Tall Poppy Syndrome Amongst Homeschoolers

12 Feb

How does it make you feel when a homeschooler refers to seemingly ‘going along pretty well’ homeschoolers as ‘fake’ or ‘too good to be true’?

I try hard not to be offended at anything, as offence is a choice, but boy is it hard to avoid that emotion when your suggestions are disregarded as boasting.    Never directly of course.    But through follow up requests for ‘real’ homeschoolers to dialogue with.

People often imply that blogs are merely public venues for bragging.    Of course they don’t say it like that.    They preface their statement with, “Homeschooling blogs make me feel inadequate”.   I can’t imagine wanting to read anything that puts the woeful on display, day after day, but that seems to be what people are suggesting they’d rather read.

Do we really have to deal with the tall poppy syndrome in homeschooling?  (For my U.S.   readers the ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ is a cultural Aussie habit of cutting down successful people to the level of the mediocre masses.) Imagine the analogy of a group of gardening friends looking over each others’ gardens.    If someone had managed to grow truly lovely flowers wouldn’t it be only natural to want to share how they went about growing them so that their friends could share in their experience?  Yet, when that happens the other gardeners go about whispering that the ‘successful’ gardener is just ‘big noting’ themselves.    In doing so, the ‘successful’ gardener begins to feel shame for their success and becomes quick to point out their failures too, just so they can feel some connection with their gardener friends.    It’s such an ugly, twisted scenario.

When I hear this kind of thing, aside from seeing red, I hear someone in the doldrums seeking to find company in their own misery, and not looking for ways to improve.    I should learn that and avoid trying to give them a practical hand up.    They aren’t looking for a step up, but your hand to pull you down.  But I won’t go.   I’m not cutting down my poppy to make others feel good about their stunted, dying poppy fields.    And it’s wrong of them to expect it.    Out of love for others, I want them to succeed and am more than willing to offer the path I took if asked.    But, in return, I expect the same love and appreciation for my successes.

I’m not saying that my homeschooling is optimal.    Nowhere near it.    But I will say that I won’t settle for just ‘okay’ for my children.    If there’s higher and better to aim for, then I will get up and start heading for it!  I may never reach it but that’s not my goal.    My goal is to aim for it and to consistently move in that direction.

There really aren’t any “I can’t”s in life (and I’m referring to us all and not merely myself), only “I won’t”s or “don’t feel like”s.    All things are possible in some way, eventually or with help.    Sitting and wallowing gets us nowhere, although you will probably find a lot of company down there in the pits.    However, the view is much brighter up here in the highlands.

Rest assured, my blog is not about to become a place of woeful self-pity

– about how we slept late this morning because we were tired

-about how we didn’t do any school yesterday because we were out all day

-about how the mechanic fixed my car but crippled my bank account

– about how we’re only doing the vitals today, as we’re behind and generally grumpy

-about how one of our computers died on the weekend and is still in limbo

– about how my children are currently watching tv with their lunches on their lap, at 2.30pm

-about how my feet stick to my dirty floors as I walk around and look at the messes everywhere

Really, I’m glad that people who like to wallow generally don’t have the time to blog.    Blogging is about sharing the joys, the successes and the beauty.    Blogs are meant to inspire you to keep climbing.   No one is claiming to have reached the top.    But bloggers are real people, who ooze enthusiasm for what they do, and who are generous, sometimes to a fault, and who sincerely want to help others see the glimpses of magnificence that is part and parcel of the climb upwards.

My advice, which I’m not reaching down to give you, but leaving up here for you to come and get, is “Get up and do something”.  If you are Christian, don’t dare settle for wilting poppies, or huddle together with others who do so.    God has gifted His very best to you.     It’s an insult to leave the gift unopened!  And it’s a millstone to steal if from others!



Posted by on February 12, 2013 in Homeschooling Thoughts


23 responses to “Tall Poppy Syndrome Amongst Homeschoolers

  1. Shelley

    February 12, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    I read only a few blogs & I like reading blogs. I read them & appreciate that they give me ideas & other resources to check out, they encourage me & I think we all need encouragement from time to time. When I hear of others success, I feel happy for them & I think “that’s a great idea” or that will help me with my son.
    I don’t think I have ever felt that any of the blogs are “showing off” – they are just sharing their lives.
    We do have a lot to be grateful for, firstly that we have the freedom to home educate & the freedom to read blogs!
    Lets face it, most of us would put our best foot forward when talking about our lives.
    So grow your poppies tall – I love flowers!

