Resolved: Be more informative

Here are a few random things I learned during the holidays:

1.You can cook on a hotel iron. Also, I really like that I got this information from a site that reviews consumer products. The photos on the site are great. Each iron has its pros and cons as a skillet. I had never imagined an egg on an iron, but it turns out it’s not that far-fetched, and people also cook with hair driers.

2. Arab flags all have the same colors. I learned this from clicking around on a jobs site that emailed me. There’s a page with a bunch of flags from the Middle East. And I guess I’ve never seen them all lined up before because I never noticed they are all green, red and black, which, it turns out, are the Pan-Arab colors.

3. Sanctimonious means self-righteous, holier than thou. I had heard the word before. I think I thought it meant gratuitous. Which is sort of part of the meaning but not all of it. I had to look up the word because Tracy – a reader who told me, in this comment, that she likes this blog but she doesn’t like when I get sanctimonious.

First of all, I know Tracy pretty well, through comments, and courses and coaching. And I know she is smart and insightful, and if she’s telling me I’m sanctimonious, I need to listen.

Also, though other people have said this, I try to brush it off. But you can’t just brush off criticism from someone who really likes your work. I’ve written before about how the best way to get better at your job is to listen to your critics. But you have to know which ones to listen to: if they hate you then they don’t understand you. But if they are fans, then you really need to listen to the criticism.

So starting this year I am going to try to not be on a soap box. I am going to just dole out information and insight in a really useful way so that you can’t help but be sucked in by the posts because you are learning so much.

If I can’t get you to put your kids in an engaging environment, the least I could do is make an engaging environment for you, right?

See this photo?

Artist Suzanne Heintz has spent fourteen years living with her mannequin family, and taking pictures with them “to show that single people can be happy too”.

She takes photos of herself doing all sorts of normal, every day things that many people assume would only be enjoyable with kids.

I like the photo because it reminds me that I should write for everyone, not just people with kids. Kids is a job. But some people give themselves completely to their jobs, just as people can give themselves completely to kids.

Suzanne Heintz is making a point here. She is sick of people thinking you need to have a family to have a full life. She is making fun of that. But she does it with such grace and passion that even though I don’t think like her, I listen to her.

I want to be that person, one who is full of grace and passion so you want to listen whether you agree with me or not. And I have a feeling it’ll be good for me, because the deeper inside myself I dig for the truth, the harder it is to be sanctimonious.


29 replies
  1. Joy
    Joy says:

    When I was in the dorm in college, we weren’t allowed to have hot pots, but we could have irons. You can make a great grilled cheese sandwich, just wrap in foil and iron until done.

  2. Joy
    Joy says:

    P.S. As a fellow Aspie, I have to say that I have the tendency to be sanctimonious as well. So my daughter, another Aspie. So when you do it, it doesn’t bother me, but I can see where it might bother other people, and I have to work on that personally as well.

  3. malaika
    malaika says:

    I love it when you’re sanctimonious. I also read Joanna Goddard’s blog for her amazing and on-point insights on cultural trends, but often wish she was a little stronger in her belief in herself. I like that you seem to have that – or, at least, a rock-solid belief that you’re right.

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      I love Joanna too!

      I think Joanna has cultivated that tone in her writing voice. And it’s a good thing.

      Everywhere you turn you’re yelled at and everyone is an expert of sorts. Joanna invites to explore without bulldozing you with her answer. Her and Penelope have the same personality type. And they both are so willingly exposed. But they sound so different don’t they?

      Joanna makes me feel like I’m not so alone in the world feeling insecure and Penelope reminds me to assert myself because my thoughts seem normal to me but it’s possible they haven’t occurred to other people. And I have been blown away by the thoughts of other people (they probably seemed like common sense to them at the time).

  4. Jennifa
    Jennifa says:

    I had to double-check to make sure I was reading the ‘Education’ section. But writing for everyone including people with no kids even in the education section sounds awesome to me! I have read the education blog from day one and have no kids, and I get alot out of it, sanctimony and all. :)

    However you still write it as an either/or, either you have a family or you have a job. This still leaves some people out.

    I have gotten so much from your blogs Penelope, thanks for writing and keeping me on my toes.

  5. Jana Miller
    Jana Miller says:

    Don’t change!

    You can be as self righteous as you want to and I’ll still read your posts. ( I don’t think you are all that self righteous-I thinks it’s just confidence and a willingness to call people out that are acting a certain way without thinking about their choices.)

