Thursday, March 14, 2013

On Bragging and Blogging

At a party last fall, a good friend said (a little bit in jest, maybe?) that my blog makes her feel like a bad parent.  My sister (lovingly!) calls my blog "self-congratulatory."  Someone I don't know pinned my 2nd-grade read-aloud list on Pinterest with the comment "This blog has some great lists of read-aloud books - perhaps a little intimidating, but very inspiring" (italics mine).  I was chagrined by a fluff piece in the New York Times Sunday Styles section that describes how much everyone hates parents who brag online (even worse: "humblebragging").

So, I want to say: I'm not trying to make you feel like (and I certainly don't think you are!) a bad parent.  I don't intend to intimidate you when I list what we read.  But am I bragging when I blog about our new piano, our trips to New York, London, and elsewhere, the concerts we attend, our garden, the sophisticated books Tim reads to N., etc.?  Well, of course.  That is to say, I'm proud of our homeschool, and I write this blog to celebrate it.  In my posts I try not only to list what we do but to examine how learning happens through our activities, especially in seemingly nonacademic experiences such as travel.  As an educator (and home-educator), I'm interested in a broader definition of education than conventional schooling accounts for; I write about what we do both to explore and to demonstrate that broader vision of learning. 

I don't write much about our inevitable difficulties as we homeschool, even though they are common.  Such difficulties are more personal and I don't often experience them directly as the non-stay-at-home parent so they don't seem to be my stories to tell.  The picture painted by my blog would be more complete if Tim wrote about his occasional feelings of under-utilization as a stay-at-home parent or if I wrote about our challenges working with our son's very intense temperament.  I'm willing to write here about N.'s interests, but not his personality, even though temperament looms large in learning.  Inevitably, these omissions augment the boastful tone of my blog, but for privacy's sake, you'll just have to take my word for it: we have bad days along with the good.

I know that we homeschool from a position of social and economic privilege that makes a lot of what we do possible.  We're not solving the larger problems plaguing American education; in fact we may well be contributing to them by not participating in the public school system.  While I hope I'm not as blind as Sheryl Sandberg, implying that the differences between the more and less advantaged are insignificant and suggesting we all simply "lean in" rather than demand systemic change, I also hope that in writing about our homeschooling we add to the many examples of alternative approaches to learning that may someday change the experience of school for other children beyond our own.  Wishful self-justification?  Probably.  Thanks for reading here despite all the self-congratulation!

Bonus reading: My previous soul-searching on the strange enterprise of blogging is here.


Anonymous said...

Keep it up!

Honestly, I'm so tired of the overly-humble, self-deprecating, and even apologetic tone of many "mommy-bloggers" (maybe they are flollowing the absurb NYT "bragging formula") that I find yours refreshing. Why would anyone ever try to portray a 100% accuracte depiction of their life on a blog is beyond my comprehension-- how exhausting! I don't have children yet, but it seems strange that people are so insecure that they can't celebrate the success of others (especially children!)

All that being said, I think it would be fascinating to hear Tim's perspective, as well as some of the psychology, broadly, behind home/unschooling families.

Anonymous said...

Excuse all of my typos...

Mama Read Me A Story said...

I love your blog, and do not think you are bragging. You choose the books you read and the activities you involve your son in based on your family's educational background and values. Everyone has a journey, and no journey will be identical.
It's great to read about homeschooling from a college professor's point of view. I think your family is an inspiration.

Fanny Harville said...

Thanks, both, for your kind comments!

Erica MomandKiddo said...

I so enjoy reading your posts. I like to look to other blogs for inspiration or to fill my own knowledge gaps. I have a friend who has commented on how she allows blogs make her feel bad. "Allows" being the operative word.

Of course as a fellow blogger, I am so aware of the wide gap between real life and its online representation that it feels absurd to ever judge my own life against someone's blog.

Anonymous said...

Not sure I agree with your criticism of Sandberg (check out the New Yorker profile of her from last year), but I like your thoughtful essay on this topic. Makes a lot of sense. Would love to hear more...

Adrienne Pilon ("A") said... was probably me who said you made me feel like a bad parent. I 'm thinking of starting a blog called "Bad Mommy". Seriously, no one expects that every day is special and perfect. We all know that all parents have trouble...but we all know about those congratulatory ones. Here's the thing: you do what you do well, which is thoughtful reflection on the home learning experience. I think your readers get that. I do, and I appreciate it. It isn't something I've been able or willing to do; I have strengths in other areas. Keep on blogging, friend.

Megan Neal said...

I once heard someone say that anyone who blogs is indulging in public self-gratification, (only he used another word that caused his message to be much more jarring.) I've thought a lot about it, and have to conclude that he's right, to a certain degree, but maybe not on the same level he suggests. I think you explored some of that in your post.

For the record, I've never read your blog and felt that you were bragging. I love that you document your own homeschooling path. And I love reading about it. I think any rational person would realize that there are going to be some things left out of the online record, as there should be. And any rational person would take what they need and leave what they don't.

Fanny Harville said...

Adrienne, yes, it was you! :) I appreciated the comment, because it made me think. Thanks, all, for your kind reassurances.

Anonymous at the top of this thread, I'm curious about what you mean by the "psychology behind home/unschooling families?" What would you like to hear about?