Thursday, May 31, 2012

Nothing Comes From Nothing

The rest of the students will present tomorrow, but my interpretation of the storm in King Lear is finally dry and ready to be revealed to the world:

The text on the "storm," or "mask" is from the Dramatis Personae and the scenes leading up to the storm and the storm itself. The quotes in the crown are from the scenes early on when Lear revels in his kingliness. The base includes quotes from scenes that precipitate the storm - the love challenge and so forth. The "paint" is glue and paint mixed together so it dries clear. The greenery is meant to evoke the heath (clippings from the hedges outside the front of the middle school).

To be continued tomorrow when the kids present their creations.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The King is in High Rage

I have been waiting for this day for weeks! The King Lear final projects were handed in today!

I asked the 8th graders to create a visual representation of the storm in King Lear - both the external, tangible storm, and the internal, psychological storm raging in Lear's mind. They may create whatever they want, as long as it is something they can present in class and represents the storm. Most of the projects will be presented on Friday, but five students offered to go today so we could fit all of the presentations in before I lose the kids to the middle school musical and rehearsals next week.

One girl made a copper crown to represent the storm, both interior and exterior. She dyed three different colors of gray to represent the three different meaning of madness - insane, angry, and "marked by intense and chaotic activity." There are two rings, or crowns; the outer ring is Nature ruling over all, and the inner ring is Lear's Kingly crown. The copper crown is punched full holes to represent the unsubstantial nature of his rule, and the myriad aspects of existence that his crown is lacking. The screws holding the two crowns together represent the connection between Nature and mankind. To see the inner storm you must look through the outer storm. If you are wearing it, you must peer through Lear's inner storm to see the outer storm. In her own description of the project, she said:


Another girl created King Lear's head. The exterior:

And the interior. The storm that rages inside his head has a soundtrack, music she created by synthesizing the sounds of a storm and various overlays of music. You wear the headphones while wearing the head. It's quite trippy in there. See photo at the end of this post for my experience of this particular project. 

One boy's project was a piƱata. The exterior is Lear, of course, and when he beat the head open with a stick, destroying it, bags of Tootsie Rolls fell out. Each bag was tied with a ribbon and a piece of paper listing the elements that precipitated (pun intended) the storm.

Another girl's project was a box with a glittering "Unnatural" world above, adorned with the ornaments of Lear's reign as King - gold, jewels - and the "Natural" world below. When the box was placed on the edge of a table, Lear's crown totters, on the very edge of falling into the state of the Natural world. The quotes on the crown are from the storm scene. One refers to the external storm, and the other describes the internal tempest in King Lear's mind.

Finally, a girl made a mobile of the storm with Lear's thought in the center: "I am a man more sinned against than sinning." She's going to let me keep this one, and I will hang it proudly from the ceiling of my classroom.

It was a lovely day, even as a real storm brews in our neck of the woods. Tornado watch, hail, and severe thunderstorms are predicted for this afternoon and evening. Unfortunately, I have to be back here tonight for the 7th grade performances of Twelfth Night, so I am feeling a little, well, insane. Clearly, art imitates life.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Takeaway THIS, John Hockenberry.

Come check out a lively exchange in which I get to talk to John Hockenberry about the pros and cons of homework on The Takeaway. Come listen live at 6:49 EST on Thursday (WNYC, WGBH...choose your poison) or stream it after the fact at their web page.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Know Thyself and Nothing Too Much

Today's cultural literacy item: Hubris.

I will allow the main characters from Rick Riordan's novel, The Sea of Monsters, to define today's vocabulary word of the day: 

Annabeth: My fatal flaw. That's what the Sirens showed me. My fatal flaw is hubris. 
Percy: The brown stuff they spread on veggie sandwiches?
Annabeth: No, Seaweed Brain. That's HUMMUS. hubris is worse.
Percy: what could be worse than hummus? 
Annabeth: Hubris means deadly pride, Percy. Thinking you can do things better than anyone else...     Even the gods.

Used in a sentence: As graduation draws near, the current eighth grade class has begun to display excessive hubris in their dealings with teachers and classmates. 

Fortunately, we are reading King Lear, the perfect example of a man undone by hubris. His story is a convenient conversation starter when my eighth graders get a little too big for their britches. My students may not end up on a storm-swept heath, naked, in the company of a fool and a beggar, but the lessons of Lear's hubris are relevant and valuable.

But first, the etymology. 