    You always seem to challenge my way of thinking and you are willing to say what others want to say but won’t.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I guess it’s a fine line, right? It’s an art to be emphatic and not annoying. I’m working on it… maybe we all are.


      • Emily
        Emily says:

        Another vote for DO NOT CHANGE. I like the Education section just the way it is. You helped me to really understand homeschooling and radical unschooling. DO. NOT. CHANGE. (and I never do that period-for-emphasis thing, so please.. don’t change!)
        I love your Loud and Proud voice and views on education. Keep it up, please!

  6. sarah
    sarah says:

    I read Tracys comment. So here is my thought, as a soon to be highly valued critic, when a person is reading a specific blog you should expect them to hammer on about that subject. Being in the homeschool community I have met sanctimonious people, and, sorry Penelope you dont quiet fit. You almost do, because I have not read or heard of solutions for the current public school problem. Public school isnt going away. It would be nice for you to balance and highlight Solutions and problems. But someone has to point out problems for us to look for solutions. I think most reformers are sanctimonious. People never listen to change unless you are passionate about it.

  7. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    I have this theory that if you’re really good at something you should be allowed to be sanctimonious (or what I interpret as a little cocky) because it shows a sense of pride. You’re an awesome blogger who has changed my views of so many topics (the way I job search being the first and homeschooling being another) that you should be allowed to be cocky (or sanctimonious) especially on said topics.

  8. Kats
    Kats says:

    I have not felt you were sanctimonious, no more than anyone is. Just think about it, if a man were to be honest and upfront about things and share his opinion,no one would see him as sanctimonious.

    A friend of mine said some kids at her school thought her daughter was “bossy”. The truth is, she is a leader and has strong opinions.

    I do think our culture sees women through different eyes than we see men.

    I hope you keep expressing yourself!

  9. Karelys
    Karelys says:

    Someone up above said that you normally talk about jobs like work outside the home or raising kids were posed as separate and not mixable.

    I agree. It used to bother me.

    But I can’t tell if it’s because you’re wrong or if it’s because you’re right and I hate the reality of it.

    • Stephanie
      Stephanie says:

      I think she’s right, and it makes the way we live our lives seem a bit messed up, if you take the time to really think about it. It’s irritating, but kind of freeing in a way, no?

      • Karelys
        Karelys says:

        yeah, the truth is freeing even if I don’t like it.

        The other day I had to go back on a promise I made my husband and queen of always being right I had nothing to say.

        He was furious because it was important to him (of course! why couldn’t I have messed up on something small!?). But instead of fighting and trying to validate my actions I just kinda had to sit there and marinate in the reality that I am so flawed in the ways that matter the most to the one I love the most.

        I just keep repeating in my head the Penelope post about seeing your failure unfold right in front of you.

        I kept repeating it like how catholics grab the little beads and pray and pray the same thing over and over until the comfort of the words internalize and sprout in your heart.

        Since then things are better. Like the little things my husband does that used to irritate me like no other, or the things that used to irritate me about myself, and other people too, they are not that big of a deal.

  10. Stephanie
    Stephanie says:

    Penelope, I have been reading your blog for about a year now, and although your tone has always been confident, I haven’t ever found it sanctimonious. Not a bit. You have passion, and you have a really unique view of things. I think that lots of people feel the way you do deep inside somewhere, but with all the cultural nonsense and ingrained ideas, we can’t hear the inner voice telling us the truth. You see it and say it. Keep standing on your soapbox. You can see far from there.

  11. suzanne
    suzanne says:

    i only happened upon your blog last month and all i can think is i wish i had happened upon you sooner. i don’t mind if you’re a little sanctimonious. i don’t find you soap boxy at all. i love your strong opinions even if i don’t do as you say.

  12. p
    p says:

    I like reading your sanctimonious posts for myself, because they make me feel like I’m making good choices, but I never share them because they are inflammatory and can make other people feel shitty. I always share your informative, research-synthesizing posts. So I hope you step up production of the latter without completely eliminating the former; I’d like a sanctimonious post once in a while still, so I can feel like I’m doing everything right.

    • mh
      mh says:

      Not sharing posts because they make others feel shitty.

      It’s clear that Americans try hard to be non-offensive toward minorities — usually.

      When the minorities happen to be American southerners, preppers, Mormons, or school choice advocates of whatever color, many otherwise-careful Americans feel free to get snide.

