Thursday, January 10, 2013

Remember that saying, "When pigs fly..."? Today, pigs are flying, the pot's at the end of the rainbow, the twelfth of never has happened.

Why? While Oldest was listening to me coach our youngest son about writing a short essay, he turned to me and said, "Mom, you just need to teach him how to write a five paragraph essay and the rest of his schooling will be so much easier."

Say what?

Where did this alien come from and what has he done with our son?

That was my initial reaction. I couldn't believe that the brief time I spent with him two years ago helping him map out a short essay had taken root in his mind. No wonder his most recent research paper had  been such a pleasure to read. No wonder it flowed logically and had excellent examples. Me. I had done this. All those years of teaching high school students how to write simple papers actually paid off: I actually taught my own kid the art of writing..

"Yes, I know. I will." I sighed a bit. Youngest is my rebel. If Mom tries to teach him, it must be wrong.

"No! I mean now! He needs it from here on out."

"Maybe you should talk to him about it," I said trying to keep it quiet and low. Maybe Youngest couldn't hear us. Maybe he could simply explain to Youngest how he had learned to write from Mom. He would encourage that young whippersnapper to actually listen to the wisdom of his mother. I could see good things happening here.

But Oldest makes a bull in a china shop look like a genteel lady drinking tea. "You!" he said, pointing to his little brother. "Come here!"

"Son," I protested. "Can't you ask him more nicely. Don't you have manners?"

"This is too important," insisted Big Brother. "Sit down here. You need to learn to write!"

For reasons only known to our Creator, Little Brother immediately obeyed, eyes rounded as though he were being taught about how babies were made.

"Now, the first thing you need to do is make an outline...."

I looked at the alien being who had taken over my Oldest Son's body. Was this the boy who had at first refused to make a map, outline or web? Was this the boy who insisted that he knew how to write? Was this the child that I thought seriously of tying to the chair while I gave him instruction?

"Next," continued our Little Professor, "do you know what a thesis is?"

Shock again. When did our Oldest discover the concept of a thesis?

I listened intently as the instruction continued. There was talk about attention getting for the introduction, transition sentences, and examples.  I sat open-mouthed in amazement as our overly bossy sixteen-year-old plowed into a fantastic explanation about the finer points of essay writing. Formulaic, yes. Effective high school writing. You bet.

Funnier still, Youngest was listening as intently as if he were learning to drive a backhoe. He was engaged in the discussion, nodding and intently studying the outline Oldest was slowly making on his lapdesk.  The two poured over it like engineers designing a huge building.

I felt thrilled. I was the first person to create this protege, with the school doing a fine job of filling in the gaps, reiterating my lessons, and teaching the finer points of writing such as transitions. My own writing background was so deficient that at his age I was barely able to write a complete paragraph, and certainly knew nothing about organizing a whole paper.

It's a wonder when a child learns a complex task. It's an even greater wonder when he actually can teach that task to a younger sibling. What an awe inspiring thing to behold. I will be doing the Snoopy Dance until bedtime, and maybe a few days after that.

Now if I could just get the kid to use his manners....