Congrats to our friendly neighborhood Oscar-owning actor Tim Robbins!

Actual quote by Alexander: "Why does she [Diane Keaton] look like Jack Nicholson?"


Alexander has been outside literally ALL DAY today, first to watch a pseudo-Ivy League basketball game with friends, then going to victory celebration party with friends, and is now just watching a movie with friends. Socialization problem? Ladies and gentlemen, it is now 5:30 pm and I have not seen my kid in six hours! (he has called me frequently enough, though, to let me know exactly to what new venue/activity he is about to rotate, and under parental supervision, of course).

What I'm eating now: a slice of "kitchen cake" prepared by my favorite local Ohio-style bakery. Yeah, I'm dissin' the French pastries today. Coffee is Pilon espresso with warmed milk and three spoonfuls of sugar.

What we're eating tonight:

Indonesian vegetarian Gulai. Again prepared by upstairs neighbor Anton!
I've noticed a pattern of questioning when people - strangers in particular - find out that A is schooled at home.

Q: "You homeschool him? You are a teacher?"
A: "Yes. And yes. I teach most of his subjects, but I am not his only teacher."
Q: "He studies at home?"
A: "Well, yes, but not all of the time. Homeschooling can be a misnomer as we're constantly doing stuff outdoors or in the lab or in museums, (blah, blah)."
Q: "So, you homeschool him?"
A: [sigh] "Yes!"

Why do people feel the need to ask me more than once if I homeschool my own child? Sheesh. Interestingly, I did not get that type of questioning from my entertainment law professor when I told her that A is homeschooled.

Catherine phones...

and leaves this message:

"Eh...allo? Eh, zees eez Cathereeeeene colling-eh. Yeu kneu, I must geev-eh Alex-andre some hum-werk-eh since we were-eh at ze muhzeeum zees week. OK? I will e-mail eet too heeem. OK!" [click]


"Achilles is cool."

Actual quote by A this morning.

Now, would it not be cool if kids and teens everywhere had Greek heroes as their heroes?

I am envisioning an East Los Angeles where Greek gods and heroes have taken over:

[Teens standing over a brew over a fire. All kinds of paraphernalia abound]

Teen No. 1: "Yo, man, by the power of Pallas Athena, you know drugs ain't cool. Don't doooo it, man."
Teen No. 2: "No, man, wachoo talkin' 'bout? I ain't doin' drugs. I'm makin' an aphrodisiac to please the gods."
Teen No. 1: "Wow, man, das so cool. Skool, skool. Now I gotta make an aphrodisiac too, man, yo. I'll make it for Zeus. Or Superfriends or som'thin'. Wonder Woman hangs out with goddesses, right? Anyway, yo, you can't show me up doin' stuff that ain't for Zeus and Wonder Woman, y'know."
Teen No. 2: "Skool, skool."


the passion (starring Monica Bellucci)

You will be glad to know that I have no opinion to share regarding Mel Gibson's latest celluloid endeavor. It is not that I do not have an opinion (mais non!) on the matter; I just believe that religion and politics and the kama sutra are the biggest conversation killers in the United States today. Thus, the twain shall stop here.

A visited his buddies, Manet, Renoir, Cezanne, Gauguin, Monet, Seurat et al., at the Met Museum today. Catherine took charge of Impressionisme day. She did an excellent job. An excerpt from A's blog:

"Today I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art with my French teacher Catherine. We went there to go look at Impressionist paintings by Impressionist painters. We went to the 19th century gallery. There were paintings by Van Gogh, Monet, Cezanne, Manet, Seurat, etc. If you look at all the different pieces of Impressionist paintings by the artists you can tell that each artist painted differently.

For example, Van Gogh would paint more with curves.

Monet would paint of things that were always outside and that his paintings were very well done that he didn't need to draw the sun's reflection on the water to show that it was outside.

Seurat would paint with small dabs with the brush, or should I say dots of colors.

Renoir would paint things outside, like the country side of France, and of rich people. Well, I wouldn't say "Rich people" but more to express the outer side of people.

Edgar Degas would paint ballet subjects and also just people.

Paul Cezanne painted things lightly in a way.

Gauguin would paint things with boundaries using black and the people he would paint would be kind of "big" looking but looking more with strength."