Hubris comes from the Greek hybris, or "wanton violence, insolence, outrage," specifically as that insolence is directed toward the gods. Mortals who are presumptuous enough to strive for godlike status have hubris, or are hubristic. I asked the students to come up with as many examples of hubris in literature, and they came up with:  Achilles, Odysseus, Voldemort, Arachne, Niobe, Phaeton, Icarus, Dr. Frankenstein (and by extension, Provis, or Magwich), Lear, Macbeth...the list on my white board went on and on. 

I teach in a K-8 school with fairly rigid rules, a dress code, and high expectations for student character and conduct. The core virtues of fortitude, temperance, justice and prudence are part of daily discussion in most classes.  

Despite this rigorous education in character, it is the nature of teenagers to test. When they are ready to move onward and upward - to high school, to college, to whatever is next - they push authority figures away and and feel around for the boundaries of their new territory. It's only natural; challenging authority is a part of their process of individuation. I have my own teenager at home and I see it happening in our household. My friend, author Ann Cannon, once told me that out of her eight boys, her most dependent child had the most traumatic process of pulling away from her. If I accept her way of thinking about this process - and I do, she's a wise and experienced mom - the deeper the attachment, the more pushing away my son will have to do in order to become his own man.

The teacher-student relationship isn't that different from the parent-child relationship, and I have found that the more they trust me, the more likely they are to involve me in their testing. It used to bother me, but under the "it takes a village" hypothesis, I'm happy to help out. 

I'm no child psychologist, but I think students test their teachers because they know they are safe with the teachers who care about them. They push us away because they know we will still be here when they return to their senses. 

And when all is said and done at the end of our journey through middle school, I receive the most heartfelt graduation hugs from the students who have had to learn the most difficult lessons. The boy I had to suspend for cheating, the girl I helped through a family meeting about her self-injurious behavior, the boy who refused to speak to me for two weeks because I called him on his excess of hubris. These are the kids who test my mettle as a teacher. 

And the ones I will miss the most after graduation.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Once There Was a Thing Called Spring

It may take longer for spring to arrive here in New Hampshire, but as a teacher, I think that can be a good thing. As soon as the light changes from gray to golden, the kids can feel that  the the freedom of a long summer is near. This year, we had an early spring that lapsed back into winter, and the kids felt cheated, as if the promise of an approaching summer had been ripped out from under their feet. The daffodils had just begun to emerge from the earth when the snow began to fall again. The best skiing of this New Hampshire winter came after the threat of winter was past and the kids had put their skis away in the basement. But not me. I skate-skied my heart out on the last of the winter's offerings.

When spring came around a second time in April, I still had miles to go and entire plays to teach. As far as my students were concerned, spring had come, and gone, and come again, and it was past time for school to be over.

The seventh grade is coming up on their Twelfth Night performances, so we spend a lot of time out on the playground, blocking scenes. I plan the eighth grades' performances for good fall weather and the seventh grade performances for good spring weather, because it's too loud when they all rehearse in our small middle school at the same time. The eighth grade has the larger parts in our schools' spring musical, so I make sure they memorize Shakespeare in the fall rather than the spring, when they are also trying to memorize their lines in the musical - The Music Man, incidentally.

The eighth grade English class is in the middle of reading King Lear and rehearsing their graduation speeches. We are in the chaos of the storm on the heath, and I have assigned a final project for this book that's...well, unconventional. Sometimes, conventional just isn't going to work, particularly in this second spring. The eighth grade has been asked to create their own visual representation of the storm in King Lear - the one inside Lear, the one outside; all of it matters.. Years ago, I asked my Rowland Hall/St. Marks School students to do the same, and they created some incredible stuff. Sculptures of words, cotton, wool, paper, wire, and velvet, and I was awed. I hear that this time around, my students are creating video and audio presentations as well as the sculptural presentations I have come to expect. I love this assignment so much, I am creating something, too, and I can't wait for the unveiling.

We all have aspirations of summer vacation. I have writing deadlines - wonderful, exciting assignments - that hover out there, just waiting for classes to end. I get to hand a book proposal in to an editor who is actually excited to receive it. I have assignments to write four magazine articles, all about stuff I know little or nothing about, but can't wait to learn. Best of all, a New Hampshire writer friend of mine, Tom Ryan, asked me to write the author interview and its introduction for the HarperCollins paperback release of Following Atticus. There's some more big news surrounding that book that I am not allowed to talk about quite yet, but suffice it to say that I am indebted to Tom and his Harper Collins editor for their faith and support of my writing.

