Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Homeschool 101: You Know The Drill


If you're new in these parts, these are my homeschooled children, who call themselves Unorganized Hancock, performing at a function hall in the little town where we live in western Maine. The older one is still younger than many high school seniors, but he's got his diploma already. The little one is eleven now.

I've written from time to time about homeschooling, but no one pays any attention to anything I say about it. The Instapundit and many other large, ocean-going  ships of the blogosphere have linked to my essays about homeschooling, and strangers come and go, and usually launch into their diatribes about how homeschoolers are weirdos that don't vaccinate their kids and only learn about chemtrails or how fracking causes autism, depending on which cable TV shows you prefer. Others assume my kids don't have time to learn to read and write because they must chant the Paternoster all day, and don't have time for none a dat book lernin'.

I'll try one more time to explain what's going on, then I'll give up. What you're looking at are the fruits of the only approach to education that works. I won't equivocate one iota: It's the only approach that works. Please try to understand what I wrote, right there in simple, declarative, italicized words, so that you can ken what I'm driving at. We teach our children at home because we want to use the only approach to learning that works for humans. The. Only. One. Here it is. You're welcome:

Drill, Drill, Drill -- Test

There is no new math, or old math for that matter. No matter how many other approaches other people try, how much mewling is transcribed on the Internet about socialization, or how many tennis balls you put on the bottoms of the legs of your kindergarten chairs, it's all wrong and it doesn't work. Like a volume knob that makes the radio louder when you turn it clockwise, and diminishes the sound when it's turned counter-clockwise until it clicks off, the design was perfect on the first attempt and cannot be improved. Every variation after that will be worse. People who want to break new ground without doing anything constructive will change the way that knob operates to become notable for the novelty, but it's always worse.

Human children can only learn constructive things by one approach: Drill, Drill, Drill -- Test. What you're looking at is the culmination of Drill, Drill, Drill -- Test. To be more specific, you're looking at the test. Like duck's feet on the pond, the drill, drill, drill happened in the rehearsal room where it belongs. When drill was done, they were ready for the test.

The impresario running this performance approached me halfway through and told me that the other acts didn't show up, and asked if my boys could play for more than their scheduled half-hour. UH pulled this song out of a hat, and many others, and played them more or less perfectly, and even added mugging for laughs by the little one. Simply playing the song was nothing for him or his brother. Playing that song was just the residue of drill, drill, drill, long ago, and they'd done their homework.

Before someone says, sure, if the kids spend all their time on music at the expense of their other studies, anyone could produce an eleven-year-old playing music for money, and a big kid that can do the same with only an eleven-year-old to help him, I need to be plain again: Music is treated as extra-curricular activity at our house. The little one doesn't even care about playing the drums. He likes electronic music. And before you try saying these kids must have a leg up somehow, like private tutors or something, you need to understand that we are profoundly poor, living way below the poverty line, and they learned to play music like this in a room with no electricity or heat. You don't need those things to Drill, Drill, Drill -- Test. If you like the way they play a Beatles song, you'll love the way they decline verbs, because the same approach is used for everything.

Both children receive Drill, Drill, Drill -- Test for every subject, taught by their mother. They can write, and spell, and add, and know the difference between carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, and everything else kids in public schools do not know, because the administrators won't let the teachers drill, drill, drill, but make the kids take the tests anyway, and fail miserably.

Drill, Drill, Drill -- Test is the only approach that works. There isn't another one. If you're trying another one, you're wasting your time, and another human being's life. It's really that simple.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

I'm Going To Move To The South Of France


I'm going to get up every morning and shave over a basin and then put on a suit. Sharp. I'm going to walk down a street made of little stones. There will be baskets of flowers depending from iron hooks mortared into the stuccoed buildings. The dogs will lift their heads but not bark as I pass by. I will have a cane, for no particular reason. I will buy a newspaper in the wrong language and a baguette, and pay with some form of coin. No matter what it costs, it has to be paid for with coins.

Or perhaps they will give it to me because they like my last book. I wrote it in pencil, because I no longer have a computer, or a television, or a telephone, or a business card, or a PO box, or an email address, or a Pinterest page, or much of anything else, really. I will have a bank account through which you can contact me. When I return home I will open the casements wide to the morning and my wife will make coffee and we will sit by the window and eat toast made from the baguette and talk about our children.

I will be the old man that passes by, dressed too impeccably for the weather and the zeitgeist, and my wife will be the woman who is always immaculately turned out until the day she passes on to a place that deserves her.

