.

Immediately it shrank to exactly her size, and the words said, Better at math than the Roberts family. “That is more encouraging, I guess. But it seems… I don’t know…”

“Let me try,” said her husband. The ruler matched his height exactly and now said, More athletic than the Jones family.

“See?” the vendor said cheerfully. “It shows you what you’re doing right!”

The wife frowned. “But only compared to the Robertses and Joneses.”

“Right! When the first side shows you how badly you’re doing, you just turn it around to see how much better you are than someone else.”

The couple exchanged dubious glances. It didn’t seem quite right, but they were new to this whole homeschooling world.

Suddenly the front doors of the Emporium swung open. The proprietor stepped out, and the vendor’s smile froze.

“What are you doing here?” the proprietor demanded.

“You know why I’m here,” the vendor snapped. “Homeschoolers need a quick and easy way to judge themselves.”

“Quackery!” the proprietor declared. “Your comparison yardstick is not endorsed by the Emporium. Long-term use leads to dangerous levels of guilt.”

The vendor snatched the ruler back.

The proprietor turned to the bewildered couple. “We recommend our Strengths and Struggles Scale. It measures your present against your past. And you can ask others for assistance to balance out your struggles.”

The vendor rolled her eyes. “Who wants to admit they’re struggling? That’s how other people use you to make themselves feel better. You just pretend you’re fine while you’re always frantically trying to do enough.” Her smile returned as she addressed the couple. “And you know the best thing about my product?”

“What?” the wife asked.

“Eventually you’ll get so good at a comparison lifestyle that you won’t even need my yardstick anymore!”

The couple drew back in horror. “No thanks!” they said in unison.

The proprietor nodded with satisfaction. And the vendor, with a disgusted glance at her lost customers, packed up her wares and stalked away into the sunset.

—Sara

Photo Credit: Graphic design by Anna Soltis. 

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