Are you ready for FALL?

fall vintage

So many projects going on!  Summer is a whirlwind of planning, teaching one day classes, and brushing up on research – – and before we know it, fall will be here!   Classes will be in session soon!

What is new for fall?

-a World Geography class for teens which filled within 48 hours of advertising on homeschool email lists.  So many of my college students can’t name the world’s oceans, and have no clue about the major issues affecting our planet.  I’m excited to c0-teach this class with Tinamarie Panyard!  If you didn’t get a spot this year, do let me know –you will have first placement next year!

-The APs are back!  AP World AND AP European!

Approaches to Literature is also back!  The students elected Anna Karenina to start off the semester!

-By request, I’ve designed a class on Espionage and History! Come and explore spies from the ancients to Aldrich Ames and beyond!

Age of Revolutions!  This is the final part of the original four year cycle that started off my homeschool class program many years ago.  The class meets primarily at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Come learn about discovery, domination and absolutism, and watch it all explode!

-for the younger ones (7-11ish), I am offering Medieval Adventures, an inquiry based exploration of all things Medieval!

Not so into full semester classes?  Do consider…

-the ONE DAY CLASS PROGRAM!  By popular demand, I will be offering a series of one day classes on various themes.

CONTROVERSIES, the teen meetup club that allows teens to voice their views.  It’s an election year!  So much to discuss!

Songs of Ice and Fire Book Club!  Have you read the books?  Watched the show?  Come out and discuss it with other teens!

Check out the class offerings at Different Directions if none of this fits your interest!

And please email me at if you have any questions!



Classes for SPRING!


Age of the RENAISSANCE, Fridays at 10:30 for Middle Schoolers and 5:30 for High Schoolers, meeting primarily at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

APPROACHES TO LITERATURE, Tuesdays at 11, West Village  (inquiry based and books selected by the students from AP lists– we’ll begin with Gulliver’s Travels)

SACRED TEXTS, Thursdays at 1, West Village (secular approach, continuing with synoptic gospels and Gnostic gospels)

PARANORMAL AND HISTORY, Thursdays at 2:30, West Village

CONTROVERSIES drop in, Midtown West


Age of the RENAISSANCE, Wednesdays at 11 and 12:30, meeting primarily at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

ANCIENT ADVENTURES, held on Wednesdays at 2:30, classroom based

** Keep looking for pop up classes!**

** AP World, US and European History Help**

Classes begin in early April (except for Ancient Adventures, which begins late March).  If interested please reply to info@independentscholarsacademy or for additional information, locations, fees, etc!

Wendy’s Homeschooling Classes for FALL!

life magazine imageHello all!  It’s been a busy year, but I am pleased to offer the following classes for fall (NYC area)!  Let me know if you’re interested by contacting me at and I will send you more specific information.  MOST OF THE CLASSES ARE FULL but still let me know if you’re interested, as plans change!
For Teens, 14 and up
-Approaches to Literature
-Sacred Texts (secular approach)
-NEW CLASS:  Paranormal and History
-NEW CLASS:  Honors/AP World History
-NEW CLASS:  Honors/AP US History
-Medieval History on Fridays
-Controversies! – a team taught class/meetup on current events and controversial issues,.  More information to come!
For Tweens-Teens:
-Medieval History (ages 10-13) held primarily at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
For Younger Students:
-Medieval History (ages 9-12) held primarily at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
-Ancient World History:  A Trip into the Past (ages 7-10)

Israel, Palestine and the Forgotten Fate of Batis of Gaza

Gaza David Roberts

There were no Jews in Palestine before Zionism.

There are no real Palestinian people.

Modern Jews are Eastern European, with no real link to Israel.

Israel dealt with the residents of the Palestinian region peacefully and humanely in 1948.

British Mandate?

Hasmonean Dynasty?

Arab invasion?

Crusader states?

What does it matter?


It’s been a while since I’ve been able to revisit this little blog due to a tremendous amount of work, but a new semester and current events have inspired me to write again. What has especially inspired me to write again is the lack of historical understanding that I’ve witnessed in social media, the press, and in the arguments of many people that I hold dear. A new semester is coming soon, and I’m anxious to see what the next group of students know—or don’t know – about the history of Israel and Palestine.

The four statements above were written by educated people. All are false. All are worthy of discussion. The British Mandate is rarely mentioned in our current Israel vs. Palestine situation. No one knows what the Hasmonean Dynasty was, but they may recall the name “King Herod” from Nativity stories at Christmas. The Arab invasion…yes, the Arabs invaded the area in the 7th century, introducing Islam. They lived on the fringes and served as mercenaries, but they didn’t occupy the area that they now do. And Crusaders aren’t just a Medieval fantasy, but existed as a formidable European force which pushed out the Jews and Muslims from the area they now fight to control.

We find some of the earliest remains of human settlement in this highly contested area, and this contested area is one of the first areas where we witness human creativity: the ability to experiment with crops during the Neolithic revolution, our first stabs at artistic expression, a connection with the Holy before there was a God of Abraham, and some of our earliest burials, showing that we cared about our dead and wanted them remembered. We also find some of the earliest examples of conquest: Egypt built forts and garrisons here, the Akkadians, Assyrians and Babylonians wiped out populations here, the Sea Peoples – Greeks before there were Greeks – destroyed many towns and repopulated others.   The Persians brought back those exiled during earlier periods, including the Jews, who rebuilt their destroyed temple in Jerusalem as others rebuilt temples and shrines to their deities, gods and goddesses such as Ba’al and Astarte, who the people invoked long before they invoked Allah. Alexander the Great marched through this terrain and the Roman general Pompey annexed it for Rome, but this was ancient land in Alexander and Pompey’s day.