And during our peregrinations, if you accost us with a lean and hungry look in your eyes, and malice in your heart, I will produce a misericorde out of nowhere and gut you like a fish.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Internet Is Finished. You Can Go Home Now


Move along. There's nothing to see here. Go about your business. The Internet is finished.

That was it. I just finished the Internet. I just finished the last block in the Intertunnel's Sudoku. I've completed the HTML 5 equivalent of the London Sunday Times Crossword --in pen.

Post no bills. Keep your hands inside the basket, because if you don't they're going to get scorched where you're going for laughing at that. I didn't laugh. I wept. I gnashed my teeth, and I actually pronounced the G in gnash when I typed that. I type these aloud, you know. Of course you didn't know that, but I wrote, "You know," in that sentence anyway. I don't know why I did that. It doesn't matter. Will the last one out of the Intertunnel please get the lights?

You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here. The end is nigh! Save yourselves, before it's too late. Maybe we can all get a Pinterest page and try to atone for our sins by posting nothing but pictures of artisanal cupcakes and shoes for the rest of our godforsaken lives, but this one is going to leave a mark. This is wronger than a fan dancer with an Adam's apple. It's wronger than a trailer hitch on a Renault LeCar. It's wronger than a Gilbert O'Sullivan tribute band.

It's over. It's not you, it's me. On second thought, it's you. It's always been you.

Monday, July 21, 2014

I Double Dog Dare You


My two homeschooled sons, AKA Unorganized Hancock, are back with more video from last week's performance. This one's special.

The Heir wrote this one. He calls it Chloe's Cha Cha. I find it kind of wonderful on a bunch of levels. First, it's nice to see him writing things. Learn, Do, Teach is the old adage for the trajectory of any career. If you're wise, you never really stop learning, but the division of labor should concentrate on those stages. They both have been learning, learning, learning, so it's nice to see the Do, Do, Do rear its ugly head. And the Da, Da, Da, of course.

The song is more complicated than they can play with just the two of them live, but they'll record a studio version of it one of these days. The full Monty of the song's got a fonkee Esquivel vibe I adore.

If you're new around here, the Little Drummer Boy is barely eleven, and he only learned to play the cha-cha a couple of weeks ago. To recap: He's an eleven-year-old that can play a cha-cha live in front of audiences for money. Go find me another one of those. I double dog dare you.

[Update: Many thanks go out to Kathleen M. from Connecticut for her unfailing support of the children's PayPal tip jar. It is much appreciated]
[Additional Update: Many, many thanks to William O in Texas for supporting the kids' efforts via the PayPal tipjar. We all appreciate it!]
[Yet More Up-To-Date: Many thanks to Dan D. from Connecticut for supporting the boys via the PayPal button. Why are people from the Nutmeg State so nice? I don't know, but I'm glad of it]

Sunday, July 20, 2014

In Furtherance Of My Evil Plan To Resurrect Wichita Lineman And Make It The Official Cover Song Of The Twenty-Teens: The Derangers



There's a growing movement.

But never mind about my bathroom habits. I wanna talk about my mission --obsession, really -- to make Wichita Lineman the National Anthem of the Intertunnel. See, I just named it that. I don't know why I did that. It's Kismet, or Astral projection, or yoga or hara kiri or some other exotic word drunk people use in conversation between belches. It's fit, and just, and it just fits:

THE NATIONAL ANTHEM OF THE INTERTUNNELS


I was thinking of changing the lyric, but I hear you singing in the series of tubes ruins the Ionic Pentacost, or the Ironic Pantograph, or the Iambic Pulsifer, or whatever you call those word thingies that Lord Byline and Sir Walter Scott Towels use to make the rhymie words line up .


Also Sprach Sippican: In Furtherance Of My Evil Plan To Resurrect Wichita Lineman And Make It The Official Cover Song Of The Twenty-Teens: Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66 

Anteceded by: In Furtherance Of My Evil Plan To Resurrect Wichita Lineman And Make It The Official Cover Song Of The Twenty-Teens: The Swinging Doors

Aforetimes: In Furtherance Of My Evil Plan To Resurrect Wichita Lineman And Make It The Official Cover Song Of The Twenty-Teens: Optiganally Yours 

Previously: In Furtherance Of My Evil Plan To Resurrect Wichita Lineman And Make It The Official Cover Song Of The Twenty-Teens: Glenn Tilbrook 

Also Sprach Sippican: Another In The Long List Of Songs I Don't Like That I Like   

Saturday, July 19, 2014

I Want To Have The Only Blog With Three Deipnosophistae Entries



Mom never understood the bread.

