Introductory piece for

An Essay By Ben // 1/23/2003

The best question you can ask me - I mean the one question that is sure to bring a smile to my face - is my nationality. Just yesterday I got the treasured question twice. Two nuns (of all people!) brought it up. The older nun didn't waste time, either. She looked me in the eye, shook my hand, and inquired, "What's your nationality?"
"I'm Latvian, Romanian, Polish, Swedish, British, and -" waving my hand, "- a few other things."
"Ah, very good."

I think it's very good, too. I look like I am Spanish, Mexican, Italian, Greek, or Arab to people. But at the same time I must look distinct from all of these, distinct enough to make people curious where such a person sprung up. Those ancestors of mine were pretty distinctive-looking people. When they came to America, I bet they were asked the same question! Most of what I know about them, in fact, comes to me through studying their silent, photographed portraits. To this day we don't know what became of half my great-grandfather's family after his mother, some of his siblings, and he came to America and left the others in the Ukraine. But even the mystery of our family seems "very good" to me. The secret of the past reflects the secret of my future. Maybe someday both secrets will be unlocked.

You may be wondering how two nuns popped into my life just to ask their great questions. It surprised me, too. Well, yesterday I drove a friend from the airport to her Catholic, nun-run, school. I met the sisters there. This friend goes back a long way in my short, 21-years of life. Our families first met when I was five. My parents and her father had recently converted to Catholicism. The four of them met together to plot something terrible and strange. Naturally, Jen and I were the guinea pigs for it (being the oldest). In short, they decided to homeschool.

So far it seems to work. I graduated as a homeschooler, although my senior year was spent taking notes at state colleges. Jen will graduate this year after attending the before mentioned school one year. And my sister will graduate as a homeschooler in June. Leaving our home in Massachusetts to return to college, I said goodbye to some of my best friends: three sisters (18, 10, and 6), one brother (15), and two great parents - all homeschooling in some shape or form.

For me homeschooling was more than "school at home" - it meant a way of life. Let me tell you, I played my fair share of computer games. But, a good portion of what I enjoyed also turned out to be exactly what I needed to graduate. As humans, we are born with a natural desire to know, a curiosity that leads to learning. Aristotle says so in his Poetics, and he's not the only one. My homeschooling experience relied on this desire; it even made it its business to protect this desire. That education certainly continues to affect me, a junior in college.

So here I am now, at the beginning of a new semester, at a school I transferred to two falls ago, a miniscule New Hampshire school with less than 100 students and a long name to make up for it. The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts is my school; it's for me, it's where I am. No doubt you will learn more about this unusual school and this unusual fellow named Benjamin Kniaz.

Thomas Aquinas wrote that the philosopher and the poet are alike since both are concerned with wonder. As a literature major, I identify most with the poet. I hope by studying poetry to make it part of me. I hope to learn the ways of the poet with a growing sense of wonder. And I hope you’ll come along with me....

note: I'm writing twice a month during the next 5 months for a website called You won't be able to access the pages I write for unless you become a member, unfortunately. is owned by College Board, the people in charge of Standardized Tests (SATs). This is my first entry - it's supposed to be an introduction.


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