Famous homeschoolers

I enjoyed reading this article from Reason, Sibling Grammy Winners Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell Praise Homeschooling.

According to Eilish, she has never stepped foot inside a traditional school. She credits homeschooling with allowing her to develop her musical talent and flourish:

Being homeschooled is all about self-discovery. It’s something that I’ve really enjoyed and thrived under. I’m not at a high school where I have to base my self-worth off what other people think of me. I have to think, “What would I like to be doing? How would I like to be as a person?” I think that’s an enormously positive thing…

Everybody’s always out doing things, traveling, going places, meeting for classes, and organizing field trips. It’s like going to college. You take what you want, where you want it, and you find what you need…Homeschooling allows us to let them do the things that they really love to do and not have a giant academic schedule on top of it.

Of course, it is not unusual for celebrities or professional athletes to have been homeschooled. Michelle Kwan, Misty Copeland, Simone Biles, Venus and Serena Williams, Tim Tebow, Blake Griffin, Jamie Anderson, Bethany Hamilton, Joey Logano, Bode Miller, Shaun White, Maria Sharapova, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Emma Watson, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, Elle and Dakota Fanning, Ryan Gosling, Hailee Steinfeld, and many, many others were homeschooled.

In many ways, the ability to homeschool your kids is the ultimate luxury. It can also involve significant personal sacrifices from the parents and guardians of kids with special needs or gifts.

Among other famous and historically important folks who were homeschooled: Presidents George Washington, James Madison, Andrew Jackson, James Garfield, Teddy Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson.

Also homeschoolers: Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Eli Whitney, the Wright Brothers, Grandma Moses, George Patton, Douglas MacArthur, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Agatha Christie, Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain), Charles Dickens, Robert Frost, William Butler Yeats, C.S. Lewis, Beatrix Potter, Louis Armstrong, Ansel Adams, Margaret Mead, Albert Schweitzer, Frank Lloyd Wright, Sandra Day O’Connor, Irving Berlin, Winston Churchill, George Washington Carver, Albert Einstein, Booker T. Washington, and Brigham Young.

(List courtesy of The Pioneer Woman, who homeschooled all of her own children, among other sources.)

C.S. Lewis wrote about his home education program in his letters, which went like this:

Breakfast and a short walk

Thucydides and Homer

15-minute break

Tacitus

Lunch at 1:00

Free time until tea

Tea at 4:30

Plato and Horace

Supper at 7:30

German and French until 9:00 p.m.

Free time until bed (usually about 10:20 p.m.)

(Incidentally, that would be my dream schedule these days.)

Anyway, the next time some interlocutor asks you if you are afraid your child will “lack socialization” or “turn out a little weird,” explain to them that they appreciate the cultural and scientific contributions of homeschoolers literally every day.

My favorite tree

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

“The Trees,” Philip Larkin

This is my favorite tree (at least among the trees I have encountered so far). Its ancient branches stretch across a trail that runs along the Intracoastal Waterway. I like to think about how many hurricanes it has triumphantly endured every time I pass it.

It has a great view too.

Elise's big ride, Rails-to-Trails, and the Florida Trail

I am very proud of Elise. Yesterday, we rode our bikes from our doorstep to the end of the Lehigh Rails-to-Trail path and back – a distance of over 22 miles. I feel like that is an impressive accomplishment for an 8-year-old. She is such a sport and down for almost any kind of big activity. This path passes through the 3,000+ acre Graham Swamp Conservation Area and along the Lehigh Canal, roughly from Flagler Beach to Highway 1. It’s quite beautiful.

(We had been planning on driving down to Blue Spring State Park by Daytona Beach over the weekend to see the manatees, who like to swim inland during the “winter” months here. The natural springs up and down the Eastern and Gulf Coasts have waters that are kept stable at warm temperatures. Alas, we had forgotten that this weekend was both the Daytona 500 and a day President Trump was in town. We expected the whole area to be a madhouse with traffic and changed up our plans. Hopefully, we can make it down before temperatures warm up and the manatees move out.)