But before all that can happen, I have King Lear and Twelfth Night. I have to make up for my students' waning attention spans with my own manic enthusiasm, and simply pray that we all make it though the musical, final exams, the school trip to Montreal, and graduation.

New Englanders hope for spring, wait through six months of winter, slog through mud season and swat through black fly season. And then it comes. The beginning of the most beautiful season on earth.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Where We Need to Be

It's a bright and sunny day for this Core Knowledge teacher after watching PBS Newshour's report on what really works in literacy education. It's only ten minutes long, but it's well worth a viewing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I used to own chickens. Lots of chickens. But a horrid, nefarious (ne=not, fas=right, according to divine law) weasel ate all of my chickens last year. All ten of them, dead in less than 18 hours. I was not even the one who found them. Our neighbor's daughter, Elsa, came over to check on the chickens and instead, found slaughter. I was as vengeful as Achilles and launched an all-out war on the weasel, but alas, I never managed to kill him and drag him around the walls of my village.

I'd failed my ladies. I knew the weasel was around - he was living in the space above my mudroom, and we'd had a few conversations as he snaked his way out the hole in the rafters and along the stored gutters in my garage. I told him I could have shot him if my husband would allow a rifle in the house. I pointed out that even Ben's pellet gun could cause him some major pain, thank you very much. Beware, varmit.

But I was spooked. I could not bear to raise chicks and lose them again, so I moved our rabbits into my glorious chicken tractor and made peace with the fact that I would have to buy my eggs from local farmers. Whatever. I'm busy. I don't miss them. I don't miss the little "bu-WOK!" noises they make as they clean the backyard of ticks. I don't miss the happy waddling race, half flapping, half running, as they approach me to find out what kitchen scraps I have in my bucket. I certainly don't miss watching them bathe in the dust of the raspberry patch, leaping up to snag cabbage moths, mid-air, then settle down again to toss dirt under their feathers.

So when my friend Elena called and said that a bear had decimated their coop along with three of her favorite laying hens, I may have agreed to take on the remaining biddies. Her biddies had been my biddies at one time - I'd given them to her two years ago as a present - so it seemed only fitting to bring them back home.

I am watching them now, out the window, as I write. They move as a unit, pecking and scratching. Scratch, scratch...back up, peck. Scratch, scratch...back up, peck.

In their honor, and as a celebration of black humor, I offer up one of my favorite essays from my book, The Education of Flatlander. It was a book in the sense that it was completed, circulated to publishers, and rejected everywhere, not in the sense that it ever saw the lofty perch of a display rack in a bookstore. Nevertheless, it was part of my education - both in writing and in farming - and therefore holds a lofty perch in my heart.


Chickens really do run around when you cut their heads off. And when they fall out of their leg restraints on to a sloping riverbank, they bounce into fence posts and trees until they start to roll, at which point they flap and tumble down the steep bank, and when they hit the brook, there’s some splashing. And then they float away…

The bright and glistening woods were silent but for the babble of the brook and the matter-of-fact “Oh, crap,” that rose with my breath into the cold winter air. I stood, motionless, on the bank. What do I do? Dive for he body in order to save it before it hits the water? Jam the head back on the body and apologize? It all happened so fast, and already, the body was downstream, halfway to the Connecticut River. Damn. I really miscalculated on that one.

The other five hens were fine – if that’s an appropriate way to describe five dead hens – bleeding out as they hung upside-down from a piece of lumber I’d nailed between two trees. This last one had final travel plans, I suppose, and she took the opportunity when I turned my back for a moment.

Her head lay on the ground, beady eye open and staring up in surprise, as if to say, “Hey? What happened? Why can’t I get up? Where’s my body?” It reminded me of the surreal fairytale film Pan’s Labyrinth, and I half expected her head to impart some wisdom, maybe the riddle that would reveal the key to the center of the maze.

I waited.


The eye stared up at the sky, unblinking. No wisdom was forthcoming from this disembodied head. Not today, anyway.

The dog’s frantic barking snapped me back to reality. I picked the head up off the snow and tossed it as far downstream as possible in an attempt to give the head a shot at catching up with its body.

