Archive for May 30th, 2006

How About “WorldLearners” Instead?

May 30, 2006 @ 3:25 pm | Filed under:

It’s time for another Carnival of Homeschooling, hosted this week by one of my favorite blogs, The Common Room. In one particularly good entry, Shannon of PHAT Mommy suggests that the word “homeschooling” conjures up an unflattering and unrealistic stereotyped image—which is the same thing I was saying yesterday!—and she wonders how people would react if she started using the word “worldlearners” instead of “homeschoolers” to describe her family’s educational-choice-slash-lifestyle.

How do you think people would react if I said, “Oh, my kids don’t go to school. They’re learning how to think for themselves out in the world. They read and write and research their interests on the internet and at the library. They travel and take field trips and, my gosh, their schedule is just so full of social activities that they simply aren’t able to spend entire days in school! Homeschool? No, we’re not homeschoolers. We’re worldlearners!”

I told Jane about this post, and she said, “That’s PERFECT!” When people ask her where she goes to school, she usually tells them we’re unschoolers, but that, too, is a loaded term that frequently meets with skepticism or disapproval. It also confuses people who’ve heard me talk about how we study Latin, math, sign language, or history.

It’s not that we need to label ourselves, but the question does come up almost daily, and it would be nice to be able to answer it with a word that really fits.

On the Feast of St. Joan

May 30, 2006 @ 4:35 am | Filed under:

In December, 1905, Mark Twain gave a speech a Society of Illustrators dinner. Before he spoke, a girl dressed as Joan of Arc presented him with a laurel wreath. Her appearance inspired him to some impromptu remarks about the depiction of the great saint in art. When he speaks of “the conventional Joan of Arc,” he is referring to the way she typically appears in paintings. In Mr. Twain’s view, none of these illustrations did justice to the real woman.

Now there is an illustration. That is exactly what I wanted—precisely what I wanted when I was describing to myself Joan of Arc, after studying her history and her character for twelve years diligently.

That was the product—not the conventional Joan of Arc. Wherever you find the conventional Joan of Arc in history she is an offence to anybody who knows the story of that wonderful girl.

Why, she was—she was almost supreme in several details. She had a marvellous intellect; she had a great heart, had a noble spirit, was absolutely pure in her character, her feeling, her language, her words, her everythingshe was only eighteen years old.

Now put that heart into such a breast—eighteen years old—and give it that masterly intellect which showed in the fate, and furnish it with that almost god-like spirit, and what are you going to have? The conventional Joan of Arc? Not by any means. That is impossible. I cannot comprehend any such thing as that.

You must have a creature like that young and fair and beautiful girl we just saw. And her spirit must look out of the eyes. The figure should be—the figure should be in harmony with all that, but, oh, what we get in the conventional picture, and it is always the conventional picture!

I hope you will allow me to say that your guild, when you take the conventional, you have got it at second-hand. Certainly, if you had studied and studied, then you might have something else as a result, but when you have the common convention you stick to that.

You cannot prevail upon the artist to do it; he always gives you a Joan of Arc—that lovely creature that started a great career at thirteen, but whose greatness arrived when she was eighteen; and merely because she was a girl he cannot see the divinity in her, and so he paints a peasant, a coarse and lubberly figure—the figure of a cotton-bale, and he clothes that in the coarsest raiment of the peasant region—just like a fish-woman, her hair cropped short like a Russian peasant, and that face of hers, which should be beautiful and which should radiate all the glories which are in the spirit and in her heart—that expression in that face is always just the fixed expression of a ham.

You can read the whole speech, which takes some good-natured shots at the illustrator of The Innocents Abroad, at BoondocksNet. Mr. Twain’s book about Joan of Arc can be read at Project Gutenberg.