I know you are very, very tired of the war and literature homeschool class, but you are not half as tired of it as I am, because you only confront it on this blog, while I confront it every day in my living room.
Over a year ago, Rhino began a homeschool English class on war. I thought it was brilliant on a number of levels. First, her classmates at the IB High School were reading Just and Unjust Wars for their AP Comparative Government class. There is no online AP Comparative Government; there is only online AP US Government, because the world of online homeschooling is hoping that we can have a repeat of the debt crisis in perpetuity. But I digress.
Back to brilliance: Rhino could read Just and Unjust Wars with her friends, then use its theories to interpret some works of literature. We even had a copy of the book, which I distinctly remember not reading for Moral Problems in Religious Perspective, a course I took at Oberlin College. As a former English teacher, I happened to be familiar with some good works that addressed the topic of war in a way that would appeal to a 16-year old (did you know that Rhino is 17 and a half now?) and still have intellectual merit. So Rhino began reading In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason and all was well.
Rhino did not particularly like Just and Unjust Wars, and neither did any of her friends. In fact, most of her friends didn’t read it, and I still give Rhino credit for actually trying to read it, even if none of it stuck. In any case, she read several other texts that she did like, including “The Things They Carried,” “Defender of the Faith,” and Cold Mountain. I had planned on having the course be done by the end of the summer (that is summer of 2010), but reading Cold Mountain was a long process. Rhino finally finished it sometime in October.
I then designed an excellent paper for her to write, outlining Walzer’s just war theory and discussing its lacks in application to the characters in the literature. Rhino spent a long time not understanding this paper, mostly because she didn’t finish reading the instructions.
Then there was the bonobo paper, the Facebook showdown, and a semester of catch-up on courses that actually had to be completed by a certain time. The war paper occasionally came up in conversation, which was good because at least the seeds of Rhino’s labor did not die completely. They just remained very, very dormant.
So then there were AP tests, and Costa Rica and SUUSI and vomit.
Now that Rhino is grounded, there is a war paper. It is currently almost 7 pages long (out of a required 10). Rhino has been working on it for several days now, ever since she finished the AP Environmental Science class (for which she took the AP test 3 months ago and got a 4). Why is it taking so many days, you might ask?
Rhino is sitting on the beige couch with the puppy-chewed holes in the cushion covers and is fighting her own war against perfection. She seems to have acquired a friend’s copy of Just and Unjust Wars (it has a different cover than my printing). She has ripped the cover off of my copy of In Country and completely lost The Things They Carried (though she found the title story online). Cold Mountain appears relatively intact, perhaps because we own multiple copies. [Update: Cold Mountain is missing its BACK cover]
Rhino worries that the paper might be “wrong,” that she doesn’t really understand the books, that her paper will not be the most intellectually rigorous piece of scholarship ever produced by a high school student. She fights against these worries in order to actually write the damn paper. This is an ongoing war for Rhino, one that began in kindergarten when she absolutely refused to use “invented spelling.” Her refrain when asked “how do you think it’s spelled?” was “how do you spell it?”
This was followed up by the pronouncement, “I know mistakes are part of learning, but I don’t like to make them.”
If we can win over that one for this paper, I won’t say it will all have been worth it, but at least this battle will be over. And I can take a very long nap.