Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Positive Homeschool Reference in Fiction

Eric Flint has written a thoughtful, lively and highly entertaining alternate history series that starts with the novel 1632. Normally I loathe alternate histories and time travel stories, but Flint is a master storyteller who has thoroughly done his homework. In 1632 a small, economically depressed West Virginia coal-mining town is displaced in time to 1632 Thuringia (Germany) right in the middle of the 30 Years War. This accident drops a town of coal miners, farmers, schoolteachers, small-town business people, utility workers, and retirees into one of the bloodiest wars in history with no more than the proverbial clothes on their back. Can they outfight the armies, make powerful allies, reinvent 300 years worth of technology, free the peasants, promote religious tolerance during one of the worst religious conflicts of all time, and found a New United States in the heart of Europe? Without high-tech support? Or coffee? Seven books into the series the jury is still out, but they're having a lot of fun trying.

Other books in the series have featured stirring battles, ingenious technology, complex intrigues, and thrilling courtroom dramas; but 1634: The Ram Rebellion starts with a more practical concern -- sheep. American farmer Flo Richards has a small flock of pedigree Merino ewes but no ram. The first local ram she gets has fleece so scruffy she nicknames him "Brillo". After she finds a silkier-fleeced ram for her ewes, Brillo is booted out of their pasture. He gets back in again at every opportunity, keeping Flo busy chasing him down. Her complaints about Brillo's antics inspire an anonymous writer to rework classic children's tales to feature him and sell them to the local newspaper. The stories inspire songs, a League of Women Voters, the first Modern Ballet Company(!) in this universe, a marketing franchise frenzy, and a peasant revolution in the neighboring province. Not a bad year's work for one ornery ram.

Along the way there are several positive mentions of homeschooling as former residents of Grantville find jobs further away from their hometown administering to the needs of their growing nation. The series has spent weeks on the New York Times Bestseller's List, so it's nice to see favorable mentions where people tend to read then.

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