Friday, April 22, 2011

My catalogue, my friend? (and a bonus frugal link)

The very thoughtful and passionate Cindy at Ordo Amoris has posted her "Annual Catalog Post."   Even this veteran homeschooler admits to feeling a certain amount of angst while looking through shiny homeschool catalogues:
"Then I feel angry at my husband. ("Seriously, man, work some overtime.")

"Within a few days I feel like a total homeschool failure.("I can't even afford to put them all in public school.")

"It would be less sinful for me to peruse the Sport's Illustrated swimsuit issue. At least I couldn't even pretend I could look like those models."
Anyone who has hung around around our blog, or has sat through one of Mama Squirrel's occasional workshops on homeschool frugality, knows that we are not big homeschool buyers here either.  We share Cindy's annoyance with marketing that plays on ambition, envy, and fear, whether it's directed at homeschoolers, clothing buyers, or toothpaste users.  And we understand her worry that homeschoolers try too hard to emulate our culture's values, or non-values, in the way that school subjects are taught, and in our assumption, for example, about the value of a high school or college diploma.  Where we live, homeschoolers don't even get provincial high school diplomas, so that's a real issue for many people we know who would otherwise continue to teach their children through those years.

So you would probably expect me to agree with everything she has said in her post. 

Well...maybe it's because I'm still not much of an online shopper, or because I live where bricks-and-mortar homeschool stores are scarce (I know of only one, a couple of hours from here), or because I'm too old and cynical to be expecting catalogues to solve all my life problems...but I rather enjoy reading the few catalogues that I do get.  I get maybe two actual homeschool catalogues by mail a year, and pick up a couple more at the spring conference.  Compared with the image I get of American hyper-catalogues, I guess they're pretty low-key; they tend to stick mostly to product descriptions.

Over the past few years, we've developed a relationship, if you can call it that, with the company that has the above-mentioned bricks-and-mortar store.  Not that the "Squirrel account" is going to make anybody rich; this company doesn't carry everything we want, especially in areas like literature, so we don't buy a huge amount of material there; but we like being on a first-name basis with one family-run business.  We pick up a couple of things from them at the conference, and try to combine a late-summer drop-in with a visit to the beach.   Their catalogue is just one tool for me; the products we've bought from them are also tools, things that have made our homeschooling lives easier in one way or another.   They sell pretty standard Christian-homeschool stuff:  Apologia science, Letz Farmer's Math Made Meaningful, novel studies.  Some of it we have used for years, the rest does not interest us, but it's not a particular source of angst.

Does it seem strange that a frugal, CM-based homeschooler should defend least old-fashioned what's pretty much a post-catalogue era?  Isn't that kind of blowing heat up the chimney?  I find myself trying to peer around my advancing age to see what the younger homeschoolers are up to, and I'm haven't been able to nail that one down yet.  I do have a feeling that plain-old-stuff programs like Miquon Math that,unfortunately, aren't just open-the-book-and-teach, are probably headed for oblivion with the coming generation (do younger homeschool parents even know what the New Math era was?).  I've heard it said by others that the new crop of parents aren't even familiar with "the classics of homeschooling," whatever that might mean.  I'm guessing that would include some of the Christian-oriented books that came out in the '80's and '90's, maybe those by the Moores, Ruth Beechick, Mary Pride, Valerie Bendt, or Diana Waring, rather than, say, John Holt. 

Well, how did we get to know about those things?  For me, it was largely through our local homeschool library (lucky us).  But also--catalogues.  Nice descriptive ones that told me about how the vendors' children were using particular materials, or about how they saw a certain product and decided it had to be in the catalogue. And when I started homeschooling, there were certainly homeschooling magazines--not the same ones that are big today, but the ones that were standard fifteen years ago, and they had the same big happy perfect families on the covers.  Well, if you don't know what's out there, how do you know to look for it?  So it's a catch-22.  If you read the magazines and the catalogues, you'll think you don't have anything and that you need everything.  But if you don't, you might miss something new and excellent that becomes tomorrow's classic.

But don't worry.  Somebody will probably Twitter you about it.

P.S.  The Deputy Headmistress's weekly post at Frugal Hacks is all about that ingrained idea that if there's a problem, we need to buy something to fix it.

Linked from the Carnival of Homeschooling at Corn and Oil, April 26, 2011


Cindy said...

The Internet has certainly changed the landscape for magazines and catalogues (I envy your spelling and punctuation.)

I do enjoy them but my own sin nature and feelings of inadequacy reign. That is why I have to write the post annually. To remind myself I can homeschool without the lesson plans.

Carletta said...

I still enjoy getting my homeschool catalogs every year. We love the curriculum we use, so I never buy much, but I love looking at all the knew products, and I usually come away with some great ideas.

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

I can handle the catalogs, and I enjoy them. But I have come to realize that I just should not be let loose in a curriculum fair. Something about the smell of the books... it's like heroin to an addict or something.

I lose my mind.

and then the grocery money.

I am, sadly, not making that up.

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