by Caro Carson
Do you remember that essay topic from your school days? I believe I would have written something like this:
I spent my winter vacation doing the work you assigned. It was not fun.
This year, I could have written the exact letter–to my son’s teacher. He had missed weeks and weeks of school due to illness. All that work had to be made up before the end of the semester. He’s in high school, so we’re talking about subjects I couldn’t coach off the top of my head. Not subtraction, but bisecting equilateral triangles. I haven’t done that since, well, since I was in ninth grade. Unlike riding a bicycle, it did not come back to me effortlessly.
Needless to say, I spent my winter vacation keeping my son’s nose to the grindstone. In the process, I learned lots of things ninth graders are supposed to know, especially those taking AP Human Geography. How do dialects develop, how do countries form, how does pop culture spread, and what is the difference between race and ethnicity? Go ahead. Ask me. I’m dying to get on “Jeopardy” before all this good knowledge gets covered in cobwebs. I’ll take Balkanization for $1000, Alex.
But a funny thing happened as I delved into ninth grade subjects: I started having fun. My son did not enjoy the assignments like I did. Of course, he had to take tests, and I didn’t, but the joy of learning purely for knowledge’s sake is perhaps one of those markers—like deciding you actually want to take a nap—that make you realize you’re an adult. In that case, I had a very adult winter vacation. Dear Teacher, I thank you.
How about you? Have you learned anything new lately, or read any good non-fiction books? Perhaps history is your thing, or science, or how-to manuals. I know a lot of us enjoy reading cookbooks without having any intention of actually preparing the recipes. I’d like to hear what you enjoy reading when you aren’t enjoying a novel. Please, leave a comment—and thank you in advance for sparking my curiosity on your favorite subject. I just might have to go get a book about it…