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.

Friday, February 20, 2015


This is how I explained deductive and inductive reasoning to my students..

Deductive reasoning:

Say you are at home watching television. The first show to come on is “McCloud’ or “Starsky and Hutch” or “CSI” Anyway it is a detective show. A crime has been committed. The lead actor or rather lead detective looks at the clues.

He is using deductive reasoning. He starts with a conclusion, the victim. He clearly has been murdered. The detective looks for motives, opportunity, and means. He works from a conclusion backwards looking for evidence to support the conclusion. Detectives use deductive reasoning.

Inductive reasoning

Back to the television. The next program after the detective show is a suspense drama movie. Doris Day or Deana Durbin or some heroine is in danger. She has received poisoned chocolates which the poor dog ate and died. Someone tried to run her over with a car. Someone barely missed her with a rifle shot. She comes to the conclusion that someone is trying to kill her. Her reasoning is much different than that of the detective. She takes close call number one, close call number two and close call number three and decides that she is in danger. She is moving toward a conclusion.

The detective on the first program started with a conclusion and worked backwards. In the suspense drama, the heroine worked toward a conclusion.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015


This is a month of presidential birthdays. George Washington, February 22; William Henry Harrison, February 9; Abraham Lincoln, February 12 and Ronald Reagan, February 6.

Just for the fun of it, lets learn something about presidents.

Here is a short quiz. Look up the answer if you don’t know it.

1. In what year were each of the four men with birthdays in February born?

2. Who was the first president born in the 19th century?

3. Who was the first president born in the 20th century?

4. Who was the first president to be born after the American Revolution?

5. What president had the campaign slogan, “I like Ike.”?

6. Teddy Roosevelt’s niece Eleanor married a future president while Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House? What was the name of her husband?

7. Who was president when the Berlin Wall was torn down?

8. What president wrote the best selling book, “Profiles In Courage”?

9. How many presidents were assassinated?

10. What president had a popular dog named Fala?

Find the answers in tomorrow’s blog.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


In 1955 singer Fats Domino performed in Ottawa, Canada. Before the performance, he was surprised to find a kid in his dressing room. The youngster insisted on performing a song he had written for Fats Domino. The famous performer had no time to listen. Security tossed the kid out of the building.

Somehow the boy made his way back inside. He was tossed out again and again he somehow managed to get back inside. Finally, if only to get rid of the youngster, Domino's manager agreed to listen to a recording that the boy had.

The boy had performed his song on the demo and to Domino's surprise it sounded great. He had his manager contact the boy's father. The fifteen year old persistent lad was offered a recording contract and that demonstration record became the biggest hit of the year.

The boy's name was Paul Anka. He went on to record a string of hit songs for himself and the theme song to the “Tonight” show when Johnny Carson was the host. . Among his most famous tunes was “My Way” which became Frank Sinatra's signature song. We may never have heard of that boy, if he had not been persistent.

It couldn't have been easy getting past security time after time and it would be even more difficult today in our much more dangerous world.

But like Paul Anka, we owe it to ourselves and to the world to try and get our songs heard.

Keep reading, In future columns, I have some suggestions to help you get beyond the gate keepers.

Persistence pays off in school work too. Sometimes you think you will never grasp that math concept or remember that punctuation rule.Keep at it. You'll learn; you'll succeed.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Types of students:

1. Showoffs: These are the stars. They excel in academics and athletics. Some wear the coolest, newest and most stylish clothes. They are often the best looking students. They are jocks or cheer leaders or prom queens.

2. Bullies: They don’t get good grades very often and despite often being bigger in size, they don’t always succeed in sports. Some do. Their sole purpose to being in school is to pick on those who are weaker. They like to hurt people. The sad thing is that school is were they can get away with this.

3. Class Clowns: They don’t mind being in school. They get attention. They should all become professional comedians. After all, they have a great comeback for every thing. Other students often enjoy their antics. But the truth is they usually don’t have the ambition or the drive to become successes after graduation.

4. Geeks: These are the real students. They understand robotics, computers, biology and advanced math. They even get passing grades in history and English. The Show Offs dislike them and stare down their noses. Bullies and Class Clowns use Geeks as victims of their cruelty. Geeks would be better off home schooled or unschooled. The school experience often destroys their self confidence.

5. Lost Souls: These are most of the students. Often they have hurtful lives. School could be an escape. Usually it isn’t. Lost should don’t have the best clothes, and they carry too heavy a load of sorrow to get good grades. These are the students who need school the most. They are the students that school fails the most often. Teachers are not prepared to address the hundreds of different types of problems these students bring to the classroom. No one is. These students need one on one attention. Some students need the kind of attention that only a very well-trained child psychologist could successfully address. What do we do with lost souls?

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Monday, February 16, 2015


Personal qualities not measured by tests. from Maria Montessori:

1. creativity

2. critical thinking

3. Resilience

4. motivation


6. curiosity

7. question asking

8. humor

9. endurance

10. reliability

11. enthusiasm

12. civic mindedness

13. self awareness

14. self discipline

15. empathy

16. leadership

17 compassion

18. courage

19. sense of beauty

20. sense of wonder

21. resourcefulness

22. spontaneity

23. humility

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Sunday, February 15, 2015


Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning were married poets. She wrote, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” A great Valentine’s Day quote.

Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII of England; it was not such a great romance. He had her beheaded.

Julia Dent married Ulysses Simpson Grant. If anyone ever asks you who is buried in Grant’s tomb, you can truthfully answer, Julia Dent.

Amelia Earhart, the famous pilot, was married to book publisher, George Putnam.

Lina Eastman married Paul McCarney. She was the only American to marry a Beatle.

Farrah Fawcett married Lee Majors. He was televisions’s Fall Guy; she was one of Charlie’s Angels.

Alice Hathaway Lee married Teddy Roosevelt. She died on February 14, 1884 on the same day as Teddy Roosevelt’s mother. Alice died giving birth to her daughter also named Alice.

Alice Roosevelt who we were just talking about was Alice Hathaway Lee’s daughter. She married Nicholas Longworth, and became a famous Washington hostess and wit. When told that Calvin Coolidge was dead, she asked, “How can they tell?”.

Eleanor Roosevelt married her fifth cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Her maiden name was Roosevelt. She was the daughter of Teddy Roosevelt’s younger bother Elliot; Elliot died young and Uncle Teddy raised her. She even had a White House wedding. Little did she know then that she would come back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as the first lady.

Bonnie Parker, the infamous bank robber married Clyde Barrow. Many of us probably saw the movie. Maybe we know the lyrics to the song, “Bonnie was a waitress in a small cafe. Clyde Barrow was the rounder who took her away. They both robbed and killed until both of them died. So goes the legend of Bonnie and Clyde.

Joanne Woodward brings us back to Hollywood; her husband is Paul Newman.

How did you do? Which ones, if any, did you have to look up?