My chicken books never mentioned any of this. I’ve read and re-read Damerow’s and Storey’s chapters on butchering in order to have the process clear in my head, so I could best manage the chicken’s stress rather than my own. It was sort of like learning lines for a play so you can improvise if need be. I’d had plenty of time to think about today, because the moment those chickens came out of their cardboard box a couple of weeks ago, I was fairly sure they were much older than advertised.

When they had calmed down and settled in to their new quarters, I got down to the task of checking them out a little more closely. I did examinations on the hens in order to try to estimate their age, and my best guess was that these hens at least four years old. Their legs, which should be smooth - like a lizard rather than a crusty old dinosaur - were tough, cracked and gnarled. They were pecking at their bleeding feet and the bulbous, scaly crevices on their legs were holding on to wads of poop and mashed feed. Once chickens start picking at each other’s bloody wounds, it’s almost impossible to get them to stop.

I considered the hens one by one, knowing they were probably all the same age, but wanting to give each one the benefit of the doubt. Their keels, or breastbones, were rock hard rather than flexible, and their bellies, which should be soft and spongy, were hard and taut. The space between their pelvic bones was really narrow, as was the space between their keel and pelvic bones. The final death knell sounded when I found that their vents, where the eggs come out, were tight, dry, and round, rather than relaxed, moist and oval.

I had a couple of choices, and, as is my wont, obsessed over each and every one. There’s a good chance Chantal is looking into caller ID so she can screen out my frequent chicken-obsessed phone calls. I bounced some of my questions off her, but when she stopped answering the phone, I spent hours on Google searches: “Chickens,” “Age,” “Lifespan,” “Laying,” “Butchering,” “Spent Hens,” “Egg-Laying Duration.” I settled on two options.

1. I could overwinter the hens and give them one last chance to lay some eggs. Based on their age, they might lay once or twice a week rather than every twenty-five hours, as a young hen would – if they could muster any eggs at all. They would likely suffer from diseases of old age, and eat the equivalent of $150 in feed by May. Putting costs aside, I would spend an hour a day taking care of and talking to hens that will likely end up under the knife anyway. That’s an emotional investment I’m not eager to make.

2. I could simply get it over with and butcher the chickens before I descend into anxiety-fueled fits of indecision. It sounded logical to butcher them now, when they have to huddle together for warmth in the cold and dark coop and get frostbite on their combs. It would be cruel to give them a glimpse of the wonders of spring, when they would get to chase and eat bugs, take dust baths in the sunshine, and nest under the foxglove. Why tempt them with a paradise they could never have?

The final nail in the hens’ coffin came yesterday, when I ordered twenty-five new chicks from McMurray Hatchery. I am splitting an order with a friend. We got five Barred Rocks, five Silver Laced Wyandottes, five Buff Orpingtons, five Arucanas, and five Black Australorps. I need time to build a brooder box inside the bigger coop space and to clean out and disinfect the existing coop in anticipation of the new babies and their infection-prone systems. Older chickens can (and will) brutally establish pecking order among new pullets, which can kill them. The chicks will live in a brooder box in the basement at first, but I need to be able to move them into the coop as soon as their bodies can handle the cold. They would not survive in the same coop with an established flock of hens at that age, and I’m NOT building a second coop to segregate old from new.

One of my neighbors ridiculed my angst. He said he would have taken one look at those crusty old hens, and thrown their bodies into the woods for the bears. Another said she didn’t even bother to eat her spent hens, she just cuts their heads off and tosses them over the bank into the brook. Another suggested that I might not want to own chickens if this part of the process is so hard for me. Such advice usually begins, “Time was….” Let me translate: I – and apparently the entire 21st century outside of New Hampshire – am soft, lacking in gumption, wherewithal, and pluck.

But I do want to own chickens, and I do think this part should be hard. I understood that I was beating this particular horse to death, but these were important decisions. I had to do the right thing for myself and for the hens. It would be so much easier to chop their heads off and then feed the neighborhood vermin by throwing the carcasses into the brook, but I felt more responsibility to these hens than is implied in the carelessness of that act. I had to use the meat, if only for stock.

And that leaves the question of the rooster. Ah, Rooster. The bird I was going to execute right off the bat (that’s one method I hadn’t considered). I was growing attached Rooster, and Chantal, my chicken guru, tried to offer some hope. If I left him in the coop by himself for a while he might get lonely and take the new flock of hens under his protective wing. This sounded a bit optimistic. If a flock of hens could cannibalize new chicks, I was terrified of what a rooster could do to them. Besides, chickens are social animals, and he would get very lonely and very cold without any ladies. I decided to let the question of Rooster’s fate rattle around in my brain while I dispatched the rest of the flock.

