I loved The Swiss Family Robinson as a kid. It was one of my favorite stories, along with Robinson Crusoe and the Little House books. I remember going to Disney World long before I read the book and wondering what the treehouse was all about, but I understood once I was old enough for the book. After reading this abridged edition, I realize that the cornucopia of flora and fauna on the island is utterly outlandish, but as a kid it seemed perfectly normal for an exotic island to have lions, tigers, elephants and ostriches. The story is still a blast, and M enjoyed it quite a bit too since it was a special ‘Daddy & M’ book. Along the way, I got a nice flashback to some of my dreams and fantasies as a kid and realize that some things don’t change but are slowly forgotten.
I wanted to get The Swiss Family Robinson purely to read to M. We have dvd of Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson movie, which we’ve enjoyed watching. I wanted to take the opportunity to show M the difference in depth between a book and a movie and illustrate that books have their own magic. It took me several months before I chanced upon the book the week before Christmas.
Reading the book brought back a flood of memories, though not about the book. I didn’t remember much beyond the tree house. But reading about them creating bowls out of gourds, foraging for food and utilizing natural resources made me remember why I held the tale such high esteem. Something about being resourceful and living off the land appealed to me as a kid, and my burgeoning belief in sustainability seems to have grown from seeds planted long ago. Figures that I ended up marrying someone who also loved Little House house as a kid. I’m now quite interested in the possibility of homesteading in the future.
This also brought me back to one of the reasons I’m so open to homeschooling – I’ve found that my strongest interests haven’t changed much since I was 10. My favorite subjects in grammar school were ancient history, art and math. I liked learning about different civilizations, cultures and art. I’ve liked mythology, having been raised on great tales of Hindu gods and goddesses while reading up on Greek and other myths on my own. D’aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths was easily my favorite book of myths and the most memorable Christmas gift I received as a child.
I had great respect for Michelangelo and da Vinci by the time I was 10. One day I stunned my dad by asking him to keep an eye out for books on them since our favorite local bookstore was going out of business. The only books on them I had ever seen were the big, expensive art books and I hoped that we’d be able to acquire one one the cheap. We had no such luck, and my dad seemed to forget about it. A year later, after much serious consideration, I decided that when I go to college, I want to study art and proceeded to tell my dad about this momentous decision. Problem was, my dad had gone to … art school. And although he was (and still is) an excellent artist, he never pursued it as anything more than a hobby. This must have rankled him to some extent, enough so that he blew up at me. My response was feeling sad and ashamed (for what I’m not really sure) and I gave up the idea of stuff like art or ancient history and continued on the path to Thinking Practically, eventually settling on a major (Economics) that I had no interest in whatsoever but that would apparently be a safe bet for the proverbial Good Job. The end result was a mediocre grades as I forced myself to do work that I had zero motivation for (fear of failure, parental displeasure or any other negative motivations had long ceased to be effective on me), had crap grades, was generally depressed and I spent as much time as possible ditching class and not doing anything remotely academic (aka beer, pizza, sleeping, beer, cigarettes, beer, sleeping and video games).
The silver lining was a single Hinduism class I took, my only A+ in college. I had been a lifelong atheist but decided to learn a little more about the faith I was raised in before rejecting it completely. I learned the philosophy behind the stories I loved as a child and I was utterly engrossed in the class. I did all the readings before class, all the lab work on time and even the ‘recommended but not required’ readings and videos. I knew the material so well that I didn’t have to study for a final that was, according to others, not easy. I learned that loving what you do makes a HUGE difference. In retrospect, a major like cultural anthropology or archaeology would have been right up my alley. Or continuing learning French, which I had enjoyed very much in high school as I saw it as a gateway to different culture (no comment on my accent, which I’ve been told is pretty bad :-P).
In any case, the past can’t be changed – tho it can be used to quiet Dad if he ever upsets me too much – but hopefully mistakes can be avoided. To that end, I’d like to support my kids in whatever their interests may be, by reading books, taking field trips or planning a vacation involving one or more interests. I definitely see homeschooling as a way to let their interests guide the way (I guess that would be more unschooling, no?).