sexy party for a very homeschooled idea

First of all, please check out my piece over on The Forward! It’s about being a Jewish homeschooler. And, unrelatedly, I also have a piece on A Practical Wedding, which I’m pretty proud of.

So last night I went to this very chic invitation-only New York book party at an agent’s penthouse apartment in the East Village. The kitchen cabinets were lacquered and cherry red, and there didn’t seem to be much furniture, which gave me the sense that it might be uncool to have furniture.

All of the women were wearing stilettos and dramatic tops that bared significant amounts of skin. They were all very thin. Sort of like the women would be in a stereotype of a fashionable NYC book party.

I wasn’t personally invited, but my friend Daniel, who I met through this blog, was, and he brought me along. I wore a little black dress (of course?) with a big brown belt and my brown leather, clunky high-heeled boots, which I’d thought were very sexy up until seeing the other women’s shoes. I had a purple shawl thing over the little black dress, because I am weirdly, persistently too modest for this city, and I was just about the most conservatively dressed woman in the room, except for a much older woman, with elegant white hair, who came in on her husband’s arm. Even she was wearing sexy heels.

We were all there to celebrate the launch of a book called Little Bets, by Peter Sims.

The book is about, roughly, how people have to let themselves make mistakes in order to succeed. How all of these famous people who Peter has interviewed (the people behind Pixar, Chris Rock, Jeff Bezos, the guy who started Starbucks, etc) kept trying, and trying, much like Thomas Edison, until they figured out something that worked.

I like the message. Failure is productive, if you look at it systematically. Dedication, creativity, and enthusiasm are more important than blatant talent or obvious genius. In fact, the things people interpret as obvious genius are often just the product of a lot of dedication and hard work. Yay! There’s hope for everyone!

Sims quotes Dr. Carol Dweck a lot. She talks how people’s approaches to learning and failure can generally be broken down into two groups: fixed mind-sets and growth mind-sets. People with a fixed mind-set get intimidated by failure and feel stupid and bad. People with a growth mind-set feel challenged and motivated by failure. Fixed mind-set people get distracted by grades and small measures of achievement. Growth mind-set people don’t. They move forward.

But no one likes to talk about how maybe, when people are in an environment that MAKES grades and small measures really, really important, they might start thinking that they’re really, really important. Or if they mention it, they don’t mention that maybe, maybe, the way that school is set up is basically flawed, if you agree with the rest of this stuff. And that you can’t really have school (as school works now) without encouraging fixed-mindedness. Or whatever term they want to use.

Which feels awkward to me, the lone homeschooler, reading this stuff.

I mean, homeschoolers, perhaps especially unschoolers, are all over little bets, aren’t we? Learning as a natural process. Learning that includes plenty of growthful mistakes. Ungraded learning. When I went to college, I was surprised by how little I learned and how much I memorized. I was always nervous about a test or a paper. I was always trying to get things exactly right. It was strange and foreign and seemed kind of stupid, but it was what I had to do. And the funny thing is, college is often the part of most people’s education where they have the most room to be creative. How would the average American high school experience have felt, if I’d sat in on a few days of classes? Maybe it would’ve pleasantly surprised me. But more likely, I wouldn’t have been able to identify what was happening there as a productive form of learning. Sorry. Cold hard truth.

It’s funny for me, to go to a posh New York book party to celebrate an idea that so much of my education was based on. I mean, good! I’m glad Peter Sims is talking about it! But I wonder if people will think to apply it to the most basic aspects of our lives. Usually, they don’t. At least, not yet.

Towards the end of my time at the party, four blond models came in, wearing truly tiny tops with jeweled straps and bright splashes of lipstick. They must’ve been twenty or twenty-one. Maybe nineteen. Maybe I’m old now and I can’t tell.

The night was complete. What’s a fashionable NYC party for a book about the way successful people think without some glittering, braless models?

I’ll leave you to answer that question on your own.


14 comments to sexy party for a very homeschooled idea

  • Nice to know there are still “posh” publishing parties going on these days…Do I sense a trend of new books that challenge the assumptions of traditional schooling/thinking/work/learning? Nice to be enlightened, huh? :)

  • Cynthia

    Charming tale! As I write that I can see that the word “charming” is really to light and filmy for what I mean … I really mean, that was a fun read, and I was charmed :) Thanks for your thoughtful work.

  • Yes. Exactly. Well said. Thank you.

  • Melissa

    Where are your SHARE buttons???!! 😉

  • “I wonder if people will think to apply it to the most basic aspects of our lives. Usually, they don’t.”

    Those ironic fashion choices say that they are fearful of *not* being edgy and trendy. They are the antithesis of making a mistake. They mimic each other in dress and attitude. Oh–you’re super skinny with long, blonde hair? Haven’t seen that since, oh, thirty-six inches back there [pointing].

    • Arp

      I loved the book – it totally speaks to what we do with unschooling, though it would be nice if people like Sims & Dweck would just take the leap and say how damaging school actually is.

      @Jennifer: great point about the ironic fashion choices. I’ve thought often that even people who are anti-fashion (those vehemently so) tend to have a uniform.

  • Cat

    Nice shoes! (This is not a sarcastic remark, I really like them.)

  • Maya

    As always, your writing makes me feel as though you’re a friend rehashing her thoughts on an experience. I have to get my hands on that book…and yes, nice shoes!

    Wow, for a second I was about to write an unroast. Wrong blog 😉

  • Bre

    I am new to your blog. I love your writing and agree with others…nice boots!

  • Amelie

    This is the 2nd blog I’ve read of yours and it’s really opening my mind to unschooling. I just started homeschooling my kids this past January after taking both my kids out of public school and I’m still trying to find my way. The concept of unschooling is very scary to me, as I’ve just been used to the ”system” and I like a more structure approach. But I see the value of it. With my son I’m using Sonlight right now, and he loves it, cuz it takes so much pressure off of him to not have grades. My daughter is doing ACE and I’m starting to think in the long run this just won’t work… It’s really encouraging for me to read these stories of a ”real” grown-up unschooler and see just how smart and an independant thinker you are.

  • Sunflower

    I love the boots! I can’t wear heels myself and my fashion choices tend to be very much not trendy–more on the strange side– so I’ve felt before like maybe I was just the outsider or out of touch.

    I love this post, and I too love the idea in that book. I agree with you completely about the school system. I feel like even today I have to root out some of those stupid habits from my thinking– the cage of perfection and of reaching goals that are really contrary to how my mind works or how it wants to approach things. The idea that my own natural learning process is flawed and chaotic and it must be made linear and orderly. The feeling that one tiny mistake is much bigger and more important than it is, and worst of all, the inability to see when a mistake is actually A BETTER WAY OF DOING SOMETHING, which is a huge advantage of mistakes and could be the reason why humanity advanced so quickly. It’s definitely why ant trails are so accurate, apparently!

    I think a lot of people in all industries like the glossy outside of certain ideas but not the chewy center of reality and what it means to implement them, you know? 😀

  • loved your article on being a Jewish homeschooled kid! That was great. We are also Jewish and I homeschool my kids and we have yet to meet any Jewish homeschooled kids.

    And the comment on going to hell vs going to hebrew school. That is hilarious!!! We have come across that a few times though not with the hs group we are a part of just out in general. I will have to share that one with my kids and I am sure that they will think it is super funny.

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