Dave Duncan

"Eat Well, Stay Fit, Die Anyway"

Home-Schooled, Yo

Most of the time, I’m a pretty quick learner.  I can pick up concepts and ideas pretty quickly even if my abililty to memorize lots of details isn’t really all that sharp.  For some reason, my brain doesn’t like to work with numbers, but I’m great with words and ideas so long as I can connect them.  I guess it comes down to who’s educating me.

I like to think that I come from an exceptionally bright family.  We’re all trivia buffs (who know more useless facts than useful ones) and avid readers, and much of my love for problem-solving and language comes from interacting with my family (sometimes from our collective inability to solve problems and our butchering of language).  Here are a couple of instances of some poor home education and learning from the Duncan home… all from my early childhood.

Phonics: One of the best ways to teach children about reading (and specifically proper English spelling) is to have them sound out words based on their knowledge of how letters are supposed to sound.  ‘C’ make a ‘keh’ sound.  ‘A’ makes an ‘eh’ or ‘ah’ sound.  ‘T’ makes a ‘tee’ or ‘teh’ sound.  ‘keh’ ‘ah’ te’… oh, I get it. Cat!

It’s a well-known and oft-used teaching tool that needs to take into account the difficulties of many English words.  Those more difficult ones are where my family decided to start.  Why learn the rules first, when you can learn the exceptions.

So we’re eating breakfast at the kitchen table at the cottage.  I was pretty young (maybe my mom or Deb could comment on how old I was rather than me making a blind guess) and Deb decided it was time for me to learn how to read the label on a peanut butter jar.  She pointed at a word and had me sound it out.

“S. M. O. O. T. H.  So… Mo… Tee… Ha.”  Bam. No lesson in blended consonants first.  Just right in there.  Fortunately they all laughed and laughed (presumably to build up my confidence for future forays into phonics) so at least I got to be the centre of attention.

Telling Time: I’ve had a life-long agreement with clocks that have hands.  If they don’t demand anything of me, I won’t smash them on the ground and scream obscenities at them.  This is easier in some situations than others.  Until recently, I couldn’t read a proper clock if I had all the time in the world (er.. uh..) and even now, it takes a few seconds for me to work it all out.

I think that it was my sister again, and probably on the same trip to the cottage, who decided that regardless of how little I knew about fractions (I knew nothing about fractions… I was probably still learning to tie my shoes) that the concepts of ‘quarter to’ and ‘quarter after’ would come easily to me.

In her defence, I already had a keen grasp on how denominations of money worked at that point, but I’m also very stubborn and to this very day, it still upsets me that ‘quarter after’ doesn’t mean 25 minutes past the hour.  Why can’t a quarter just be a universal numerical unit?  Stupid fractions.

Yeah, so we argued and got frustrated with one another and with time in general and I swore to always be near a digital clock or to just not care about time at all.  That worked well into University, by the way.

Gladly, I finally learned how to both read AND tell time and thankfully my sister played a big part in both, even after our shaky start.  She would later teach me how to drive (fast and with loud music blaring), dress with style (XL t-shirts are not a skinny boy’s best friend),  and how to survive University (with a healthy mix of not studying and spending time with friends).

It’s really amazing what you can learn in the home… and more amazing how long it takes to unlearn it in the real world.  Just some food for thought on a friday.

1 comment

1 Comment so far

  1. Jared September 22nd, 2006 11:24 am

    “Not only are the trains now running on time, they’re running on metric time. Remember this moment, people: 80 past 2 on April 47th.”