In my last post, I shared a few of the things I remember from my childhood that were particularly effective or enjoyable. Now it’s time to mull over the things that didn’t work out so well. While I think that value can be found in all work or study, I do think it’s helpful to identify the less successful practices so I don’t end up wasting my time or energy (or my children’s patience!) on what might turn out to be mere busywork.
1. Sentence diagramming. We studied diagramming sentences one year when we were on an intensive grammar kick. I remember reading through the explanations and laboriously filling in the charts, but I cannot remember any of the details. I wouldn’t be able to figure out how to diagram a sentence today, other than to identify the basic parts of speech. And since I’m not participating in any grammar bees, I don’t think it actually matters. I believe I have a good command of grammar in speech and writing, and I can identify poor grammar when I hear it or read it. I think studying it was a helpful exercise at the time, but I doubt I’ll be going over complex diagramming with my children. They’ll need to know the parts of speech, but beyond that I expect they’ll pick up the principles of good grammar just from reading widely and absorbing so much excellent writing.
2. Reading through the encyclopedia. One year, I was assigned the task of reading through our 20-volume copy of The Book of Knowledge, an encyclopedia collection published around the 1950s. The books were written for children, and the sections were short, comprehensible, and wide-ranging. I was supposed to read straight through chronologically and write up a brief report of the day’s topics. I love the idea of this assignment: it exposes the student to a broad range of themes, it’s a pretty straightforward and self-directed course of study, and of course it involves writing summaries, which hones verbal skills. But overall I don’t think this really contributed substantially to my knowledge base. For one thing, the encyclopedia’s focus was inclined to be more contemporary than historical, so it ended up being a bit dated: most of the sections on science and technology revolved around emerging space age information. For another, I just don’t remember most of what I read and wrote up, so I must conclude that this method was simply not terribly memorable. I got a lot more history, geography, politics, and the like out of just reading books voraciously.
3. Not getting a job. For whatever reason, I never pursued the typical teenager path of getting a part-time job during my high school years. I did earn a little money baby-sitting, but for the most part I didn’t work outside the home. Although I was pursuing my college degree from a young age, I had plenty of energy and time to spare, and could have easily fitted in a part-time job for several years. I regret missing out on the opportunity to get a head start on saving money, and I certainly intend to encourage my children to pursue work opportunities as soon as they are able.
Now, none of these observations are intended as critiques of my upbringing. I had a very well rounded experience overall, and I’m grateful for the comprehensive education I received. I just think it’s wise to evaluate our decisions, and to be open-minded and honest enough to reflect on the never-ending potential for betterment. No doubt, despite all my attempts at intentionality and planning, I’ll miss something in my turn. Someday my children can write their own articles about what worked for them and what they wish could have been improved.
Photo Credit: First photo from Pixabay, graphic design by Charity Klicka; second photo taken by Rose Focht, edited by Charity Klicka.