On and On it Goes

February 26, 2014 § 19 Comments

The weekend: Lambs born, pig killed. On it goes


The weekend: Lambs born, pig killed. On and on it goes

Every so often, I have some notion of what I’m going to write here, but most mornings I fly by the seat of my pants. If I happen to be wearing any pants, because as you know, I work at home, and thus the impetus to wear anything more than a pair of woolen long johns adorned with flecks of dried egg yolk is at a minimum. Too much information, perhaps, but hey. This is my party and I’ll admit to working in yolk-flecked long johns if I bloody well want to.

I am appreciative of the many thoughtful comments relating to my last post. The subject of our children’s education is fraught with hope, expectations, assumptions, fear, pressure and probably a few other things I’m not thinking of at the moment, and sometimes I get a little panicked to remember I’m about to launch a book that calls to question many aspects of our culture’s common understanding regarding what education can and should be. Of course, the book is about much more than my sons’ education, as it must be, since my sons’ education truly cannot be segregated from our life on this currently-frozen and windswept hill. Still, the how and why of their learning – and not just their learning, but also Penny’s and mine – is arguably the most prevalent thread holding the whole shootin’ match together.

I don’t mind people disagreeing with me. I have found, as Robin commented on Friday, that outside of a core group of friends and family who already know all my quirks and contradictions well enough that their opinion is unlikely to change unless I do something truly egregious, the older I get the less I care what others think of me. This is one of the benefits of maturing, I suppose, and it’s nearly enough to offset the fact that I no longer seem able to get a bite of egg to my mouth with dribbling a skosh of it on my woolies. I have been aided in this regard (the caring less, not the egg dribbling) by having my work be a matter of public record. I’m learning that the only way to please everyone is to say nothing at all or, at the very least, to say nothing of any real value, which strikes me as essentially the same thing. I’m not opposed to small talk – I do it pretty well, actually – but the written equivalent is not really what I want to put out into the world.

There’s little question that my forthcoming book is both the most personal of any I’ve written and maybe the most provocative. Or maybe not, because of course “provocative” is in the eye of the beholder. Certainly, it’s not as provocative as at least one other book on education I can think of (which, if you haven’t read, you darn well ought), but it’s also far more personal, and as such, I feel a certain vulnerability when I consider it becoming fodder for disagreement and criticism.

Still, here’s the other thing I’m learning: You can spend an entire life trying to avoid being perceived as vulnerable. Indeed, an awful lot of people do, and there are many aspects of our social and economic structures that both support and depend on this desired avoidance.

But of course no one can ever truly avoid it. We are all, on one level or another, and probably on many levels, vulnerable. And the sooner we acknowledge that, the sooner we say screw it, this is who I am and this is what I believe, the sooner we can get on with living life exactly the way we want.

§ 19 Responses to On and On it Goes

  • Eumaeus says:

    perhaps it’s not so much that we need to please people or say things of value but to be pleased and value ourselves…
    congrats on the little wooly babies and the fresh bacon (was that the pig you were kissing earlier? – saw that pic).

  • Kent says:

    Well spoken Ben. I’m off to read “Dumbing Us Down” as a precursor to enjoying your forthcoming book.

  • amy says:

    “the sooner we say screw it, this is who I am and this is what I believe, the sooner we can get on with living life exactly the way we want.”

    yep. that’s what has dawned on me over the last couple years. i’ve begun to upset some people. but there is also those times when my words have helped to set people free. and that’s pretty dang cool. and then the whole, not having to care what people think anymore… that’s quite freeing in itself. ;)

    can’t wait for the new book.

  • Sandra Ragsdale says:

    I think everyone loves your writing voice and your way of seamlessly weaving your homespun philosophy of life into the little slices of your real Vermont life that you share with us.

    I don’t see other people’s posts as criticism of you or even disagreeing with you. I see them as those people expressing THEIR opinions.

    I read somewhere a long time ago that the truly mature person is interested in knowing other people’s opinions, considers what people have said, and is open to questioning their own views as a result. I can only speak for myself of course, but I know I have been very wrong about some things in the past and so I try to test what I think against what other people think.

  • It’s taking me a while to say screw it. I’m certainly in the process and it sure is liberating. The freedom to simply be oneself and learn accordingly is probably the biggest reason that I’m inclined to keep my kid out of school. I applaud you for continually choosing to be more vulnerable, it’s an honest and respectable approach. And its yields are more holistic than the standard measures of success can indicate. Its good for all of us, thank you.

  • Seeking Joyful Simplicity says:

    Authenticity is something I am striving for in my life, after many years of “hiding”. And having the courage to be vulnerable is a huge part of that.

