I know it has been a long time since I have posted. Personal issues have gotten in the way. BatMom and I are divorcing, which brings its own set of parenting challenges, but it did, inadvertently lead to tonight’s experience.
I have been reading Lana and Lois Charlotte’s Web off and on for several months (we take many breaks from it so that they can read on their own at bedtime or have different stories read to them). We are nearly finished, only two chapters to go. We stopped there tonight because we only had time for one chapter and I didn’t want the spider’s death to be the last thing they heard before they went to bed.
After I closed the book, we looked back through to see what words Charlotte had written (Some Pig, Terrific, Radiant and Humble). There was some question of whether Terrific was in the book since Lana didn’t remember it and had just seen it in the live-action movie adaptation. Lois asked me what Humble and Radiant meant.
When BatMom and I lived together, we had a small pocket dictionary that we often used when such questions arose. A few years back, we had picked up the New Webster’s 1924 dictionary, one of those giant beasts that generally reside on a pedestal stand, for a mere $3 from the local library’s used book sale. BatMom took the pocket dictionary with her, as she had had it since college.
Left with no other options (I don’t like using the internet for definitions with the kids because navigating a dictionary is a useful skill to have), I pulled out the beast and looked up Radiant (having the girls talk me through each letter as we located it). We determined that of the noun and adjective versions, we were looking for the adjective because, as Lois said, “it describes something.” We decided that Wilbur didn’t emit beams of light as in the first sense, but he did beam with vitality and happiness as in the second sense.
I had Lana look up Humble and we decided that Wilbur is, in fact, of low opinion of himself, and not boastful, as in the first sense, at least when there aren’t people around and he has to try to live up to Charlotte’s descriptions. In addition, he’s also “low to the ground” because, in Lana’s words, “he’s short.”
Then, for fun, I pointed out that the dictionary was from 1924. One of the first pages is the Arms of the British Empire and Her Colonies. I read off some of the names of those colonies (“Hey, those are Australian states!” – Lana had an Australia unit in class last year) and pointed out that many of the others were the provinces of Canada. I then had to explain the concept of a colony. I asked Lana if Australia was a colony or its own country. She replied “It’s a country” and then I asked about Canada. “I don’t know. I think it’s a country?” So in 1924, neither Australia, nor Canada, were independent countries.
I asked both girls if they had the internet in 1924. They both agreed that the didn’t because they didn’t have computers. I looked up Internet and failed to find it between internecine and interneural. I decided to look up “computer” since that’s why they didn’t have the Internet. Along the way, we came across “circuit” which Lana knew from science class was a component of electricity, electronics and computers. We read that definition and found the proper sense in the last entry.
From this we determined that there was no Internet, but there was electricity in 1924. We moved on toward computer and found compute and computist (“one especially skilled at computation” which was the then-new term for accountant … I guess it didn’t take), but no computer.
I asked about television. They again agreed that there was no television, so we looked it up and went from telephony (my current career) to telfan. Nope, no TV.
Radio? They couldn’t agree on this one. I believe Lana was anti and Lois was pro. So we looked. We ended up on the same page as Radiant, of course, and while radio was there, it was only in the geometric sense. So no radio… I know Tesla and Marconi invented the radio before the turn of the century, but they were not in homes yet, it seems.
How about cars? Cars was there, but it referred to train cars, chariots of war and baskets for transporting lobster and crabs (!!!). Well, how about automobile? Sure enough, there was automobile, and there was an illustration page with many standard models of car of the time (like the Electric Brougham? and the Limosine and the speedster and coupe and touring coupe). They, of course, look nothing like the cars of today.
I pointed out that the dictionary was put together by people to contain all the words that were important for people to know. And if something didn’t exist at the time, it, by extension, wouldn’t be in the dictionary.
“So, there really was no such thing as a lazy day? The kids would HAVE to go outside to play with their friends?”Lana asked.
That one worried me a little…
So after a brief discussion of farm life, and particularly farm life for a young girl, and the much larger family size (“I don’t WANT six more brothers and sisters!”), and why kids WEREN’T lucky to stop going to school in sixth grade, they decided that they were pretty happy to be living now instead of 85 years ago.
Even though they stayed up 40 minutes past bedtime for this, I’m glad of it. It allowed me to recognize fulfilling my and BatMom’s parenting philosophy, which I think is also part of her teaching philosophy: “Create an Environment of Satisfied Curiosity.” I hated being told to stop asking questions when I was a kid. Since this usually came when I reached the limits of my dad’s knowledge on something, I didn’t learn that “I don’t know” is a valid answer. This is information I want my children to have. “I don’t know” is an indicator that you still have more to learn, no matter how smart you are, that you have a new area to explore, that no one knows every answer. This is especially important for Lois to know as she enters Kindergarten this fall.
And it was fun.
And, for the record, I don’t want to live in 1924 either. It’s fun to visit, but I’m thankful to be living in the future!