By: Lora Wimsatt
It’s always a little scary to hear yourself say “When I was a kid ….”
First, because that automatically suggests that I’m not a kid anymore.
But also because that line often comes from some stick-in-the-mud crank who refuses to accept that things have changed and usually believes that “the way things were” is always better than “the way things are.”
But in this case, I believe there has been a change for the better.
This issue of Owensboro Parent magazine is all about education – learning.
Well, when I was a kid, education was what you got at school. That’s where you learned to read and write, add and subtract. You learned about Christopher Columbus sailing the blue in fourteen-hundred-and-ninety-two. You learned water freezes at 32 degrees and I’m sure we probably also learned at what temperature water boils, but I don’t remember that. School was where you learned about the three branches of government and checks and balances. You learned about “Beowulf,” even if you never learned why; and you learned how to diagram a sentence.
School was where you learned about the Spanish Armada and the dates of the Civil War. You learned how to serve a volleyball, how to paint glaze on ceramics and how to play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” on a flutophone. You learned about the Wright Brothers and Robert Goddard, and you learned how to label a blurry Xeroxed flower with words you would never use again, like stamen and pistil.
But you learned it.
That’s what school was for.
Home was where you did everything else.
Home was where you read what you wanted – that never included “Beowulf” – or walked the dog or rode your bike or watched junky television, yelling at the dope dressed up like a camel to pick Door Number Three.
Home was where you sneaked an RC cola out of the refrigerator and smuggled it outside under your shirt – brrr – only to realize once you were safely under the bush in the back yard that you forgot to swipe a bottle opener.
Home was where you played board games and cards, and if you learned anything at all, it was how to move your piece to Boardwalk when nobody was looking, or not to blow all your wild cards as soon as you draw them.
Well, that’s how it was when I was a kid.
I know better now.
So now I take my little grandgirl outside and we crouch down and drop a sugar cube on the ground just to see what will happen, watching silent and fascinated as flies land on it and as ants appear, approaching in the zig-zaggy way that ants always travel. It’s unlikely the ants and flies will hold still long enough to count their legs in real life, but I have a book about insects, and now that we are interested, this is a good time to go look that up.
We explore the back yard just to see what we can find, delighted with three grey feathers plus one blue feather equals four feathers; and a shiny, smooth rock and a dull, rough rock. We find three different kinds of leaves, and play detective to figure out which tree or bush they belong to.
We put three kool-pops in the freezer to see what happens. Three, because we each need one to suck on and turn our lips blue, plus one left over to see what happens if we put it on the kitchen table and let it get warm again.
We sit down next to the dog, the poor dog who is only trying to sleep, and examine the pads on the bottom of his paws, poking at the rough, leathery texture and wiggling his long claws back and forth … then take off our shoes and look at our toenails and the bottoms of our feet.
And then we paint our toenails pretty colors … and if it’s really an exciting day, we might also find out why it’s a good idea not to paint the dog’s toenails in the kitchen or right before she escapes to the long grass outside.
And by the time my grandgirl’s mother comes to pick her up and I stand in the doorway waving good-bye until the red taillights go around the corner and out of sight, I realize we have learned something really important today.
Education is not just for school.