Butchering should be done on a cool, clear day, and I wanted the kids to be at school the first time I did this on my own. I could really screw it up and I did not want them to witness any undue suffering or learn any bad habits. The cold helps the birds cool down faster after bleeding so the meat won’t rip when I cut it away from the carcasses. I am doing a sort of partial, short-cut butchering routine. I won’t scald, pluck, and gut the birds, simply remove their skin and feathers like a jacket, then remove the legs and breast meat. If these were young birds, I’d process the whole bodies inside and out, but these old biddies aren’t good for much but stock.

The first five hens went well, and I was in the groove, even establishing a rhythm. Until the accidental decapitation of that last one. I guess I just got a little too confident or stopped paying attention to what I was doing. I hadn’t meant to sever her head, but cutting the throat of a chicken is harder than you’d think, even with a very sharp knife.

I know I had decided on the broomstick on the neck dislocation method, but I’d had to abandon that technique early on in the process. I understood the concept – hell, I’d even seen photographs of how it’s done. But when it came down to actually executing the technique, I hit some snags. It wasn’t hard to get their heads in position - chickens get eerily calm when they are held upside-down by their feet - but no matter how hard I stood on the broomstick, their heads kept slipping out from under it. Maybe it’s easier on bare earth, but the snow made things slippery. I tried twice, and then, not wanting to make the hen suffer any more than she had to, I gave up and went straight to the neck incision. I’ve been watching DVDs of The Tudors, a television series about Henry VIII and the treachery of his advisors, so I’m familiar with the knife to the neck methodology, at least with respect to treasonous courtiers.

I hung the chickens from lengths of rope I’d tied to the 2x4, stretched their heads down, covered their eves with my left hand, and cut into their necks about a half an inch below (or above, from this angle) their heads with as swift and deep a cut as I could muster without severing the head altogether. After the cut is made, they remain still just long enough for me to step away, and then they start to flap and spin around on their rope, splattering red blood in wide arcs across the white snow. The twisting and flapping lasts for about twenty seconds, then slows, and they become still, and it’s quiet again.

Rooster was more skittish than the hens, so he ran around inside the coop when I tried to catch him. I don’t think he knew – he’d been inside the whole time and the hens had not made any sounds of distress in their final moments. I finally pinned him next to the nesting boxes, thanked him for being such a good rooster, and secured his feet in the final loop, next to his motionless flock. 

He flapped the least as he bled out. I felt the need to keep him around in some form, so I saved a couple of his long, curved tail sickles. Maybe I will make Finnegan a Peter Pan hat, or see if I can fashion a tiny quill.

Once the bodies were cool, I butchered the chickens, one by one, on the makeshift plywood table I set up in the backyard, next to the brook. The sounds of the brook distracted and soothed me during the less enjoyable parts of the process. I’d thought about listening to my iPod while I cleaned the birds, but I decided against it. I wanted to be present as I processed the bodies. As the hens didn’t have a choice in the matter, I was determined to show reverence for every moment of the job. That's the least I can do for the biddies. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Launching Forth Filament, Filament...

As I closed up my windows, shut off the lights, and took one look at the white boards in my classroom before leaving school, I marveled at the tangents one teacher can explore in one day. Today was a slow day - I taught only English 7, Latin 7, Latin 8, and English 8 - but we still covered a lot.

The white board was covered with Roman numerals (MCMXXXVII = 1937, 245= CCXLV), an etymological explanation of the word "cognate," a big red arrow between "cognate" and the word "renaissance," a breakdown of the clauses in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the words "natural man," "blind," "eyeless," "bedlam," words for Roman time and space. Hora, nundinae, pedes, mille passus, librae.

Kalendae, Nonae, and Idus, oh my.

As I happen to be a woman with a short attention span,  teaching is my perfect job. The more variation, the better. But even I revel in the moments when the word "cognate" (related by birth or origin) can tie in to the word "renaissance" (a rebirth of art or culture) as it's related via the Latin verb "nascere," to be born.

I am talking about the First Amendment because Robert Pondiscio challenged me to ask my students the question [and I paraphrase] "If President Obama has made a statement in favor of same-sex marriage, why isn't it simply the law of the land? Why can't he decide that the national color is purple or that we should have to eat beets at every meal because they are his favorite food?"

