The Boss didn’t mean to insult the Alpha & Omega sales representatives when she stood in the middle of the vendor’s hall at the Midwest Parent Educator’s annual homeschool convention and enthusiastically announced, “I finally figured why I hate your curriculum!” I couldn’t help but laugh. Her energy and enthusiasm was genuine, as was the smile on her face. The sales rep looked like she had been slapped. I was reading through their Communication Lifepac in search of the perfect curriculum for teaching a speech class when my wife made her announcement. Her complaint wasn’t based on the content of A & O’s curriculum, merely the fact that the Lifepac series comes in a series of large, thin pamphlet-style books that would easily get lost in our house. We have a hard time keeping track of large, heavy text books. This explanation did little to erase the look of polite distaste on the saleslady’s face, who replied, “It does come in a box,” before she wandered off to the far end of her display to patiently await her next customer while I complimented my wife on her tact and diplomacy.
“But I meant it as a criticism of ourselves!” she protested.
This was pretty much a standard date for us. We walked through the vendor’s hall hand-in-hand, oblivious to the crowds around us as we talked about homeschooling, the children, and our teaching goals while sharing astute observations about the displays, such as Levi and the Levites were famous pants makers. Our oldest son, General Mayhem, was watching his two younger siblings, and we were but a phone call away from any potential problems. There were only three phone calls yesterday, but no emergency rooms bills, and the police weren’t waiting on the door step when we arrived home. I’d say that was a good date. We had a lot of fun.
I’m always amused by the sales techniques used in these vendor halls. There is a large segment of the publishing world that targets Christian homeschoolers by using the words “from a Christian perspective” as often as possible during a presentation. Yesterday’s winner was the woman selling her state geography “from a Christian perspective” curriculum. The geopolitical information in her geography workbooks was rather factual in nature, but that didn’t dissuade her from pointing out that Indiana became a state on December 11, 1816, from a Christian perspective. Because, you know, from a secular perspective it happened in the 1820’s.
The highlight of the afternoon was meeting a woman named Carol Barnier. She was an extremely funny lady who was selling a pair of books that she had written about teaching highly distractible children: How to Get Your Child Off the Refrigerator and on to Learning and If I’m Diapering a Watermelon, Then Where’d I Leave the Baby? There was a picture on her table of a young boy reading a book inside of a clothes dryer. That caught our attention. We have a child who would do that. Well, two, actually. We stood and talked about one clear fact, parents who do not have highly distractible children simply do not understand what life is like for those of us who do. Those calm, polite, cooperative children who sit silently in church next to their parents and keep themselves occupied during services? Yeah, we don’t have one of those. And we never will. We have the children who ask in that unnaturally loud and clear voice that a child can only produce in the middle of our pastor’s sermon, “Is he finished talking yet?” Carol encouraged the Boss to add a comment to a contest on the Sizzle Bop Blog. It was the “I Never Thought I’d Say THAT!” contest, and Carol truly enjoyed my wife’s all-time favorite sentence that she never thought she’d say to her children, “Take the fork out of your butt!” You need to read the entries in that contest here. She also enjoyed hearing about the day I looked out the kitchen window to see Captain Chaos pushing a chicken in her baby swing while our middle child, Major Havoc, pushed a chicken down our yellow wavy slide. Chickens don’t like wavy slides. They hit the first hump and those little wings are flapping hard, desperately searching for enough lift to escape the maniacally laughing eight year old.
There were other fun moments, including a phone call to the Customer Service Department of Rainbow Resources after their cashier at the convention conducted my entire purchase while talking about Facebook on her cell phone with a friend. The woman never once said a word to me, and only indicated who was next in line to make a purchase by pointing a finger. I used my cell phone to call customer service, standing a few feet away from the cashier while she continued her rudeness with another customer. The customer service rep was angry, and immediately put me in touch with her supervisor, who was so shocked and surprised that she found it difficult to find the right words to apologize. I simply thanked her for listening. She assured me that she would address this breech of courtesy as soon as possible.
The Boss and I had a great afternoon at the convention, laughing, enjoying each other’s company, and searching for curriculum for next year. That’s the way homeschooling should be.