Last week I hosted my homeschool support group's monthly meeting, and as hostess I got to choose the topic of discussion. I chose the theme of blogging and, more specifically, how blogging can be used as a homeschooling tool. It was fun to explore the reasons - especially my reasons - for blogging and to share the ways I fit blogging into my life as a busy homeschooling mom. Here are the minutes (embellished with hindsight and reflection of course) from my meeting.*
(*Note: I decided to break this post up into two parts because Part 1 got entirely too long!)
The ladies who joined me last Thursday night are not currently blogging, but were familiar with blogs and are considering the endeavor for themselves. After some casual chat, and after filling up our cups and plates with some goodies, we sat down to start the meeting ...
What is a blog?
A blog is basically a type of website that provides a format for posting journal-style entries and photographs along with links to all kinds of things - other blogs, websites, book recommendations, etc. A blog can be private (password-protected) or public. It can be used for professional or personal purposes.
It seemed easiest to explore the general concept of blogging by explaining how I got into blogging myself.
Blogging, yes or no?
About four years ago I found myself reading several blogs kept by some wonderful ladies I met at the 4Real Forums. I loved the format - and I loved reading what other homeschooling moms were doing with their families: how they were handling lessons and home life, how they were celebrating holidays and special events in their lives. The photos were wonderful, and so was the conversation. I started thinking about blogging myself ... but at the time I was a hardcore "paper" journalist. I have always kept journals - simple notebooks filled with notes, scraps of paper, clippings from magazines, this that and a little bit of everything. I am very much a paper kind of gal - technology tends to befuddle me - so I hesitated to blog ... but before long the tempation became too strong to resist. One afternoon, I just sat down at Typepad and within an hour I had myself a blog!
Blogging platforms ...
I didn't have much information to share about other blogging platforms (Blogger/Blogspot, Wordpress, Homeschoolblogger) because I've always used Typepad. And since Typepad was (and is) so easy to use, I've stuck with it. I do use the Pro level account because I wanted to be able to create more than one blog and I also wanted greater design options. This means I pay for my blog - but I find it's worth it.
Why I blog ...
So I explained how I initially considered blogging ... but I went on to describe the appeal blogging held for me. In addition to journaling, another hobby I enjoyed (sort of) was scrapbooking. I say "sort of" because I could never seem to find the time or space to get my scrapbooks going ... I knew how important it was to keep track of our family memories, and I LOVED the look of scrapbooks - choosing colors and pictures and stickers, etc. - but no matter how many times I started an album, I would get sidetracked with "real life" and materials would get hastily put away and forgotten. As a "hobby" it was frequently more frustrating than enjoyable. Not to mention I felt foolish owning so many scrapbooking materials and having so little to show for it all. When I first considered blogging I could see it as a way to "virtually" scrapbook. I would have the ability to capture memories AND play around with design as I liked to do. And of course, I didn't need a large space or a lot of materials to make it work.
Also, in my pre-mommy life, I was a writer by profession and I missed writing for an "audience." Of course in the beginning I had no idea who would be reading my posts (if anyone!) but I found it gratifying to get my thoughts down while honing my rusty writing skills. I know a lot of perspective bloggers balk at the thought of writing for an audience, but I found the more I blogged, the quicker I found "my voice" and the more easily the words came to me. Of course it helps that I am by nature a very wordy person!
Another benefit of blogging (and this is where the homeschooling part comes in) is I have an excellent record of what we are doing each month as a homeschooling family. This is helpful to me when I report in to the school system at the end of the year, but it is also an great way of keeping family and friends - especially those who don't see us more than a couple of times a year - in the loop with our lifestyle. As long as we've been homeschooling (10 years now) and as popular as homeschooling has become - I know it's still a real mystery to lots of folks. I love dispelling myths and helping people understand how actively we homeschool. We're hardly sitting at home every day isolated from the world - if anything we're out there almost every day in one way or another. We take part in lots of classes and field trips and group activities. Sure, most of our curriculum is accomplished at home, with a one-on-one focus (which is the beauty of the home learning experience) but so much of our time is spent in social situations, learning how to get along with - and learn from - others. I relish the chance to show people all that homeschooling can be - all that it is for my family ...
And if you've been reading my blog over the years, you know I also relish the chance to share ideas, and this is where my myriad interests come into play. I guess you could say I like to hear myself talk lol, but I found as I grew as a blogger that I liked to write informative posts on a wide variety of subjects - children's books, nature, crafts, my Catholic faith, food, seasonal celebrations. So my blog became a real hodgepodge of information - eclectic you might say - and to this day you never know what I'll be talking about next!
Through blogging I found myself another new hobby, one that has quickly become a real passion of mine. Photography was something I never really thought much about before - as a mother I owned a camera of course, and took pictures when I could - but nowadays I keep my camera close at hand at all times. The best part is I have lots of snapshots of our family life from the past year, but I find photography feeds me personally as well. Taking pictures makes me feel creative - like an artist almost. I would love to draw and paint as my mum does (beautifully, with natural God-given talent) but I don't have that gift. I would love to sew or knit or create in some tangible way, but these hobbies never clicked with me. With photography I find that I can cast a speculative eye on a subject - be it a bird or a landscape or a table setting - and find the best angle to present the image to my readers. It's fun to try and catch the light just right or to see if a tight zoom makes a difference to my shot. The world is my canvas, my camera is my tool of trade - and I never would have found this part of me if it were not for my foray into blogging.
But perhaps the biggest reward of blogging is that I now find myself looking at life with a different set of eyes - more watchful, more thoughtful, more appreciative. Little things I might have barely noticed before - a grasshopper perched on the mailbox, a startlingly bright moon, the sounds of a wren in the woods - pique one sense or another and make me itch to jot down a note or snap a picture, so as to celebrate that brief precious moment before it's gone. I'm grateful to have this sense of wonder - in every day there are so many gifts just there for the taking. I am glad my lifestyle allows me - and my children - to slow down and savor the world around us.
Well, I've kept you long enough for today, so I'll wrap things up for now ~ and if you've read this far I thank you! In Part 2 I will share the rest of my meeting notes, with information on:
- Privacy issues (names, pictures, passwords)
- Finding an audience/connecting with other bloggers
- Maintaining a good attitude re blogging (i.e. the "grass is always greener" syndrome)
- Finding the TIME to blog
- Ideas on organizing a blog
- Making money with a blog
- Kids' blogs (more homeschool opportunities)
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend - it's a long one for us (Bill has Monday off) and there's a lot of "to-do's" on my list. I'll be back again soon with part 2 ... in the meantime I would love to hear your thoughts on part 1, or any questions you might have for me. I will try my best to answer them as soon as I can.
Happy Blogging, Happy Reading, Happy Living! :)