Words that Represent You and Yet Influence Others

Any homeschooling parent of a college-bound homeschooler learns quickly the importance of documentation.   Not only is the documentation important, but, apparently, appropriate or inappropriate verbiage can make a big difference.    Texas is such a homeschool-friendly state that the only documentation I have kept in the past are those files that satisfied my own needs as a visual learner.    Now I am realizing that once next year approaches, someone who has no clue about my oldest child will judge her worth based largely upon my words. Scary.

On the lighter side of this concern is a post I saw on a Yahoo loop from an unschooler regarding putting together a course description based upon her kids’ “class.”

I’m almost finished with my daughter’s course descriptions, and am a little fried…Any ideas anyone? Basically, for the last six years (I’m giving one credit) we have raised goats for milk, bred and birthed kids (goats), been a part of a friend’s horse breeding program which was very specific and controlled, kept our own horses and are well versed in just about every health issue a horse can have. We’ve raised chickens and turkeys from eggs to slaughter and or/egg production, and are well versed in all poultry health care. We also know a lot about dogs and cats, if that helps.

My mother-in-law would have a field day with this one.    She once informed us, with great satisfaction mind you, that her friend, a fellow public school teacher, had been asked to lead the homeschool group at their church.   Both my mother-in-law and her friend are servants of God and very skilled at what they do, but I could not help but scratch my head on this one.   What drove a homeschool parent to seek guidance—no, leadership– from a classroom teacher in running a homeschool?

Though I could see some benefit, I kept going back to how can you articulate all of the non-academic transitions and accomplishments your children make just by being in this environment to someone who does not necessarily understand it (and perhaps does not even want to)?

Such was my thinking as I continued to read through the thread and think about how I might document our journey for someone who is just reading it to make enough to offset his student loans.

One person responded with a few college course descriptions as a suggestion for the appropriate wording:

I don’t know what high schools call stuff like this but at the university level, it’s animal science. If you want a more formal and comprehensive description, go to an Ag school/Vet School website and find the appropriate course descriptions.

310. Behavior and Management of Domestic Animals. Application of behavior of cattle, horses, sheep, goats and swine to their management; basic principles, physiology of behavior, perception,training, predators, use of dogs in livestock production, stress and animal welfare.

Growth and Development of Livestock.   Evaluation of slaughter livestock as related to growth and development, production efficiency, carcass value; selection of breeding animals based on performance, production records, visual appraisal; principles of growth biology; biotechnological tools used to manage growth and development.

The list of college courses goes on, but I will spare you.

This thread was quite extensive—I won’t share it all, but there was wonderful advice and rich dialogue about wording, passion, and how to convey both in the right way.   The parent was determined to not use ‘educationese,’ or ten-dollar words and passive voice, as she described it.    Her perspective was that this language was ‘designed to obscure rather than illuminate.’    There were a number of testimonies, but I was particularly struck by this response:

The course description is also a place to show how unique your child’s education has been. It’s a place where passions can shine though. There are probably any number of ways [a] course description can be approached successfully.    I have chosen to use college course descriptions as a guide because I think that will best present my son’s courses in a manner that demonstrates their rigor.

That was followed by this jewel from one mom back to the original writer:

They [college administrators] want to see what the student is interested in and how she will contribute to the college community. You have a great story to tell with your daughter.   I don’t think you should try to shoehorn her into the schooled box.    Let the colleges know how she is different and wonderful.

So, where the original writer will end up, who knows?   Yet, as for me, I am a believer that certain messages cross my path for a reason, so I left this exchange with a renewed commitment to honor our individuality and do our best to satisfy an administrator’s requirements, but not allow our school to be bound by them.

This whole discussion regarding “college speak,” versus being true to a child’s education got me thinking about how words influence others. I thought about the fact that it is okay to be genuine and authentic, but I also thought about how Paul ministered: he was true to who he was, but he also knew that he had to meet the Jewish people at a point where the Jewish people would listen and look for more.    So, I started putting together a course description of sorts for our Costume and Fashion in Ancient History course (do you like that name?), where, thus far, I will use the Biblical book of Esther, another short text that has a similar title as the “course name,” and a wonderful novel by Ginger Garrett, Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Esther:

A study of costume and fashion in ancient Egypt and its impact on women of royalty within the Persian Empire.

Well, it is a start.   I will put more meat on those bones as I flesh it out for myself and continue to dig through all the great resources out there.  Word crafting could be a course topic of its own.   In the meantime, I am convinced that these next few years should be loads of fun.

Belinda Bullard is a wife and homeschooling mother of three, Belinda is an author and the owner of A Blessed Heritage Educational Resources, a literature-based history curriculum featuring African-American presence in history, as well as the contributions of other races to American history. A chemical engineer by formal education, she also serves as adjunct faculty for college distance learning programs.

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