Monday, June 9, 2014

Almost halfway...

The imp has made it from A through H in learning to write upper and lower case letters, as of this evening.  Tomorrow will see him reviewing that, and then moving on.

It takes lots and lots and lots of practice--something referred to (with much contempt) by teachers' education departments as drill-and-kill.  Doing something over, and over, and over, and over until the person doing it finally gets the hang of it. 

It's how skills used to be taught.  It's how physical skills are still taught--things like martial arts, or shooting, or anything else that requires muscle memory.  After a certain point, it truly doesn't work to teach mental skills, but that point hits sometime around puberty, not in elementary education, where it's been (mostly) phased out. 

I remember the endless worksheets: spelling words copied down ten times each, multiplication tables copied down ten times each, math drills, spelling drills, grammar drills...I hated every second of it.

But I can spell without depending on my spell checker.  I know the rules of writing grammatical sentences so thoroughly that I can tell at a glance when something's wrong.  I know the parts of speech, and know how to conjugate verbs in two languages (three, if you count the no-longer-spoken Old English--which also includes different declensions for nouns, depending on whether they're singular or plural, male or female, subject or object, or part of a prepositional phrase).

I can multiply through 12 x 12 in my head.  I can quickly add and subtract.  I can quickly reduce fractions down to their simplest form, then change them over into decimals.  I can quickly change decimals into fractions.  I can add and subtract quickly and easily, and I am not stumped by the issue of someone handing me $5.01 for something that costs $4.76.  I can quickly and accurately figure a 15% tip in my head, or estimate what I'll pay for something that's marked down by 30%. 

I know who Betsy Ross is (something a friend was horrified to discover that none of her kids knew--in 2nd, 3rd, and 8th grades).  I know what's in the bill of rights.  I know how government is supposed to work (not that it does, anymore). 

I remember these things because they were drilled into my head.  They didn't kill my curiosity or creativity, as the opponents of drill worksheets claims happens.  They gave me a firm foundation for my imagination and creativity to build on. 

Without that thorough understanding of the basics, no way could I be able to write the stories I do.  Or keep the family budget.  Or, really, do anything but what most of America is doing: rotting intellectually. 

I am determined that my children will have this same base.  I've chosen a school that still drills basic skills, and am willing and able to work with my children outside of school time to make sure they master these basic skills. 

Which is why I'm working on teaching my son to write his letters now, and why I will be working with him on the Hooked on Phonics stuff as soon as he's gotten them all down.  And why I'm already starting to work with my daughter on the same stuff.


  1. Another thing I'm kind of surprised by is how many kids don't know the "classic" fables (like Ant and the Grasshopper) that were so common when I was a kid. (Also: The Little Red Hen, which was always a big favorite of mine).

    I suppose, though, those fables teach messages (like: Work hard during the summer or else you'll starve; don't slack off and not offer to do anything until something desirable comes up) that maybe aren't considered so valuable any more.

    I suspect there's a lot of cultural-transmission links that got broken somewhere around the time the generation younger than mine came along.

    Citizens not knowing what's in the Bill of Rights is chilling and will probably come back to bite them badly. Hopefully we will both be dead by the time that happens.

    1. One of the imp's favorite stories for me to read was The Little Red Hen. I'm going to get a version of Aesop's fables with simplified language for him to start reading on, as well as a new copy of that bible story book the kids tore up fighting over.

      Many of the students that went into my PoliSci class back in '99 didn't know what was in the bill of rights, and were shocked that that's where their right not to incriminate themselves came from. It bothered and frightened me, and made me determined to make sure my kids understood what was there, and why it was there.

      More and more parents are becoming horrified by what passes for education in public schools, and are starting to take matters into their own hands and homeschool. The percentage is growing. I'd be amongst them if my kids weren't such determined extroverts.