Thursday, April 9, 2009

I used to think I was smart

And in some people's eyes I was. The problem was/is that I wasn't smart, I was just really good at memorization.

I went to public school, and enjoyed school for most of my elementary school years. But for much of my elementary schools, I went to an elementary school that was well, very 70s. I went there from 2nd to 5th grade, and everything was very individualized, and project-based. During 4th and 5th grade, we had a project during half of the year, and all of our schoolwork was related to the project. In 5th grade, we picked an occupation, and then did schoolwork related to it. I picked an archeologist (seriously? Can you seriously see me as an archeologist?) and so I to create tools, a budget, detailed reports about what I was looking for, what an archelogist does, etc. It was a really great way to use academic skills in a real life way.

But then in 6th grade, we moved across town, and I finished elementary school at a "typical" school, and went to a "typical" junior and senior high. The high school I went to was supposed to be the best in town, and 98% of the students went on to college. I did three years of Math, 4 years of Science (including a semester of Microbiology), 4 years of Spanish, 4 years of Engish (including a year of AP English). I graduated with a 3.8 GPA. I did well on the ACT. I was offered scholarships at two different schools (and yet for some reason, picked a school that wasn't offering me a scholarship. What was I thinking?) On paper, and on tests, it looked like I was smart.

Even through most of my undergraduate classes, I did well. I was an English major, and so I read more of the English "classics" than other people. But my senior year was tough for me because all of a sudden, I was supposed to have an opinion on something. I was supposed to have read other things, from other areas, and make connections. I was supposed to be able to know how to argue my point. I still did well, but I was starting to realize that I wasn't as smart as I thought I was.

And then a couple years later, I went back to do a graduate degree in English. And I didn't do well. I remember always feeling like I was drowning and I felt like I was having a constant panic attack. Graduate school used very little in the way of memorization, and focused heavily on critical thinking and original thought. I quit after a year. Years later, I did finish a graduate degree, but this time it was in Technology with an emphasis on Training and Development and Project Management. I had been working as a Trainer for 3 years before I started the program, and the focus on the program was more on practical skills than theories, so I was able to do well in the program. But deep down, I knew that just because I got a master's degree, it didn't mean I was smart.

Almost everything that I learned from sixth grade on I was unable to recall because I had just memorized it. And the older I got, and the more people I met, I realized that I hadn't read SO many things that I should have - I never read Plat0, or John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. I've never read The Declaration of Independence, Rousseau, or Karl Marx. And not only did I not read any of these classics, I didn't read Newsweek, the New York Times, or even the local paper. Well, I read the paper, but I mostly glanced at the front page, the Life section, and the classified. And that was only every two weeks or so.

I never learned grammar well, I never learned logic or rhetoric. Not that it would have mattered because I just didn't know enough about past or current events to be able debate about it, much less point out people's flaws in their arguments.

I never learned how to question things. Even in my favorite high school subject, Science, I just memorized the facts instead of ever asking "Why?"

I also didn't use my Spanish or play the piano much after high school and much of those skills are lost as well.

So I've decided that it is time to learn. Really learn this time. So I'm going back to school this summer. I'm not taking classes at the university or the community college. I'm not taking a workshop. But what I am doing is looking at the Classical Curriculum (I'll specifically be looking at the curriculum outlined in The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer) for 9th graders and I'm going to be studying those things - yes, even the Math! I'll be working on Vocabulary, Writing Exposition, Rhetoric, Grammar, books from the Ancients (5000 BC to 400 AD), Algebra, Latin, Drawing, and Piano. And then maybe next year, I'll do the 10th grade curriculum, and hopefully continue until I complete the 12th grade curriculum.

And then maybe, just maybe, I'll be smart. But I'm not doing this so that I can look/feel/be smart. I honestly just want to really learn these things. I do REALLY enjoy learning. I always said that my dream job would be to be a researcher and just work 40 hours a week in the library, learning about this thing and then that thing. I discovered way back in 5th grade that my dream job is NOT to be an archeologist. LOL


Craig F said...

I can teach Latin...well, igPay atinLay.

Mary said...

What a wonderful goal! I want to learn with you! Maybe we could make it a group thing -- unless you don't want to, of course. That is one of the things I loved about homeschooling was doing fifth grade math and social studies -- fun!

AndieF said...

I am all for group learning! I'll put up what I plan on studying this summer in the document section. Probably not this week or anything, but soon.