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The Marvels or the Dangers of Comparison

By Marcelyn Havens

As I was sitting here contemplating the homeschool convention I will be attending this weekend, I realized that my attitude toward conventions and all the "stuff" that goes with them is much different than it was when I was first starting on this adventure twelve years ago.

I remember going into the conventions the first few years that we homeschooled and being overwhelmed at all that was offered. There were workshops and curriculum; ideas hung in the air like fog on a summer morning. In the curriculum hall it was a super-highway of information with plenty of fast food stops along the sides.

My husband and I had a well used game plan for conventions. We would look at the speaker schedule and decide which ones were important for both of us to hear. Then we'd look at individual interests... was there a father's forum? homemaking and clutter-bug workshop? It was divide and conquer, take notes and pay attention because we'd want to share it with each other on the drive home and of course everything was going to fit into our lives and make our homeschool perfect. I'd go to one workshop and hear about a wonderful program, it was sure to fix all our problems, and then into the next workshop where another person was telling me that I only needed to be more organized. When it came to curriculum I'd usually had a list of ideas before I went. Invariably I would find something better that I thought would be more complete.

Don't get me wrong, homeschool conventions are good and I certainly did come home pumped up and full of ideas BUT I also often came home with a little niggling idea in the back of my head that maybe we just weren't doing enough. Maybe we weren't teaching the right things the right way. Maybe we were concentrating too much on academics. Maybe we weren't being authoritative enough in our home. Maybe we were failing! It usually started right in the middle of one of those speaker's talks. You know the ones... they have eight children and all their children look like perfect angels. They make all their clothes, dresses only for the girls, 80% of their food is home grown, and all the kids know how to milk a cow by age six. Yes ma'am and no sir are standard in their speech patterns and the children are always quiet and reading a book if they have free time. Or the other ones... you know them too... Their kids built their own computer at age six and then decided it was too limiting so they started researching artificial thinking. They determined a way to bond proteins to silicon and made a robot that thinks independently, all this of course by age 12. But wait! That's not all..... the kids in their spare time have not only completed high school but a Bachelor's degree in college and are on their way to Doctorates, all from the confines of home sweet home. These families, as different as they were, had something in common...... they were perfect. No screaming kids, no dirty house, no back-talking teenagers, hormones just didn't exist in these families. Mom and Dad sat back and enjoyed the fruits of their labors without any stress. Sound familiar?

I call these people the Marvel families. Marvel as in Marvel comics. They are imaginary. I don't care how much they claim it. I simply do not believe that they truly are as perfect as made out to be. They can't be... they are human like me. They deal with the in-law situations, the dirty diapers, the sick days, the teenager who doesn't want to be nice to anyone else and the kid who doesn't want to do math because "math is stupid." The only thing is, they don't show us that part of their lives. Granted, some families of speakers are real and they admit this... but few do. Let's face it, who wants to talk about their dirty laundry, let alone flap it in the wind for the world to see and smell.

Coming to this realization was a great release for me. Yes, I always knew these people were "real" like me, but I didn't have it deep down in my consciousness that they were. Everyone at a convention claims to have the answers. It's courtship, it's a particular parenting method, it's using only one major Christian publisher, it's chore charts on the wall, it's back to basics simplicity, it's satellite school, it's apprenticeship.... you get the idea. Everyone has the answer.

Finding the real answer became quite the challenge. I tried several times to fit our family into a jar labeled with someone else's name. Stuff, stuff, stuff as I might, we just didn't fit. Take for example the issue of courtship. We tried to stuff our daughter into a courtship jar. What it created and bred was rebellion. Yes, the courtship did. We were expecting our daughter to be someone else. When we finally came to the realization that it was our actions that caused the rebellion we had some repenting to do. Ephesians 6:4 says "fathers, do not exasperate your children; Instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." We had put a concept of courtship that we had brought home from a conference ahead of some vital Biblical truths. Courtship became such a focal point that simple truths were being ignored. We started looking at a method instead of the heart. We tried to implement what we heard at a conference without really seeking God and we all got side-tracked. When we came back to the point of loving our daughter and training her to be a Godly young woman that part of her life fell into place as God desired it. That is just one example but many abound in homeschooling circles. Most likely we have all fallen victim to wanting to be like that Marvel family.

For those of you who are new, newer, or just plain tired (like we all get), when you go to your convention take time to relax. Listen to the speakers, look at the "stuff" but don't get frantic or worried that you aren't making the grade. Don't compare yourself to everyone else. Remember that these people, these Marvel families, are real people who are putting on their Sunday best for you. Don't stress over the should haves and could haves but look at the maybes and mights that are before you. Remember that they are only ideas and that it's the idea, not the family or presenter, that should sell you. More than anything else, don't buy into something because you want to be like the Marvel family. Be your family above all else. The only one who can guide you effectively in what will work for you is God. Don't think that any method, any program, or any idea will make you a Marvel family. Only God can do that.

Copyright © April 2002 Marcelyn Havens and HomeschoolChristian.com

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