Huge tactical error on Boy11’s part. Huge.
Boy11’s usual grammar assignments are for him to read sentences and then diagram them. But yesterday under the Challenge section in his grammar book he was given the assignment to compose four sentences and then diagram them. Ok, no biggie until you get to the end of the instructions. You must compose sentences to be diagrammed and the sentences must include…are you ready for this? no, really…are you ready? The sentences must include direct objects, compound indirect objects, predicate nominatives, and predicate adjectives.
Boy11 sat there miserably for our 40 minute grammar class staring at the paper and not actually doing any of the work. This mean that he would have to do it after dinner for Homework. Nooooooo! Homeschoolers aren’t supposed to have homework! What is the world coming to? It was like Charlie Brown having to read War and Peace on his Christmas vacation. I mean, homework involving “predicate nominatives”? Was this assignment even real? Does anyone even know what a predicate nominative even is? Anyone? Anyone?
Darling Husband loves grammar and loved diagramming sentences in school. Today, when Boy11 was given the task of diagramming 14 (14!) sentences he asked Darling Husband to help him if he got stuck. Darling Husband was delighted to be asked: he always loved diagramming after all. There Darling Husband was, home due to a snow day and merrily ironing our air-dried wrinkled clothes, and he was asked to diagram sentences. What a happy day! He assured me from the next room, “I can help Boy11 diagram his sentences.”
With a concerned frown I hollered back, “Um…are you sure? Do you remember how to diagram an indirect object? Or a predicate nominative?” Shifty-eyed silence from the room beyond and then, “Uh….Boy11, ask your mother for help.”
Anyway, back to yesterday’s assignment. After dinner he managed to write the sentences and diagram them and they were mostly right But look at what he handed in:
Are you kidding me? What a mess! As Miss Shields would say, “Margins, margins, margins–F!”
This morning I looked it over, checked the work, and then told him to re-write it, but this time to actually follow the rules of basic sentence structure, like, ahem, starting each sentence with a capital letter and ending it with a punctuation mark. Yes, there was a touch of exasperation in my voice when I told him to re-write it following the rules. I mean, he totally knows better.
So he re-wrote the assignment:
Do you see how beautiful that is? He has never, ever turned in anything this beautiful.
And that’s the tactical error. He set the bar too high. It’s not like I’m going to ignore this. I am the same mother, after all, who made him write sentences with compound indirect objects in the first place. You think I’m going to let him get away with sloppy work ever again?
Poor, poor Boy11.
Why in the world would I make Boy11 diagram sentences and learn what predicate nominatives and predicate adjectives and all the rest are?
Because one day he might want to be a history teacher in the state of New York. In order to be a history teacher in the state of New York you have to pass a certification test. On that test you have to read passages by our Founding Fathers and then write an essay based on the passages. The passages are something like this:
Those are the practice passages New York gives to you. The practice assignment is to write an essay explaining what government actions these two men would support based on the passages you read.
I’m sure you wouldn’t be surprised at how many people who are looking to me for help on this sort of essay are completely miserable over trying to decipher these passages. They tell me, “I tried to write my essay, but I can’t figure out what these guys are even saying.”
This type of English isn’t esasy, but if you can sort through which words are modifying which words and who or what the direct object is, you can understand these essays without too much effort.
Boy11 may never becomes a history teacher in New York or an early American historian, but the exercises are still good for his brain. That’s why we do it.