The Knitting Journeyman

Gathering Up One Thread At A Time As I Weave This Web Of Mine.....

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Bee In My Bonnet


          Oh, talk about a bee in my bonnet now.  The lovely Emily has posted a very… telling…post..dare I say rant…because in her shoes I sure would be ranting myself!  In her post, Emily talks about how she as a teacher has problems reaching the children, children who do not have basic grammatical knowledge, much less the desire to write anything at all.
            I am currently struggling with my soon to be 9yo daughter, so I understand how hard it can be to motivate someone who swears she’s interested in what you’re trying to teach her, much less someone who is definitely not interested.
First of all, let me point out, we homeschool.  We homeschool because I personally find the public school system to be woefully lacking.  I found it tremendously lacking in the 80s when I was in school…and it has only gotten progressively worse, in my opinion, ever since.
            Two years ago, when we were in WV, I was reading the local paper there where teachers were sounding off about the school district removing cursive writing from the curriculum.  Here is a link to a different article, but the same topic.  In WV, the teachers were angry because studies have shown that students who know how to write in cursive do better on tests, so on and so on--while on the same hand, these same teachers were thanking the school district because teaching cursive is so time consuming and time intensive.  Students develop the muscular control to write in cursive at different times, so sometimes one student will need a great deal more work than another.
            So, the schools remove teaching cursive from the classroom, knowing that it will cut test scores across the board for the rest of these students academic lives, much less the repercussions for the rest of their lives, because it takes too much time and effort to teach kids to write.  I see. 
            Of course, I am disgusted watching how young the students are who carry their laptops to school, their high powered calculators to school—and this without mentioning the cel phones, the hand-held game systems and every other electronic toy out there that a young child could possibly desire.  Their machines do the spelling for them.  The machines do the math for them.  My daughter isn’t allowed to use a calculator for her schoolwork.  And she won’t be allowed to do so until she is at a high enough level where a calculator is necessary.  Basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division do NOT enter into the category of necessary.
            I’m struggling with my daughter, as a homeschooler, because…she is a perfectionist.  She has my weird I am a perfectionist, but in this instance I just don’t care because someone else said it was ok.  An example would be her handwriting.  Someone once told her she could scratch out what she was writing if she made a mistake and just keep going.  Now she turns in papers where you can barely read the words between all the scribbling out of imperfect letters.  We are finally getting through to her, but it’s been a long slow process.
            My daughter will go play w her cousins and when she comes back, I normally have to deprogram her in one way or another.  Language is a big issue for me.  It’s not swearing I have to deprogram, but grammar.  I still keep trying to explain why my daughter will not be getting a phone until she gets her own job.  When I say this, I also point out that there are homeschoolers out there her age who do have their own little businesses running at home, none of which can I find right now since I am looking for them.  I know of one little girl who sews these neat fleece hats.  She sells them online…and the last I heard (which was roughly 2006 or so) she had already earned enough money to go to college.  Simple things like this, my daughter could do, if she put her mind to it.
            But, we’re talking about language as a whole.  I know I often make fat fingered mistakes when typing.  I also have dyslexia and sometimes I miss easy mistakes that the spell checker doesn’t catch.  But let’s walk up the road a bit here by our house and see what we see.
            I am teaching my daughter to spell words correctly.  She sounds out the words and writes them her way while she is writing her reports or whatever she’s doing…and I go back and show her the correct spelling.  She misses vowels a lot.  Right up the road here is a business called ‘Big Boyz Toyz’.  This sign irks my daughter every time we drive past it…and I am glad it does.  In a world of lol and bff, there simply is not a great deal of room to learn how to spell.  Why spell when no one else wants to read the whole world anyway?  Why spell things correctly when you can spell it wrong for impact?
            I receive emails for work-related purposes with all sorts of shorthand and abbreviations, rife with misspellings and improper sentence structure.  Now, I will admit, for personal emails, I do not use a great deal of punctuation—my punctuation is usually a line break.
            How are you doing today
            We’ll see you at the theatre at 6
            The dog is shedding all over the place again
I will also admit to knowing sentence structure and purposely ignoring it…as I always have…because I am a writer and the way I write is … a more fluid and open sport than most (thank Stephen King for that one, folks…Stephen and ee cummings are my writing GODS, baby…or they were when I was much younger and just starting out).  There are so many people I know right now who couldn’t pick up a book and read it…who would not pick up a book and read it…if their life depended upon it.  I understand not everyone likes to read…but for most jobs, reading and studying and learning is what gets you promoted and/or keeps your job for you.
            Emily is right.  We cannot communicate and no one really cares.  I work very hard to make sure that both my kids can speak to other people, that they have manners, that they are well-read (as well-read as an 8 and a 6 yo can be at this point).  So, I tempt my daughter with vampire novels.  I’d rather her bury her head in my vampire novels as she gets older than sitting in front of the tv, texting and IMing away without a word to her step-father or me – or anyone else in the room.  At least my kids are able to walk up to anyone and have a conversation.  Not that my son will do it all the time anyway.  That’s the joy of being him though.  How many other kids do you know will spend an hour with the old lady next door talking, simply because they want to and they like to, not because they have been forced into doing it?  My daughter can tell you the life history of our 70+ yo neighbor and all her animals, including all medical conditions, and where the corpses (of the critters) are buried (in the back yard—right next to our yard….kinda creepy).  And this is not my daughter’s only older friend either.
            I remember my last year of high school, heck, all three years of high school (remember, I graduated early because I took my junior and senior years together…I should have just quit—I learned so much more outside of school…).  The whole reading program, across two high schools, in WV and in MA, were so …awful and so basic.  I had read some of the most amazing books, before high school, and I was looking forward to class work and essays and all sorts of things.  I wanted to grow not only as a writer, but as a reader.  I was very disappointed.  The three books we read (Great Expectations, The Scarlet Letter, and Beowulf…yes,  this is three years of study—right here—or at least they are the only ones I recall at all…) …  were so disappointing.  Not because I’d already read them and gone far past them in my own personal literature studies…but because there was almost nothing that really clicked with the school work.  Too much multiple choice.  Not enough thinking.  We are not taught to THINK in school—we are taught to memorize and spit it back out for the test, and then to  forget it.  Do you think I learned of ee cummings in school?  I never would have heard of him if I didn’t haunt libraries and bookstores, wandering through the stacks, looking at things at random.  I was reading Chaucer as a young teenager.  I was reading Ivanhoe just before my freshman year of high school started.  High school made my brain go numb with its futility.  If I had not educated myself, I would never have had any education whatsoever, since the school was more worried about getting us out of school than teaching us.

