My ideal elementary-school curriculum would… require all children to learn: (1) the times tables up to, say, 25; (2) a foreign language, preferably obscure; (3) the geography of a foreign land, like New Jersey; (4) how to use basic hand tools and cook a cassoulet; (5) how to raise a bird or lizard (if the child is vegetarian, then a potato); (6) poems by heart, say one per week; (7) how to find the way home from a town at least 10 miles away; (8) singing; (9) somersaults. With all that out of the way by age 12, there’s no telling what children might do.  Excerpt from William Logan’s “Poetry: Who Needs It?” NYT, June 15, 2014

I might add a few things to Logan’s list, but, in reality, they would just be subsets or expansions of what is already there. And what is there is the beginning of a life worthy of exploration—one with a solid foundation that doesn’t box you in. I am happy to report that, in hindsight, this is what my children were offered and accepted. Who knew? I was busy pumping water and planting seeds while building couch forts in the living room with them and dancing around to the sounds of Sly or Miles or Martha and the Vandellas.

OK, so the language thing was lacking, although I spoke phrases of German and Russian, my two school-learned languages, and often broke into a fluidly beautiful gibberish that flowed off my tongue, which the kids, for years, believed to be real. I am delighted that at least they’re solid in English and to this day know that you can’t say, “Please send the information to my family and I.” They were the vegetarians, hence the grounding in potatoes and rhubarb, pigweed and the merits of dandelions. But they also nurtured raccoons and owls, who stubbornly refused to leave our barn for extended periods of time (likewise the abandoned baby raccoon, who lived for a time in the root cellar after he was banished from the house when he pushed open the kitchen door in the middle of a subzero winter night).

Definitely, there was poetry. Definitely, there is poetry.


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