January 19, 2007

Q and A: Are You SuperHuman?

Dear Tenniel,
You are amazing! You are inspiring! But are you superhuman? Let me begin my noting that your blog may have been the most influential factor in my decision to homeschool this year. Your links are extremely useful; your lesson plans are tremendously helpful. Most of all, though, your conversational description of your daily homeschool adventures has set a very productive (albeit sometimes lofty and intimidating) bar for my own family. I'll admit, I feel alternately inspired and inadequate when reading your blogs.

So I post this question (a variation on the prior "superhuman" inquiry): is it all really as amazing as it sounds? Do you NEVER have days when you hunger for adult conversation? Aren't you ever short of patience with your kids out of an inexplicable sense of resentfulness that has no foundation in their behavior? Do you ever feel the mother-guilt that I (and I would venture to suggest at least a handful of other mothers) feel when faced with your own ambitious standards for parenting? And finally, and perhaps most importantly, do you EVER sleep?

BTW -- Homeschooling has been going FAMOUSLY for us. Thank you for your inspiration. It has been, and I daresay it will remain, a joy to follow your blog.

First Amy, thanks for the compliments and I am glad you find the blog useful and inspiring at times. I never thought when I started writing this for our own little family that anyone would even want to read it much less enjoy it, so thanks!

I am honestly glad someone asked this question and with the good humor that you did Amy :) If there is a subject that permeates most of the emails I get and some of the comments I get in real life it is this superhuman thing. It makes me both want to laugh and cry at the same time. It is a tough question to answer but a very reasonable one to ask. My answer will likely be long and complicated, as you asked quite a few questions in this one, just like me so please be patient with me.

The short answer is of course I am not super-human and I have bad days too, we ALL do! Ever notice when I have not blogged for awhile? Sometimes it is because I have nothing good or positive to say or things aren't going great, sometimes it is just because we are too busy or I don't want to blog. The bottom line though, I CHOOSE what to blog about - this is not a full open peek into our home and our days, this is the "best of", the "high points", the things I want to replicate, remember and share. As a friend of mine pointed out reading my blog does not offer a realistic picture of the WHOLE of homeschooling or parenting. So please don't take it that way, what you are reading is a glimpse of our best moments, of the moments I choose to share.

People have suggested in the past that I blog about the ugly side of things too and our down days. I have honestly tried, and have managed to hit post a few times, but I don't like what I type. I don't like the way I sound or how I come across, so I typically don't do it. These are also typically days that I don't want to remember or replicate so why bother writing about them? In most cases if I don't want to write about it and it does not come from my heart I don't write about it. In real life I welcome my friends to see the messes in my life and it helps them realize that I am a real person with real flaws. In my blog I don't try to portray a realistic view of all of homeschooling, I just write what I want to share and remember. We have bad moments and bad overall days just like everyone else. And if it makes you feel better I just washed my floors tonight for the first time in I can't remember how long (many months at least) and the water was black!

One of the things you mentioned is that you like my conversational style and descriptions of our day - those come from my heart and they are things I think people can find value in reading, whether it be just my own family or another homeschool family so those naturally are all the good things. In real life my conversations may share more of my flaws but here it is easier and more interesting to write about my victories and precious moments than my struggles. Just because I don't write about them does not mean I don't have them.

The bottom line to remember when homeschooling is not to compare your actual homeschool life with the snapshot of another homeschool family's life that you see. Because all you are seeing in anyone else is a snapshot - a part of their broader life, the details you can see, the details they choose to share, or you happen to see. You are not seeing the whole reality in my life or in anyone else's life that you admire. Whether it be in a blog or in real life, we only see what we are shown and not the whole picture.

Now we really do have a lot of great days and we really do love homeschooling and that is what you see here, those are the things I choose to share, the good things, those are all real, we do the things I write about here. So I am glad you find them inspiring but don't be intimidated or ever feel inadequate. The other thing to mention is this is what is right for my family, for me and my kids, every family is so different and our style will not work for everyone. So continue doing what you love with your kids and ENJOY them and homeschooling.

Remember none of us are superhuman, not me, not your best homeschooling friend, not the head of your homeschool coop, none of us, we are all normal homeschooling moms and dads who face similar challenges and want to share our victories and what worked for us with others, always keep that perspective

Now was that too long of an answer to the first part of your question? I think that was the meat of the question so I spent a lot of time. Can you tell since I am conversational that I just type like I would talk and until I am done saying what I want to say no matter how long that is? On to your more specific questions.

Is it all really as amazing as it sounds?

Yes a lot of it is, I think the opportunities and experiences that we have homeschooling our family are amazing and wonderful. BUT of course it is not ALL always amazing. Some of it is quite mundane, some of it drudgery, some of it annoying, frustrating, and sometimes I am just plain tired but all together it really is amazing and wonderful. Apply all the discussion from above about only seeing part of our homeschool experience.