Yes, that’s water.

In the spirit of having many future adventures, I bought two excellent books:

Rail-Trails Florida: The Definitive Guide to the State’s Top Multi-Use Trails – This is a wonderful book mapping out the handiwork of the Florida Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. As Lehigh is one of our favorite trails, I wanted to find more around the state that are like that. (Our beach town alone has 135 miles of bike paths along the water, through wetlands, and through the jungle, but we ride or walk them every day.)

I was shocked by the number of endurance-worthy bike paths the state has. In particular, I would really love to ride the path along Henry Flagler’s original railway bridges through the Florida Keys. My understanding is you can ride the restored path, separated from traffic, from Key Largo to Marathon. After that, you have to ride alongside cars. That’s a very long distance in its own right, but it had us fantasizing about taking off on our bikes and booking a hotel room along the way. Like we have to make it to [insert island here] to stay overnight, then we turn around and come back. Or just hanging out for a while on several different islands. It’s a little intimidating though, because if something happened to your bike that far out on the water, you’d kind of be S.O.L.

There is also an over-100-mile path that circumnavigates Lake Okeechobee, the 8th largest freshwater lake in the United States.

I love the Rails-to-Trails program in general. It manages to combine my great loves of history, infrastructure, and finance all in one thing. For a while, I got into reading about the history of the railroads here in the United States and elsewhere. I have a framed railroad bond from Russia dating back before the revolution, with the coupons still attached. So cool. I like learning about all the independent railways that were established all over Florida.

The second book is Hiking the Florida Trail: 1,100 Miles, 78 Days, Two Pairs of Boots, and One Heck of an Adventure by Johnny Malloy. This book is about a thousand times more entertaining than I imagined it would be.

The Florida Trail is an 1,100-mile trail that stretches from Big Cypress National Preserve outside of Miami (in the Everglades) up to to Fort Pickens at Gulf Islands National Seashore, Pensacola Beach (the Florida Panhandle). I had absolutely no desire to thru-hike this trail before I bought the book, but I figured it would be a good way to learn about Florida geography and maybe find some sections to hike.

All I can say is, good grief, the people who actually manage to thru-hike the Florida Trail are bonkers. The official site for the trail warns you that the trail is unlike other long trails in the US, starting with the fact that it is not through mountains but often through swamps. One website I looked at advised hikers to pre-treat their clothing with some industrial-grade mosquito repellent that you can get off of Amazon when hiking through the swamps.

Malloy starts off describing the hike through Big Cypress as miles and miles of sloshing through swampy water. Unlike other trails, where you can pretty much hike until you are exhausted and then set up camp, in the Everglades you have to reach specific destinations to camp because the rest is usually underwater. Once you begin, you are totally committed. Combine this with the fact that even urban areas in Florida have hungry dinosaurs, big cats, and venomous snakes roaming around, that’s a scale of adventure I’m not cut out for. But it does make a fantastic read.

The whole time we were riding through the swamps yesterday, I tried to imagine venturing off the boardwalk and trying to hike through that stuff. Nope!

Bald eagle pip watch begins!

The Eagles are coming! The Eagles are coming!

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Samson and Gabrielle, a pair of bald eagles with a nest in our neighborhood, have two eggs that should be hatching at any time in the coming week.

We are fortunate to have an eagle cam on the pair as they are incubating (and periodically rolling) their eggs. If you love birds or have kids, you can check in on their nest and maybe catch the hatching process.

For some history on the nest, see my earlier posts A new season of watching bald eagles and Bald eagle update and a canopy of ferns.

Habits

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.

Carl Jung

Virtues are formed in man by his doing the right actions.

Aristotle

After exhausting my music and podcast options, I have been searching for quality audio books to listen to while I am on the treadmill each morning. So far, I have listened to Jordan Petersen’s 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos; Victor Davis Hansen’s Who Killed Homer: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom; and James Clear’s Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones. All of these have been excellent and thoughtful books. Beyond that, they have all been so engaging to listen to that the miles pass by without my even noticing.

