Saturday, May 31, 2008

Where the Wild Things Were

Mr. Mouse and I spent this past Memorial Day weekend at a wedding on Massachusetts’s Cape Ann. The wedding itself took place on Good Harbor Beach in Rockport; the reception was in Gloucester-proper, overlooking a stunning view of the harbor. Since it was a Sunday afternoon wedding, we had plenty of time Saturday and early Sunday to explore the area, which was nice since I don’t recall ever spending much time on the North Shore (despite living and working for three years in Boston in my mid-20s).

Gloucester is still very much a working town (three times we drove by the Crow’s Nest of The Perfect Storm fame notoriety, trying to work up the nerve to go in for a beer – never happened) but the surrounding beaches are great although with limited parking for most of them. We did find a very local and very friendly place for beer and lunch: the Rhumb Line.

Salem and Marblehead are much more visitor-oriented. Mr. Mouse and I spent a good deal of time walking around both of these towns. We opted not to visit the witch museums in Salem but did find time for a couple of beers (of course) at Salem Beer Works. Marblehead was my favorite: while the truly spectacular mansions rise above the ocean out on Marblehead Neck, I loved the jumble of lovely old (as in mid-1700s old) homes on the mainland.

The real excitement of the weekend, however, was back at our hotel as it was completely overrun by the Northeast Unschooling Conference … or as Mr. Mouse more aptly put it, the Society of Feral Children. These “unschoolers” are families who choose to home-school their children; a bumper sticker in the parking lot read, “Grades are for meat and eggs, not children.”

Evidently discipline is not for children either. They were everywhere: screaming and running barefoot through the corridors and hotel lobby; swarming the pool (which another hotel guest swore had turned yellow –eeeuuuuwww!); playing in the elevators. We watched several little girls being fed their dinner in the bar at 10:30 p.m.; one of them actually fell asleep with her face in her chicken fingers.

The hotel staff were saints, to say the least. The front desk manager repeatedly asked the children to stop running through the lobby – to no avail. The hotel corridors were filled with trays as room service valiantly attempted to keep up with demands for dessert five minutes before the kitchen was to close. The bartender had to ask a child not to lie on the floor in front of the doors into the hotel kitchen. Best (or worst) of all was when one of these children BIT a waitress and, at the young woman’s complaint, the parent just said, “Oh, he does that all the time.” Nice.

Hopefully these unschooled folks were not representative of the greater home-schooling community, because I really can’t see that these parents were doing their children any favors. Sure, encouraging creativity is great. But these kids seemed under-socialized, undisciplined and completely ill equipped to exist in a world other than their own home. I don’t know - it was all pretty much appalling but at least we got a story out of it.


  1. This was just the entry I needed today! After spending time talking with a "home school" mom at my girls' ballet school yesterday, I left feeling like I had neglected my children terribly by sending them to public school. I am sure my eyes were rolling as she babbled on about sending her 10 year old to engineering classes, a solar power class at MIT, and russian language lessons. Of course it didn't sound like there was much "home schooling" going on if she was traveling to UMaine and MIT for classes. I did take some solace in the fact the only name that could be heard repeatedly being asked to pay attention by the ballet teacher was that of this "semi-genius homeschooled" child. For what it's worth, I will keep my own sanity in tact, and make good use of my tax $ and continue to send my reasonably well behaved children to public school.

    Thanks for keeping a smile on our faces.

  2. A-ha - I knew my unschooling experience couldn't have been an isolated incident. Thanks for adding your story and thanks for reading!