Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A New Old Kind of Education

The latest book in the From Left to Write book club is Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Shiff. Unfortunately there is not a whole lot of history written about the powerful queen, and much of it is dramatized, but she still managed to write a long enough book that I've barely gotten into it. In this club, though, we just write posts inspired by the book.

I've just finished the section on how she was educated. While we don't have specifics on her education, the author can surmise based on the typical education for royals the rich and intense education she received. There were no breaks, really, except for the monthly holidays, and they crammed in a lot of learning. The "classics" (which of course weren't yet), nine languages plus speech and argument "made with particular and exact choreography", geometry, physiology, learning that helped make her the leader she became.

Education has been on my mind since my brilliant little boy cried the first three weeks of kindergarten. Fourth grade finally brings the serious homework woes which I've, I mean he, has managed to avoid up until now. He's always hated school, and I am not one to counter with "well, school is boring." Frankly I loved the worksheets and math tests, it was the long writing projects which brought me to tears. Yesterday he was moaning about some science homework, could not understand why he had to do it. First he complained about having to do "review" and then he whined they never taught him the stuff. The final straw was a worksheet where you could only answer the questions if you liked the assigned book.

I can't feel bad for him, there are so many kids with worse issues. On the other hand, what I'd really like to do is rip up the worksheet and make him read Watership Down, Metamorphosis and Brave New World, followed by free-form book reports of at least 500 words, something I had to do, although it was probably not until 5th grade. Some boredom can lead to creativity, I'm afraid the boredom in our testing focused schools will just lead to hatred of learning. With the right teachers, the worlds biggest library and Euclid, perhaps my boys could get an education like Cleopatra. I'll avoid the rest of her traumatic life, though.

In Cleopatra: A Life, Stacy Schiff digs into the history books to share with us who the true Cleopatra was. As a member of From Left to Write book club, I received a copy of this book for review. You can read other members posts inspired by Cleopatra: A Life on book club day, September 27 at From Left to Write.


  1. The more I learn about testing, testing testing the more I wonder about alternate schools founded on the classics.....there could be worse things, I suppose!

  2. As a mother of a child with Tourette's, OCD, Anxiety and more, I too worry about how my kindergartner will fair in our public education system. If I had the money, my child would not be going to public school.

    On Back to School night I was speaking with the art teacher about how hard and awkward it is for me to call teachers "Mrs." and "Miss". She told me at Montessori the children address the teachers by their first name. That right there says something very different about how those children will be educated.

  3. It's difficult when your child doesn't like school. I had one that love it and excelled and one that hated it and it was a struggle every single day! I wish I had the answer but all I could do was just make sure and stay on top of the one that hated it to make sure he finished his assignments and stayed on task.

  4. I am also concerned at the amount of testing that goes on in schools now. They are so concerned with getting their test scores up that they barely have time to learn anything wonderful and exciting! I don't think my fifth grader will read any novels as part of the curriculum this year--just excerpts in her "anthology."

  5. Hang in there, mama. I understand. I'm a teacher and I hate all the testing! It really does take the joy out of learning! I do hope your child gets the right teachers and having you at home to help and support him is important!