    Thank you

  • So true man! Really has held me back in my own writing. I wrote one story for a surfing website that has huge reach and some of the comments really pushed me away from writing more or worse, from sharing my true thoughts and beliefs. Now i write mostly fluff and it sucks. Anyway i wanted to share an email i received about Saved. A friend claimed that Erik felt much of what you wrote was “bs”..kind of took me back as this is one of my favorite books and the friend rarely speaks out like this. So..how are you and Erik? I share this with you one on one because im not a nest stirrer. Just hope you and him are good and wonder what they meant? Thanks Ben..when is new book due? Lots of new books coming out that i am looking forward to..Frank Forencichs newest, Lloyd Kahns new mobile tiny homes book and Erwan Le Corres first book on natural movement among others.. Ok, off to get folks in Mocean. Cheers Skye

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Ben Hewitt says:

      Thanks for the note, Skye. I see Erik all the time and our friendship remains strong. Also, Erik read the manuscript in full before it became a published book, specifically so he’d have the chance to correct any mistakes or misperceptions. So I’m not sure where your friend is getting his information.

      Don’t let those comments get you down.

  • Vonnie says:

    Hmmmm…the older I get, the less I internally care what others think. But, I’m a work in progress and I’ll admit that to some extent what others think still matters to me. Won’t necessarily sway my views on something, just makes me less apt to share them. I think the older I get the less external validation I need, and that’s a beautiful thing to feel finally.

    Thanks for visiting over on my blog…we love our home too. Wheb you’re in our area, please stop for a visit, we’d love to have you come check it out. I tell my boys all the time, it’s like living in a museum in that it was here before our country was even a country. The original deed we found had the property actually paid for in pounds, which is so cool to me. There were still native americans living in our town then. Pretty amazing that it’s still here and that not much has been changed in the house in all that time. Fun stuff.


  • jean says:

    My husband and I really enjoy your blog. We are in our 60’s, homesteading in Maine, 6 kids grown. Sheep in the barn. We are at the stage of life when energy begins to wane, health issues appear, and we(I) begin to wonder whether we should stay and deal with outhouse, farm upkeep, barn animals or find a simpler alternative.
    I find your words encouraging, and somehow, so far, they give me the impetus to keep on, even though you are 20+ years younger(which makes so much difference in energy, etc., I have found).
    In reading some of your older entries, I was interested in the kimchi–and wondered if you had a recipe you might recommend….have tried some, and researched others….thank you.

  • Karen R says:

    You wouldn’t be nearly as effective of a writer if you weren’t willing to be vulnerable. Your sense of humor doesn’t hurt either. I’m not convinced that you care less what others think, as I suspect you do care, just not on the same level as your choice of personal attire. It’s only been a short while that I have been following your blog and I appeal to you to keep doing what you are doing. You’re very good at it. You mention in
    “Saved” that you wish in some ways you were more like Erik… Well, some of us wish we were more like you.

  • Mary ANn Cauthen says:

    I am old enough to be your mom, & greatly enjoy your writings. I homeschooled my last child (youngest of 4), & today she has a masters degree in music education, is completely self-supporting & very independent. The entire time of homeschooling her, I worried if we were doing it “right”, if she was learning everything she needed to know, etc. While I was doing that she was going right ahead learning, growing up, knowing how to go for what she needed to know , & maturing into a most self-directed educated, very artistic, totally non-prejudiced, creative, adventuresome mature young lady. So, continue to go with your gut-feelings about your boys & allow them to direct their learning according to their interests! Of course, someone has to sort of direct basic grammar, basic math skills, etc., but the rest is a part of your every day living, & they will be fine. Keep at it. Mary Ann Cauthen

  • Amy says:

    Ben, There are perks to getting older and there really ought to be (to balance the negatives). And being able to say “this is the way I’m going to live; it’s what I believe is the right way for me to live, and if anybody disagrees with it they can go soak their collective heads in something unpleasant,” is certainly a perk. I have taught my children at home for nearly 25 years now (gasp!) and I get more relaxed about it, the older (and tireder) I get. My children are all a blessing to me and to those they live around, are all smart and healthy and unconventional (in a good way!) in the way they live their lives, and they are NOT entrapped by many of the social ills which get so many of our young people. They all know how to work, how to cook, how to raise gardens, etc, too. When I think of all the people who tried to change my mind about homeschooling throughout the years . . . well, I’m glad that I didn’t listen to any of them. You don’t have to listen to the naysayers either, and you will have them, when you do something different from the middle-of-the-road, sacred cow public education route. Courage!

  • ncfarmchick says:

    As a former “people-pleaser”, I can attest to the difficulty in weaning oneself from the approval of others. I recently had a challenging experience related to my parenting beliefs where I was required to state my honest opinion about a childcare program associated with my church (where I am on the Vestry, a group of laypersons in leadership positions.) Let’s just say I surprised some people and probably lost some “friends” for stating my opinion which turned out to be not as “normal” as I thought. Another of those situations where I am made to realize how weird I really am. But, as you say, the older I get, the less I care about not fitting in as long as what I’m doing is right for me. I think that will be one of the best lessons I can teach my boys. With each mention of your upcoming book, I am looking more and more forward to reading it as soon as it is released. Hope the writing is going well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

  • AliH says:

    Tom Friedman recently wrote a NYT piece on the attributes that google looks for when hiring: humility and emergent leadership area among them. Ivy League degrees (or any degrees) and president of the chess club are not. It is warming to read http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/23/opinion/sunday/friedman-how-to-get-a-job-at-google.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

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