Wednesday, June 3, 2009

On Blogging

The end of the school year, and a new blog, seems to be a good occasion to think back about why I started blogging in the first place.

I started my first blog close to 5 years ago, as a sort of fun way to record family history, but I didn't really get going on regular blogging until I began Sierra Highlands, then named Every Waking Hour, to answer my own questions about unschooling. That was almost four years ago. I didn't publicize my blog at that time, even to personal friends or family. It was just a private notepad to jot down thoughts, questions and observations. I don't think anyone even knew about it for almost a year.

So my first compelling reason to blog was to work through thoughts. This seems to be a common motive for blogging. A lot of blogs I have come across will have a subtitle that implies that it is a place for the blogger to work through thoughts and issues. Many blogs have a specific theme to filter things through. My first theme was "can you unschool and still have classic liberal arts aspirations?" Over time I answered that question with a "Yes", and it became less of an issue. As a result my blog changed its focus subtly and it changed its name a couple of times to reflect the shift in emphasis.

I also tried to journal or record everyday life on my blog in order to gain insight and perspective. My old homeschooljournal blog in particular was devoted to that goal. So this was probably reason #2. I had limited success with this goal. I wanted to record life in order to see evidence of learning, but when you do that, you -- or at least I -- get into a subtle trap. You could call it the Observer Effect. You interpret what you are seeing according to what you are trying to see, and the record goes through a sort of filter. Even when you're not specifically trying to see something, your own perspective inevitably colors your selection of details. Of course, that's not a bad thing in itself, but it wasn't quite what I wanted. Still, I'm glad I tried; it was sometimes uncomfortable at the time I wrote, but it's interesting to look back on those journals.

A third reason for blogging, which took a more prominent place as my early blogs got more readers, was to give back to the community. Ever since I joined the cyberworld back in 1998, I've been awed by and grateful to the people who are willing to provide support and resources and ask nothing in return. Even before the internet, when I first started homeschooling, I owed debts of gratitude to early homeschool writers like John Holt, Mary Pride, Raymond and Dorothy Moore, and Susan Schaeffar Macaulay (to name a few early influences). So I blogged to provide a homeschooling voice and to share resources and methods with others. A side blessing for me from that was in meeting new people, some of whom have become friends. I think a lot of people blog to make their voice heard. In the homeschooling community this seems particularly important because it is an antidote to ignorance and stereotyping, and can be invaluable to newcomers and seekers.

Overlapping with journalling, but distinct from it and more successful for me, is archiving. Probably this is my biggest personal pay-off from blogging. Blogging allows much easier retrieval than handwritten notebooks or any other system I've used.

There are three kinds of archiving that have been useful for me. One is recording the past -- journals and photos. Even though I am ambivalent about journal-type blogging, it is a real longterm blessing to look back on various times of our lives and see what shows up in the archives. Photos are especially rewarding to look back upon, and little incidents showing what the members of the family were doing, saying, and dealing with at various times in our lives.

The second kind of archiving goes under the heading of accountability. I've often used blogs to stay accountable primarily with homeschooling, house management and health/fitness (my big 3 H's). I've learned a lot about myself from paying attention to trends in these three things over time. There is no way I could plan, implement and recollect things so effectively in any other way that I've discovered so far.

The third kind of archiving is of resources. I collect quotes, links to useful places, and books I may want to come back to someday. I also post plans and lists so I have an easy way to come back to them when I need them.

These have been my major blogging motives in the past, and no doubt will be in the future as well. My main reason for the new blog, I think, is to have an uncluttered spot to build upon these more intentionally. Also, as I mentioned before, in order to consolidate my scattered systems into one spot. All of these things fit under the idea of "quotidian" because none of them are very big things in themselves, but they are the particles that make up whatever is larger than the sum of them.

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