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How to Cope Life's Learning 780
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Editor’s note

I am, like, totally, ridorkulously excited to introduce How-to Cope, a new column on Umami Girl. When I started this site back in yonder days of 2008, I had in mind to share with you not just food, but also a look into one family’s considered, sometimes off-the-grid, occasionally off-the-wall way of life. To say the least, you’ve only been getting half the story on that front until now.

That’s why we’re introducing How-to Cope, a weekly column by my amazing husband, Jonathan Cope (who, yup, goes by Cope. Follow?). He is, as they say in the legal world, sui generis—and it’s high time I stopped hoarding his strange, enchanting wisdom. How-to Cope will alternate between two topics, neither of which is food, if you can conceive of such a thing.

Life’s Learning, which kicks off this week, will focus on education outside the classroom. And since Cope keeps finding himself in India, among other non-home-type venues, Life’s Travels will highlight his adventures in the great, wide world around us. So! Without further ado, take it away, Cope. It’s about time you had a room of your own around here. xx

How-to Cope: An introduction to Life’s Learning

Hi there, thanks for joining me. I’m a dad. I’m also a bit of a trouble-maker. I have two daughters—six and two. They are, of course, above average.

I spend a lot of time thinking about how to ensure that they each get a great education, and that they learn to love to learn regardless of the venue. They both will attend public schools in New Jersey. Their schools will be strong. We moved to our lovely town in no small part because of school quality.

But here’s where the trouble-making starts.

I find a lot of traditional classroom education to be meaningless and limiting. I found this so when I slogged through most of my own classroom education. I made my way reasonably in the classroom, finishing—though barely—as a Princeton graduate. However, it was—and still is—the work I did at home, on the playing field, on the road, on a year-off from college, on the job and otherwise anywhere other than the classroom that I learned from most.

I am sure that this was the case for many, if not most, of us.

For the foreseeable future, I will share what our family undertakes as a supplement, if not a replacement, for our daughters’ classroom educations. Please join us if you’d like.

Speak to you soon,


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About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

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  1. Oh Jon – I couldn’t think of a better person to host this column! I’m so excited to hear more of your wonderful wisdom, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. Holliday’s schoolmates are all super involved in lots of activities (many even travel into the city after school to attend a class), and I’m just starting to worry that our lack-of organized activities for both she and Harry could have irreversible effects on them as adults (Note – as I child, I didn’t join a team or club until my school provided one to me). Our parenting approach to date has been one of integrative living where we cook, clean, shop, travel, eat, and play together — minus the class/team registration form. I can’t wait to hear more from you and to apply your wisdom to our family the same way I have with Carolyn’s food/eating/cooking wisdom!

    1. Oh Anne –

      How are you?

      Congratulations to you and your lovely family on your latest addition! I am eager to meet him. Please say hello to Holliday and Harry for me. I’ll hand Dan a beer when I see him next. Your bubbles will be on ice.

      I am thrilled that my edu-musings are of interest to you.
      I am excited to share them.

      Best I have found you do not need to sign a legal waiver or registration form following an expensive trip to whatever city for your little guys to learn to love to learn. They just need to have some water sprinkled on them, be shown the sun and allowed to get a little dirty each day.

      More than anything I find that encouraging little ones to fail helps them thrive.

      Being with them – wherever you are (see above: cook, clean, shop, travel, eat and play, etc) – when they try and fail and try again is important for a while.

      Letting them see you fail seems important too.

      Life is what it is and we all learn from what we do and what we see. Please don’t worry. You’ve built such a lovely family and your littles ones will draw the confidence to try, to fail and to succeed from what they love to learn together and with you.

      Be well, and congratulations again.

      – Cope

  2. I was introduced to your site by one of your fellow Princeton alumni and am glad to stick with it. As a vegan, I often find myself wondering how to take Umami girl’s recipes and ideas and incorporate them into my life. I have very similar feelings to Cope about our education system, and am eager to see how you cope with extra-curricular learning and hope to glean some good concepts!

    1. Leslie,

      It is nice to hear that the Princeton mafia has sent you our way.

      Thank you for joining us.

      As you may have read around Thanksgiving I am a vegetarian. We spend more than a little bit of time thinking about how our lives impact the lives of other living things – whether food related or otherwise. As a vegan I presume you do as well.

      Many of our efforts to live a considered food life often influence us to live a considered life in general which in my case leads to questioning the way things are or are done.

      I love to learn, as I think most of us do, and so I often spend time wondering whether current approaches to education are about learning, teaching or something else.

      To be constructively rebellious I enjoy finding ways to excite our six year old about topics that school can make only 15 minutes for or can no longer accommodate within budget.

      Story telling, art and gardening have been some fun extra-curriculars for us. I’ll be sure to share more about these as we go.

      Thank you again for joining us.

      – Cope

  3. Oh, this is great! Pleased to meet (however virtually) the partner of the lady I have grown so fond of…Looking forward to reading more.

  4. I am psyched beyond belief to learn anything I can from Cope’s strange enchanting wisdom. It is in part one of the many many reasons that I love him so! :o) And the title… oh my the title of this column — just might be my favorite thing so far in 2011! xoxo

    1. Hey Jill,

      Thank you for the warm welcome.

      I can take no credit for the title. That belongs entirely to Umami Girl.

      I hope you are well. And thank you for reading.

      – Cope

    1. Thank you for saying so and thank you for joining us.

      I am quite sure we’ll have fun.

      Speak to you soon,

      – Cope

  5. Hey,
    I am a parent of three daughters (4,6,8). We decided to go for private schools because of the area we’re at a because of the amount of children per class. That’s the background.
    For parent talk, I think there is always something you else you think of that will hopefully make the extra-mile to get them to go further in life.
    Have you seen “Waiting for Superman”?
    For a couple of years my oldest daughters had an activity every day after school until my 3rd child was of age to do things. Then I just gave up!
    Too many things at the same time. We tend to have our children be exposed to everything to make sure that at the end they will be competitive enough for college and whatever comes next.
    And unfortunately by doing that they are not children anymore…
    I can’t wait to read the rest of your blog.
    Good Luck!

    1. Hey Caroline,

      Thank you for the background. And thank you for joining us today.

      Juggling three growing lives in addition to your own must be a trick.

      Individual attention certainly strikes me as important and I can understand why class size matters to you. I have always learned and taught best in small groups whether the subject was foreign language, tennis or snowball making.

      “Waiting for Superman” is on my watch while flying-to-India-next list.
      I look forward to seeing it. Did you enjoy it?

      I share your concerns about the over-scheduled life.
      I’m sure I’ll write about those concerns in the future.

      Thank you for the well wishes.

      And thank you again for joining us.

      – Cope

    1. I sure agree with you Rachel.

      Exciting stuff indeed.

      Thank you for joining us today. I am sure we’ll have lots of fun.