Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Another day off of school and I've gotten wiser about how to navigate "free time" and "structured time."  Our to-do list today includes:

shovel snow (a few times)
bake cake for dessert
review Awana sections
dribble basketballs
tidy rooms
1000 piece jigsaw puzzle

Meanwhile, I've chipped away at my own to-do list.  It's weird to be grounded at home so much this winter, but lovely to experience it with older kids.  When they were little and needy, snow days were rough on my psyche--all the cleaning up after them and managing their activity load.  This morning I let everyone sleep in and surprised them one by one with the happy news of no school as they came down for breakfast.  Mr. G made himself French toast after I taught him how, even.  Self-sufficiency is a gift that both parents and children can enjoy.

In related news, Mr. T had his orientation to high school yesterday and came home excited to try Honors English, a woods class and maybe art.  He's conflicted about whether to take regular math or skip up to Geometry, and cannot wait to study Chemistry.  One of his teachers this year is discouraging him from taking Honors English.  She likes to focus on grammar, so I went online to check out the syllabus--Mr. T's a reader, so if the course was lit-heavy, I feel he can handle it.  It is!  I cannot tell you how it pleases me to see my son go from despising school to getting excited to tackle new subjects and learn all he can.  He's enthusiastic about trying both tech. ed and college prep classes, which I think is an excellent blend for any kid to study. 

True story:  years ago when I was in high school I was in the "college track."  I recall sitting with my guidance counselor and expressing an interest in Auto I--I reasoned that I'd probably own a car my entire life so it would be useful to know things like how to change oil, etc.  No, he argued, writing "Choir" as an elective for me.  You're going to college, you don't need to take that class.  Bullshit.  What did four years of choir ever do for me?  Not much.  Looking back at all of my high school classes, Typing, Biology, Advanced Math, Driver's Ed and Accounting were really the most useful classes.  I type almost every day, I can balance my check book and keep a budget, drive safely and appreciate the natural world.  All of my other coursework was head knowledge, which is important, but one needs both practical knowledge and deep thoughts to be well-rounded.  Four years of English and Choir didn't do much for me as a human or as a thinker--and I write this as someone who went on to teach high school English.  My Social Studies classes were interesting, perhaps somewhat useful as I did get a good background on geography and civics, and I guess Spanish didn't hurt me any.  Drama AND Speech class?  Repetitive, really.  I never had much homework, so those hundreds of hours in study hall were really wasted on writing notes to friends and gossiping about cute boys.  I could have well afforded to take Auto I.  I wish I would have fought that battle harder, but looking back I suspect there was as much sexism as elitism in the guidance counselor's advice at the time.  NO girls took tech. ed classes ever back then.

Spill it, reader.  What class do you wish you'd taken in high school?  Incidentally, I'm off to call Al Huss to schedule an oil change for the Momvan now...


  1. I always wanted to take Shop, but it definitely was a boys only thing. However, classes were not "my thing" in high school but everyone in the school was on the college track. They didn't call it that in those days but it was just assumed you were going to college.

  2. Personal finance is now a required course for all high school students in Virginia. And some parents and teachers actually fought it, if you can believe that.

    One of my girls is taking Home Ec this year -- a combo of cooking and sewing, along with budgets and other important stuff. I think this should be required for all middle schoolers.

    I took typing, home ec, and personal finance back in the day and am so glad I did.

  3. I wish I'd taken Spanish. I loved my French classes though.

  4. My son, who was a bit of a slacker in high school (but later discovered his passion and is doing great in the real world) found that Auto Shop was the most practical course he took. He has been able to work on his own terrible cars (each one a bit less awful than the last) and now that he can afford a NEW car, he helps all his friends keep theirs running!

    I second the vote for Personal Finance as a required course. And if they have to pass it with that fake baby under one arm, so much the better.

  5. I went to high school in the 70s. We had a ton of electives. I took Home Ec and there were more guys than girls in the class. Music, Drama, Photography, Typing, Yearbook. My husband took Woodshop, Auto Shop, and Electronics (which got him a good job after high school). We were lucky.

  6. Gah, so many wasted hours in high school. I was in a fairly wealthy area too, so you'd think the teachers would have been better, but most were horrible. Home Ec --horrible. History 1, boring, History 2, quite interesting because of a different teacher, chemistry, again horrible because of the teacher! Physics too. Two teachers over four years stood out as truly excellent --my Algebra 1 teacher and the teacher of an English class called "Argumentation". I took years of French, and the teacher spent most classes talking (in English) about the opera he'd seen the weekend before and which of his girlfriends he'd been with (he was in is 50s, so the girlfriend talk seemed kind of creepy to us teens). Typing was a very useful class. For PE I took dance classes (modern and jazz) and I enjoyed those.

    Overall looking back, most of my high school teachers were so burned out from teaching too much, or perhaps from dealing with teens, that they just didn't put much effort in. The chemistry teacher used to write everything on the board during 1st period and then just mumble through it during the remaining 5 periods of the class. If you got him 5th period, he was almost asleep. Wow, I hope Emma's high school experience will be much better.