      That’s one reason shows like Duck Dynasty and Greatest Catch had such a big following… It told city Americans that the rednecks were laughing back at them. It’s infuriating for many people, when they think they are in the right, to learn that the people they were criticizing are criticizing (or worse, ignoring) them back.

      A dynamic America has room for school choice and experimentation.

  13. Cay
    Cay says:

    I have never found you sanctimonious. Biased in some areas, perhaps, but we all are.

    Above all, I appreciate your courage. It takes courage to stand up for what you believe in.

    “Brilliant thinking is rare, but courage is in even shorter supply than genius.” – Peter Thiel

  14. Christopher Chantrill
    Christopher Chantrill says:

    No, no, no! You’re seldom sanctimonious. Bossier than thou, perhaps. Or more “brazen” than thou.

    And whaddya mean: “just information?” What you are selling is “information with attitude.” We don’t come here for the information. We come for the attitude.

  15. Commenter
    Commenter says:

    I’ve noticed the sanctimony here too, and not just from PT. I’m not sure it’s the worst thing here. It’s normal to brag about your kids, and to assert that your parenting is the best parenting ever. That’s just typical playground talk. Bring on the humblebragging!

    The hyperbole here can also be fun. I understand that this is how PT learns and communicates, with exaggeration and sensationalism. That’s why this blog works on the web. Without the clickbait titles, it wouldn’t get as many page views, or drive traffic to PT’s business. The web without hyperbole would be ignored – it’s an occupational hazard. So it’s not just “my kid thought school was a drag,” it’s “school is always and everywhere a drag for all kids.” It’s not just “kids can learn things from video games,” it’s “parents should all let their kids play video games all day long because it’s the best way for them to learn.”

    The part that bothers me more than the sanctimony and hyperbole is the creation of a self-referential ideology of anti-institutionalism. Don’t send your kids to school. Don’t teach your kids math. Don’t tell them to read. Don’t prepare them for college. Don’t worry about credentials. Don’t think about getting a normal job. All supported with links from one to another, to make a knotty ball of countercultural twine.

    There’s some truth in all of this, or it would be easily dismissible. I hated school. My son hated school. I don’t send him to school anymore. But I don’t claim that all schools are terrible for all kids, because it’s simply not true. Some kids in school are probably better off there than my son is at home.

    Many people do well without going to college, or despite dropping out of college, like Bill Gates or our host, but that doesn’t mean college is useless. Some of us have or had careers that would have been impossible without the credentials and knowledge gained in college or graduate school; some of us would have been sorely damaged by following that kind of advice. It’s true that some kids can play unlimited video games and do just fine with it, but others cannot, and they and their parents would not be helped at all by that advice. It strikes me as peculiar how infatuated folks can be with the differences in personality among people, while being so uniform about their prescriptions for parenting.

    This anti-institutional preaching, though each element tends to support each other element, and each part has good points to it, can itself become a colossal edifice of dogma. The core idea of unschooling – that the child himself is the one who should decide what and when to learn – is a fundamental insight from which every parent can benefit. It’s true that you can’t choose the personality of your child; it’s true that a child will learn best what he chooses to. But the child himself is still affected by his environment, and will still learn many things from you – even if you feel you’re not choosing to teach anything. Taking the insight to extremes may not be the best for all kids.

    We all have profound effects on our children. We may not be able to change their personality. We may not be able to consciously or _deliberately_ guide their paths. But they see the things we do, the choices we make, and the things we value. They hear our conversations with other adults, and they take in our worldview and our habits. Read every day and they likely will too. Hold regular music performances at your house, and your kids may retain the idea that playing music is a vital part of adult life. Spend eighteen years telling your kid that math is useless, college is a waste of time, and corporate jobs are stupid, and you may influence your kid sufficiently to close off careers for which these statements are not true. For people who don’t have family money, dropping out is more likely to lead to a career in food service than a small business.

    I grew up in the seventies (yes, ages ago), in an ambience of ferment and social change, with widespread questioning of social norms and institutions. Some people justifiably questioned truly evil deeds, like the terrorism we sponsored in Latin America and our misguided adventures in Southeast Asia. Others threw out the baby with the bathwater, leaving the country for good or turning to unproductive radicalism. Many became deeply cynical, and passed along this cynicism to a younger generation. I could joke as an adult that I grew up with a “military-industrious complex” – a complex about being either military or industrious. These biases did not help me prosper or progress in my early adulthood, and I would have done better without them. It turned out, to my surprise, that I was well-suited to work in the middle of the military-industrial complex, and I had an excellent if delayed career there.

