The Best 79 Cents I Ever Spent

For months…no…years…I had been reading the salacious headlines of The National Enquirer and The Star while standing in line with my parents and buying groceries.

I mean, really, what kid can resist “Bat Boy Goes to School” or “Mom Boiled Her Baby and Ate Her” or “UFO Abductees Tell All”? You have to admit, the headlines were sensational, if not unbelievable.

I read the titles, wondered how a newspaper could print such things if they weren’t true. At twelve, I quite clearly knew the difference between fact and fiction. Fiction could be found in libraries, in the Fiction section of my favorite bookstores…fiction was not usually sitting next to gardening and home magazines and other newspapers.

One day my curiosity got the best of me. I was standing in line with my stepfather, Wayne, and one of the tabloids caught my eye. I asked him about it, and he wouldn’t say much, just that it was trash, stupid lies, and it would be a waste of money to buy it.

On the cusp of puberty, that was all an adult had to say to make me want to do the opposite. I fished out 79 cents and bought it. The look of horror and disgust on his face was priceless.

Don’t get me wrong, I adored my stepfather. He was an absolute sweetheart and it broke my heart when he and my mom divorced. It was just that I was frustrated. He hadn’t really answered me. My question had been something along the line of Is it fact? Is it fiction? How can they print lies? Can they print lies?

He was older, and understandably impatient with silly things like tabloids. But it was his experience that got in the way of him explaining it to me.

In some ways I view the purchase as the best 79 cents I ever spent. I took it home, hunkered down on the floor in my bedroom and began to read. I read it cover to cover.

I don’t remember much of it. Only one little snippet, about Johnny Carson getting a divorce, has stayed with me these thirty years later. In the snippet they were announcing that Johnny Carson was getting a divorce and how this somehow vindicated them since they had reported FOUR YEARS PREVIOUSLY that he was heading for a divorce.

I guess I remember that, because it was at that point that I realized how ridiculous the paper was. Kind of like predicting ‘there will be an earthquake’ and then an earthquake finally occurring somewhere (guess what, there are an average of 1.3 MILLION per year world-wide) and saying, “See, I told you there would be an earthquake.”

And this all leads to the ultimate question…how do your kids learn?

Do they learn by example? By experience? By reading about it? Or by doing it?

Knowing how they learn is key in homeschooling. Let’s face it, the best way for them to learn is by giving them access in a way that they can understand it best. Efficiency, it’s all about efficiency!

For me, spending 79 cents allowed me to see exactly WHY I should NEVER spend another penny on tabloids. I was old enough to comprehend that a) you get what you pay for, and b) how ‘half-truth’ or supposition can sometimes be twisted into ‘fact’.

I needed that. It’s helped with my writing immeasurably. Not how you would think. It’s helped me avoid half-truths and stick to the facts when writing non-fiction. Or in the case of fiction, allow my imagination to run away with me. When I write in fiction form, the half-truths can make fiction more plausible and real.

I learned a lot with those 79 cents. And I learned a lot about trusting my own judgment. A win on both fronts.

Homeschool Log for 8/29/11

Language Arts – “What would you like to do for school today, Emily?” She responded that she wanted to read some books. I handed her a stack of books and told her to sort them. “Put the ones you would like to read right now in one stack. Put the others in a ‘for later’ stack.” She did as I asked and we read four beginning reader books with Emily contributing on three of them. I have noticed that she really leans in to study the words and I’m concerned there might be some problem with her eyesight. Both her dad and I have 20/20 vision, but that doesn’t assure that she will.

I asked her if the letters are hard to see from farther away and she said that they weren’t, but continued to put her face inches from the page when I asked her to sound out a word for me.

Later she asked me about book writing…

“Hey Mama? How do people make books?”

“How do they write books? Or how do they put them together?”

“How to people write books?

“Well sweetie, they come up with an idea and begin to write. And they write a long time and eventually, they have a book.”

I really need to pursue this, and explain book-writing, or simply story-writing, a little better. Perhaps by discussing some of the aspects of a story, like a beginning, middle and end. Or the idea of incorporating suspense into it. Perhaps I can interest her in dictating a short story to me and we could make it into a ‘book.’

She has already expressed curiosity about the symbols incorporated into the written word – exclamation marks, question marks, et cetera.

Fine Art – “What else would you like to study today?” I asked her and Emily replied, “Some pictures of buildings and things.” I pulled out M.C. Escher His Life and Complete Graphic Work and showed her some ‘impossible’ pictures. She really seemed to enjoy them.

Not-So-Fine Art – Emily worked on painting some of her plaster projects from this weekend and also deconstructed the balloon animal she received on Saturday at the library. I’ve added a How to Make Balloon Animals Kit to my list of “to buy” for E’s birthday.

She was about to paint with her tempera paints when neighbors showed up to play.

Phys. Ed – Emily attended Ready, Set, Grow! at our local community center while I took a yoga class. Later in the afternoon she played with the neighbor kids outside on our front lawn. The kids, while several years older than her, like her and come and ask if she can play at least 2-3 times a week.

Mathematics – While sitting on the potty (no, I am NOT kidding), Emily noticed one of the handful of books that populates a bookshelf in her bathroom 1,001 Ways to Save the Earth. “Mama, what is 1+0+0+1 make?” I explained that it actually wasn’t adding the numbers. I pointed to the comma and named it, saying that indicated one thousand. The one on the end made the number one thousand and one. This led to her reviewing the addition chart on her door, which computes number addition from one to twelve. She reviewed her numbers for a while, adding two and two, one and two, and then adding a third number into the mix.

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