Inappropriate homeschooling and a case of mistaken bad parenting.

I’ve been beating myself up lately because I had all of these notions about how I would work with the girls—Nora especially, since we pulled her from her Montessori school when we moved—on literacy and math skills, now that I’m home. Nora’s been reading simple words for almost a year and delights in finding sums to simple arithmetic problems. And Frances is starting to recognize and write some of her letters. With my background and experience it makes sense that I should work with them at home.

I’ve found, however, that I lack the patience and discipline it takes to run a proper homeschool. The girls are definitely getting solid skills in playing make-believe, which I know is really important. They’re into building with blocks and legos. They help me bake, do dishes, and clean up. And, we’ve been spending loads of time outdoors and reading library books. So, they’re certainly not suffering from lack of enriching activities. I just feel guilty about not working more on academics because Nora seemed to be thriving cognitively in her school environment.

On her last day of school, Nora brought home a composition book. Apparently, she had been spelling words as part of the Montessori work she chose to do. In order to continue to fit the practice in, I encouraged Nora to bring the book into the car with her. This is the only place I’ve found that works for us right now. So, while I drive us around town, I give her words that have some common phonics patterns. For example, she spells lists of /st/ words. Or /ip/ words.

This afternoon, while the family was driving home from a weekend spent in Newport with cousins, Liam and I took turns calling out /ut/ words. We began with nut. Then, rut. I challenged her with shut and she got it. I tried to get her to spell butt, knowing she would neglect the second letter t, but wanting to get a reaction from the silly word. Nora just giggled nervously and said she didn’t want that one. She’s much too wholesome to be dealing with her mother’s potty-mouth.

Not her sister. Frances, who’d been listening up to that point, chimed in next with, “I’ve got a silly one. How about vaaa-giiiii-naaah.”

Should’ve seen that one coming. Needless to say, the family was on a roll. Which is why, I’m guessing, my husband decided to throw out the next word: slut.

I mean, it did fit the phonological pattern, but come on. Of course it was this word she had difficulty hearing, so he and I had to repeat it—shout it, really—about five times. We confessed it was a nonsense word. And then giggled ridiculously each time we said it. So immature we are.


Which brings me to the second story involving the same word. Again with slut. Those of you who know the family—my family—may very well have heard this one before. It’s a favorite.

When my sister, Melissa, was in first grade, she also had a composition book in which to record spelling words. Typically, the teacher would assign words, my sister would write them at home, my parents would check that they looked OK, and then the book would go back to school to be examined by the teacher.

On the evening of the /sl/ words, my sister wrote a bunch of words and my parents forgot to check them. The next night, when my parents were flipping back through the pages, they noticed that she had written the word slut the night before. And, while the word had been marked correct by the teacher, they became concerned. How can she know this word? Where did she hear it? What must her teacher think of us for not having caught this? 

My parents called my sister over to read her words.

When Melissa got to the word in question, without missing a beat, she read, “Slute.”

Slute?” my parents said.

“You know,” she replied. “Slute. Like when you slute the flag.”

Gotta love kid writing.






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