In Defense of Polysyllabic and Extravagant Eloquence

In Defense of Polysyllabic and Extravagant Eloquence | HSLDA Blog

Brevity is the soul of wit.

…Said the author who wrote with lots of words, many of them long and obscure. Nowadays, it’s fashionable to consider that concision is the hallmark of a well-organized thought process, and we laugh at the Victorian authors who spun ideas into whole paragraphs and wrote epigrams that filled a page (let us recall that they were usually paid by the word). All the same, I think it’s valuable to revive and make use of the longer and seldom-used words, just to keep them dusted off and preserved for posterity.

The younger me, much like one of her favorite heroines, Anne Shirley, was prodigiously fond of long words, partly because they were uncommon and therefore seemed adventurous, partly because they were complicated and represented a challenge, and partly because of a lifelong fascination with words and language. (I do remember a phase when I would thumb through the dictionary at random, reading a page here and there and curating such dusty antiques as perambulate, peroration, and persiflage. Who knew that peruse means to read carefully and thoroughly, not scan quickly, as it is commonly used? Apparently, the dictionary knows this.)

Then in my teens I suffered a bit of a backlash, taking to heart my English professors’ advice: “Never use a word of three syllables when a shorter one will do.” Confronted with word counts in practical matters such as letters to the editor and college assignments, where being taken seriously was a greater concern than showcasing one’s enormous vocabulary, it was natural as well as politic to trim down the excessive and the melodramatic.

In Defense of Polysyllabic and Extravagant Eloquence 2 - Rose Focht - HSLDA Blog

Nowadays, however, I’ve found a good equilibrium. I don’t study too hard for words of four syllables, but pretty much fall back on whatever comes to mind. If it just so happens that my mind is populated with lots of words, so be it. I’m always learning new words, I enjoy discovering new words, and I tend to assume that everyone else should like it too.

Such is not the case, as demonstrated by the proliferation of Cliff Notes, condensed books, and abridgements. Which, in my opinion, are bad enough, but at least adults can make an informed decision to choose the shorter version and be lazy efficient with their reading. It’s quite another matter when mediocre knock-offs are peddled to gullible children as the real thing and serve to inform their budding tastes.

The reason this idea is so fresh (and emphatic) in my mind is that we were recently given a book that turned out to be abridged. That was bad enough, but it had, in fact, been adapted. I read in horror the first sentence, altered from the original to be easy for young minds to understand:

“Mrs. Rachel Lynde was a nosy neighbor.”

In those few words this adaptation proposed to sum up a good paragraph or two from the original, which jocularly described Mrs. Rachel Lynde’s capable character and employing such words as “dint,” “wont,” and “gauntlet.”

There is a school of thought, I suppose, that holds that children must be enticed into enjoying reading by making them comfortable with familiar words and concepts; and then, once their minds mature, they can grapple with longer words and complex ideas. But how do they get to that point of maturity? How will they learn, if not by exposure to words and concepts that stretch their minds? (Rhetorical questions, obviously.)

In Defense of Polysyllabic and Extravagant Eloquence | HSLDA Blog

I grew up reading voraciously, perusing many books that might have been considered beyond my age range. When I came across a word I didn’t recognize, I learned what it meant by employing a few tricks:

  • Figuring it out by context (although sometimes this served me poorly)
  • Looking it up in the dictionary
  • Asking my parents, who would tell me, “Look it up”
  • Asking another adult, who might just tell me straight out

Alas, we don’t actually have a physical dictionary handy in our house, which lack I mean to rectify. Usually when my kids (typically my independent readers, the two eldest) ask me what a word means, I verify their pronunciation by having them spell it out to me, asking them what they think it means based on the context, and then giving them the definition. Naturally we work in word origin, various other forms of the word, and synonyms, too. Maybe even a dissertation on rhymes (or, if applicable, lack of—what, for instance, do month, oblige, and orange have in common?) After all, you can never have too many words in mind.

Rose Signature

Photo Credit: Second and third images by Rose Focht.


78 Comments on “It’s Homeschool Appreciation Day | Enter HSLDA’s Giveaway”

  1. Charissa Ballard
    April 27, 2016 at 9:49 am #

    I have only been homeschooling for almost three years and in the time I have experienced many highs and lows. One thing remains constant, I love to watch my children learn about how loving and compassionate God is toward us. Teaching them how to memorize scripture and read His word has been a true privilege! Teaching them to be unashamed of the gospel and be a disciple for him has been amazing! I really consider it a privilege and an honor to be able to homeschool them! This time has been a precious gift!


  2. Ursula
    April 27, 2016 at 1:21 pm #

    One of my favorite things about being a homeschool teacher is sharing life everyday with my kids – not just sharing a house.


  3. Kathy Kramer
    April 27, 2016 at 6:59 pm #

    Getting to spend every day with our children & seeing those “aha!” moments!


  4. Julie C.
    April 27, 2016 at 8:20 pm #

    One thing I love about being a homeschool teacher is knowing my kids’ strengths and weaknesses, so that I can better guide their education and minimize their frustrations.


  5. Kristina Sarver-Harvey
    April 27, 2016 at 10:25 pm #

    I love homeschooling my children 🙂 I feel blessed everyday to teach them and to also learn something new myself. I’ve learned many things about myself that I didn’t know before starting this journey 🙂


  6. Susan
    April 27, 2016 at 11:53 pm #

    Wow! I finally got around to reading this! What a great giveaway for all of us who are working so hard to teach our kiddos! Thanks!!