The questioning revealed some holes in my students' knowledge base, so the cultural literacy items for the next ten days are set. Today: What is the content of the First Amendment? Monday: Second Amendment? Tuesday: Third? And on and on...

Connections made in class today: 

1. The term "libra," or "pound" is related to the modern abbreviation "lb."
2. The word "nascent" is related to the word "nascere."
3. The term "bedlam" has to do with Edgar's insanity, and his association with the inmates from the Bethlehem, or "Bedlam" hospital for the insane.
4. The idea that places like China don't allow citizens to have access to social media is contrary to our freedom of assembly.
5. The Bill of Rights might just be related to the similarly-named Rights of Man.
6. The modern days of the week with the Roman days in between the market days that occurred every eight days. Beginning with Saturday, the days were: dies Saturni, Solis, Lunae, Martis, Mercurii, Iovis, and Veneris. Readers with French or Italian experience will see the connections more quickly, but the seven days in between the market days coincide with the modern days of the week.
7. The storm brewing on the heath (Act III, scene 1) is analogous to the storm inside King Lear's head and portends his coming insanity.
8. The rostra, or speaker's platform in the Roman Forum, is not named for the speaker's platform at all, but for the rostra, or battering rams from ships, placed on the front part of the Forum's stage.
9. The speech Marc Antony made after Caesar's death - was that made from the Rostra?

I have to run now as I am obliged to dress up in "semi-formal dress" for my students' graduation dance. The next couple of weeks promise to be an amazing mix of wrap-up and new moments, and I can't wait.

I announced the final project for 8th grade English and King Lear: Create some an artistic, 3-D representation of the storm on the heath. You may represent the internal struggle, the external struggle, or both. Surprise me.

And they always do.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Idle Hands

Some days, I just can't achieve coherence. Teaching is hard, writing is hard, kids are hard. I love all of it, but by the end of the day, after I've come home, cleaned up a bit, folded the laundry, and dealt with the needs of the rabbits, chickens, chinchilla, dog, cat, and those boys of mine, my brain is tired. It's time for a new post, though, so today, I offer up my scraps and leavings.

My son, Benjamin (13), is living biblically for three days. He's become a devoted fan of A.J. Jacobs because I had his new book, Drop Dead Healthy, playing in the car on the way home from my parents' new home in Rockport, MA. Ben demanded I surrender all my copies of A.J.'s earlier works. A.J is one of my favorite writers, and a kind benefactor whenever I have asked him for support for my writing, so I handed over The Know-it-All, My Life as an Experiment, and The Year of Living Biblically. After reading about a third of The Year of Living Biblically, Ben decided to try the experiment for himself. It's become a project for his English class, and with hope, will be over Saturday after the Sabbath ends.

Finnegan (8) was eager to help. He ran out the door, yelling over his shoulder that he knew where the PERFECT stick for a biblical-type staff lay in the woods across the street.

Understand, Ben is notoriously skeptical of organized religion (I can't imagine where he would have picked that up), so this has been an interesting experiment to watch. Here's his list of biblical rules, based on his cursory Googling of "Bible" and "rules":

I had to point out that the Sabbath does not, in fact, last until Sunday evening, but besides that, I was fairly impressed by his depth and scope. 

This morning, he announced that he had broken eight rules by breakfast. Apparently, he had looked in the mirror a couple of times (vanity), clipped his toenails (vanity) and accidentally mentioned G-d (that's for Ben's sake, who knows what kind of effect my blasphemy can have on his project) to Finnegan when he asked why Ben was wearing a curtain to school. 

Yes, a curtain. He liked it because it looked like tassels. I don't know what benefit the tassels are, but whatever. He rode the bus like this. You have to appreciate the self-confidence required to engage in this experiment. 

This afternoon, he requested a kosher dinner. I had to spend some time on Google myself. I am used to dealing with localvore (Finnegan and I do our best), but kosher was a new experience for me. I started looking for the "K" on my groceries, but only found it on my kosher salt. Go figure.

The one part of this experiment that has been a thrill for me is the respect for elders aspect. That's just lovely. Ben cleaned up after himself willingly, even if he explained WHY he was being so helpful as he was being so helpful. Only Ben can be helpful and sarcastic all at the same time.

I will post updates as events warrant. Apparently, he's fasting tomorrow, so that should be interesting. That kid eats his weight in groceries every day, so we'll see how he fares.