What did you learn in school this year?

Last fall, after I tried to burn my house down, the fire department came out to check my smoke detectors. I was talking about school and kids with one of the guys and he said, “I’m in the third grade!” I said, “Me, too!” Even though I have a college degree and I feel that I have continued the learning process past my formal school days, I know that I am right there with my oldest child learning things I either never knew or forgot long ago. And since I will be repeating these lessons over and over again to a succession of children, I really can’t imagine that this “new” information, seen through adult eyes, won’t stick with me for much longer than it did the first time I was exposed to it.

Since I use the Baltimore Catechism for religion, and since I was educated in the ’70s and ’80s and that mainly through CCD classes, pretty much everything I teach from that book is stuff I didn’t know. Well…Who made you? God made me. I got that. But the concise and clear answers to much of what we believe and why we believe it were never transmitted to me. I really enjoy religion class.

In math and grammar, I’m happy to report, I haven’t learned much. I have had to check the answer book on occasion to clarify a punctuation rule or a part of speech, but not very often. The teacher’s math book is only used so I can check answers quickly and not because long division or averaging numbers is particularly difficult.

But of all the subjects, Fritz and I share an immense appreciation for history. I liked it back in my school days, too, and studied it quite a bit in high school. In college, I just didn’t have the time to take any classes given my heavy core curriculum load, except for one class, The History of the Low Countries, which I was able to take while studying abroad in Belgium (one of the Low Countries). Awesome class.

In the last three years, history for Fritz has been primarily American History and more specifically the time around the American Revolution. Each year, the curriculum gives more details about the 1700’s and expands the student’s awareness of where that era is in relationship to all of world history. When Fritz was in kindergarten, he summarized his knowledge of history like this: “First there was Adam and Eve, then there was Jesus, then there was George Washington, then there was us.” By now, I’m sure he can name a few more people between Adam and Christ, and our history lessons have exposed him to the Vikings as well as the big players from Europe who claimed the Americas and explored, settled, and fought over them: the Dutch, the Spanish, the French and, of course, the English.

These are lessons that I learned over and over again throughout my school days, but it is great to read about this period of history with a much greater awareness of the global implications of certain events, for example, France’s historical interest in aiding the Americans over the English in our revolution or the American Revolution’s influence on the French Revolution.

One of the books we recently read was If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution. I really like the If You Lived… series. I’ve found them to be chock full of information but written clearly enough for young students to comprehend. At the end of this book, the authors state their intention of presenting a balanced view of the conflict and presenting non-Patriots in a fair manner. On Amazon, reviewers either gave it 5 stars or 1 star, depending on how they felt about the treatment of the Loyalists. Those who thought it was good, thought it was balanced. Those who thought it was bad, felt that the Patriots were portrayed as bad guys and that it only mentions the negative circumstances surrounding the lives of the Loyalists. I will admit that there is little mention of any suffering on the part of the Patriots. According to the book, about one-third of the colonists favored independence, one-third were loyalists, and the remaining third attempted to be neutral. Surely for every Loyalist’s child who wasn’t permitted to go to school, there was a Patriot’s child who had a similar experience. There were pockets of like-minded people, and human beings throughout history are not known for their kind and generous behavior toward those who think differently.

But since the winners write the history books, I don’t feel that a few kind words on behalf of real human beings who had valid reasons for choosing to support the crown will damage a young student’s budding sense of patriotism. And as for myself, this and other literature we read this year have made me ask myself where I would have placed my own loyalties in 1775.

I consider myself fiercely patriotic. I’ve lived “on the economy” in other countries for long enough to know that as bad as it might be here in some ways, it is better than any other alternative. This is home, and it doesn’t matter whether it is Ohio or Virginia or Pennsylvania or New Jersey or Florida or Kansas, it is all home. But Belgium is not Germany is not the Czech Republic is not England and none of them are the United States. I am eternally grateful for all the hard choices made by the people who lived here in the late eighteenth century who suffered, fought and died to create this country. I would really like to think that I would have been a Patriot and would have done my best to contribute to its founding.

But no matter how I look at it, I can not support actions like the Boston Tea Party which breaks both the seventh commandment which forbids the unjust taking of another’s property as well as the 4th commandment which includes obedience to lawful superiors. Perhaps if I were twenty years old in 1775, I would be cheering the heroes of that raid, but I can’t imagine that this 36 year old devout Catholic would be in favor of it. It is one thing to boycott a product and quite another to destroy it.

But in my final analysis, I look at my view of current events. I am conservative and religious and vote accordingly. But I do not always agree with the loudest voices belonging to this side. I don’t agree with every plank in every platform and certainly not with every vote by every Republican in Congress. There are times I think we make some poor choices as a country, but I still think it’s the best place on earth. I think about the polls that show “only” a 39% approval rating for the President, and think I might be in the category of the 59% who disapprove (it’s all how the question is worded…and what about being neutral as an option?). And I compare that to the one-third who supported the American Revolution, and I think the President is doing better than General George Washington would have been doing if the Rasmussen Report had been around back then. I do think I would have been a Patriot, and I have faith that our country, despite the doom and gloom predictions from all sides, will do just fine as we suffer through these difficult years of foreign war and domestic strife.

OK, I’m finishing the 3rd grade, I’ve learned a lot about the American Revolution, and I vote in favor of breaking ties with England. How about you? What grade are you in, what did you learn this year in school, and are you or are you not in favor of the American Revolution?

8 thoughts on “What did you learn in school this year?

