I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about this, because I’m too distracted to spend a lot of time on anything, but occasionally I do fear that I forgot to pass something important along to my children — especially, but not exclusively, the homeschooled ones.
It comes on you as you get older, I think, and lose that wide-open optimism that you can do it all, or at least the sense that there’s a checklist somewhere. When I mentioned it to Rosie, she said that Ann, her mother-in-law (and my homeschooling buddy long before she rose to that august position) had recently sent out a message to her children, apologizing for not covering cloud formations adequately.
Here is the list of things I can remember that randomly rise up to bite me with remorse over not having done a good enough job teaching. Maybe I will remember more things. Maybe not. (NB — they seem to fall into two categories: geography and fire safety. And seem to be useful really only when doing crossword puzzles. Other than the fire safety stuff, of course.)
1. Cloud formations. I remember having to memorize cloud formations in school. I know nimbus (which I call “nimbulus” in my mind and just looked up and no, it’s nimbus) and cumulus and
cumulonimbulous cumulonimbus. And stratus. So important!
2. Stop, drop, and roll. A while back I read a terrible local history of a woman in the olden days whose skirts caught fire from the open hearth. She ran, with her baby in arms, around the house, burning it down around them. So sad!! She didn’t remember to stop, drop, and roll, but boy, Bridget got a lecture about that.
Going to school doesn’t seem to confer this knowledge reliably, so it’s not like that’s the solution. And Rosie says that in third grade, when she was actually in school, the fire-safety lesson gave her nightmares. That’s not the goal, obviously!
My dear friend Nancy, when I told her that I had also given Katie (who happened to have the misfortune of visiting Bridget when that lecture feeling came on me) this lecture, recounted a story.
Once, after a long and tiring day, she had been resting in the lovely bath her husband had drawn for her, complete with candles on the edge of the tub. She’s normally sensible and actually, rarely bathes rather than showers. But.
Her hair caught fire from a candle, and rather than simply handily dousing it in the adequate quantity of water provided, by the simple means of slipping down into it, she jumped out and ran out into the bedroom, screaming. Fortunately her fate was not that of the olden days lady!
Moral: Don’t count on school to get you off the hook.
3. Also in the fire-safety category: Don’t attempt to put a grease/oil fire out with water. A commercial during last night’s game reminded Bridget that I have taught her this. I think she brought it up to ward off a lecture, but I was actually counting stitches in my knitting and missed my cue!
The ad people didn’t seem to know this rule. Tsk. Bridget’s on it, and maybe now I can let go of this one? Maybe not.
4. Tundra. Deep in what Dorothy Sayers calls the “Poll-parrot” stage of my education, I also learned the land forms. For some reason tundra and taiga really stuck with me. I worry that my children don’t know what perma-frost is. I really worry.
5. Oxbow lakes. Did you know that lakes form for different reasons? And that a river can just jump out of its normal bed and take an entirely new course, leaving a lake behind? Someone had tweeted a photo of an oxbow lake possibly in the throes of formation, and that led me to send Bridget an email with the wikipedia article on the phenomenon and an apology for not doing a good job on certain things.
This was her gentle response:
Thanks mama! I think we already have been over this;)
I am sharing all this with you for two reasons.