|turkey profile by Hope Abrams (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)|
It’s hard being the new girls.
“Hi, I’m Sue. I’m new to this group.”
“You’ve just started homeschooling?”
“No. We’ve been homeschooling for 22 years.”
"So you've just moved to this area?”
"So why have you suddenly decided to come along to our meetings?"
"We thought it would be nice to get out and meet some new people.”
I’ve had the above conversation a lot lately. Actually I've had it with every mother I've spoken to at the homeschooling support group we've recently joined.
It's difficult chatting to new people, trying to make new friends. It’s not as if the women aren’t friendly. They are. I guess it just takes time to get to know people, to feel comfortable and for us to work out how the group runs...
The first week we attended a meeting, everyone brought soup to share for lunch. Everyone except us. But the second week we were better prepared. We arrived with a huge pan full of carrot, potato and cheese soup. Unfortunately it wasn’t soup week. It was cupcake week. We heated our soup anyway and ate it by ourselves. It was delicious.
This week is Book Week but we don’t have to worry about bringing along soup or cupcakes or even books, because we won’t be able to go to the meeting. This Wednesday I shall be in Sydney at the Catholic Digital Media Conference. While all the mothers are listening to their kids give talks about their favourite books, I shall be speaking about blogging. My girls are rather relieved. They screwed up their noses when I mentioned the Book Week activity. They certainly don't want to dress up as their favourite book characters. I’m afraid we get rather alarmed when someone suggests a group activity. I guess we just want to go to homeschool meetings to do a little socialising, have a few conversations. We don't want to be organised into doing things we aren't really interested in. I wonder if that's because we are unschoolers. Or perhaps we're just contrary.
A few of the mothers know we're unschoolers. (I volunteered the information.) But no one has yet discovered my secret online life. They are unaware I’m a blogger. It hasn’t come up in conversation. Thinking about this makes me realise there is probably a hidden side to everyone. If only we ask the right questions, and show enough interest, I’m sure we would find out so many fascinating or unexpected things about the people we chat to.
So far I haven't found out much about my fellow homeschoolers. I suppose I'll have to try a little harder, get to know people better. There has to come a time when conversation moves on from: “How long have you been homechooling? How many children do you have? Where do you live?” to something more interesting. Those questions can get a bit repetitive. But how will I do it?
I am reminded of an art of conversation course I did years ago. I often think about one sentence in particular: You need to find someone’s turkey. Turkey? Apparently there was this man who was having a hard time maintaining a conversation with a certain woman… until he mentioned turkeys. Once this word was uttered, the woman’s eyes lit up and her tongue came alive. Suddenly she had a lot to share. Turkeys were her passion. (Yes, really!) Once we’ve found someone’s ‘turkey’ conversation is easy.
Joining a conversation isn’t always easy when you’re the new girls. My girls hung back at their first homeschool meeting, waiting for the teenagers to include them. When nothing happened, Charlotte strode across to them and introduced herself. She is rather surprising at times. I used to tell people she is quiet. She’s not. She just doesn’t make much noise if there’s no real reason to do so.
I remember when Charlotte was about 5 years old. We were at a homeschool camp. I was describing her to a woman I’d just met: “My Charlotte is very quiet,” I said, pointing to my daughter who was across the room.
“Oh I know Charlotte! She’s not quiet,” said the woman. "She ate lunch with my family. She’s very chatty.” Is Charlotte naturally chatty? Or did the woman find her turkey? Perhaps I just misjudged my own child.
So what’s my turkey? Writing, blogging, unschooling…You’d better not ask me about any of those. I’ll start talking and talking, and you’ll be stuck with me for hours. Yes, once we are talking about our favourite subject, an unending flow of words appears on our lips. I shall have to be very careful when I’m at the digital media conference. I’ve only got a certain amount of time to tell people about my experience of blogging. I mustn’t get carried away. I must keep an eye on the clock.
“Have you prepared your talk?” asks my husband Andy.
“I’ve made a list of points I want to make,” I reply.
“Have you practised out loud in front of a mirror?”
Practise? “Nah! I know what I‘m going to say.” The words are going to roll off my tongue, no problem at all. I hope.
Two days chatting with people who all have the same turkey. It’s going to be good!
So what's your turkey? What makes your eyes light up and your tongue come alive? Please share!
This week I've posted all kinds of things on my Sue Elvis Writes Facebook page. There's a healthy brownie recipe, photos of our late winter walk through the bush, a link to an Astrid (How to Train Your Dragon) braid tutorial and most exciting, some information about my new children's novel, The Angels of Abbey Creek. It's now available from Lulu. I hope you'll hop over to my page and take a look!