  1. Good post Michelle. I think I’m in fifth grade, but I like second grade too. Eighth grade very much suited me this year also. Much more so that it did when I was actually in eighth grade (I redeemed myself in 8th grade math this year!). My favorite lesson in histoy this year was about the Civil War. We learned that during the Civil War, lasting almost four years to the day, from April 12, 1861 to April 9, 1865, more than six hundred thousand men died, on our own American soil. That loss of life is greater than the combined loss of men in all of the other wars America has fought, from the War of 1812 to Vietnam. As Americans we worry about having to fight a war with foreigners on our own soil and we forget that the greatest war we fought was against our neighbor on our own soil. I don’t think we have made any great progress in learning to get along with our neighbors.And I would definitely have been a Patriot!

  2. Hi!I have been reading your blog for a while, and I really like it. I am also a military mom (in Canada), and I am considering having more than 2 children and I consider homeschooling. I wanted to ask, does homeschooling make transition easier during deployments? Do you have to change/adapt your routine? I am excited and scared at the thought of being alone with so many kids and teaching them (if we ever end up having more!)Also, I was raised catholic, been out of church for over 10 years, and now struggling with my faith. I want to teach my kids, but I don’t know how to answer simple questions such as “who is God”… do you have any pointers for me?

  3. Great post! Even though my oldest is only Kindergarten, he loves history as well, and we have started reading various books of interest (mostly the Du’Laire’s and If you Lived books). I also don’t mind presenting both sides to an issue – I think that a major problem with BOTH political sides in our country today is that some only want their side taught. I am confident enough in my convictions that I believe in teaching everything so that informed decisions can be made!We have been learning mostly about George Washington, Paul Revere, and Sam Houston (we live in Texas). I find Texas history absolutely fascinating, and it does kind of “explain” the prevailing sentiment of people here being just as much “Texans” as “Americans” (although I cannot say that I am personally right there).Did you know that Texas is the only state that is allowed to fly its state flag at the same height as the American flag (apparently due to it being its own sovereign nation for a while). That’s what I learned new this year!

  4. I’m caught between Kingergarten and 2nd grade. We’re totally immersed in ancient Egypt, writing our names in hieroglypics and making Pharaoh Fruitenkamens (mummifying fruit). We’re more than a little concerned with all these gods they worship and I think we’ll beat feat outta here with Moses and crew. What is this America you speak of? 😉

  5. I am in 6th grade (I totally understood math this time around) and 3rd grade-we have the solar system down pat, and in preschool. I can name all of my colors and shapes… but I still can’t figure out why they call Blue’s friend on Blue’s Clue’s “Magenta” when she is clearly PINK! So we just call her Magenta-Pink.As for what I learned… not much because I was pregnant 9 months out of the year and we did a lot of “nap times.”

  6. Lorri – too cute.Michele – I can’t wait to do some westward expansion history when we are in Kansas next year. I bet Texas history is loads of fun! It’s been nice living here by Mount Vernon and the nation’s capital while we do the Am. Revolution. Must get to see the Dec. of Indep. before we go.Yofed – lots of questions! One reason I homeschool is because of the military. My husband was TDY for 6 months before we finally joined him in late winter of my oldest son’s 1st grade year. More than once, I packed up our school books and spent a few days in his hotel room, just so we could have some time together as a family. We’ll be moving halfway across the country this summer, but the kids will have the same curriculum, same teacher and same classmates next year. I know many families who split up for a time if dad needs to start a new job before the end of the school year – one neighbor is supposed to go to school in Kansas with my husband. He plans to leave his wife and 5 kids here for the entire 11 months just so they won’t have to switch schools now and then again in a year. Right now, I am happy to be spared such hard decisions.As far as finding faith and answering questions about God, I do have lots of ideas, since I was right there not 8 years ago.#1 – and most important, PRAY for faith. God answers all prayers, so don’t be surprised if the Holy Spirit one day smacks you so hard upside the head that you feel the sudden urge to throw yourself facedown on the cool stone floor of the prettiest church you know.#2 – I had many questions about Catholicism, and I owned <>The Catechism of the Catholic Church<>, but that’s a pretty weighty tome. My husband found me <>The One Year Guide to the Catechism<>, which breaks the entire catechism up into manageable 15 minutes a day lessons. Within 6 weeks, I was being smacked upside the head by the Holy Spirit. I’ve never gone more than 4 or 5 months into this guide, but I have found that faith brings understanding, so it hasn’t been as necessary.#3 – I really like the books written in the 50’s (I think) by Fr. Lovasik. They are for kids, but I have learned tons. They only cost about $1.50 each and cover a wide range of topics. You can buy them online (Emmanuel Books has them – see my sidebar) or at any Catholic bookstore.#4 – That St. Joseph’s Edition of The Batimore Catechism (also sold at Emmanuel Books) is great. Every chapter covers a topic and then goes into its Q&A format, which millions of little Catholic children had to memorize. It’s nice to have that brief, pat answer to every Catholic’s FAQs…but it also has the longer explanations to help those pithy answers make sense.These are my starting pointers. If you do get smacked by the Spirit, you probably won’t need further help, but let me know if you do!

  7. Oh, Michelle, this post just really does such a great job of describing the heart of why I will probably (why am I still in denial) homeschool…We are in pre-pre-preschool here in the Buckeye state, and it is a glorious place filled with squishy bugs and lots of “osside” time. We lay on our tummies and chalk the concrete and take long baths immersed in bubbles. And every day, as she adds words to describe what she sees and feels and thinks, I get excited about the idea that it’s a journey we might take together…and the secret desire I have might just be to go through school again and again and again…

  8. Sarah,You have plenty of time to get used to the idea of homeschooling. It starts from birth, as you already know, and evolves naturally. Good luck!

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