Pre-Latin Exam test for A tonight. Yes, I am nervous.

[Edit everything about the backgammon thing: Male friend actually purchased a nice backgammon board for me!]


research, research

A has officially been assigned a real scientific research paper. For a real scientific study, overseen and funded by a real scientific foundation.

He has also been invited to a faculty dinner to join the other science people for whom he is writing his paper. I have not been invited to said faculty dinner. Somehow, I am not bothered by this. ; )

What is cool is that A is learning how to cite his research sources. Man, how come I did not learn that when I was 11 years old?

A's Writing Strands work is coming along great. We are on Level 3. The school A previously attended held "publishing parties" where students' works were critiqued and displayed for all to see, and celebrated in a classroom. I am thinking that perhaps we should do the same, only use iUniverse.com to compile his writings and officially be "published."

No feedback from anyone involving incorporating a homeschool! C'mon folks, let's discuss! It's tax time, no?

A has two tests tomorrow, Wednesday. One in Latin and the other in History. I traveled a little too much today, hung out with a friend at Miramax who had an umbrella to give me. I stayed hoping to spot Harvey Weinstein, and am now thoroughly pooped.



Alexander scored high on a "gifted" program test for mathematics he sat recently. Just got the scores. Arithmetic nearly perfect, geometry nearly perfect, logic pretty good considering it is A's first year of logic. Thank you, Singapore Math!!!

What is additionally great, is that he has put to rest the authority absolute of his past teachers who told us that he was not even qualified to be considered "gifted" - when they never even allowed him to sit the tests! Hmph!

And no, I do not like the word "gifted" to describe A anymore than I like the word "chosen" to describe myself to a non-Jew. It reeks of Houdini-esque trickery and entitlement in the DNA code.

The word I do like is bright. It is less offensive, less pompous, and takes nothing away from what is innately in A.


A couple of readers have mentioned that often I make references to food in this blog.

Easy explanation.

I like food!

My favorite chefs include Nigella Lawson, The Naked Chef, and Joel Robuchon. I hate that I don't have enough money to cook all the things I'd like to.

sidenote to homeschool culinary education: Alexander and I opened a Julia Child cookbook and he is now thoroughly educated in the art of avoiding the "dolefully discolored" grey-yolked hard-boiled egg.
What Alexander is reading: Albert Einstein, and the Theory of Relativity by Robert Cwiklik.
What we are eating tonight: Nepalese Chicken and vegetable stew, prepared by my upstairs neighbor Anton.

"You need help, here I am."*

Maitresse is considering hiring a nanny/au pair/household help person. A bit late, some tell me, as A is already in 6th grade. But the babysitting thing is not working for me.

The last time I had household help was when I was married. But today I am still single, and my schedule is becoming (thankfully) more "full."

So, in my time of need, I did what I find works best: I call up the best Girlfriend ("GF") for the job to impart her wisdom. In this case, I called up my French girlfriend ("FGF") in another state.

Me: "Could you tell me how to hire an au pair so that I don't have to pay the agency fees?"
FGF: "Erm....do you really want to go through what I went through?"
Me: "Erm...what did you 'go through'?"

My FGF had two children after her divorce and had no one to assist the raising of her children. Not even their father. Man in denial, my radar says. Anyway, she placed an ad in a newspaper in France. Once the replies came in, she flew to France to interview the candidates. Over the course of five years, she hired four au pairs. Two competent out of four. Success rate: 50%

I told her I'd probably use an agency.

Then we talked about the Man Factor. Luckily for my FGF, she remarried a dashing and dark hunk 13 years her junior. Some say she hit the jackpot, but there have been caveats. "My au pair days are over," she said. "I don't want to invite trouble into my house." Indeed, we talked about FGF's friend in Connecticut whose au pair stopped at nothing to seduce the Connecticut woman's husband. Young and pretty and lively au pair! Resistance factor: Zero.

Would the hypothetical au pair compete with me over my boyfriend? Or would she expect me to be her best friend instead of her employer? All "what if" monsters, I know. But because of my age and situation, my fears are not entirely unfounded.

Then there is the Robin Williams nanny story. Makes me want to hire one of those hot young Serbian Olympic rowers at my BNS.