  7. One thing to consider when making those class decisions is the amount of dedication / competitiveness the other students in the class will have. In our high school here, kids can be ultra-competitive and/or dedicated to academics in the honors level classes. This was a good thing for my kids in some subjects, and not good in other subjects. In general, they themselves were good judges of whether they could do the work. For 9th grade, my son opted for regular English rather than Honors English, because he just couldn't stand writing. He ended up with a male English teacher who was so cool that it turned my son's opinion of English class around. This English teacher introduced us to stuff like the Shakespeare Insult Generator. That was just sheer luck, getting that teacher. I guess I'm just saying that part of high school is making good out of the stuff life hands you, and it's more than just what your own kid can do, it's who he/she is surrounded with, both teachers and other students.

  8. Well, high school was a long time ago. I did home EC, art, Latin (2 yrs) German (2yrs) and physics and chemistry Geometry and Algebra, as well as the required Englishes. I did not get any shop classes. but my dad made sure that I knew how to change a tire and change oil, check the battery, brakes and other fluids. Now cars are not so easy to change oil. They hide the filter in places so you nearly need to pull the engine to change it. I always made sure the kids knew how to change a tire, check and change oil and other fluids before leaving home.
    do you know how to do those things now, even if you didn't learn in high school?

  9. I loved home ec, typing, and all those other classes that most people cringed at. I would have liked to take choir or some sort of musical class, but it just wasn't in me. About the only thing I can play is a mean iPod. My husband's mom insisted that he take French, even though he wanted to take Spanish. Rick spent several years basically "not learning" French, only to spend his career working in Southern California. o_O

  10. I took 4 years of Spanish and I wish I'd started with Latin to help my spelling. My English classes were literature focused and I would have liked more writing. One teacher did encourage me to write on my own, but I was curled up with a book instead.

  11. I am astounded that you weren't allowed to take Auto Shop! That was so wrong of the "guidance counselor" to keep you from it -- and simply bad advice on his part. We had an adviser here who tried to get my super-scary-smart teen onto a heavy academic track with no "fun" electives. The teen and I put our collective foot down and said NO. (The boy wanted band, not an additional science class.) Why take all the fun out of learning?
    I'm glad to hear your son is finding the newly opened horizons to be exciting.
    I loved taking wood and metal shop in middle school, and conversely I disliked the one session of home-ec that I was forced to take (cooking). My 2 younger sons have had some great middle school classes: a home-ec class that really taught useful lessons and skills -- I'm looking forward to a flour bag baby coming home soon! -- and my youngest boy loved his semester in "intro to Engineering" (basic woodshop). No one takes typing anymore (a class that has benefited me a great deal) but I was glad that I took a year of Latin as a HS junior since it helped immensely when the SAT was in front of me. Latin, however, messed up my memory for the 3 years of German that I studied prior to that lovely dead language. My HS German class was fun: we did skits to practice our language skills, cooked, sang songs, and gave me a desire to visit in Germany. So many useful words/language came back when we lived there for 3 years in my early 30s, but it would have been nice to not have to work quite so hard at retrieval.

  12. We had home ec at my high school and I'm sure I would have enjoyed it, but I was strongly discouraged by my mother from taking it. We didn't have a shop class, but I think that basic woodworking skills are really important and if I had an opportunity, I'd take "shop." My mom took a woodworking class at our community college when she was in her forties, and found it very satisfying and she managed to make a huge shelving unit.

  13. I fought to take both typing AND sewing. Typing was considered a 'business' class and was not open to anyone on the college track. Thankfully, there were a number of us from college track that fought to take it and ended up in in the same class together. It was only agreed I could take sewing if I would agree to taking on an 'extra' major, which meant losing some study hall time. As it turned out, one of the uber-brainy girls was in there too.
    I fought to NOT take math, my argument being that I wasn't going to need it in life. I still get frustrated that math is on the quiz of life, daily.My best friend kept trying to get me to take the home ec cooking class, which I refused because I didn't think I was ever going to need to learn to cook. I know, right?
    I was also in the choir, where I learned to sing the Hallelujah chorus in 8 part harmony. We learned it for the spring concert my junior year, starting it early - maybe even the end of sophomore year. For the diocesan chorus festival my senior year, we sang it again. We sang that for two solid years. To this day, I can still sing all of the harmonies and have been known to sing along at the dinner table without even realizing it. In fact, I can sing unaccompanied in their entirities, Beastie Boys' "Paul Revere's Ride" and The Hallelujah Chorus. Skills.

  14. I'm like you in wishing I'd had something super practical, like Auto I (not that my HS offered that) or shop. However, I never had an art class, either, and I really wish I had.

    For me, all the best thinking skills and abilities I ever learned, however, were in English and such classes. Books taught me all about people, analysis, language, structure, organization, and the power of stories. Writing taught me that I can figure out what I'm really thinking by putting it down on the page.

  15. Ok what's more relevant is "how's the lack of hands on courses working for kids today?"" As a teacher I see more special ed classes with kids whose strengths are in their hands. Where is autoshop and woodshop? Where is practical? As a high school student I took art every year I could, French, speech, (I'm a talker, teacher, artist, reader...gotta have my hands in things) loved History, waded through math, had my thinking changed by geometry. Was an ok student, not worried about the almighty GPA. Loved dance, and being active. Hated being tested on PE skills like the balance beam with everyone watching while I wobbled through contrived exercises. Was never on a fast track, but enjoyed college. My dad made sure I knew all about changing the oil and fixing a flat as well as any fancy maneuver I'd need for defensive driving. And how to not get ripped off by auto mechanics. I was also impressed why I am here and still learn and revere God today.


Spill it, reader.