Saturday, February 21, 2015


Book Review

Home Grown, Adventures in Parenting Off the Beaten Path and Connecting to the Natural World

Author: Ben Hewitt

224 pages

Ben Hewitt and his wife travel the road less taken. They live on a farm where they grow most of their own food, drive a decades old car, wear second hand clothing and un-school their two sons.

The boys, both of them under ten years old, spend their days helping with the farm work, hunting and trapping. The activities were chosen by them. While they are expected to help with chores like any other youngster, the hunting and trapping is their decision.

The children are not illiterate. They read and studied enough about the hunting and trapping to obtain their licenses.

The children pick their own activities and their own learning schedule. The family does not have television, so reading is a popular evening activity. So is fashioning traps and bows and arrows. The hunting and trapping equipment is all homemade.

Reading, “Home Grown,” Hewitt’s collection of essays about un-schooling his children was an adventure for me. The book came to my attention as I was contemplating the future of mankind in a world where workers may soon not be needed. What kind of a world will that be?

It wasn’t Hewitt’s intention to answer that question, but he did give me something to think about. We need people capable of survival. Some people need to know how to produce their own food. There may come a time when we may again have to depend upon such individuals.

Hewitt butchers his own livestock. He says he does it in a way that does not hurt or frighten the animal. I believe him. Still I am a vegetarian, who recently gave up dairy reading about raising animals to kill them is disturbing to me. If I had a cow, I could not kill her. I would not take her calf away from her, so I can drink her milk.

I have long been anti-trapping and have signed several petitions to end the killing. I see no value in hunting or trapping.

But in some ways I understand that some people in our modern world must have these skills.

I debated, not reviewing this book. I am after all almost vegan.

I can’t kill an animal. I can’t ask anyone else to kill or hurt an animal for me. Yet Hewitt and his children can kill animals humanely. They use every part of the animal. They have skinning and cooking skills that start not with a chunk of meat in the grocery store, but with a dead animal. Hewitt’s young sons can not only kill, but can skin and fry a field mouse.

So momentarily I wanted to diss the book. Then I realized these people live close to the animals that are part of their farm. The children have learned real and perhaps useful skills.

But what else are these children learning?

Un-schooling is hard to define. It is a type of home schooling with fewer rules. The child learns, but on his terms. The Hewitt children as I said learned to read and write while studying hunting and trapping techniques. They even make their own bows, arrows and traps. The traps they make according to the book are humane. There are no steel teeth. Some traps kill the animal instantly.

When we’re talking about school, we are talking about ethical issues, and school does not work for thousands of children.

What about un-schooling? It works for this family whether I like what the children are learning or not. They are learning.

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