Friday 13 November 2015

7 Quick Takes 21: The Not-Slovenia Edition

The fact that I haven't posted on 7QT since the end of Link-toberfest has nothing to do with sour grapes at Kelly's not picking my name in her prize draw. It just happened to coincide with taking in tests and essays from my classes - that made well over a hundred assignments to grade for the past couple of weeks.

1. But, I've nearly made it through the semester, because for all intents and purposes we finish
teaching the week of Thanksgiving. Back in August/ September, I wanted to throw in the towel. The baby wouldn't take a bottle, disliked formula, wanted to be held all the time, and had reflux that made him frequently grumpy - and we couldn't squeeze forty hours out of the day to get everything done. Sometimes he didn't go to bed until eleven, or later. Next semester, I theoretically have a once-a-week night class  - I'm excited about the opportunity, and hoping that will free up our days much more. Fingers crossed for me that enough people sign up to make the class - it's an experimental offering.

2. Getting to the end of the semester made me think about my ongoing blog revival experiment. That, and a comment by a relative a couple of weeks ago that was meant to cheer me up after my review of my postpartum shenanigans. I felt bad, because I hadn't meant to sound negative. Then, of course, I got to worrying that my black humour is falling flat. I tend towards negativity/mild depression, and poking fun at my life is my way of keeping things in perspective. Depression traps you inside yourself - at least, that's how I've experienced it - and it's easy for me to become self-centered if I don't laugh at myself. Anyhow, I suppose I'm still floundering around finding my blogging voice.

3. I called this the Not-Slovenia edition in homage to the Not-Boston edition, because my husband was there this past week. However, while I'd much rather be in Slovenia than here, I wouldn't have wanted to be on his whirlwind, week-long trip. He has a very part-time position at one of the universities there, and had to go in person to vote on the university President.
Update: his luggage got home one day later than he did - and it was missing the candy he bought for our daughter, and the seal on a bottle of cherry brandy had been broken. Thank you, TSA.

4. While my husband was gone, we basically managed not to cook all week. If I was linking to Simcha Fisher's What's for Supper, it would be my culinary Walk of Shame. I had leftover lentil curry for two meals while my daughter made boxed macaroni cheese. Then it was soup from the freezer, followed by take out pizza. Saturday we made the leftover macaroni a side dish with poached eggs and veggie sausages, with baked apples to be healthy (if you ignored the butter and honey - but the honey was from our own bees so that makes it OK). Sunday, youth group fed my daughter, thank goodness, and I got all posh and creative, baking a butternut squash and mixing it with the remains of a packet of freekeh, plus some peppers and onions. But I cooked it early in the afternoon, so for dinner, I reheated it and ate it straight out of the bowl.
The baby at least got real food - freshly pureed fruit, squash with me Sunday. But he felt short changed, and had a screaming fit Friday when I wouldn't hand over my piece of pizza. A bit of crust didn't fool him for one moment - he wanted the whole, real, cheesy thing.

I'm pretty good with a piece of chalk ;)
5. Apart from being denied pizza, Alcuin got to go to class with me because I couldn't think of a
babysitter I didn't want to remain friends with (see above). Even though I'm the teacher, I was shaking with nerves - both times - on walking in with him in a sling. But he bowled everyone over with his smiles, and by the end I felt pretty proud of the fact that I could diagram and explain the Ptolemaic universe while holding a baby.

6. Since you asked, Slovenia is part of the former Yugoslavia, near northern Italy, about two hours from Venice. In fact, it used to be part of the Venetian empire. It's about one third mountains above ground
and one third caves below. It's a beautiful country, the perfect mix of modern and traditional Europe, and has a very low emigration rate because Slovenians don't see any reason to leave! We spent a whole semester in Slovenia when my husband had a Fulbright scholarship, and I'd happily live there again. The language is fiendish, though. I never did get past nouns. About all I could do now is ask for a bela kava (white coffee).

7. And totally unrelated: I began writing a review for Home Grown by Ben Hewitt. I decided to jot down short paragraphs of all my thoughts  - but it grew and grew and grew...  I guess I could talk until the cows come home about education. I had to be ruthless with my editing. Anyhow, if that's you when someone gets you on the subject of schooling, you might want to read his memoir of his family's radical unschooling of their two boys on a homestead in Vermont.

For more Quick Takes, join Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum.

Monday 9 November 2015

Home Grown

I've been meaning to read Home Grown ever since I caught part of an interview with Ben Hewitt on public radio (I never hear a full program because the only chance I get to listen is in the car or while changing the baby).  Finally, I ordered a copy via interlibrary loan, all the way from Dallas. Really, no copies in Mississippi libraries?

This is a short book, part memoir, part essays, that explains the Hewitts' unconventional choice in raising their sons because, as Ben Hewitt says, the boys' education is so much a part of their whole life that it wouldn't make sense otherwise.

The boys' education might be described as radical unschooling - they spend their days outside on the family's homestead or neighbouring lands in Vermont, exploring, fishing, building, and even trapping. The Hewitts have let their children's education be entirely led by the boys themselves, believing that children have a natural inclination to learn that is often destroyed in a conventional school setting (though Hewitt is quick to emphasize that he isn't a proponent of any one method of education over another).

I read the book with fascination, curiosity, and a little fear - mostly out loud while feeding my own baby son (Hewitt's style was pretty good for soothing him to sleep). Partly because I'm now raising a boy after nearly nineteen years of girls, and partly because I've seen the way early grade school is geared towards girls - and boys are punished for it - I worry about his educational development. Boys who need to get up and move are being told to sit down and shut up by teachers who find it easier to teach to girls' nature, or are constrained by their curriculum or administration to do so. Girls are now outnumbering boys in college - in some of my classes I have literally only a handful of boys. To those of us on the ground, so to speak, boys' educational disadvantages are obvious.

I know that if we are still here (please Lord, no) when he is school age that I'll keep him home from the girl-oriented baby-sitting that comprises the first two years of school. But would I let him wholly lead his own education? I think not. In my own way, I agree with Hewitt that many children today are tuned out of school but cut off from any sense of where else they might belong in the world - goodness knows I see them in my own classes. To me, a way of restoring that belonging is through a classical education, connecting children to the Great Conversation of shared history, classical culture and literature. That doesn't preclude a wonder with the natural world. In fact, at five months old, my little son is already obsessed with being outdoors. Only today, despite continual rain, we were out twice, patrolling the yard and feeding chickens with the help of a sling and umbrella. Still, part of me wishes I had the courage to be as radical as the Hewitts, and that's what kept me glued to this book, despite the occasional lapse into purplish prose (please forgive the criticism, Mr. Hewitt - I'm an English teacher!).

Read this book if you're a parent, especially if you have boys. Read it if you're daydreaming about living an intentional life. Read it if you are afraid to not conform. Really, read it.