John Paul hated school. His Mother did her best, but howcould she possibly teach anything to him when she had eight other childrensix of them to teach, two of them to tend because they were mere babies? What John Paul hated most was the way she kept teaching him things he already knew. She would assign him to make his letters, practicing them over and over while she taught interesting things to the older kids. So John Paul did his best to make sense of the jumble of information he caught from her conversations with them. Smatterings of geographyhe learned the names of dozens of nations and their capitals but wasn't quite sure what a nation was. Bits of mathematicsshe taught polynomials over and over to Anna because she didn't even seem totryto understand, but it enabled John Paul to learn the operation. But he learned it like a machine, having no notion what it actually meant. Nor could he ask. When he tried, Mother would get impatient and tell him that he would learn these things in due time, but he should concentrate on his own lessons now. His own lessons? He wasn't getting any lessons, just boring tasks that almost made him crazy with impatience. Didn't she realize that he could already read and write as well as any of his older siblings? She made him recite from a primer, when he was perfectly capable of reading any book in the house. He tried to tell her, "I can readthatone, Mother." But she only answered, "John Paul, that's playing. I want you to learnrealreading." Maybe if he didn't turn the pages of the grown-up books so quickly, she would realize that he was actually reading. But when he was interested in a book, he couldn't bear to slow down just to impress Mother. What did his reading have to do with her? It was his own. The only part of school that he enjoyed. "You're never going to stay up with your lessons," she said more than once, "if you keep spending your reading time with these big books. Look, they don't even have pictures, why do you insist on playing with them?" "He's not playing," said Andrew, who was twelve. "He's reading." "Yes, yes, I should be more patient and play along," said Mother, "but I don't have time to..." And then one of the babies cried and the conversation was over. Outside on the street, other children walked to school wearing school uniforms, laughing and jostling each other. Andrew explained it to him. "They go to school in a big building. Hundreds of them in the same school." John Paul was aghast. "Why don't their own mothers teach them? How can they learn anything withhundreds?" "There's more than one teacher, silly. A teacher for every ten or fifteen of them. But they're all the same age, all learning the same thing in each class. So the teacher spends the whole day on their lessons instead of having to go from age to age." John Paul thought a moment. "And every age has its own teacher?" "And the teachers don't have to feed babies and change their diapers. They have time to really teach." But what good would that have done for John Paul? They would have put him in a class with other five-year-olds and made him read stupid primers all dayand he wouldn't be able to listen to the teacher giving lessons to the ten- and twelve- and fourteen-year-olds, so he really would lose his mind. "It's like heaven," said Andrew bitterly. "And if Father and Mother had had only two children, they couldCard, Orson Scott is the author of 'First Meetings In Ender's Universe', published 2004 under ISBN 9780765347985 and ISBN 0765347989.