Seeking a Really Well-Rounded Education

By , November 16, 2010

There’s an irony to our homestead idyll that concerns Aly’s education. We’re pleased with the results of her unschooling so far. She’s done extremely well on her ACT and SAT tests. She’s being courted by some prestigious schools. She’s had success pursuing opportunities in her chosen field of study. According to our society’s accepted standards, she has acquired an education as good, or better, than most of her peers.

Nevertheless, we worry about certain gaps in her knowledge set. Particularly, we are working to ensure that she has a proper cultural education. Living semi-remote, with very little daily interaction with the “real” world other than daily radio news, she risks going off to college without a set of references that will help her find common ground and interests with her new friends and acquaintances. We’re becoming more concerned with aspects of American and world culture that she’s completely unaware of: television sit-coms, popular music, slang, even common comfort foods. The isolation and insularity that so many people admire, even envy us for, may make Aly socially uncomfortable when she leaves the homestead and becomes more immersed in society.

Not that Michelle and I are particularly well equipped to teach her about these things. We’re not “plugged in” ourselves, obviously. If we were, Aly would pick up much of what she might need to know from us. But, here we are, living out in the woods. We even “killed” our cable about 10 years before we moved here.

Even worse, I’m working through a backlash of my own. I worked in radio for 16 years. I used to specialize in trivia. I could name any cut on most CDs, (many of which were made of vinyl in those days. We called them “records” or “LPs.”). I could name band members, tell you something about their personal histories, quote lyrics. After leaving radio, I let that knowledge go, making room for something more worthwhile, in my view. Now, I’d be hard pressed to name cuts on my favorite CDs! It’s just not important to me. How then, can I pass on cultural references to my daughter, as “archaic” as those references would be?

To overcome this, we try to get Aly to any dances in Haines. There she’ll no doubt hear music that’s current, and hear opinions and information on it from her peers. We also have been trying to sample television. We get T.V. series compilations from the library and Netflix to give her an idea of what others might know. Some of it, like Star Trek and M*A*S*H are nostalgic for Michelle and me. Others, like The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, and Leave it to Beaver are foreign to me—I never really saw these as a kid myself. When these shows are referenced, I have a vague notion of what people are talking about at best!

This isn’t a really big deal. Most of what interests society just doesn’t seem important from where we’re standing. But, a sprinkling of it here and there should provide Aly at least a passing familiarity with these topics. Hopefully, it will help her feel less isolated when she joins the crowds.

2 Responses to “Seeking a Really Well-Rounded Education”

  1. Heidi Partin says:

    As a homeschooling mom, I understand your predicament to “culturize” your daughter. However, I wouldn’t spend too much time on it. She is culturized–just differently. Showing her Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family and Leave it to Beaver is not really opening any doors to today’s culture. Today’s kids aren’t watching those shows either.

    Unfortunately, today’s kids are watching reality TV, which isn’t really reality, Disney Channel shows,which emphasize how stupid parents are and cartoons which are crass, hard, and usually inappropriate for children.

    Aly has grown up differently from the mainstream, but she will fit in just find with her college peers. She will bring to them a sense of adventure that kids today only dream of(if only they would put away their phones, ipods and and tvs).

    You and your wife have done well by Aly. You have given her beautiful wings. Just watch her fly!

  2. Mark Zeiger says:


    Thanks so much for your comment. You’re absolutely right! I wrote this piece with my tongue firmly in cheek, inspired by a real conversation that ended with us telling her that we would show her what a tater tot is the next time we’re at the grocery store, and remember to do so. We do feel she should have a passing knowledge of some of these things, but not enough to actually “study” them. I’m struck by the humor of the uselessness of much of this “knowledge,” and her middle-aged parents pathetic attempts to keep her abreast of it!

    I wouldn’t really waste the time or electricity to show her the three sit-coms I mentioned, for instance. I managed to live a full satisfying life (so far) without knowing much about those shows. I used to be acquainted with a radio morning show that had one member they particularly valued for his extensive knowledge of the Partridge Family and Brady Bunch. I could only ever respond: “Why?”

    It is, however, an excellent excuse to see a couple of my favorite Star Trek and M*A*S*H episodes, though!


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