It does not surprise me that most people don’t understand the history of this region. It’s an old, complicated, multi-layered history. It is important to remember, however, that history is never easy, and that it is futile to bring up one event in history and not the events which precede it. Our discussions on Palestine and Israel don’t go deeply, because to go deeply means to become tangled in over 8,000 years of struggle.

It also means to admit that a good deal of history isn’t written, and even when it’s written, it’s forgotten. This is why I’m remembering Batis right now. Batis was a commander – or maybe a governor – or maybe just a eunuch who oversaw Gaza for the Persian Empire when Alexander invaded in 332 BCE. Alexander just besieged Tyre after a six month siege, and met with resistance at this heavily walled town on his way to Egypt. Batis refused to surrender Gaza. Alexander broke through the Gaza walls, massacring all of the men of Gaza and selling the children and women into slavery.

When it came to Batis, Alexander, angered by his defiance, pierced his ankles and dragged him by those pierced ankles to death.

Batis is barely a footnote in the histories of Alexander’s campaigns, and he is largely forgotten today.   To my knowledge, no one has ever chosen him as a theme for a painting or sculpture.   I’m willing to bet that even the proudest resident of Gaza doesn’t know Batis’ story.

And yet, Batis lived, died horrifically, and Gaza fell, only to rise again as a Greek polis. The Jews in the area (yes, they were here, too) would also face the onslaught of the Greeks, and their heroes would fall, and Jerusalem would fall and rise again, too.

I don’t know if remembering Batis and history will stop the carnage we witness today from all sides, but it can offer some consolation that we’ve been here before. We’ll be here again. We can, at least, remember that.

 Note:  the painting above is David Roberts’ painting of Gaza, 1839. 



Crushed by Grendel, Rediscovered through Archaeology

Crushed by Grendel, Rediscovered through Archaeology

Is this Heorot, the great drinking hall of King Hrothgar?  Archaeologists have discovered this 6th century hall in Lejre, the first capital of Denmark, complete with the bones of suckling pigs and chickens…and gold!  Click on the link above for more!


Belief and History


This has been a very busy semester, so I haven’t been posting very much here.  However, sometimes things come up in classes which warrant intense discussion, and I wanted to explore these issues in a different way.  Unfortunately, today’s college classroom may not be the place for intellectual discussion anymore.

Often, my college students will offer statements such as “I have a right to my opinion and I don’t think that the Holocaust happened.”  When asked why not, there is never any concrete rationale, just the idea that it didn’t happen because they think it didn’t happen.   When I bring up the disappearance of 8 million, the photos, the graves, the concentration camps, the paperwork, the eyewitness accounts on both sides, the artifacts and the statements of those who worked in the camps, the students usually shrug and say, “well, people still believe what they want.”

At what point did we agree that we can believe what we want, regardless of evidence to the contrary?  I am reminded of the Church father Tertullian’s statement: Credo quia absurdum (I believe even though it is absurd).  Tertullian was discussing the mystery of Christianity for the believer, not historical facts.   This concept, fideism, really comes up with religious faith only, and often religious faith when crossed with scientific proof.   Certainly da Vinci understood this concept when faced with scientific realities contradicting Biblical statements.

When it comes to the Holocaust, we could cite anti-Semitism as an easy cause, and we could cite Nationalism when it comes to other examples of belief and history (that there was no Armenian genocide, for one example).  Racism also figures in this (that American slavery was a benevolent system, that people of color are inferior to white people, etc).

What I see from my perspective as a professor is different:  it is belief because of something heard “somewhere” and then believed.

Even the most fervent Holocaust denier will offer statistics to support his theory.  The Turkish Nationalist will also cite reasons for  denying the Armenian genocide (that it was World War I, there were deaths on both sides).  The White Supremacist will cite “scientific” studies supporting racial inequalities.  We can debate the authenticity and accuracy of these sources, but sources are still provided.

Today’s student will not provide sources.  Opinion is enough.

The “deniers” are also passionate about their case.  The students I’ve encountered have no agenda.  They have picked up a belief, held it, and have gone on to accept it regardless of evidence.  Not only is this acceptable to the student, but this is also acceptable to his peers.  When the danger of this belief is pointed out by other peers and by teachers, the student simply shrugs and continues in belief.

Do we blame the decline in humanities?  Critical thinking skills lost to test taking strategies in our schools?  The openness of the Internet, which provides unfiltered information to those unable to filter?  Charismatic figures who spout statements without sources?

And how can we teach history in this new world?

One student recently brought up the reality that today’s student isn’t asked to explore these ideas.  These are test questions, where there is no room for critical thinking.  They can define holocaust for a test, but can’t explore the moral dimensions.  By exploring the many dimensions of history, we begin to understand more than “what happened.”  We separate fact from opinion.   If we take history seriously, we won’t be able to rip out the parts we don’t like and we strip way fantasy.  And if we take history seriously, we are less apt to repeat the great tragedies of history, such as the systems of slavery and the mass extermination of people.

By the way, the Holocaust happened.


Winter is Coming – Wolf Rites and Old Russia