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While tomorrow marks the end of week three for my ninth-grader, my seventh and eleventh-graders wrap up their first week. As many parents know, it isn’t only back to school for the kids, but for the parents, too. Decades ago, society determined children should attend school wherever the bus took them, but my little Arizona town thrives on changing societal views. Here, the norm leans toward sending your child to the school best suited to their needs, and we have plenty of schools available. Though I never thought I would choose for my children to attend school outside the bus-zone (i.e. a charter school), I’ve found it to be best for them.
Currently, my children attend two different charter schools. My ninth-grader attends a brick and mortar school that follows the typical pattern of changing classes and making friends in the hallway. My seventh and eleventh-graders attend an online school that offers a classroom with licensed teachers four days a week. They can also work from home. While my eleventh-grader generally attends in the classroom, my seventh grader attends at home where she has access to help from yours truly.
This week, my daughter and I have worked together on Social Studies, math, and English. Of course, English caught my attention.
I remember my seventh-grade English teacher. Some of my friends probably remember her name. She was this tiny, wrinkled woman who always had a piece of nicotine gum stashed in her cheek. Most of my friends attended the high English class and often told stories of stealing the transparency sheets from the overhead projector. Me? I remained in the average class, and remember her squiggling sentences onto transparencies and asking us to place commas and periods in the correct places.
I don’t, however, remember terms like appositive, participle, adjectival phrase, or adverbial phrase. Though I did learn about misplaced modifiers from my mother, who always giggled about the dog sitting at the table. (‘I petted the dog sitting at the table,’ versus, ‘I sat at the table and petted the dog.’)
This week, when I went back to school, I read the lessons to my daughter and discussed various ways to remember each of these terms. We also learned how these phrases often represent more than one construct. For instance, a prepositional phrase, something I learned about my first time through school, can also be an adjectival phrase. Who knew?
Now, when my book comes out next week (What shameless plug? There was no plug. Okay, a little plug.), my daughter and I can dissect the sentences and identify the types of phrases. But I guarantee, we won’t find any misplaced modifiers. Mom should be proud. However, as you can see, I occasionally start sentences with and, but, and so. I even end a few sentences with prepositions—the horror! Maybe my fifth time through seventh grade will cure my bad habits. Not likely. (Was that an adverb? A fragment? What’s an author to do?)
Have you started school again yet? What grades are you in this year?
For Your Pleasure:
I personally enjoy quizzes. So I found a website with plenty of grammar quizzes for you to enjoy; many of them include what I’ve been learning with my daughter this week.
The last day at the lake meant six sunburned and tired bodies on a nineteen-foot boat laden with camping gear. Other than swimming in the middle of the lake, an all-time family favorite, the tube remained available for one more ride before heading to the boat ramp.
Down by the Glen Canyon Dam, the crystal clear water called to me. So when Dad asked if anyone wanted to tube, I couldn’t resist. How the others did, I still don’t know. As I climbed out of the boat and stood on the back platform, I looked at Dad. “Not crazy.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know, nice and smooth.” His hands cut through the air with a slow gliding motion, but his suspicious smile left me unsure.
I eyed him. His track record mimicked his smile. “Let Mom drive.”
“No-no, Kam, I got it—nice and smooth.” He nodded, still smiling.
“Don’t bounce me out of the wake.”
“I know, I know. Trust me.” He was not giving up his seat.
The last buckle on my worn ski jacket clicked and I jumped in, the cool water bubbling around me as I resurfaced. I laid back, my hair floating behind me, and took a minute to comb my fingers through the windblown strands before climbing on the tube. “Dad, easy,” I reminded.
He gave me a thumbs up, and I nodded. Mom held the flag, and as the boat began to glide through the choppy Lake Powell water, she dropped it to her lap.
True to his word, Dad kept the ride comfortable—pleasant. The wind whipped through my wet hair, but not enough for it to sting my face. I bounced along, enjoying my ride. Then, I saw it.
The dreaded tour boat.
Tourists without boats enjoyed riding these ocean-worthy beasts. Able to hold a couple hundred people each, they also had the power to create a wake taller than our boat was long. Without good maneuvering, the wakes could crash over the front of small boats, flooding the floors with an inch or two of water. We called the floods sam-sueys.
I told myself Dad could turn the boat. There was plenty of escape time. But Dad enjoyed tormenting me. I watched as he drove directly into the tour boat’s wake. I froze. My brain commanded my hands to hold on. Fingers clenched the two blue handles. My body secured itself closer to the front of the tube. Don’t let go. The mantra fed my nonsensical courage.
Our boat climbed the wave and fell below the horizon. A mountain of water formed in front of me. I gripped the handles tighter. My body soared through the air, legs and torso dangling several feet away from the water and the tube, but my fingers clung to their mark. An internal argument raged within me. Let go! No, Don’t let go!
I closed my eyes as my breath lingered within my lungs. Sensory input bombarded my body, slowing time. Through my decent, my body rolled back to the tube, arms, torso, legs. I bounced twice before finally landing on the tube, my breath leaving my lungs in a rush.
The boat stopped, and the flag flew into the air. I lay my head on the tube, waiting for the thrumming of my muscles to stop. My arms and legs shook like jelly. My back ached with a newly found tension. The tube started moving toward the boat. Someone was pulling me in. As I neared, I slipped into the water and hung on the boat’s lowered step.
“Dad! A tour boat? I caught air!”
“Sorry Kam, I couldn’t avoid it.” He laughed. I doubted his words. “You did great. Boy, you flew through that air.”
Mom handed me a towel as I slowly climbed out of the water and sank into a shaded seat. “Why didn’t you let go?” she asked.
What answer could I give? Why didn’t I let go? Where had my ridiculous mantra come from? I shrugged, unknowing.