    Like the rest of reality, institutions aren’t going to go away just because we’re ignoring them or we don’t like them or trust them. We can help our kids totally avoid some institutions, like grade school, but it would probably be to their benefit to learn how to interact with – if not enthusiastically participate in, at least get what they need from – other institutions, such as college. Even if they don’t need school, children are very likely to benefit from other institutions, and from learning how to cooperate in and with institutions. This may mean doing their best to stay focused in lecture classes, or studying math year after year to meet prerequisites, or accepting the irregularity of offerings in exchange for being part of a program larger than oneself.

    Having faith in one’s own ingenuity and creativity is wonderful, and one hopes his children develop it, but one should also hope his children will learn to add their part to creations that surpass any individual. I am thrilled that my children get to be part of grand institutions in our city, and I hope they will learn to do so better than I did.

    Bringing this back to the question of sanctimony, one of the ways this presents itself to readers of this blog is when its owner and other participants go beyond enthusiasm for their anti-institutional or counter-intuitive parenting choices to scoff at or condemn parents who don’t make the same choices. Sometimes I feel greater sympathy with the readers whose kids are in school, based on the digs directed towards them. If my family ever stops homeschooling (meaning, for us, that my children decide schools are the tools they need at the moment… or that we move to Switzerland), I will not miss the sanctimony.

  16. C.A. Lewis-McCarren
    C.A. Lewis-McCarren says:

    Self awareness and knowledge is an acquired art. We aren’t born with it and often times we die without really knowing ourselves or what even motivates us. I don’t know if people just really don’t care to “dig deep” in themselves or if they just don’t know how to go about doing it.

    I don’t really know you too well…..we have had a few short e-mails back and forth, I’ve taken your Personality class, and of course, I read your posts. From what I gather just reading and the little video interaction we have had, I think you are a very genuine person with many sides that are constantly in analytical mode. I find you VERY aware of what you are saying, how you say it and the expected responses you will get by doing so. You are a numbers person and understand all of that kind of information and how it impacts business/life and even beliefs at times.

    I think to be a numbers person you have to be risky. I am not a numbers person – I am an INFJ. I am a “gut” person. I read you from my gut and by understanding human behaviors I make my bets on what people are going to DO in response to all the variables presented in any given situation.

    I don’t think you are “sanctimonious” at all….to me you are PASSIONATE. And being passionate something is what you talk about All. THE. TIME.

    So please – for the love of all things wonderful and real in this world – continue your passionate rants, your passionate loves, your passionate pointing towards the amazing, your passionate dislike for conformity and your passionate passion of learning about ones self….. Continue to evolve the essence of Penelope Trunk.

  17. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    This is a snippet from an interview with Lazlo Brock, Google’s SR VP of Operations, done last year: “Google attracts so much talent it can afford to look beyond traditional metrics, like G.P.A. For most young people, though, going to college and doing well is still the best way to master the tools needed for many careers. But Bock is saying something important to them, too: Beware. Your degree is not a proxy for your ability to do any job. The world only cares about — and pays off on — what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it). And in an age when innovation is increasingly a group endeavor, it also cares about a lot of soft skills — leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn. This will be true no matter where you go to work.”

    So since your boys are getting older now, and you have been at this for quite a few years, maybe you could begin to show ways that unschoolers can learn those soft skills. A lot of unschooling is about independence, self-sufficiency, controlling what you want to learn and how, so it’s natural that unless we are introducing these additional environments that they just won’t be exposed to group work in order to learn these soft skills. For instance with our family, my kids take weekly acting classes that includes group work and improv scenes. Maybe you could show what your kids do.

    Also, a little sanctimony in your posts never hurt anyone and your follow up comments are always so helpful. I think what makes your blog a little different is that it’s not just a homeschooling blog but you also want to show the dark side of public education so people can see it instead of just going with the flow. I think you can still say “Hey this is what is going on in schools” to get our attention and then give your alternative. There is no self-righteousness in that.

  18. Amy K.
    Amy K. says:

    Where some see sanctimony, others see passion. But either way, it seems like you’re preaching to the choir on your blog. I don’t get the sense that you have a significant readership of non-homeschoolers, but maybe you do and they just don’t comment.

  19. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    Penelope, you make it hard for me to stick to my resolve of spending less time obsessing about your posts and the comments section.

    Fortunately, my other resolution, to voice my opinions more often is working well with some interesting results. No prizes for guessing where I get the inspiration to do that from.

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