Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Homeschool Geekness, er, uh, I mean, fun.

Before Joe and I had kids, we were known to sigh contentedly and say, "There is no hope for our kids.  They have little or no chance of avoiding geekdom."  Because, you see, we are both in our own ways, such geeky, nerdy, dorky people. 

Once the kids started coming, and we started to see their various personalities, our conviction was only reinforced. 

One of the ways this geekness exhibited itself throughout the years,  was that in the middle of some meal, Joe or I  would suddenly have an irresistible compulsion to look something up in the dictionary.  Some tidbit of conversation or some memory of something from earlier in the day would effect the sudden rush to the dictionary to look something up. 

Which new information would then likely effect more looking up of more things.  Kind of a stream of consciousness pursuit of knowledge.  Please note I say knowledge, not wisdom.  I make no claim to have gained anything in wisdom. 

But it's fun.  It suits us. 

These days we tend instead to run to the kitchen computer to google things.  But since we try to discourage computer use during meals, it kind of puts a damper on that sort of mealtime research. 

Not totally, however.  

When we homeschooled all of our kids, our noon meals often consisted of such learning opportunities.  We have a large world map and a large US map mounted on the wall behind our dining room table.  Sometimes our learning came out with some geographical study.  Other times we'd pull out the dictionary or a volume of the encyclopedia or whatever reference work suited our needs. 

Today at lunch/dinner/noon meal, we lapsed briefly into our former fun with Sophie and Clara.  It must have just been one of those days, where the planets all lined up just right or something (I'm joking, please, nobody take that last phrase seriously). 

Anyway, at least three things came up that tickled that little geek spot in my brain. 

First, Clara was once again giving me the Zoolander looks.  She easily remembers the names of two of the looks, Blue Steele and Magnum.  I thought one of the others was Tahiti, so I threw that in. 

"Tahiti?  I thought that was some sort of food Dad uses to make hummus."

"That would be tahini.  Sesame paste.  I said Tahiti.  It's a Pacific Island."

I saw Clara look toward the map and contemplate getting up to find it, but she somehow managed to curb her impulse.

I did check the Derek Zoolander faces and there is no Tahiti.  I think I must have stored Ferrari under the Tahiti bit in my brain.  Strange.

Anyway, it was fun to see Clara look at the map.  And although we've really been working on restricting the wandering around during meals that has become epidemic, I almost wanted her to get up and find Tahiti.

A little later, we got talking about the word decimate

As I learned recently, in the strictest sense, decimate means to reduce by 10%.  It comes from Roman times.  A punishment used by military leaders to deter insubordination was to divide the troops into groups of ten.  Each group drew lots and whoever drew the certain lot was executed by the other nine.  I had never known that meaning.  I was only familiar with its sense of meaning to wipe out or do severe damage to something.  Since then,  I've been wondering if the "wipe out" meaning of the word is wrong.  I mean, whether I was wrong in thinking that was the meaning.  But until today, I kept forgetting to check.

We were recently given a box of paper backs.  We're trying hard not to accumulate stuff, and books are seriously our weakness.  So before simply taking this box of hand-me-downs to the thrift store, I grabbed one to try out.  White Indian, by Donald Clay Porter.  Apparently it's the first of a series of 28 books depicting the settlement era of America from the point of view of Native American peoples. 

Anyway, near the beginning of this book, the author describes one of the tribes wiping out Fort Springfield, along the Connecticut River.  And in context, they destroyed the fort, burning it to the ground and killing all but one infant child.  Mr. Porter used the phrase, "literally decimated."  I found that an interesting use of the word literally.  Since with my newfound literacy with regard to the word decimate, a literal meaning would imply the Roman punishment.  I pictured the Native braves making the settlers draw lots and execute 1/10 of themselves. 

So I mentioned this conundrum to Joe at dinner today.  Sophie immediately ran to get a dictionary.  I was so happy!  A girl after my own heart.

As she was looking up the word decimate, Joe asked me if I'd ever heard the word ineluctable.  I had not.  But I couldn't resist a little bit of smart alek answer, "Well, the in- would mean not, and the -able would refer to one's ability to do something.  So, ... not being able to eluct, I guess."

Clara, though, Clara was thinking.  "What does the -luct- in reluctant meant?"

"Good girl, Clara!"  cheered I.

She looked a little perplexed. 

"You discovered a cognate.  A word that shares a similar root.  That's a great way to figure these things out.  Now it happens that neither Dad or I know -luct-, but it's still a great observation."

By this time Sophie had found decimate,
verb: decimate; 3rd person present: decimates; past tense: decimated; past participle: decimated; gerund or present participle: decimating
  1. 1.
    kill, destroy, or remove a large percentage or part of.
    "the project would decimate the fragile wetland wilderness"
    • drastically reduce the strength or effectiveness of (something).
      "plant viruses that can decimate yields"
  2. 2.
    kill one in every ten of (a group of soldiers or others) as a punishment for the whole group.
I had her look up ineluctable, too.

adjective: ineluctable
  1. unable to be resisted or avoided; inescapable.
    "the ineluctable facts of history"
And so we learned two new words.  Or at least one new word and a bigger usage of a second word.  We learned more about the roots of the word reluctant.  And so will be able to notice the root in other words in which it might occur. 

Oh, and we learned that Tahiti is neither a food, nor one of the faces of Zoolander.

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