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Welcome to the hairy potty homeschool. Please be seated and stop arguing with your sister.

I admit I’ve come rather late into the game. I have only just now been introduced to Harry Potter.

Yes, it’s true: Harry Potter has been part of our household for six years, and I have managed to avoid him. My husband read the first two books out loud to our son, then declared it of no further interest. Our son became obsessed, reading Harry Potter — or as he was often called in our house, Harvey Pooter — over and over. The library’s copies took turns living at our house, squirreled away in his bookshelves or under his bed till I sought them out, attempting to avoid yet more late fees.

Finally we bought our son a set, and promptly had to “disappear” them when he became way too obsessed. Since then, we’ve had to disappear them twice.

A boy needs some time to be Potterless, we believe.

But recently, we finished an audiobook in our car and had nothing new to start. Audiobooks are what keep my children from tearing each other apart in the car. It was a deeply scary moment, in which I pondered our being scarred for life after the duel that would ensue.

Then my son suggested, “I’ve got the first Harry Potter on my iPod.”

The sun came out and he plugged in. My daughter and I got introduced to Harry.

So far, we have finished books 1 and 2 and are on the third. So far, I haven’t really prodded my kids for much.

I will, though. This is a homeschooling moment too fertile to give up. Just why is every boy — and many girls — under 15 obsessed with these books? I am already planning how I might start working it into curriculum.

…Which leads me to imagine my children — perhaps all homeschooled children — as adults…

My adult child slinks furtively into an alley, his hands in his pockets. He sees a shadowy figure in a doorway.

“Do you got the stuff?” he asks the figure. He may be a homeschooled dork who hasn’t been allowed to watch TV, but he knows the lingo.

“I got it,” a gruff voice answers from the shadows.

“Is it…” — my son pauses with pregnant longing — “Do you guarantee that it’s not educational?”

“This is good stuff,” the gruff voice answers haughtily. “Not educational. What do you think I’m selling — Sesame Street?”

A hand exits the darkness holding the goods.

A book.

A book with absolutely no educational content. My son drools. His other friends who were homeschooled will be so jealous at this…

OK, back to our regularly scheduled blog.

Here’s my question: Why doesn’t Harry ever confide in adults?

Harry’s got Dumbledore, the most upstanding wizard of his generation. This is a man who sees all, and who understands all, and who forgives all. Note to self: Teach kids about Jesus figures in literature.

Why doesn’t Harry tell him that it’s Snape out to get him? Then everything would be SO easy. Dumbledore would explain why Snape isn’t out to get him, and how he’s planned the whole darn thing, down to Harry getting slime all over his socks.

Or something like that.

It fascinates me that this series has so captivated young modern Californians. Harry is so old-world. So pre-New Age. He never confides in adults. He doesn’t tell people what he’s feeling. If he did, there would be no story. Everything would be worked out so easily. All the happy people would hold hands, hug, and “make it right.”

But our kids are fascinated by these books. Our kids who have been raised to be so emotionally intelligent, to divulge their feelings and listen to the feelings of others. They not only read about Harry’s stiff upper lip and believe it….they eat it up. They love it.

I have no answer to offer here. I personally find Harry frustrating. Sheesh — why didn’t he confide in a trusted adult about the dogs? Oh, if only he’d told the truth when Professor Dumbledore gave him an opening.

But no, Harry never does confide, never does tell the truth when he could just forge on ahead and let his destiny play out. And we love him all the more for it.

There’s a moral here somewhere, but that will have to wait for another homeschool moment. Until then, join me in joking about our hairy potty. At least the kids aren’t fighting in the back seat.

Posted in Culture, Homeschooling, Parenting.

5 Responses

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  1. Henry says

    I have a fondness for the Harry Potter series.

    Our oldest daughter was a late reader. While we were on a trip I read the first Harry Potter to her at age eight. We finished the trip and returned home. She wanted me to read the second book. I told her I needed to go back to work and didn’t have time. She then read all the books that were out at the time.

