Thursday, January 02, 2020


It's been pouring rain all day so I declared it a day of school (because, as the sole administrator of this outfit, I can do that). I suppose I could have left the children to their own devices for another day, but they've had a lot of that this break and, frankly, haven't been using their time wisely. Now, I don't care about them wasting time (I'm not sure I believe time can be wasted because even if you're doing nothing you're still doing something); I care about them using their time to pick fights with each other (which they've been doing a lot of). So this morning we had our first day back to school (and tomorrow if we feel like taking a day off we still can).

We're going to do a unit on folk stories—myths, legends, fairy tales, fables, that sort of thing—so we read some definitions of these genres and tried to draw distinctions between them. This can be hard to do because people don't really agree on the difference between a myth and a legend and a fairy tale; one book said a fairy tale must be so old that we cannot know the true source of the story, but then we have Hans Christen Andersen, J.R.R. Tolkien, and L. Frank Baum, all of whom have helped solidify fairy tales for our generation, so clearly a fairy tale can have a known author; perhaps, then, it is the magic in them that makes them fairy tales. Or at least the magical, supernatural elements that we don't believe are true (because otherwise they wouldn't be fairy tales; they'd be myths)). It all gets a little complicated because no two sources that we looked at truly agreed upon a definition (and that's fine because life is murky).

We read This Fable Is Intended For You by by Hans Christen Andersen, to discuss fables (where animals star in the story instead of humans (because then it would likely be a parable) and we get to imagine ourselves in their place) and the introduction L. Frank Baum wrote in The Wizard of Oz, where he purports to have left the nightmarish violence out of his tale (though I'm not sure my young children would agree with that—those flying monkeys are terrifying) since morality is included in children's education these days so they don't need tales to frighten them into being good.

I guess.

Part of me wonders if children couldn't use a good scare. Who was it that I was reading about recently who also believed scaring children was alright? Was it Jim Henson or was it Frank Oz?

The idea of the muppets "was to get back to the darkness of the original Grimm’s fairy tales. He thought it was fine to scare children. He didn’t think it was healthy for children to always feel safe" (it was Frank Oz about Jim Henson).

I am saying this with a two-year-old on my lap chattering about the thunder he just heard ("It's scary, Momma!"), but perhaps a good scare or two (or at least a series of scary stories) is what children need to learn how to behave. Who knows?

Anyway, after letting the children look through our collection of fairy tales, noting which ones they've never heard of, which ones they're interested in reading, deciding on the course of our unit (Miriam, for example, would like to read the Grimm version of Disney fairy tale movies to compare and contrast them (and even some of those Disney movies are terrifying for kids—hello, dragon in Sleeping Beauty, I'm looking at you!))...I had the kids work on some math.

I assigned Benjamin some portions of his workbooks to do and then went upstairs to get some work done myself, but soon Zoë came upstairs to me crying because Benjamin had drawn all over her face with a felt marker. She said he asked her if he could turn her into Harry Potter and she said no so he just scribbled all over her face (instead of just giving her a nice Harry Potter scar).

Are you kidding me?!

I checked his workbook and he had only done two math problems.

So I took a felt and scribbled all over his face and then sent him to the corner.

Rachel, who had been so absorbed in drawing a map of a fantasy land that she had somehow tuned out Zoë and Benjamin's entire interaction was like, "Wow, Mom! Overact much? Like, do you always draw all over Benjamin's face when he doesn't do his math? Because that punishment doesn't even really seem to fit the crime..."

But when she learned that while he was not doing his math he was busy pinning his sister down and scribbling on her face, well...things started to make a little more sense to her.

Parents usually do things for a reason.

After Zoë and Benjamin had scrubbed their faces with baby wipes, and after Benjamin had done a little more work on his math books, we settled in for a game of Sumoku (since Benjamin's working on multiples of four right now, we used four as our base number for Sumoku), and then we headed to the library to find the second book of the Penderwicks series, various fairy tales, and Good Omens by Neil Gaiman.

That book caused me a literal headache!

The call number for the book was "ADULT FANTASY GAIMA" but I could not find it anywhere. I walked around and around in the stacks. I found fiction, romance, mystery, inspirational, science fiction...but I couldn't find a fantasy section. I checked for Gaiman in the fiction section and he was there, but this book wasn't (because this book is FANTASY not FICTION). I checked over by the large print books. I checked in the teen fantasy section (they have one) to see if it had been put there by mistake. I circled around and around the adult section trying to find this mysterious FANTASY section and eventually went to ask a librarian for help.

"Oh, sure!" she said. "Just let me see that call number."

We walked over to the stacks and had no better luck finding a FANTASY section.

"Let's ask Rebecca," the librarian suggested.

"Oh, sure! I know right where that is," Rebecca claimed and she marched us right over to the SCIENCE FICTION section and plucked Good Omens off the shelf.

"Huh." I said. "The call number says FANTASY, not SCIENCE FICTION. But thanks!"

"Well, everyone knows that it's really SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY," Rebecca said.

"Okay," I said. "But the call number is FANTASY and the section is labeled science fiction and, actually, the sticker on the spine also says SCIENCE FICTION, so that's weird..."

"It's not weird," said Rebecca. "Science fiction and fantasy are the same thing."

"No, it is kind of weird," the first librarian said.

I have to agree with her (probably because she agreed with me). Science fiction and fantasy are not one and the same. I mean, if they want to lump them together in the same section of the library, that's fine with me, but at least have a sign that says SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY and perhaps definitely make the call number be SCI-FI/FAN rather than simply FANTASY (because although that section exists in the teen wing of the library it does not exist in the adult wing). That's all I'm saying.

Anyway, the kids have been sitting at the table since coming home from they library, all working on fantasy world maps. Or are they science fiction world maps? I really am not sure I'm qualified to say...

But I am qualified to say (as the sole administrator of this homeschool operation) that the hours we spent on schoolwork today combined with the long and crazy conversation we had on factorials and statistics on New Year's Eve during dinner (Andrew had the kids running models with various types of cheese and meats from Miriam's charcuterie board ("If we have five slots to fill, how many different combinations will we come up with if we have five types of cheese?" Answer: 5! (which = 120); "If we have five slots to fill and the choices can regenerate each time we make a selection, how many different combinations will we be able to make then? Answer: 55 (which = 3125); and so forth (so much so forth, guys, so much; Andrew was on fire—his passion was showing, big time))). 

1 comment:

  1. My brother and I used to make maps and statistics for a fake world so it's cute seeing your kids sitting there making fantasy maps.