I decided that if I hire household help, I will hire a needy but reliable older woman whose family in Haiti needs the money as desperately as she does. I will be imparting something decent to the world instead of me worrying, or my bucks going to some young thing who would rather be on Broadway seeing "RENT" than watching my A.

*full credits given to Renee Zellwegger in Cold Mountain. Also, more credit given to David Letterman, for replaying Renee Zellwegger's line so many times on his show that my readers might "get" what I mean.

incorporating your homeschool

Has anyone done this? What are your experiences/advantages/caveats with respect to incorporating your homeschool? I would appreciate your feedback via e-mail to: aclassicalschool@aol.com. I will post your comments directly into this blog unless you indicate otherwise.


Finally tonight, I will mention that I live in a part of Manhattan where policemen on horseback ride regularly. It is comforting to hear the clop, clop, clop, clop at exactly the hour that I should be. Good night, readers.


Getting In

Tonight I attended an exhibit opening in New Jersey. New Jersey. I might as well have gone to California.

Funny how the universe surprises me by sending fellow human beings to me in the form of bumping. Bump! "Oooooh! Could you tell me if I look....ah....drunk?" She was a very cute Chilean woman but my first impression was "ditzy."

We were at the "bar." I directed the bartender to hold off on her Chardonnay. "Make it 1/4 the alcohol, give her sparkling water for the rest." I found out she was not ditzy, but adorable. Could I have you as a sister? She went to my Big Name School (BNS) for undergrad, then went on to The Bigger Name School for her MBA. "You went WHERE?" I asked. "Yeah! It's true! They tend to admit on the risky side! My GMAT scores were really iffy!" she asserted.

So, I could have had a crimson thingy on my wall?

Then, The Question: "So, what do you do?" This has been difficult for me to answer of late. See, I go to a Big Name School (BNS). But I've advised my BNS that I need some time off to school Alexander. Very difficult move, as I am a new admit. But I am where I want to be. I also applied to a BNS in London, and have been accepted there. So what am I? Mother? Educator? Law student? what?


"I am a law student. And I homeschool my son. It's really a great time for me."
"Really? People homeschool in Manhattan?"
"Why yes."
Why yes. Yes, we applied to six private schools last year, and got in nowhere. Alexander's fencing colleague is a Junior Olympian. She did not get into a single school she applied to, either.

Thank goodness we got in "nowhere." We got home. I have no regrets.

an admission

This may be a bit shocking. Maitresse has something to say.

Some homeschooling parents really have no business homeschooling their little ones.

Yesterday I received an e-mail from the founding parent of a homeschooling group, via a listserv on yahoo. What I read made me want to leap through cyberspace, flip the parent onto my lap, and spank her. Alexander viewed it, as well. "That is depressing," he said, "Are they really teaching their kids?"

The parent's e-mail was jam-packed full of run-ons, spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors, with "Curriculum's" (plural) and "semenar" and "over protective Mom's" (plural) and perhaps 20 LOLs to finish it off. Woman, stop laughing, and clean up your English. The parent also signs each e-mail with a mention about her "playful" husband. Which to me, begged the Question: How playful? I want pictures.

Methinks I think too loud. Ly.

Yet that is not what really irked me. The parent went into a rather lengthy explanation about how wonderful it is that her child has been learning X for the last five years. The parent nowhere seemed to understand that with X, are joined Y and Z. For example, the child loves Harry Potter (not the case here). The child thus has spent most of his time learning everything about quidditch: the rules, the stadium specifications, the equipment, the speed of the quidditch ball, what Hogwarts house has won how many times, etc.

We all know that Harry Potter is not about quidditch. There is a bigger picture - a message - that J.K. Rowling wished to impart to her readers. As educators, to allow a child learning about X to miss the message, and just let the Y and Z fall by the wayside, is shoddy educating.

So, get to it.



Danny Pearl and African-American History, among other things

Within the context of African-American history, a mention about another intolerance and hatred is in order. February 21st is the second anniversary of Danny Pearl's death (it is actually the date on which the murder was made known). I invite you all to read Dr. and Mrs. Pearl's message written only two days ago.

There are many incredible people on this planet who faced their oppressors with genuine integrity. It really is the best "revenge" to combat poor understanding and hatred of each other - with understanding and integrity (that does not mean NO punishment for people who commit evil to innocent people, mind you).