Do you NEVER have days when you hunger for adult conversation?
Of course I hunger for adult conversation - on a daily basis! I need it and I do my best to try and get it. My husband is wonderful and let's me decompress when he comes home. Sometimes in the middle of the day I will email or instant message or call him just to talk. I call family members or talk to neighbors. I often will call a friend in the afternoon and chat or if I am having a bad morning in the morning. I do out of respect for their schedule try to ask right after I say hello "Is this a bad time or an ok time?" and respect the needs of their family. Often I call in the afternoon when I am doing my chores, laundry, dishes, cleaning that I can talk and work at the same time. I also get together with regularity for field trips, classes and other events with other moms. A strange thing I do that helps me feel in touch with the "adult world" is I read news sites all through the day - it keeps me connected, keeps my brain going and gives me a break from the kids. I used to read blogs but I get too sucked into them so now just news headlines and a few stories.

Aren't you ever short of patience with your kids out of an inexplicable sense of resentfulness that has no foundation in their behavior?

I am not really sure what you mean here. I lose my patience to be sure just like anyone else. Most often this is child behavior related for me though. I can not relate to the reason you listed. I do not feel any resentfulness to my situation or my kids because I chose it and I want this. I do not wish I was doing anything else or that my kids were in school or not here. I really don't. Generally if I lose my patience I know what caused it, unless of course I am PMSing, LOL! I do pray every day for patience, strength, creativity and wisdom. No, I guess I don't experience this. Or maybe I don't understand the question.

Do you ever feel the mother-guilt that I (and I would venture to suggest at least a handful of other mothers) feel when faced with your own ambitious standards for parenting?

Do I feel guilty when I do not meet my own high standards? No - but I try to be better - and sometimes I feel like a failure to be sure. But guilt only comes if I know I should have done something different and purposefully made choices to do something counter or different to that. For me that is not guilt that is conviction of the poor choices I am making (like spending this long on a blog post with four laundry baskets sitting next to me). I have high standards, but they are there for a reason and we feel they are best for our family so I try my best to meet them but don't beat myself up if I fail.

We try to be very intentional in our choices as a family and we therefore do have high standards. There are a lot of reasons for our choices and a lot of prayer, thought and research goes into our choices. We have tried to make conscious standards and priorities for our family and do our best to live up to them. We fall short to be sure and sometimes we re-evaluate and change our standards or goals if we need to. Other times we are convicted to bring our behavior into line with our priorities, and try to work at that. We are gentle with ourselves and don't beat ourselves up over it but are also honest with ourselves and hold ourselves and each other accountable.

I guess for me that distinction between guilt and conviction is important. As is a continual reminder to myself that we made intentional choices for a reason so we should try to follow through. But there is also reality and sometimes we expect or want too much from ourselves and we need to re-asses and be willing to change our own standards. We also need to be careful not to make someone else's standards for themselves our standards for ourselves. Each family is unique and has different needs and priorities and we need to be careful to not compare or try to adopt someone else's standards that we simply can not live up to as our own.

Create your standards for your family then do your best to live by them but understand and forgive yourself when you don't. No need for guilt, just improve what you can and let go of the rest. Sometimes we all need to re-evaluate our standards and remind ourselves that our standards are different than other peoples and that is OK.

And finally, and perhaps most importantly, do you EVER sleep?

Not enough :)

Amy, thanks for your questions and your honesty. I am so glad to hear that homeschooling is going so well for you and your family! Many Blessings



  1. Hi Tenniel, I just finished reading your latest post and I wanted to comment. I could really relate to your wanting to share about only your best, what you want to remember, that is how I usually try to write in our blog too. Thank you for your honesty and for all of the information on your blog. I have enjoyed your blog for a long time. You are one of my favorite sites. May the Lord bless you abundantly today! :) In Him, Brenda

  2. Serona2:32 PM

    Hi all. This is Serona, DH of the fetching Tenn. I wanted to comment on this too. Believe me, we are not superhuman. I'm writing this comment from an airport lobby in San Fran rather than from the school room of our home. I'd rather be there than here. While we do a lot remember that you are seeing and reading a condensed version of things. Tenn and I have made it a priority to make sure to make time for each other to be "adults" (and lovers!!! ;) as well as teachers and parents. We have regular communication on teaching themes and approaches and Tenn will call me up or IM me if I'm away and the kids need a Principal. I make sure to consistently communicate to the kids what I and Tenn expect from them when I am at work or traveling and what I expect to see in terms of progress and (more importantly) attitude. The upshot is that Tenn, while being the "boots on the ground" is not alone. This is definitely a team effort though all the credit goes to her and our God who grants is wisdom and discernment and patience as well as an ability to teach. To all of you Dads of home schoolers out there, support and love your wife. Remember she's your lover not merely the tutor for your offspring. To all you HS moms out there, hang in there. Roll in your DH as MUCH as you can. HS is *really* a team endeavor. Remember that student / teacher ratio is one of the best predictors of educational success (which is why all our dear kids are so SMART!). But remember that teachers and tutors are RARELY successful in a vacuum or going it alone.

    To Tenn, I love you. Thank you for all your *human* efforts that you execute, sometimes, only with the suffering and patience of Job.

    Cheers all!

  3. I really think she is superhuman. But I am perhaps a wee bit biased in my perception.

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