The Little Red Hen And The Homeschool Blog Awards

Some of y’all may remember last year when we had a homeschooling bash here at our house. We invited mothers and their children, had a mom’s meeting upstairs and my Progeny did themselves proud by dividing the roughly fifty children into groups and rotating them through a variety of activities, from bread-baking, to crafts, to games, to a class on dog safety. It was a lot of work for everybody in my family. Because of my own silly mistake I did not insist on an RSVP date and I let people sign up to come at the last minute- next time I do this, that will not happen. And some of you will remember this memorable conversation with one of the ladies who only gave me 24 hours notice that she and 9 children would be coming:

Mom: Is it too late for us to come?

Me: Well, no, I guess not. The groups are getting pretty big, but we’ll just make a fifth group by setting up a card table and some Uno cards. Uno is a game that can be picked up and set down without too much trouble, and nobody needs to supervise it. That should keep the groups the girls are working with down to a reasonable size.

Mom: Well, I had a question about that. The activities you have planned sound kind of girly. Are my boys going to be interested?

Me: ?

Mom: I mean, do you have anything planned my boys will want to do?

Me: Um. I have no idea. If they do not want to do what we have planned, I guess they can just play Uno the whole time.

Mom: Well, would you rather do this over two different days so you can have one day of girly activities and on another day do stuff more interesting to the boys?

Me (firmly): Uh, No. This is it.

I did, in fact, spend several extra hours seeking ideas for things that might be more interesting for boys to do. I also set up a chess table in addition to the UNO table. Her boys weren’t interested in any of it, really. They just stood around, and then complained when the other children were eating their bread because they had chosen not to make any.

I am not telling this story to complain, but to illustrate a little something about human nature. It is something I have seen repeatedly. I could tell you stories…. I could tell stories of the booklist I worked with others to compile, free, on a strictly volunteer basis, which work actually cost us hours and hours of time and sometimes money as well. And then I could tell you about the people who have complained about the booklist and asked us to make it more compatible with their religious point of view (or nonreligious), or their homeschooling style, or their convictions about x, y, and z, and various and sundry other things, and in every case, when we have said, “We really don’t have time for that, but if you wish to research this project and make some suggestions,” those complainers disappear- except possibly to surface on some other website, complaining about us.

The Homeschool Blog Awards are up (and I won’t lie, I would really like to win something this year; we are up for best variety and best family blog), and they have been the center of a similar sort of kerfluffle. I learned about it on Mama Squirrel’s blog.

The Blog Awards were originally Spunky’s project. That was in 2005. Spunky stopped blogging in 2006- in December of that year, actually, and the 2006 awards were dropped. Sprittibee thought that was a shame, and so on her own time, of the goodness of her own heart, and out of her own sense of fun and this-was-cool-let’s-do-it-again, she spent a month trying to find a blog designer in the HS community who would help her put together a blog awards site so the homeschooling community could have fun with this again. She got two takers, leaving a few weeks to get the awards started and get sponsor donations. She emailed as many sponsors as she could think of from the latest book fair she had attended that she herself might be interested in winning books from- and thus were the homeschool blogs awards of 2006 born- out of the hard work, volunteer spirit, and individual efforts of a very tiny group of homeschooling moms who probably do have other lives to lead than their internet lives.

This year, there are more prizes than ever, and more team-members, and more nay-sayers. And that’s a shame. The fuss seems to center around their request that blogs be family friendly (which is hardly unreasonable in a blog contest where children and teens read), a spirit of jealousy and criticism (initially some of them were also in the running for prizes, and somebody suggested, wrongly, that they were breaking the law), and some objections to at least some of the prizes offered, as they come from hsing businesses not everybody supports. You know what, some of the prizes offered are not prizes I would use or recommend, either. At least one is a business I have refused to buy from for many years now, and I think my reasons are very good. But so what? I LIKE the Homeschool Blog Awards, and I love that Sprittibee and friends are gracious enough to volunteer all this time to do something for others. It’s generous of them, and it would be churlish of me to complain about how their project looks.

If you don’t like the sponsors, there are at least four options I can think of, all of them more reasonable than giving a hard time to hard working volunteers who you have not supported with helpful input, funding, or donations of your own time.

You could start your own secular blog awards and do your own leg work. I really hope this isn’t what happens, because I think that kind of splintering is harmful to the homeschooling community.

You could offer to do the legwork to track down businesses who will donate prizes that don’t bend your nose out of shape. You can put in some time into the project instead of requiring others to do this. This would make the Homeschool Blog Awards better for everybody.

You can also work harder at nominating and canvassing for those secular blogs you like if you don’t think they are getting enough notice. And you could suggest, after the Blog Awards are done, that next year might include a category for secular blogs, or even more specifically for a non-family friendly blog- that way, at least other voters would know ahead of time if they wanted to go read that blog or let their children read there. Call it ‘the blue zone,’ or something, and the rules about profanity could be lifted only for blogs in that category. Volunteer to be the overseer for this category, to screen nominations for spam or anti-homeschooling blogs, or blogs that have nothing to do with homeschooling. After all, it’s not fair or reasonable to expect the current volunteers to wade through material that they find offensive. Note: I do not even know if this would work or be acceptable to the current volunteers- my point is that instead of requiring more work from people who have already invested a considerable chunk of their lives in a strictly volunteer project, you should invest your OWN time.

If you don’t have the time, ability, or inclination to contribute your own time and efforts into making the HBA more comprehensive in vision, into finding prizes that you would like, into including categories that you would like, then maybe you should stop and think that the people already volunteering don’t have any more hours in the day than you do, and quit asking them to use their time to suit you. Just be gracious.

It doesn’t matter if everything is exactly as I would have done it (it isn’t) and if all the prizes are compatible with your ideas (they aren’t) and if all the blogs are indeed representative of the home-school community at large (I am sure they don’t even claim to be). They don’t need to be, in fact, it’s impossible that they will be because nobody can please everybody all the time. If the very changes that some people are requesting these kind volunteers to make get made, other people will be feeling just as ‘left out’ and unhappy. Why does anybody feel the sense of entitlement to other people’s time and work this way? If you can’t contribute your own time, just smile and thank the folks who do.

Imagine if the Little Red Hen let the cow, the pig, and the horse in to eat her bread, and the cow complained that she preferred banana bread, and the pig pointed out that some folks are allergic to wheat and so the hen ought to have offered a wheat and gluten free bread, and the horse wanted to know why there wasn’t any chocolate and how come the Hen hadn’t made jam to go with the bread.

Nobody is forcing anybody else to participate. The HBA are done by volunteers who generously donate their time, their brain power, their efforts, and who work through all kinds of head-aches to make this project run smoothly. Appreciate their efforts even if you’d rather have banana bread- and don’t make their volunteer work a burden to them.

Vote for the Homeschool Blog Awards today, and yes, once more, I wouldn’t mind at all if you voted for us, especially since of the six bloggers in this household, only one of us has been permitted to vote (a computer thing, I think). We’ve been nominated in Best Family blog and Best Variety.

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