Can you spell ENCYCLOPEDIA?

Boopie (Aunt Esther)

 My Aunt Esther,affectionately known as Boopie, lived with us when I was very young. She was an older teen and more like the cool sister I wish I had rather than an aunt. She taught me at a very young age to spell two big words: Encyclopedia and Czechoslovakia.

Why you may ask? 

 So that I could show off my brilliant mind of course! Especially since my mod dance moves weren't impressing 1960’s teens.

However, this word trick fed my interest 
World Book Encyclopedia
in vocabulary and once my parents purchased the necessity that every home had to have in the late 60’s and 70’s, the encyclopedia, then my thirst for word knowledge exploded.

The first two thick books of our set were devoted to vocabulary and I use to read the words and their meanings for fun. It had a mock vocabulary test in the front and I use to take those tests—voluntarily.

Those words now escape me.

However, recently while at the gym, the large TV screen before me played the drama of the national spelling contest showing kids spelling words I had neither heard of nor could pronounce.

As a lover of words, I was a great speller, the key word being ‘was.’ As of now, spell-check and auto-correct have smothered my brain cells with a fog of ‘can’tspellcat-itus’ and so I rely on modern technology.

My 12 year old twins do not have the love of words, nor reading; and only one can spell easily while the other struggles. Before you judge my parenting, the older two sons are avid readers and can spell so it must be the engineer father mixed in these last two causing the grammatical interference.

Let’s just blame the father, works for me.

Or could it be the times we live in?

Two things are happening with our latest generation of technological advanced kids: they are learning to let the computer do the thinking and handwriting is becoming extinct.
1993 Luke on old computer

The first on the chopping block is cursive handwriting which 80% of schools are phasing out. Why? By deleting this ancient writing skill they can concentrate on typing skills.

My cousin just brought up this issue, Angela Burks Hill, State Senator District #40, pointed out the importance of school curriculum taking out cursive handwriting in Mississippi. She wants to shine the light on the deficiencies in our education system and what can be done to improve it. Many will agree and disagree on solutions, but at least there has been generated interest on the topic which leads to moving forward.

On one side, cursive is time consuming to learn and the future of keyboards and pads as a way of communicating makes it seem obsolete. The question of why spend precious classroom time on something that no one uses is echoed in the halls of classrooms. As for having to learn to write cursive to read it, many point out old documents are now in print form online.

Just for the record, my personal diary and life writings are all in cursive. How will my future generations be able to read my own historical documents?

Then, there is the side of science on Cursive Writing which argues that it helps develop fine motor skills, perseverance in learning something that takes focus and determination. Scientists say that it is an important tool for cognitive development and stimulating visual inter-gradations for sensation, movement control and thinking such as the benefits of learning to play a musical instrument.

Who learns to play the piano anymore when you can just plug in a computer app? The pop music world is filled with less Billy Joel’s and Elton John’s and replaced with more auto-tuned non-musician singers.

Without cursive writing, how can you create your individual signature… with boring block letters?

Since our kids are over computerized, they are over stimulated with constant human contact. Whatever happened to getting bored? Young minds having to ‘figure’ out something to do? Daydreaming and letting creative juices flow?

I can tell you truthfully, without my boredom I would not have been reading the encyclopedia!

Granted, I wouldn't have the readily vast amounts of knowledge at my fingertips like today’s Googled world or the Discovery channel. So not all technology is bad, just that too much of the trivial stuff is weighing our kid’s minds down.

They are in a constant whir of tech through video games, television, computers, iPods, iPads, notebooks, laptops, and Smartphone’s.

Disconnect kiddies! Back away from the computer thingy!

Instead, experts are saying this lifestyle is leading to anxiety, distraction in school, falling grades, stress, sleep deprivation and thumb injuries.

A recent survey of American teens showed that on average 100 messages a day is normal. Eventually, the tendons and muscles of the thumb give out, become sore, painful and can lead to tendonitis or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome requiring surgery.

Is that better than scraped knees and sunburns?

Add the rise of brain tumors from cell phone use which is a topic still being studied. Could it be that kids starting at a very young age with a cell phone on their ear for decades to come be something to be concerned about?

Encyclopedia age
As an encyclopedia generational kid, when I sat at dinner I was forced to talk to

my parents. But today’s busy lifestyles have led many to give up on family dinners altogether and if they do succeed in gathering both the offspring AND the adults are focused more on gadgets in their hands rather than the people next to them.

Shouldn't family time be ‘gadget’ free?

Maybe I miss the front porch style of living, where you just sit and have conversations, not quick jots and snippets of response to and fro, but one with sentences and paragraphs. The topics of a front porch chat ranges in talking about nothin’ to deep theological, philosophical and social discussions, add a smudge of gossip, family history and what could be, what should be, and why.

My Mississippi porch

If I had a personal snapshot of heaven, it would be a Southern porch, stretching far and wide, and with a heavenly mountain landscape as my view and all the folks I love, rocking and talking, and maybe even shelling a few peas.
Mississippi peas
My son picking the peas!


Thankfully, at our Mississippi country cabin, my twins are learning the art of front ‘porching’, pea shelling, talking with family, including the 80 plus year old grandparents, all with limited technology, no Wi-Fi, but with modern bathroom facilities.
No outhouse!

If they get curious or bored, there is an old ancient set of encyclopedias sitting in the corner, dusty, worn, and ignored, but still there.

Isn't that the best of both worlds?


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