  2. Tracey

    February 12, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    I agree Shelley. Seeing what others do, encourages and motivates me. I really think it’s got to do with how people view their own lives. ‘Glass half full’ people always see goodness and potential around them. ‘Glass mostly empty’ people can only see the grey clouds around themselves and don’t realise that rain brings rainbows and life. They only see the trials and miss the joys.
    I feel sorry for their poppies.
    What a field of flowers it would be if they could just see how full their glasses really are. 🙂

  3. Amy

    February 13, 2013 at 9:11 am

    Hi Tracey,
    At times I have felt inadequate when reading blogs about homeschooling – and it is always when I am wallowing in my doldrums. During those times I turn off my computer and stop reading. Something interesting happens then, at some point something clicks in my mind, and I begin to work through my difficulty, putting ideas into practice and trying new things to solve it. Before I know it, I am back reading those blogs again getting encouragement and ideas. 😉 I enjoyed your Garden story as an illustration. 🙂

    • Tracey

      February 13, 2013 at 10:35 am

      Loved your forum post by the way. Gamer than me. But it’s exactly what I wanted to say.

      • Amy

        February 13, 2013 at 11:48 am

        🙂 Well, hopefully it was helpful. We’ll see what happens.

  4. Tracey

    February 13, 2013 at 9:34 am

    I always think of our journey or even life as a series of mountains and valleys. Down in the valley it is dark and damp and scary, full of traps and pitfalls and you can’t see beyond it. Everyone goes through it, but we vary according to how we deal with it. Some curl up and don’t want to go on because it might be worse. Others climb to get out of it quickly. Up high they get a better view of what’s to come, hope for the future, realism about the many valleys to pass through, and strength to continue on. I also remind myself to look up to Jesus. He’s not down in the pits, but I know who is and who wants us to curl up and stop climbing. It’s just sad that so many do.
    Blog reading isn’t about people big noting themselves. It’s an urge to climb. But those in the valleys look up and feel it’s too hard or they don’t have the strength. They don’t to settle with where they are instead. They forget that, while Jesus isn’t with us at present, He left someone who is, and He sure knows how to climb if we’ll let Him. 🙂

  5. Tamara

    February 13, 2013 at 10:09 am

    Sometimes I admit that I feel inadequate reading blogs like yours, however I realise that there is a season for everything and that God has blessed me with my children and family and they have very different personalities and needs.
    For starters, we have 5 children- our eldest just 8 and youngest not even 1. We have a disabled child who requires a tremendous amount of time and care.
    Not all homeschoolers look the same or should even look the same- that’s ok. There is no way physically that I could do the amount of sit down work with my children as you do. It’s not laziness or settling for less, it’s just reality.
    My children do a lot of natural or unstructured learning. My children have skills in nursing that most adults don’t have due to their brother. My focus is on raising good people, academics is second to that at all times. I’d rather see my children pick up a fallen sibling, kiss a scratch and put a band aid on them, than complete a maths sheet. That’s not to say maths isn’t important but it’s not our focus.
    I just wanted to put a different viewpoint out there. I love reading your blog and have got some great ideas from it but I also think that every family is unique and must find their groove and rhythm. For some its a school at home approach, yet for others it’s a completely free range hands off approach. We sit somewhere in the middle!

  6. Tracey

    February 13, 2013 at 10:19 am

    I think that just changes where you get your inspiration from. Just as I don’t read unschooling blogs for mine. It’s not that either or are better, but just finding someone on a similar journey.
    It’s also about different seasons. While the kids are little it’s more character focused but as they grow, academics can take a front seat. Character doesn’t take up as much time as they grow as it did when they were little. Learning about God’s world is important. Knowing about His world can help us to help people in His world.

  7. Amy

    February 13, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    That is one of the things I love about homeschooling – the fact that we can take a look at our own situation, our own family, our own needs, and we build the education and life we need from that place. The old saying ‘bloom where you are planted’ comes to my mind here. Homeschooling and family life is not a static, one-size-fits-all – that is the real beauty of it. To me anyway. 🙂

  8. Tracey

    February 13, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    It’s that ‘bloom’ part that’s important, no matter the soil, just look up to the Son and grow.
    So true Amy.

  9. Elsa

    February 13, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Great post Tracey. No extra comments, just that I agree. 🙂

  10. JoAnn

    February 13, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    I find the blogs I have things in common with and that are encouraging to me and keep reading them. That’s what I like about the blog world, so many different blogs to choose from and read. 🙂

  11. Jen

    February 13, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    I struggle with feeling very inadequate in homeschooling my boys. But I still love to read others success! Especially a fellow Aussie 😀
    I have had to go to Ace this year and have been feeling so guilty about it but I know that with a baby on the way, an eighteen year old doing tafe, three others doing school work and a five year old to teach reading too, plus ed department issues, I have to do what I can. And having the boys home IS the most important thing. Not what curriculum I use.

    I really enjoy your blog and totally don’t get people that must drag others down.

