Gloucester is still very much a working town (three times we drove by the Crow’s Nest of The Perfect Storm
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.