Homeschool Meetings, Talking and Turkeys

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?”

“Well, no…”

“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!



You can also find me on my Stories of an Unschooling Family Facebook page!


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Comments

    • Erin
    • August 17, 2014
    Reply

    Sue
    Wow you're a presenter at a DMC! Impressive! Oh wish I was going, love to hear about how your talk goes:)

    1. Reply

      Erin,

      I was very surprised when one of the organisers of CDMC, Sydney asked if I'd like to speak. Of course I feel honoured. I accepted straight away! Imogen is coming with me for the 2 day conference. We're staying at Mary McKillop Place. I'm sure we'll have a great time. I wish you were going as well. It would have been lovely meeting up with you. No doubt I will report back on how my session went! Thank you so much for stopping by!

    • Hwee
    • August 17, 2014
    Reply

    I think I can talk a lot about homeschooling and education, but only to the right audience. Sometimes people just ask to make conversation when they aren't really interested. When I notice that, I'll make an equally polite and short response and leave it at that. 🙂

    Your experience with the homeschooling support group is interesting. It sounds very similar to ours. Luckily we live in an area where we can pick and choose from attending different groups so we tend to do that, rather than to stick with any one group. We also tend to do more by ourselves, and I'm planning to do even more by ourselves in the new year. Some groups can be very cliquish, and they don't really warm to newcomers. We avoid going back to such groups after the first meeting. 🙂 As long as we are happy with what we do as a family in terms of homeschooling, any support group that we are able to find outside is a bonus. 🙂

    1. Reply

      Hwee,

      Oh yes, I agree! We can tell when someone is really interested or just being polite. I'm not encouraged to speak in the latter case either.

      The other day, I was in the middle of an 'interesting' story and I suddenly realised the person I was speaking to was no longer paying attention. I stopped mid sentence and she didn't even seem to notice. Perhaps she did notice and was secretly relieved I'd given up!

      Perhaps when we genuinely set out to be interested in someone we are often surprised by what they have to say. Usually when someone is talking about their passion they come alive and their enthusiasm is transmitted to us. I always feel so touched when someone really pays attention to my words. They make me feel I have something worthy to say. People who are able to do this have a great gift.

      Oh yes, we like to do things by ourselves too. Certainly family times are much more important than those we spend with a support group. I guess we will persevere with the group at least for the rest of the term. So far we've only been able to attend every second week because of other commitments. That rather suits us: Contact with others but not too much, and on our own terms! I fear we are not really group people!

  1. Reply

    I love this…. finding someone's turkey! I am going to remember this!

    1. Reply

      Nancy,

      Finding someone's turkey… It's a wonderful saying, isn't it? Those words have become part of our family's vocabulary. We often talk about conversational skills and how we can improve them. Yesterday we were talking about conversation from an introvert's perspective. I think introverts make great conversationalists, proper conversation, not the chit-chat kind!

  2. Reply

    This conference sounds exciting, but speaking at a conference … I'd never do it. I admire your courage.

    1. Reply

      Uglemor,

      I enjoyed speaking at the conference. I was co-presenting with another blogger and we had a wonderful audience who were obviously very interested in the subject. It's always easier to talk when people are obviously listening!

      I bet there are many things you have the courage to do, and I don't. I would never sing in front of anyone unless I was sure no one could hear me, or ride a bicycle anywhere at all, or drive through the city with bumper to bumper traffic, or dive into a swimming pool… I bet you do all those things!

  3. Reply

    Finding someone's turkey!! How cool is that expression! I love it! Now whenever I'm in a situation where I'm talking small talk, I'll be thinking turkey the whole time!
    I've just written my 7 revealing facts! Thanks again for the nomination.

    1. Reply

      Claire,

      We'll all be thinking 'turkey'! I agree: it's a great expression.

      I am so pleased you wrote a revealing facts post. Thank you! I read it earlier but was on my tablet at the time, so didn't stop to comment. (I prefer to use my laptop keyboard when writing!) It is such a good post and I was so pleased to find out more about you. I will return and add a proper comment as soon as I can!

  4. Reply

    I love the idea of finding someone's turkey! I'm going to use that with my kids!

    So glad you had a good time at the conference, wish I could have been there!

    We also are mostly homebodies who want support groups for some light socializing.

    I'm an introvert who really enjoys talking to people one (or a few) at a time. I'll chat about home schooling, history, and pretty much any science except ecology. One of my BIG turkeys is talking to people come from other places! I love to hear about how their lives are different (and the same!). I try not to ask too many questions, but I am really curious: I had a Nigerian friend, and I wanted to know, what did he eat for breakfast? (the answer turned out to be a kind of fried dough, like small hush puppies). He thought the question was very funny! He also told me that the correct way to say hippo (the animal) was "hip po po TOME iss", not "hip PO pot a miss" (the way Americans say it). We felt, since he actually had the animals where he lived, he must be saying it right!

    Now I wonder, what do you call it in Australia?!

    1. Reply

      Wendy,

      Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could meet up at conferences? We would have had such a great time together. I love getting together with people who are passionate about the same things as me. The conference was literally buzzing!

      Oh I like your turkeys! I could talk to you about those. I like finding out more about people from different places to me. I don't think anyone minds questions about such things.(well, I don't!) It just shows you are very interested in them.

      We say quite a few words differently to you but this time we agree. It's hip PO pot a miss.

      Place names always confuse me. Should we say them in the language of the country or change the pronunciation? Of course we say Paris, but should that really be Paree?

      Sometimes even the people belonging to a country say things in the wrong way. We always laugh at how many Australians say Austraya instead of Australia. Just lazy, I guess!

  5. I managed to read this when I had a few moments of internet connectivity on our cruise ship. It made me smile so much. After that, whenever I found myself suddenly feeling alive when the conversation turned to one of my favourite subjects, I would think, "Ooh! Turkey!"

    1. Reply

      Lucinda,

      It's fascinating to think my words were on a cruise ship! With the internet our posts can travel anywhere in the world. It's just a pity we can't do the same!

      Suddenly feeling alive… oh that is a perfect description of how we feel when we are talking about our turkey! Isn't turkey such a wonderful word when used in this way?

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