I could see a little bit of disappointment, a little at a time. It was like a ship appearing on the horizon. It's just a speck at first. You can't know how big it is until it gets close to shore. Mom was proud of me when I was young, because my friends were all hanging out doing nothing on the corner -- or worse -- and I was working like a man. But as the months turned to years, the ship of her disappointment hove into view. The tonnage of it up close was formidable.

Disappointment is not shame, nor anything like it. She thought I could do more with myself, is all. Lawyer. Doctor. General. Something where there would be a newspaper clipping or two she could show to the neighbors. That's my boy. That's all she wanted. An affirmation.

But the baguettes came out of that hot hole in the wall the first time, and I was hooked. I was never allowed to do much except sweep the floor and carry the sacks of meal, but I knew right away. I knew I could never get away from the smell of it, the wondrous feeling of the flour on my hands, the heat like the sun on a rock at the beach all day long.

I loved it; and so the fellows that did it with a grunt and a sneer for money could never compete with me. They'd go home five minutes early and grumble while I'd go by on my day off and help out and smile. I am their lord and master now. By acclamation. Let him do it; he'll do it anyway. And the owner's son, dissipated and snarling, didn't last a month. I'm the real son. I'll save my little all and buy it when the old man goes; or he'll give it to me, because he wants his idea to keep going, and his own boy has other ideas.

I bring it home and lay it on the table, and Mom murmurs her grudging assent. A man decides for himself. At least he's a man, she thinks. And the bread is the food of angels; but still.

Mom will have to go without, because many will never ask why they raised a statue to me; it has to be enough that a few will ask why they didn't, when we are all gone. 

Deipnosophistae

I Want To Have The Only Blog With Two Deipnosophistae Entries

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Girl From Iwo Jima And Other Wonders


Unorganized Hancock at the Mystic Theater in Rumford, Maine On Friday, July 11th, 2014.

Not all the acts showed up. I'm used to the music business. That's common. Sometimes the bands don't show up. Sometimes the owner doesn't show up. Mostly the audience doesn't show up, in my experience.

Summertime's sleepy in Rumford. People go upta camp, and bug out for other varied reasons. In the winter everyone goes to everything to forestall cabin fever. They call its Woods Queer here. Alone in a cabin drove people to behave strangely after a while, or even take their own life. The Mystic Theater is a cure for cabin fever. No one has cabin fever in high summer, but they showed up anyway. Not packed, but every table was occupied.

The man that runs the place is pleasant. He emcees, and does close up magic from far away, but no one minds, and his wife serves drinks and smiles at everyone, and they smile back. He asked me, with a hint of desperation in his voice, if the kids could split their act in half and finish the show as well as play early. They were just supposed to play a set of jazz and get off the stage. I said sure. They have hours of material if they play pop songs.

Other people sang to recorded backing tracks. None of them was bad. One of them was extraordinary, and I want to remember his name, but I can't. I want to remember it because he is my hero, and you really should remember your hero's name, shouldn't you? He is afflicted with cerebral palsy, I think. I didn't ask. He had a good deal of trouble getting around, but he got around.

There were some lovely young girls singing the usual sorts of things teenage girls sing. Disney princess songs and TV talent show winner pablum. I was surprised at how well they sang, actually. They were painfully shy. Painfully shy people often want to be on the stage because they're too shy to be in the audience, in my experience.

Then my hero got up. There is a short, spartan flight of steps to get up on the stage, and how he negotiated them, I'll never know. He did. He sat on the stool at the microphone that you can still see in the foreground of my sons' video. He sang some sort of faux-Broadway number I didn't recognize. You know the sort of thing. Pirates Of The Lords Of The Cats Of The Miserables or something. He sang it with the accent that his affliction visits on people, and he sang it strong, and he impressed the living hell out of me. While he was sitting on the stool and singing, his feet jutted out in front of him like an exercise, and waved to commands unheard even by him.

His grandparents sat in the front row, and had one-tenth the enthusiasm for him that I did, which is a great deal of enthusiasm indeed. Not demonstrative, exactly; visible, like a tear in the eye. Of course it would be more matter-of-fact for them than for me, a stranger. When he was done, he took his applause and made his way to the front of the stage, where he was faced with the stairs, now heading down, down, down. Both the owner and I instinctively moved towards him, and reached out our hands, but he waved us away, sat on his ass, and crab-walked his way down the risers and treads, then got up and sat with the two minor saints that brung him.

One doesn't forget a person like that; just their name.