Until recently, I have never considered myself to be of the “self-help book” persuasion. To say I find women like Oprah Winfrey, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Sheryl Sandberg annoying would be an understatement. Every time I hear a woman complain about how she gets paid less than men, I want to walk her down the aisles of pseudoscience and crank psychology books marketed (with great success) to women in bookstores. Keto cures cancer and autism, you know. Measles can be treated with lavender oil. Micro-dosing on psychedelics will help you with mood swings. You should shove rocks up your vajayjay. (And be sure to call it your vajayjay, because nothing says feminism like communicating in baby talk.) The only thing keeping you from material success is scribbling affirmations on your mirror with your lipstick. Exactly the kind of person you want in the corner office, right?

But listening to Atomic Habits had me thinking about all the psychology books I have listened to or read recently that are fantastic critiques of our culture.

Atomic Habits is a great book – I highly recommend reading it – but it’s also simply a reworking of the philosophy of Aristotle. The author’s main thesis is the most effective way to change your habits is to focus on the kind of person you want to be (I want to be healthy), rather than dwelling on discrete outcomes (I want to lose 15 pounds). Most of the book focuses on manipulating how you respond to unconscious cues, how your practices relate to the mechanical, biological organization of your mind (what you might consider your “self”).

This is essentially Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Whether or not someone is happy or flourishing is the cumulative effect of their habits. A virtuous person is a person with good habits. To be a good person, you don’t need to hang out in the agora talking about goodness in the abstract. You simply need to start acting like a good person acts here and now. If you want to be courageous, put yourself in positions that demand courage. If you want to be charitable, start working toward a cause. If you want to be a reader, be the kind of person who goes home and opens a book every day instead of turning on the television or mindlessly scrolling Instagram. Good habits become your identity and that is how you flourish over time.

In many ways, some of these more thoughtful psychology books are reclaiming philosophy. Jordan Petersen is expanding on Freud and Jung. Victor Davis Hansen talks about being a classicist as a lifestyle rather than professional curiosity – not just studying Greek, but preserving Greek-ness. I even saw a book called Unfuck Yourself, which revisits stoic philosophy like Marcus Aurelius.

Academia has pretty much destroyed the real human value of philosophy as a discipline. There are plenty of academics who go around calling themselves philosophers, but what they are doing is not philosophy anymore. You open up academic philosophy journals now and you see articles like Gaslighting, Misogyny, and Psychological Oppression (The Monist), Aesthetic Cosmopolitanism and the Challenge of the Exotic (British Journal of Aesthetics), and Refugees, Safety, and a Decent Human Life (The Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society). At best, these articles are simply Twitter-esque political blathering with some philosophical sounding wordplay. There’s not a lot of love of wisdom happening in the academy these days. The citizens of Athens would not recognize or promote this activity.

Philosophy as a durable human project is not dead, but is now coming from improbable places. It’s on YouTube. It’s in podcasts. I’m not sure I should be surprised by this. Just as Aristotle trained generals, Clear is training folks in the business world.

At any rate, if you know any good audio books, please pass on their titles.

Insane news coming out of China

China Coronavirus Cases Surge Almost 15,000 After Data Revision

The Chinese government is reporting a tenfold increase in the number of coronavirus cases in Hubei province alone today. They say this is due to a data revision that includes people whose diagnosis was clinically confirmed (as opposed to confirmed by the traditional nucleic acid test, given that there have not been nearly enough test kits to go around). Most sane people have assumed that the real number of infected people was significantly worse than the government was letting on. Governments don’t start blockading and quarantining cities larger than New York City over a small outbreak.

See also Top CDC official says US should prepare for coronavirus ‘to take a foothold’

And in case you missed it, the Chinese government was behind the massive Equifax hack a couple years ago. (But please, carry on some more about Russia Russia Russia.)