Homeschool Life, Personal Journey

National Dictionary Day

dictionaryI say this in love: Noah Webster was a total geek.  He knew 26 languages.  Not letters.  Languages.  Don’t you find it odd that he knew exactly the same number of languages as letters in the English alphabet? I wonder if it was a personal goal of his to know that many languages.  When did he find time to speak in them all?

I am convicted of the crime of not using nearly enough of my brain. So are we all.

In honor of Noah Webster and his overachieving ways, why not learn a new word today?  My favorite word, learned in the course of a writing game played with my class, is mordant.  It fits me like a sausage casing.  I’d tell you the definition, but then you wouldn’t go use a dictionary on National Dictionary Day.  Unless you already know the definition.  In that case, may I have your autograph? And can we be friends?

There should be a National Thesaurus Day.  Thesaurusing is a verb I’ve created to describe the process of trashing generic and overused descriptors, verbs, and even nouns, and replacing them with better, more vivid, more academically-mature words.  I’ve gotten some doozies in the process of this exercise.  When students don’t understand the flavor of certain words (or parts of speech), I get things like: I did a ravishing job on the dishes.  Or: Her pulchritudinous lips were too much for me to bear; I had to osculate them.

I tell them I’d rather see a grammar misstep than nostep.  It would be more a shame for them never to have broadened their brood vocabularies.  There.  See?  I thesaurused “young” to describe their vocabularies. The noun young came up, and its synonym, brood, also a noun.  See how easy it is to make a complete fool of yourself with a thesaurus?  One who would write must be willing to write badly.  I am willing. I’ve proven it.  Now go and have a look in Webster’s Compendious English Dictionary (published in 1806).  Today people run from words like compendious.  Perhaps they’re afraid to show their broodness.  Perhaps that’s the beginning of what’s wrong with America.  To be a student I must be teachable; to be teachable I must be willing to not know something.

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Homeschool Life

Excellent, Not Perfect

My greatest challenge:  teaching my children.  I  began more than ten years ago with the crushing pack of my children’s education pressing down on my shoulders, and it has become a burden light and wonderful to carry.   There are some days when the weight again seems unbearable and any mistake whispers the lie: “You’re unqualified.”

First day of school ten years ago– true story.   I learned about a cool way to teach spelling:  write the word on a blackboard, and see how many other words can be made with the letters in that word.  The blackboard made it seem so… schoolish, and I do have a love affair with words.  The perfect exercise.

Our word was “animal.”   We made lots and lots of little words with the letters in animal.  I won’t bore you with them all.  But even I was amazed at how many words could be made by rearranging the letters.  (Obviously I hadn’t ever played Boggle before.)  Just as we were finishing up, Dad came home from work.  Beaming, I waved my arm across the word-filled blackboard Vanna White style and said, “See what we’ve been doing?”

He had a strange look on his face.  Figuring he didn’t understand how cool this exercise was, that maybe it looked like mindless scribbles all over the blackboard, I explained to him all about metacognitive strategies and how seeing the little words inside the big word would ingrain the correct spelling in their minds.  Still, he didn’t seem to get it.  No praise.  No stunned and awed expression.  No “You’re amazing, Wife!”

Being the very first day, I admit, I did expect some strokes from him.

“What?”  I asked finally.

“That’s great, Hon.”  He said, “But ‘animal’ is spelled A-N-I-M-A-L, not A-N-I-M-A-L-L.”

Argh!  You probably won’t believe me when I assert that I’m not even a poor speller.  I was just over-excited with a dash of blonde moment.   I DO know how to spell “animal.”  I did back then.  But the mistakes I made, especially that one, helped me to know that perfect was never going to be my adjective.   I have moved on, and we try daily for excellent.  Some days we even hit it.   My friend recently reminded me that a mistake does not disqualify me from the arena.  How I needed to hear that.  Maybe we all do sometimes.

One of my favorite verses is from Ecclesiastes.  “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen, that it is from the hand of God.  For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?”

The eating part is cool, but the labor part is even better.  I believe my heart will not condemn me if I ask God for direction, go the way He points, and continue to contradict a world that would tell me my labor in raising my children is not good.  However small, seemingly unimportant the task is, I will tell myself my labor IS good.