I was an awful student. Hard to imagine, I know. I still remember that my Kindergarten teacher Mr. Killin (I’m not kidding that is his REAL name…who in their RIGHT MIND would leave their kids with a man called Mr. killin’…but I digress) as I was saying, I remember my Kindergarten teacher Mr. Killin hated me.
I would NOT nap when the other kids napped, I peed my pants because I thought the kindergarten washroom was stinky and I screamed by bloody head off when I was dropped off at school every morning.
Freud says we manifest in our adulthood our childhood traumas. Well, my hatred of school has remained one of those “unresolved issues”. Technically, you could say I don’t mix well with any institution that involves rules or requires their participants to conform, behave or blend.
I’m not made for blending, I’m made to stick out like a sore thumb, and I was a misfit throughout all of elementary school, most of high school and a good portion of University …not to mention how I suffered through my 9 to 5 office jobs.
I could easily classify my husband a social misfit as well, he doesn’t fit into any of Italy’s well defined groups; he hates soccer, loves being a loner and despises planned activities, yet he was better off than me in school. In Canada you “choose your path” in the last few years of high school and then go on to either work, travel or enroll in a community college or University. All three options still involve a certain amount of ambiguity and of “finding oneself”, and low expectations are placed on the 17 and 18 years olds that are just beginning to find their way.
In Italy, as soon as you leave middle school you must choose your path and high schools are specialized according to general subjects such as languages, sciences, math etc. Each town or group of towns in Italy has a Language High School, an Accounting High School, an Arts High School and my personal favorite – an Agriculture High School, which is what my husband studied.
Agriculture is seen as the “easy” way out, the lazy man’s school, yet I can tell you that the things my husband knows from when he was 15 have served him more than ANYTHING I studied at that age. Let’s not even get into the fact that Italians, no matter which high school they choose, have an incredible knowledge of history, geography and language skills that put North Americans without a smartphone in their hands to SHAME. Or that after his Agriculture diploma my man was able to pass the entry exams to get into the Ancient History program at the University of Bologna, including testing in Latin, Greek and English. Not bad for someone who had spent the previous 4 years learning how to turn milk into cheese!
I, on the other hand, didn’t even know what an olive tree looked like when I arrived in Italy and couldn’t show you a chestnut to SAVE MY LIFE.
My gaping ignorance makes me long to be in nature as much as possible and also take our three year old to do things like pick grapes during the Vendemmia, which I’ve blogged about here or visit Fattorie Didattiche, Italy’s “teaching Farms” which I’ve written about here.
We’ll Always Have Tuscany
In August we rented a Tuscan Villa owned by the Tenuta Nunzi Conti Chianti Classico Winery. Their land has extensive vineyards but also natural forests , paths and orchards and I saw two deer outside of the window within the rolling hills on the first night of our stay. The next day on our walk along the path to the forest my man told me to keep my eyes open for wild boars and other animals in the forest, because if the moms were with their babies they would be violent if we got too close!
Something about actually encountering a wild animal….an animal NOT in a zoo, on a leash or in a cage, just seemed strange to me. Call me conditioned! I realized that the thing that I want more than anything for my son is for him to know nature. He’ll have time to read, time to write, time to count, but it is never to early to recognize a wild boar!
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