  2. Gilbert Pilz says

    I think you are missing a crucial part of Harry’s story. From early infancy to the age to 10 he was raised by the Dursleys! Of course he doesn’t confide in adults – the adults he was raised with were malevolent lunatics. Sure Dumbeldore is practically Jesus, but those first 10 years are never going to leave Harry.

    From an artistic angle, Harry can’t confide in adults – it undermines the dynamics of the “Smart/Brave Kids Fix Screwy Adult World” genre that the series is firmly a part of (“A Wrinkled in Time” is my favorite in this genre). Kids like this stuff because it portrays kids taking on the problems that the adults are too stupid and/or busy to notice. “Confiding in” adults seems identical to “asking adults to solve my problems” – and where’s the fun in that?

  3. Suki says

    Oh, I understand about the artistic reasons for all this (though I would quibble with using the word “art” — this is pop fiction in almost all respects). My question — I guess I wasn’t clear there — was not for me. It was for our kids who are being raised in such a different environment. Harry’s world, very familiar to me (I actually had evil teachers out to get me, but luckily they weren’t wizards), doesn’t resemble theirs at all. My kids have never gone to a school where they didn’t call their teachers by their first names, have lots of personal, real talks with them, and have conflicts brought out into the open and talked about. HP’s world, I guess, must appear all fiction to them. It fascinates me how it attracts them.

    As to the Dursleys and Harry’s relationship with them, this is part of why I would never say HP approaches art or anything like it. The Dursleys are comic book characters, and Harry’s response to them is 1-dimensional at best. It’s not believable that he doesn’t trust other adults because being around the Dursleys has clearly not traumatized him. They simply disappear when they are not there. Unlike true villainous adults in better written fiction, they don’t become part of him. Of course, I am writing from the perspective of having read 2 1/2 of the books, but if there were any real trauma, it should have been set up in #1. Clearly, the wizards charged with Harry’s education don’t think he’s being traumatized, either. They keep sending him back for more! I think it was made pretty clear in the first book that they think that being with people who despise him is necessary to balance his importance in the wizarding world.

    Well, it’s interesting to come into this so late in the game, in any case. I’m looking forward to getting back to something with a bit more meat and a lot less artifice, personally!

  4. Gilbert Pilz says

    Who can tell why kids like what they like? I think the simplicity of comic book characters and situations is both a comfort and a relief to minds that are worn out from the continual discovery of yet-another-layer of complexity in every facet of their lives.

    I agree the HP series is not art – it’s not even well written. It’s obvious that Rowling wrote the first couple of books pretty quickly (2 is just a rehash of 1) without any plan for “the series”. Still the books are entertaining and contain (mostly) positive examples and themes.

    I’ve been thinking about this with respect to the Narnia series (which I’ve been reading to my 9 year old daughter). Lewis can write circles around Rowling, but the overt Christian themes and (more subtle) sexism make me uncomfortable.

  5. Suki says

    You’re right — the simplicity of the characters’ intentions makes it easy reading and easy digestion, exactly what a book that’s aiming for the status of literature would avoid. I think about Roald Dahl, whose books, though they weren’t similar to the HP series, are similarly British and full of nasty, ill-meaning adults. But the subtleties of the characters, the fact that it’s often hard to decide who to hate and what is right and wrong, excites real thought in the reader. Rowling’s villains are just plain villains, so I guess I who prefer to ponder complexity am finding them a bit uninspiring.

    The Narnia books are an interesting counterpart. The funny thing is, when I was a kid, raised Catholic, I never, ever noticed the religious stuff. Once I started reading them to my kids, I didn’t mention it to them because I wanted them to experience the books the way I did. I remember most vividly the physical details, the weaknesses of the villains, the uncertainty of the heroes. All of that was so wonderful to my child imagination. My son obviously prefers HP. He went through a period of rereading Narnia, but that only happened once, whereas the HP mania recurs on a regular basis. Perhaps he’s trying to escape the complexity of his relationship with his sister, in which no one is clearly evil or clearly all good. Real life is just so darn complicated!

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