    • Tracey

      February 13, 2013 at 9:51 pm

      It’s mothers like you Jen that are inspiring. You have a will and you will find a way! There are other who would just sit in a heap because they couldn’t have everything they wanted just the way they wanted it. But it sounds like you’ve pin-pointed the important stuff and got moving with this new season.
      You are not inadequate. None of us are. We all have the opportunity to do our best, and there’s always the opportunity for us to do better. The first step is to do what we can and then go looking for the next thing we can do and then the next. Before long we look back at where we’ve come from and think, “Wow”.

      • Jen in NSW

        February 15, 2013 at 3:12 pm

        Hi Tracey,

        I know my blog lately hasn’t exactly been of the inspiring type. I am working through “on paper” so to speak all the thoughts I am dealing with this year as 2 of my boys are in school. It wasn’t easy to put them there but I had to admit I wasn’t being able to do all I should have been doing. And I wanted other mums going through a similar situation to see that it isn’t easy and to maybe see in how I deal with it how they can better handle what is going on with them, whether it is to “copy” me or to do the opposite because what I do is not right for them.

        With this “breather” from guilt over stuff not done I am being able to see what was not working. Mostly lots of moving, young children underfoot, bad organisation, ongoing bad health. But once a homeschooler, always a homeschooler, I will be returning to homeschooling all 4 boys next year.

        When I see your blog I don’t feel guilty about what I haven’t done (except as you say on those deep valley days), instead I think about what skills you must have to get those things done and try to develop those skills myself. I may not teach my boys exactly the same way you teach yours but I can use your methods or at least what I think may be your methods from the results we see. I love your planning posts and I like to read about how/why you choose to do various things. It helps me think through my choices more too.

        Anyway, long reply, to say, Luv Ya!

        Best wishes
        Jen in NSW
        (who will come bend your ear in person when we move back to Qld and learn as much as I can)

      • Tracey

        February 15, 2013 at 3:20 pm

        I would love to meet you Jen. 🙂

  12. Missy

    February 13, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    I gotta say, I agree and I disagree. Blogs are all well and good, but it really depends on what the purpose of your blog is. Mine is just a record of our real life … I don’t write it for anyone else to read, but I am happy to have friends stop by and see what we are up to, and my purpose is not to share the joy and beauty – but the reality. There’s the good and the bad all mixed in there together. These last 12 months have been absolute shockers for us, so there ain’t a great deal of “greatness” to be found there, but lots of hurt and troubles if you know me well enough to see them. S’just how it is. It’s life.I don’t seek to drag others down, but neither is my blog gonna be all joy and roses and inspiration. Really, I think we should all be grown up enough when reading other people’s blogs to self monitor. Stop if we need to, offer help if we can, celebrate when there’s cause; but also to let people blog and share as it suits them. No one forces us to read anyone else’s blog…

    • Tracey

      February 13, 2013 at 9:42 pm

      True Missy…what we write depends on why we write.

      But reality, even in the tough times, has to have some blessing in it that we can find. Something good to dwell on.

      And what if a person’s reality is rosy most of the time or at least they choose to focus on the good. That’s still a reality.

      People say they can’t believe that mothers of lots of children can have clean houses, home made bread, well fed families, home sewn outfits and very well behaved families. I think there can be those families. I don’t believe they are perfect but I believe there are families that are just down right impressive. And I feel bad for them when others cut them down by saying they are too good to be true.

      But my bone is more with people attempting to drag down others to their own reality. Calling something they see as unattainable for themselves, unrealistic or fake. It’s a bit like what school parents do to homeschoolers to validate their choice to send their children to school.

      Oh I’m very much the optimistic and I feel like pessimists just suck the joy right out of the atmosphere. I avoid them at all costs. 🙂

  13. Kylie

    February 15, 2013 at 9:10 am

    wow Tracey, how you’ve hit the nail on the head here!! My blog will never (well maybe 1% of the time) show our down times. That is NOT why I blog. I want the blog to show the good times, the greatness for me, my family, my friends and anyone that cares to read, because there is a great deal more greatness in our days than not.

    Frankly if people feel you are ‘just showing off’ then they can always stop reading 😉

    I’m definitely a, climb out of that valley as quickly as I can type person. I read blogs to inspire me to become a better mother and those ‘all round perfect families’ do that for me…..inspiration!!

    Great post Tracey, sharing this one 🙂

  14. Kylie

    February 15, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Tracey, would you mind if I put your blog button on the front page of CQHS? Your posts are always very helpful to many.

    • Tracey

      February 15, 2013 at 3:13 pm

      You’re welcome to add it Kylie. 🙂

  15. Sheryll

    February 15, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    I just wanted to say that it is 2:41 on a Friday afternoon and my kids are watching a movie with their lunch on their laps. 🙂

    • Tracey

      February 15, 2013 at 3:18 pm

      All ‘proper’ homeschoolers have done this at some point or will in the future.


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