Thursday, November 30, 2023

Really instructive

Well, I did it! One post per day...and then some! 

Now I really need to get cracking on our Christmas newsletter (among other writing projects). 

I got a rejection notification for a paper today. I'm getting more and more used to rejection as I put more and more things out into the world. And I'm coming to truly believe that it's more about finding the right home for your writing than it is about what you wrote (it's impossible to please everyone and there are so many different possibilities for writing regarding genre and style).

One of my papers that will be coming out soon (in theory) went through multiple rounds of editing and multiple journals before it found a home. That stung a little, but it was a co-authored paper and my mentor helped me remember to move "onwards and upwards" because she believed our paper had merit and was worthy of publication somewhere. And also our reviewers took time to offer constructive criticism. 

You know—the kind of criticism that points out specific things you might attempt to fix or change, delete or add, explain or verify. It doesn't tear down your work, but builds it up, tells you what you might do to make your project better. 

Today's review just made me want to stick my tongue out at the reviewer a little bit. While it starts out sounding like it is going to be constructive:
The author really has very interesting insights on how poetry comics can be used as an educational tool, and a straightforward, non-scientific or case study essay can address this. 
It ended up just passively dismissing the entire thing as drivel:
Using one’s own children as test subjects brings up issues around objectivity, non-institutional over-sight, and incentivizing participants. This is a non-viable case study. Recommend the author a complete rewrite. 

(And that is the end of the review; nothing more was said.) 

Now, it's true that my paper is a case study of our homeschool experience, but that is my legitimate classroom. And I have a paper coming out (of a different case study) in a different journal (admittedly...a homeschooling journal), but still. I have another paper coming out where in the subjects of the study are also the authors. 

My paper addressed the limitations of a homeschool environment in the study. But just because the study happened in a homeschool environment does not mean the entire case study is non-viable. 

And incentivizing participants?! How do you even control for that within a "real" school classroom? Because even if the teacher or administration is "in charge" of incentives for student participation, that does not eliminate parental persuasions. I know kids who get paid per A they earn. I'm sure kids exist who seek certain grades to avoid punishments as well. Or to earn a scholarship. Or whatever. And then what about commercial motivations? Krispy Kreme used to offer free doughnuts for a certain GPA when I was in high school. Pizza Hut does their little scholastic incentives. I'm sure other places offer incentives as well.

I just see little difference in the incentivizing I might use in a brick-and-mortar classroom versus in my own home. But whatever.

So, that's it. That's the advice: complete rewrite. 

But they don't even mean that. 

They mean: complete the study (which was observations of a series of lessons plans executed over a number of weeks) in a real classroom with real students. 

To which I say: *sticks tongue out.*

I'll find a home for the paper somewhere else, thank you very much.


I guess I'm feeling extra sensitive about this because I took Miriam and Phoebe in for their well-child checks today, which means that I had to have another discussion with our pediatrician regarding how the kids are doing in school. Our pediatrician clearly does not approve of the decision to homeschool. 

She wants to know if the kids are "really" learning things. 

She wants to know if they're able to interact with "normal" children.

And when she asked Benjamin what his favourite school subject was...and he took far too long to answer that question...she sucked in her breath and said, "Do you even know what school subjects are?"

I'm sure those were meant to be inside words.

Anyway, Benjamin finally told her that math was his favourite subject. 

But I'm pretty sure she'll soon have an email coming her way explaining that my children really are learning, that they exposed to people from many walks of life, that they interact with "normal" children just fine (and, I hope, with those considered outside the norm, which may ultimately prove more important to their character).

Rachel is taking multiple university-level courses this year. She interacts with her peers (ranging in age from 16 to about 40) and professors with written and oral communication. She leads group projects, attends zoom meetings, and is doing well in all her courses. 

She plans regular game nights with her friends (and Miriam and her friends), whom she texts regularly. 

She and Miriam both attend in-person early-morning seminary. 

Miriam is taking two university-level courses. She knits up a storm. She taught all the Young Women and Young Women leaders in our ward how to knit. She is the studio assistant for her organ teacher and helps teach group lessons. 

I hardly even see Benjamin, Zoë, and Alexander after school. Once the elementary kids get dropped off at the bus stop, my kids are outside riding bikes, climbing trees, and building forts with any children in the neighbourhood who don't attend after-school programs. We are fortunate that COVID seemed to change this dynamic; before it seemed all children in the neighbourhood attended after-school programming. But now many more come home (to parents working from home) and then play outside. 

Personally, I see this as a positive change. 

Today we went to co-op where we split into classes where the kids are learning the art of prosecution and defense from an actual attorney, who is running a mock court with the kids. Zoë's class had a guest speaker come in who taught their class about civil rights; they concluded their class period by holding a "peaceful protest." She is all fired up over the race discrepancy in swimming and institutional racism. Alexander and his peers built towers out of marshmallows and toothpicks. Phoebe even happily went to her preschool class (with Rachel, who skips out on my ukulele class to take Phoebe, who won't go on her own, and then I take Phoebe and Rachel attends the mock trial course). Absolutely no tears this week. It was great! 

Next semester Rachel will be teaching the preschool class (I'm hoping I can get her to take child development through BYU-I at the same time; we'll see). 

The kids are doing well in math. Their writing skills are improving. They're curious and invested learners most days (and slackers some other days, but I hear that's a "normal" child thing (not that I would know that myself since I, uh, apparently am not raising "normal" children)).


So, anyway...I just...was feeling a little defensive today and it wasn't a great day to hear that this reviewer felt my entire case study—which was had "interesting insights on how poetry comics can be used as an educational tool"—was non-viable

I'm sorry to hear that the readership of this journal, which I assume must be comprised of "real" school teachers, are not clever enough to take a study of this nature—which indeed may have been observed in an environment different from their own—and apply it to their own teaching practices in their "legitimate" classrooms.

But I will not be undertaking a complete rewrite and instead will be seeking another journal whose reviewers might offer actual ideas about how to improve the paper (the one idea I have gleaned from this review is to be more explicit about the limitations of the study, but that's it).


  1. You should have your pediatrician read your blog because I can see from reading it that they are learning a lot - and in creative ways! We have a lot of homeschoolers here (my sister homeschooled Michael nearly his entire school year). Now I wonder if they also have pediatricians who act the way yours did. Maybe you need a new one.

  2. I had the same thought--about at least sharing this post with your pediatrician.