As a parent, I feel obliged to teach my son the brand of courage that Danny's parents have shown. Here in the Maitresse household, we have an open door through which muslims, buddhists, catholics, agnostics, jews, hindus, blacks, whites, hispanics and asians have entered our lives. Lately we've befriended the Sikhs at the local Punjabi deli. It is a 24-hour deli where Sikh cab drivers get decent vegetarian food in an environment in which they are familiar. I think very soon I will know every single Sikh cabbie in New York. And they me.

This month, do what works for you.
History books are good. Knowledge of history, coupled with practical understanding, is better.
In case you're wondering, I plan on eating some soul food in Harlem tonight after visiting the African-American history museum in the same neighborhood.


From the NYC Dept of Education

"Dear Maitresse,

We are in receipt of your second quarterly report. Thank you for submitting this report in a timely fashion. Thank you as well for the copy of your IHIP [Individualized Home Instruction Plan].

Again, thank you and if we can be of any assistance, please call at (212) XXX-XXXX.


Connie Coordinator of Homeschooling

This ain't so bad. : )


I would have mounted the bloody thing on the wall...

And bored my friends to pieces in re-telling the story.

I would also like to report that A's hormones are sufficiently raging now, that a huge zit erupted on his forehead today. He has since popped it.

Ah, early puberty. Right up there with sharks on the kneecap. Too cool, too cool.


Personal service/chocolate/wine Day

a.k.a., Valentines Day. I have a wishlist:

- Full hour back massage at Graceful Services.
- Pedicure at Bliss.
- Facial at Bliss.
- Brazilian waxing at that place on 5th Ave. and 14th Street.
- Manicure at Bloomies, using nail color "East Hampton Cottage" punctually every week starting tomorrow.
- Maybe this dress.
- Some shoes. They do not have to be Blahniks. I am easy to please.

- wait. Who am I doing this all for?



"J'aime pas la langue des Romains!"*

...and thus with A's quote, we started our day. No longer is his resistance inhibited. He knows the National Latin Exam is coming.

Our Trip: Long Island was different. People were nice. Wouldn't want to live there, though.

*I hate the language of the Romans in French. The usage of a language other than English adds to the special emphasis of disgust.


now where will I find some good picadillo?

"My kids needed motivation, and in the absence of that I just didn't think a whole lot of learning was going to occur. We were sorely tempted, because interest-led learning would have been a lot less work for us, but, knowing our kids, we knew it just wasn't a viable option." - Paula Penn-Nabrit in Morning by Morning.

So right, sister.

Scene, this morning:

Me: "Wake up, Alexander! You have yet your last assignment to finish before Catherine gets here!"
Him: [toss, turn, toss] "Ugh. Mmmm."
Me: "Up! Up! Up! Up!"
Him: [turn] "Mmmmm.....?"
Me: "Up! Breakfast! Up!"
Him: [toss, turn, toss] "Why? Mmmmm....."

Paula Penn-Nabrit's boys wound up at Princeton and Amherst College. I keep telling myself that on days like this.

Yet I do not blame Alexander for not wanting to get up. He is working on a tricky section with Catherine in Le Petit Prince . Why do grown-ups prefer numbers - les chiffres -first, to learning the nitty-gritty about things and people? Why can't adults, for example, be happy just knowing that a house has beautiful brick, gardens and columns, instead of qualifying its beauty by asking its price? "It's 5 hundred thousand francs!" "Ah, yes! What a beautiful house it must be!" A bit trite the message, but unfortunately and sadly true for many of us.

"Letz gooo too ze moozehuhm next week, Alexander!" I gotta love Catherine. She has also lavished us with free passes to concerts at Lincoln Center that she receives from her other, more artistic, job. How did I find her? Tpft, tpft.

Alexander will also hopefully be participating in a student overseas program to the South Pacific this summer. The program coordinator conducts her meetings in Long Island. A bit of a hassle. Today will be our first-ever trip on the Long Island Railroad. I have no idea what to expect. I feel as anxious as before my first rail trip in Europe when I was 16.


And sadly, I must now find another decent Cuban restaurant in my neighborhood. The cook at the one I always go to has sworn that he must date me and marry me. "Te cuido tu hijo!" Sure, you will. He even delays the preparation of my dinner to sneak in more "getting to know you" time. Ay, yay, yay.