  7. Tracy
    April 28, 2016 at 8:36 am #

    I appreciate being a homeschool teacher because I get to enjoy my children. I get to see them learning and developing their gifts.


  8. Maria Gervase
    April 28, 2016 at 9:19 am #

    My favorite thing about being a homeschool mom? Wow! There are so many wonderful reasons! But what I love most of all is that Im able to pour God’s love into their hearts on a constant basis. Im proud to be raising Kingdom Men. I cherish each moment with my boys and am excited to see how God works in their lives ♡


  9. Kim
    April 28, 2016 at 10:14 am #

    I have been enjoying teaching my son for 3 years and soon my daughter will join us for kindergarten as well. I loved that I got to teach my sone to read and am looking forward to teaching my daughter to read as well.


  10. Redonna G
    April 28, 2016 at 10:29 am #

    We homeschool because it has decreased our sons anxiety and his well being has improved! Both of our sons are learning new things everyday and our family time has benefitted as well!


  11. Lynn
    April 28, 2016 at 10:43 am #

    My greatest joy as a homeschool mom is to see that my children’s love for the Lord and love for learning increase on a daily basis. My dream is for them to be well prepared for their future and to continue following the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


  12. Cynde Contreras
    April 28, 2016 at 10:46 am #

    I enjoy homeschooling because I love BEING with and spending quality time with my boys! I can’t think of a better way to cherish them and to maximize our precious (and short) time together.


  13. Jenn
    April 28, 2016 at 11:07 am #

    I love being a homeschooling mom because even though there are challenges and sacrifices, the rewards are more than worth it! Getting to see your children grow in God and succeed in education in a safe environment- and being lucky enough to be there for all those special learning moments!


  14. Michelle Cook
    April 28, 2016 at 11:17 am #

    We have been homeschooling for 16 years and the thing I appreciate most is the relationships that I have with all my kids. That would be missing if we would not been doing life together.


  15. S. Taylor
    April 28, 2016 at 12:21 pm #

    I love the freedom to take subjects at our own pace and that learning is woven into our everyday lives.


  16. Tandy
    April 28, 2016 at 1:37 pm #

    I am so appreciative that as a homeschool teacher, I get to send my life and time with my kids. They are not away from me 8 + hours daily but we get to share life’s moments and memories. That is priceless…


  17. Elizabeth H.
    April 28, 2016 at 1:46 pm #

    My boys having time to spend together instead of being apart for most of the day.


  18. Sarah Therkildsen
    April 28, 2016 at 1:56 pm #

    I am grateful to have so much more time with my children before they leave the nest. They are learning and I am learning right alongside them.


  19. Jenny U
    April 28, 2016 at 2:01 pm #

    I love being a homeschool Mom! I have homeschooled my daughter from the beginning and she’s now finishing up 6th grade. We’ve had so many wonderful moments together that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. Sure there are difficult and stressful days, but I wouldn’t trade it!


  20. Angie Dubbert
    April 28, 2016 at 2:32 pm #

    I love that we are our daughter’s primary influence, that we can individualize her instruction to her needs and interests, and the flexibility it gives our family.


  21. Deborah Freeman
    April 28, 2016 at 4:25 pm #

    I am so grateful for God’s grace and provision, that allows me to be on this homeschool journey with my amazing children.


  22. sherah crosby
    April 28, 2016 at 6:19 pm #

    So blessed that I can spend time and see the growth of my children. Some days are longer than other, but no doubt about it you can’t beat the smile on my face when something clicks and your child tells you ” I get it!”


  23. Katie
    April 28, 2016 at 7:22 pm #

    I love the time I get to spend with my kids and watching them learn new things


  24. Wendy Leatherman
    April 28, 2016 at 8:30 pm #

    I love homeschooling my twin boys. They are 13 years old now and it is so important that their father and I disciple them to be the young men God wants them to be. Exciting and terrifying at the same time!


  25. Jessica Payne
    April 28, 2016 at 9:41 pm #

    I love being able to be a part of and witness our children learning something new.


  26. Amy
    April 14, 2017 at 3:33 pm #

    I have been homeschooling for over 10 years and never been appreciatied in tangible ways for being a teacher, but the best appreciation to me was when I read my children’s scholarship essays and they wrote that homeschool had made them better people. Thanks HSLDA for your support.


  27. Cara
    April 20, 2017 at 11:03 pm #

    I love having my children about me all day! I love that I know what they are learning, love cooking them wholesome meals at home, love it that I AM their “peer pressure”, love that we can start the day out with love and joy in the presence of our Saviour, and homeschooling is our lifestyle! I love all the hugs and kisses I get and knowing they are safe at home with me, and I love learning new things alongside of them. Homeschooling allows you to really see grace in action- it’s something we give and accept all day.


  28. Abigail
    April 27, 2017 at 2:36 pm #

    I have found one of the best things about homeschooling is that my kids are taking responsibility for their actions and work. They love checking off each subject as they finish it for the day. They are even beginning to understand why chores and housework are so important. Sometimes they complain but then again sometimes I do too. We are growing together and learning that work really is a gift from God, not an endless mundane movement through our days. I love having them with me at home.


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