            If high school had not been so dull, so boring, so mind-numbing, I would have gone to college for a degree in literature, with a minor in history.  That had been my original goal, when I was in third grade or so.  Before we left AL for WV.  High school killed all desire for me to go to college…and all in that first year too.  The other two years only made it so much more clear that school, public school, was nothing but a waste of my time…and why would I want to pay a university for the privilege of wasting my time?

            A case in point, to go thoroughly off the track, is my first Algebra class in high school.  I have dyscalculia.  My first algebra teacher, Mrs.  Faith, would stomp into the room, throw her books down, scribble something on the board, and then stare at the ceiling the whole class.  I was not the only one failing that class.  No one cared that she sucked as a teacher—she had TENURE.  I know.  I raised hell about it and was told by another teacher that I was SOL about Mrs.  Faith.  Quite a few of us were sent from Mrs.  Faith’s class into an introduction to algebra class (I so wish I could remember that teacher’s name—he was awesome—even if the class still sucked for me.)—but it took more than half of a class to fail, for, I do believe more than one semester, before we were moved.  I know I asked to be transferred out way sooner—and I don’t think I was the only one.

            I digress.  I know.  Or do I?

Walk out in public.  It’s really sickening.  Everyone, it seems, is either on the phone, has head phones plugged into their ears or some combination thereof.  I always stand aghast as I watch young children wandering through stores w their game boys or their DSs.  They don’t care about the world around them, because they don’t know it’s there.  It’s like the military loving to take in these kids who played video games all their lives.  These kids have incredible accuracy and since it is just like any other video game for them, the ‘war games’ they feel no real remorse when they shoot someone.  There is that vapid loss between being human anymore.  The whole world, it seems,  is locking itself in to being ‘plugged in’ in one way or another.  As one plugs in, all the rest of humanity falls away and becomes obsolete—unless they too are plugged in, in another place, far from the first. It’s almost a miracle anyone unplugs long enough to find another human in order to continue the human race.  That connection, that being able to connect to another human being,  is so nebulous some days.
            Things in this world move at such a fast pace these days.  The speed of light living has already caused some major kick-backs, people wanting to slow down, to get back to the basics, to get back to nature. 
            This is what I am trying to do.  Some days I think I would be completely lost without my computer and the internet, but then it dawns on me…I know how to write a letter…and I know where the post office is.  The mail man does more than bring me my books that I order online or the yarn that I covet online so much (most recently from here and here)…I try to convince my daughter to write more reports on the books she reads.  Of course, if we conquer that whole scribbling things out issue of hers, you will see us advertising her hand-made hand-written and personally illustrated books on lulu so she can get herself a cel phone.  I work on her spelling with her, every day.  I work on her grammar with her, every day.  She wants to learn cursive, so she is going to learn.  She is also going to learn Latin, which will really boost her English vocabulary.  She wants to learn Spanish, and so we teach her bits and pieces now.  We discovered that it is better to get her more comfortable with spelling in English before we throw Spanish in there on top, so she has some Spanish vocabulary, but we aren’t stressing it right now.  I am probably going to encourage her to learn at least one other language too before I agree to let her move on…I think my mother may be right and Italian may be a good language, although I would be lying if I said I didn’t want her to learn French so that I could have someone to talk to now and then. 
            And then we’re back to me circling the little old lady living in a cabin at the edge of the woods up in the mountain completely off the grid and living off her herd of goats scenario all over again…and believe me, these days that is looking better and better at times…