Perhaps many homeschoolers have known this all along...

Beautiful Winter Day

If anyone else in Manhattan is reading this post, if you have not gone outside today, please attempt to do so! The sky is technicolor blue and the temperature laughs in the face of the Siberian-style cold of late. This morning I actually caught two women sitting and chatting and laughing on their brownstone stoop, a behavior so characteristic of the spring/summer months.

This morning Alexander and I attended a talk at the River Foundation. The talk focused on the invasion of the zebra mussel, and its effect on local Hudson River species. Four species of organisms have been wiped out since the '90s due to the zebra mussel invasion. The investigator who spoke presented data analyses on Powerpoint that left Alexander searching more for definitions of simple terms than conceptual ideas. It was definitely not meant for 6th grade marine sci interns, but we nonetheless enjoyed the views from the 9th floor of the Foundation offices.

To sum up the talk, zebra mussels = bad for the Hudson River species which already inhabit the river, but we do not know yet how bad. Zebra mussels au vin for dinner, anyone?

After the talk, we - me, Alexander, and the two research intern coordinators - walked from Lower Manhattan along the Hudson, and briefly stopped at the Potato Famine memorial. The symbolic proximity of the memorial to the view of Ellis Island is rather obvious. We continued to walk to the research pier. Mr. Karate man at the river dojo was not out today. I hear he does karate outside the dojo nearly naked. The weather is really nice. Where are you, Mr. Karate man?

We also found a flock of Canada geese nibbling on grass. "I hate Canada geese," said the intern coordinator with the John Lennon button on her backpack. "Why?" I asked. "Because they eat all the grass," she mumbled.

Which reminds me to recommend this DVD: "Winged Migration." Do reserve some time to watch it. It is not a National Geographic- type documentary. Just watch it. You'll see. You will not think of Canada geese the same again. ; )


Only in Manhattan

[Scene this morning in the laundry room in the basement of my building. Panavision camera equipment everywhere. Big nondescript grey cylindrical containers now stand where the "Downy" softener rack normally sits. Black canvas directors chairs with gold "Law & Order" lettering on the backs of each of the chairs. ]

I see a middle-aged man quietly reading today's newspaper at the laundry folding table.

Me: "Excuse me. Are you doing your laundry or are you with 'Law & Order'?"
Him: "Law & Order."
Me: "Oh. Erm...Does that mean that we don't have access to the laundry room today?"
Him: "I don't care if you do what you gotta do."
Me: "OK. Thanks."

Last time a film crew took over my building, it was to shoot a movie on the green, and Robin Williams stayed for a week. But it is the first time Law & Order have set up camp in the laundry room.

I have a gut feeling that I know where Alexander will be taking his lesson breaks today.


Art, and of Talking to the Stranger

I echo many parents in their sadness over the recent news of Carlie Brucia's death. Alexander has repeatedly asked me, "But why didn't she yell?"

I have taught Alexander that if a not-too-familiar adult encourages you to do something out of the blue that you're not totally Ok with, YELL. At worst, he'll think you're a freak. YELL, make faces (yes, Alexander, like that. Good Maori warrior mask face. Excellent.) that will scare the adult into not wanting anything to do with you. You know that feeling? Like when we walk the dog and it poops on a public sidewalk? Your YELLING will probably trigger the adult to disown his interest in you and get away.


We are also trained in the art of 1) knocking out lights from inside of a car trunk 2) flashing bedroom lights constantly to get attention 3) more yelling. Also, when to know that doing all the above will probably not be a very good idea and create a more serious problem.

A kidnapping must have the element of surprise in order to be successful. I cannot imagine the confusion such an act presents to the victim. I have a friend in Florida who was stuffed into the trunk of a car along with her husband by evildoers wanting god-knows-what, but my friend fortunately managed to escape. I have always repeated my belief to my son that if a child doesn't feel comfortable at the outset of an encounter with a stranger, and if that child is in a public enough area, he should YELL.

