Monday, July 28, 2008

Why Homeschoolers Love Calvin and Hobbes

My family is full of Calvin and Hobbes fans. We have several of the C&H comic strip books, and can read them again and again and still laugh every time.

Over the years I've found that many other homeschoolers like Calvin and Hobbes, but I never thought about why that might be. Then I read this essay. As he puts it:

As this strip clearly shows, Calvin has nothing but utter contempt for his school, as did I for mine. Calvin’s fantasies are clearly more violent than mine. (All I ever wanted to do was stay home sick.) ....There is not a single Calvin & Hobbes comic strip that has anything positive to say about this institution. Just use the search engine in the link at the beginning of this article and type in "school." You will be taken from one strip to another where Calvin is bored, anxious, unhappy, disgusted, hopeless, daydreaming, or scared. The only school-related strips where Calvin is in a better mood have to do with recess or grossing out Susie at lunch (an episode that got Calvin & Hobbes cancelled at one local paper). His teacher is named Miss Wormwood, after the apprentice devil in C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters. Think about it. That’s not a joke the average reader would get. Just what is Watterson trying to say?

I remember walking the few blocks to school on a foggy morning and pretending that the reason I couldn't see the school building looming up ahead was because it had mysteriously evaporated. I, like others who were bored or unhappy in our own school experiences and later chose to homeschool our children, relate to Calvin. Why didn't I notice this before? Duh.


Janet said...

I have NEVER thought of it that way before. But we LOVE LOVE LOVE Calvin and HObbes over here!

Sunniemom said...

Calvin and Hobbes is our favorite bedtime reading around here. :D

I think Watterson is honest about his childhood experiences and perceptions of school. In the 10th Anniversary Book he talks about the angry letters he got from folks because Calvin was dreaming about bombing the school.

I remember all the songs we made up at school to the tune of The Battle Hymn of the Republic and On Top of Old Smokey and Jingle Bells. Most of them involved firearms and arson and the gory deaths of school officials.

One of the things I dislike most about the traditional school dynamic is the adversarial relationship between students and teachers, and if a student has a good relationship with the teacher, they are automatically the Teacher's Pet, so yer screwed no matter which way you go.

Katherine said...

My 7 YO son, Kai, LOVES to read C&H. Well, we all do, but Kai will disappear for an hour or so, just to read it. He's learned some new words and phrases too. I totally understand feeling like that about school, and I was a pretty good student! When I graduated from high school, I felt, "this is what it must feel like to be let out of prison!". I'm so glad we homeschool! Our kids can grow up free!

Brumbemom said...

Well, I am feeling totally out of the loop. I have never heard of that before. But I will definitely be looking for it from now on. I can't let all that wisdom pass me by. ;-)

Barbara Frank said...

Janet, it's funny how it didn't occur to us until someone pointed it out. I guess C&H is so much fun in its own right that we don't think about the school aspect.

Sunniemom, I read about that too, and I remember the songs you mention :)

Katherine, me too! The night I graduated from high school, I couldn't believe that others were crying and sad because I was just so happy and relieved.

Brumbemom, look at the public library for a Calvin book. Beware, though, it's addicting!

elephantschild said...

Oh, the anti-school bent in C&H has been pretty obvious to me and my Dh - we both lived the same thing growing up, which is why we're homeschooling our daughter; who incidentally, wears out her Calvin and Hobbes books, even though we don't think she's actually reading yet.

Scary. We even had a transmogrifier in the house for a few weeks this past winter... :)

Barbara Frank said...

A transmogrifier! I'm jealous..... :)

Jena said...

I would love to do a whole website on what Calvin can teach us about Education theory, but dang those copyright laws! My all-time favorite is the one that has Calvin holding a snowflake for Show and Tell, a "unique and exquisite crystal that turns into an ordinary, boring molecule of water...when you bring it in the classroom..."

Our family too has loved our Calvin books to death. Most have lost their front covers!

Halloween said...

After reading this, I realize that my son is similar to Calvin. He has a vivid imagination and is off in his own world so often. I have to repeat instructions many times, which can get aggravating - I guess I am like Calvin's mom sometimes. I have a few C&H books that I haven't pulled out recently. I should read them to my kids.

Anonymous said...

My older kids basically learned to read on Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin is definitely an unschooled thinker. :-D

Barbara Frank said...

Jena, you're more education-minded than I am, I guess. My favorite is when Calvin's dad comes home from work on a cold winter day to find the yard filled with snowmen with facial expressions of agony due to missing body parts, etc.

Halloween, your son must be pretty bright. Calvin certainly is.

Steph, my eldest (now 24) burned through all the Calvin books and strips she could get hold of. They're just so good, aren't they?

Thanks for stopping by, everyone!

dianne - bunny trails said...

Great post! We've been reading C&H since way before kids even. My dad has all the books and has since bought them all for my boys. They read them over and over and over again.

I loved it when my boys were still in public school, but had expanded vocabularies because of C&H! :D