So my vendor table at the homeschool conference went fine. More than fine I guess, I sold about half of my inventory and given that I have a history of bringing waaaayyyyy too much stuff, I think selling half is quite good. I’m happy with the results.
Aster came along and was a fantastic assistant, she helped me set up and tear down and got me water and snacks (because I couldn’t leave the table) and in my bigger moments of insecurity, she’d go to the other vendor areas and check out the traffic of the competition.
Which is both sweet (she always came back with “there aren’t more customers in the other rooms than you have, Mom” (which I don’t know is true or not but it definitely was the right answer at the time) and ridiculous because why should I compare myself to other vendors? That’s absurd - in no way was I competing with a textbook company or horseback riding or a historical landmark visitor center.
But it’s hard to think rationally when you’re nervous.
Thankfully I settled into the task at hand and chatted up the shoppers. I think my table spawned a live-action version of the game “Telephone” where you whisper something to someone and they pass it on – I had bowls of peppermint patties and Jolly Ranchers on my table and a steady stream of teens would nonchalantly stroll into the room, calmly look around while at the same time making a beeline for my candy dishes. I knew they knew *exactly* what they were looking for in that room. Busted.
So all in all, it was a great experience and the wonderfully warm and supportive reception I got from all my friends coming by the table blew my mind. Seriously, I have some of the kindest friends ever.
But that’s not what ultimately quelled my nerves.
It was this guy.
The drawback of being a vendor at the homeschool conference was that I couldn’t attend any of the sessions. I have lots of friends who presented and I would have loved to listen to them and cheer them on. And even though I’ve been at this homeschooling gig for 12+ years, there’s always something new to pick up or mull over or try out.
But let’s not forget that homeschooling is still way, way outside the norm. And let’s double not forget that I live in the DC area, mecca to the super-competitive rat race mentality that when it comes to kids, starts with preschool (for real).
I’m not going out on any limb here by saying I don’t run my homeschool with a rat race mentality.
But I still live in the midst of this crazy achievement-oriented culture, home to some of “the best schools in the nation” and although I do stop to ask myself “best at exactly what?” it’s hard not to get sucked into feeling inadequate for what I’m not doing for my kids.
A sweet friend stopped by my table during the conference and I asked her if she saw any of the featured speakers (somewhat feeling sorry for myself that I was stuck at the table and guilty that I wasn’t soaking in new knowledge to better teach my kids).
She said “Oh God no. I don’t want to hear that, I don’t need to feel any more inadequate. I’m just staying on the path we’re on and it will all work out. Listening to that session will just make me more nervous.”
Amen, sister. (suddenly not feeling so sorry for myself after all for having to stay at my table)
So back to the Revolutionary War Guy.
The room I was in had six vendors and across from me was St. John’s Church in Richmond, which is in fact a church, but they also have an affiliated historical society. Do you know what happened at St. John’s Church in Richmond?
(that’s not a real question, if you do know then good for you but keep it to yourself because you’ll make the rest of us feel bad)
So in that steady stream of kids that came through the room on their candy-seeking missions, they often stopped to talk to Revolutionary War Guy. Because, hello, these are homeschoolers we’re talking about. This is what they do.
(Though not my kids if I’m being brutally honest. They’re a little bit on the anti-social side. Apples didn’t fall far from the tree on that one.)
The kids would come through the room in search of candy and Revolutionary War Guy had a big bowl of it too.
But unlike me, he made them work for it.
He greeted every kid who approached his table with a jovial “So, have you ever heard of St. John’s Church?” and none of them had. Fair enough.
He followed it up with “Do you know who Patrick Henry was?” and I was blown away by the responses.
Almost none of them did.
And I’m pretty sure if my kids were there, they wouldn’t have known either.
(though kudos to Aster for helping out Revolutionary War Guy with his computer, he didn’t really know how to work a Mac and she hooked him up. Go Aster.)
See, my kids (and most if not all homeschooled kids) learn lots. LOTS. LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS. But it’s not always the same as what kids in school do (in fact usually it’s not) and it’s most often what I don’t expect. I’ve made peace with not expecting specific and measureable outcomes (mostly, on a good day).
But they’re developing as curious and resourceful humans, this I know. And that’s where I put my faith right now.
If they need to know who Patrick Henry was, I’m confident they can find out in about 12 seconds (probably less).
So we’ll just stay on the path we’re on and trust it will all work out.
Because those candy-seeking kids across the room can’t all be on the wrong path too, I'm certain.