That said, I'll revert now to a recent outing to a French art exhibit in the trendy Lower East Side. A young boy, around Alexander's age, appeared at the exhibit with his mother. I had spoken to her earlier about the art on display. "So, what do you think of all this?" I asked the boy. I wanted to know how many exhibits this boy had frequented as well. He seemed very artistic, and his mother told me her profession was photography. Alexander might be intrigued, too. "MY MOM SAYS I AM NOT ALLOWED TO TALK TO STRANGERS," he replied. He said this rather confidently and rather loudly. I felt like a total shitter at that moment. I am a stranger? A criminal?

"I see," I replied. I then made my way to the cornichons and red wine.

I felt sorry for myself and for him. Actually, I felt sorry for our society, generally. We give a certain type of power to thieves and killers when we create disinterest in other human beings in the name of "personal safety." This boy's mother gave him a law without guidelines. Granted, he was young, and his mother probably felt he needed time to discern for himself who was a "safe" stranger and who wasn't.

Yet I couldn't help feeling oddly empty when I left the exhibit. Stranger? Criminal?

cough, cough

My cold fluctuates from "getting better" to "just awful."

I realized today that in my haste to send out The Packet to the Region ...offices, I left the "Health" section blank on the Quarterly Evaluation, and without explanation. Earlier last week, I had a conversation with my region's Homeschooling Coordinator.

"What is 'Health?'" I queried, "I mean, what does the Region like to see taught under the subject "Health"?"

The Homeschooling Coordinator replied, "Oh, I don't know. Why not go to the library and find a good book about health and see what you find."


And so, I left the Quarterly Report totally blank in the "Health" box. By mistake. Would I toy with my son's education? Of course not. But The Packet with my Quarterly Report is now sitting somewhere in that Gotham Monolith that is the NYC Board of Education Region ... Building. Gasp. I am certain to get regular nightmares until I send out another Report, with something on "Health" that does not include my son raiding the condom section of the home medicine cabinet.

I also realized that I had not been keeping good record sheets, either. I file tests and quizzes and other work by subject in a file portfolio. When I prepared the Report, I tallied up the scores, typed them up, and out they went. Ugh. I am such an amateur. Last night I wrote down every score Alexander has received, neatly into our Record Keeper. I am now up to date.


cough, cough.


The Stickability Test

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away - England, to be precise - a young boarding school girl sat in her English class one wintery morning in February, she among nine other students, and observed the following:

Headmaster B., who was also the English Master, walked in, no coat to hang up anywhere, asked us to "Open books to page such-and-such," and introduced the material in two short sentences. "What do you think the book is about?" With that, Headmaster B. gathered up his book, got up, and left.

Just like that. It was 10:05 a.m. We had another 40 minutes to go.

"That is weird," I thought. Not exactly normal American teaching behavior. Of course, it was not normal British teaching, either.

It turns out Headmaster B. had gone to his office directly across the green, in front of our classroom window, to observe our reaction. "The Stickability Test," he said. "Who stays, and for how long?" Two or three students left the room by 10:10 a.m. The rest of us stayed 20 minutes longer and we actually discussed the book.

I think about The Stickability Test as yesterday I sat with a stubborn head-cold which refused to leave me, and today has given the added value of a sore phlegmy throat. I want to teach despite the discomfort.

When I decided to stop, Alexander, quite nobly, picked up his Science books to read and work on. He worked for more than 20 minutes, too. Good for him.



From the school board...not exactly the Trivium, yet...


why, of course...

You are Shadowfax! You have no free time cause
Gandlaf is always bugging you to take him
somewhere asap. But hey you're the lord of all
horses so you can handle the fame!

Which LOTR Horse Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

and now a word on TWTM

The method I use for homeschooling Alexander is based on the Trivium, a method detailed in The Well-Trained Mind. We are secular citizens, and indeed, we are not even Christian. Yes, we've encountered problems with some of our textbook choices taken from TWTM. Introductory Logic is one example of a problem textbook (it is extremely Christ-centric). Despite some of the obstacles that the Bauers' curriculum presents, I do believe that the Trivium gives "legs" to a student's academics.

I find in most American schools, particularly with public schools, skills are never really focused on and honed in through different grade levels. There is no national standard to follow (but different guidelines implemented by different states). So as a student, once you finish one teacher's curriculum for the year, you are at the mercy of whatever Teacher #2, #3 or #4 decides is relevant. It is a haphazard way to go. And it's just too easy.

Although I am American, I attended private Church of England boarding school for secondary studies in England. My parents were not rich and at the time schools abroad were relatively cheap. The students at my school were religiously diverse(Muslims, agnostics, maybe another Jewish one I didn't know about). The students I encountered who had been educated there longer than I had been were much better at critical thinking than I was. The school did not use the Trivium. The foundation, though, was there. The students had something that I did not have. Perhaps that school's curricular foundation was an appendage from an earlier era when the Trivium was the standard. I don't know.

I also noticed when I began taking Art there that all the students knew had foundational training, as well. How to measure their subjects. All the the students were trained in perspective. They knew how watercolors, when the paint was layered just so, also gave perspective. They knew about different lead content in pencils, charcoals, cross-hatching, and the effects given to depth when using those. Okay, these are not exactly intellectual methods. Yet, even in a non-academic subject, a foundation was given. It made sense: If you want to later become a free-thinking abstract painter, you've absolutely got to know what you are doing. My art master used to scoff at "modern artists" who would simply draw a canvas plain black: "It's just too easy," he'd say, "and there is no evidence of any improvement. You need to be able to look frame-to-frame and see a progression of skill of some sort."

And so I believe that is true with everything in life.


If anyone reading this has t.v....

and watched "Dateline" this weekend, a quiz for you:

"I want lotsa moooola!"

Did this quote come from the "Triple Image" pre-teen-pop-sensation girls, who came from poor beginnings in Orlando (shaped, molded, sexed-up, and hair-bleached in the name of those cuties wanting the American dream really badly), or did it come from the upcoming Cambodian shocker "Children for Sale" segment?

6 Train reader

Today, Alexander chose for his free reading a book from an old pile of my dusty Classics literature. It is Herodotus: The Histories. Because this is our first year in classical homeschooling, we are beginning where we should: Page One of The Kingfisher History Encyclopaedia, while our structured English reading gently prods Alexander to the greatness of the Classics. I did not expect him to pick the heavy and massive oeuvre that are The Histories. Luckily, he does not know how heavy and massive they are.

At least, not yet.

Free reading is part of Alexander's delight-led learning. I will not stop him. Not even as subway passengers on the 6 Train peer into the pages that Alexander is reading, and he, enthralled in the goings-on at Thermopylae, is oblivious to their raised eyebrows.


P and Q

This past week, during a time in the afternoon which is certainly considered "The Crunch" to most New York City professionals, I sent a frantic AOL Instant Message to an IP attorney friend who works in in a huge corporate office in Times Square:

Me: "Help! Do you know what "P" and "Q" stand for?"
Him: "What?"
Me: "You know, P and Q. We're in the middle of a logic lesson. You took logic or philosophy, right?"
Him: "Um..."
Me: "Hello?"
Him: "You mean like in math, right?"
Me: "Yes, right. It's used in Calculus. But right now I just need to know what P and Q mean."
Him: "Did we discuss this before?"
Me: [totally embarassed now] "Erm, no...?"

How did this happen? Exercise Four in Introductory Logic by Douglas J. Wilson and James B. Nance. Alexander understood consistency, implication, logical equivalence, and independence. But what do the funny "P" and "Q" stand for? Why are those letters chosen? Why not A and B? Why? Why? Why? Half-an-hour with Google did not help me.

[Me, now dazed in my chair, suffering a flashback to college. Professor Xerohemona, a wonderful Greek woman whose Ph.D. was in Philosophy, is now speaking]

Professor Xerohemona: "If P is true, then Q must also be true"
Unruly college student: "Professor, what do "P" and "Q" mean? You talk about stuff without explaining it. Dude! You suck!"
Professor Xerohemona: "Unruly student, please wait for me outside."
Unruly college student: "Are you for real? Dude, are you on your period?"
Professor Xerohemona: "άέήγθζεβλχπσψΕΘΓΠΩΣΥΕΕΘΓΠΩΣΥΕΕ!!!!!WAIT OUTSIDE!!!"

And of course, until I can come up with a Really Good Answer as to why it's P and Q, the lessons themselves will face the inevitable scrutiny of my 6th grade thinker.

And now, a funny that I borrowed (thank you, Poppins Classical Academy in Canada, for linking it to your page!).