Wednesday 1 December 2021


Yes, it's the First of the Month.   Do you say Rabbits! if you remember when you get up ( and do you change that to 'White Rabbits' if you forget until  later in the day?   Or is it just me?)

My Great-Grand-daughter is five in a few days time and it set me thinking as I lay in bed a while ago waiting for the clock to get to six before I got up.  Now and then I get a picture from her with a bit of writing on - and each time I get one everything has got a bit more 'grown up' - the figure has suddenly go a body instead of just a head and legs, she can write her own name unaided, bits and bobs - a flower, a bird - appear in the picture and gradually bits of scribble disappear.   It is fascinating to see the development of a young mind.

It set me thinking how 'fashions' change.   When I started school aged four in early 1937 there was little traffic on the roads - my mother took me on the first morning.  At lunch time I came home alone - I was supposed to stay at school for my lunch - apparently I announced that it had been 'alright' but I preferred being at home!   My mother marched me back immediately and informed the teacher that if I did it again she was to smack my bottom.   I never tried it again

We did not have pencils and paper we had slates and chalk until we could write our names legibly.   By golly that was a real incentive to get going.  While I was still at that stage it was row upon row of pot hooks (like elongated s) until they got really neat and tidy.   A boy across the room from me threw his slate in my direction in a temper and hit my cheek bone with it - cracking it.   (the cheek bone I mean, not the slate).

When I started teaching it coincided more or less with the arrival of the 'initial teaching alphabet' when children who were having reading difficulties were taught that ae was an easier way of spelling made if you knew that ae made the A sound.   Not sure if it ever helped anybody.  It probably played havoc with their spelling for many years to come.

Now I fear that texting all day amongst the young is to some extent destroying spelling - when I text (rarely) I spell YOU but any young people replying spell it  'u'.

The longer I live (and this evening after a bad night last night  I seem to have been alive a very long time) the more I come to the conclusion that children learn in spite of school  not because they go to school.


Friends are coming tomorrow, weather permitting, over the Pennines all the way from Grange over Sands to here - a journey of around two hours.   Because I now find getting a meal too much effort we are dividing the work load.   They are bringing the main course (it will need an hour in the oven when they arrive so they are ringing from fifteen miles away so that I can switch the oven on.)  Friend W is bringing the veggies and cooking them in my microwave and I am providing a Lime tart which at present is in my freezer and will emerge first thing in the morning and really good ice cream.   Then we shall all retire to the sitting room for coffee.   I do hope snow doesn't come again overnight tonight to spoil it all.   Many places up here have been totally without power for the last five days - it was quite a storm.




Anonymous said...

Totally agree about children sometimes leaning in spite of school - although I do think that school teaches the ability to get along with a more diverse group than students are exposed to at home. In my work experience that was the skill (or lack there of) that frequently tripped people up, more than spelling and so on.

Hope the weather cooperates with your plans!


Bovey Belle said...

You must be so glad you weren't without power. I think it's disgraceful that folk have had to suffer with no water/power for so long.

Praying there is no overnight snow to stop your friends from spending the day with you tomorrow.

I can remember learning to read with the (boring!) Janet and John books, but can't remember the early stages of learning to write - nothing at all about it. I can just remember being taught rather copperplate capitals later on. E, F & H especially. Oh, and it's just come back to me - all the lower case letters had to be level above the line and they didn't like you swooping down with the bottom half of a g or a y. I remember being told off for my "o" which the teacher insisted (she was WRONG) that I had just scrawled a circle rather than leading into it from the left and gently joining it on the other side and then leading away again. I am still indignant over 60 years on!

Rachel Phillips said...

I learnt to write in the early '50s using slate and chalk at a kindergarten when I was 4. I have never said rabbits nor has anybody else in my family as far as I know. Good luck with your guests tomorrow. It all sounds complicated to me and I would freak. You are an old hand at it

Tom Stephenson said...

U R so right, Wve. L8trs.

Thelma Wilcox said...

Yes to white rabbit, backwards down the stairs. I loved the scratchy pens you dipped in ink,then my fountain pen was a great prize.

Ellen D. said...

I never heard of the thing about rabbits and the 1st of the month...
I still have the lined papers from when I was learning cursive in 2nd grade (7 years old). I don't think they teach much cursive anymore..
Enjoy the feast with your friends!

JayCee said...

Yes, we used to say white rabbits, with our fingers crossed.
I was very proud of my first fountain pen at school but needed to use the blotting paper rather a lot.

Melinda from Ontario said...

I had to google the "rabbits" superstition. I will make an effort to remember to say it at the beginning of each month. In fact, I just said "white rabbits" out loud to get my December good luck.

My primary (Kindergarten) teacher used memorization to teach her students to read. We reread the same two sentences in our reading primer multiple times on a daily basis until she felt we could move on to the next two sentences. There was a picture cue at the top of the page to help. Strangely, her technique actually worked for me. I still remember sneaking ahead and discovering, to my joy, I could read without any support. I eventually became a teacher. The most important thing I learned as a teacher is that different learning strategies work for different children. The thing I loved to teach most was reading.

Heather said...

It is just as well children can learn without school. I was chatting to a teacher today who told of appalling behaviour from her pupils which disrupted her classes and those of others. Things are not what they were.
I always forget to say White Rabbits but remember school friends saying 'A pinch and a punch, the first day of the month'! The pinch and the punch were always gentle.
Fingers crossed for your friends making the journey to visit you tomorrow.

sparklingmerlot said...

In spite of school. Lovely observation. My eldest granddaughter starts school next year. She is already learning to read and I hope the school doesn't send her backwards if they consider she's not learning the correct way which happened a lot when mine were little.
I also remember not seeing the new moon through glass and if you did you had to go outside and say "good evening Mr Moon" 3 times.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Anon - agree totally - school teaches children to get on with others.

angryparsnip said...

This sounds like a lovely day. Hope it doesn't snow.

Tasker Dunham said...

Didn't use slates but yes, rows and rows of aaaaaa eeeeeee oooooo etc.
My wife introduced me to "a pinch and a punch for the first of the month" unless you gain immunity by saying "white rabbits". The cat got it in first this morning, though. "A big pool of sick for being so quick."

vic said...

That sounds like a great plan for your lunch with your friends. Splitting up the various parts of the meal makes it easy for everyone and the whole load isn't just on the host.

Yes, spelling is definitely going by the wayside what with weird abbreviations while texting and spell check when typing. Not only that, people's handwriting is going sharply downhill. Not only can they really not write cursive but can't read it either. A friend of ours went through the drive through at the bank recently and sent in something with a little note attached. The person working the drive up window said, "What does this say, I can't read it." It's not that she couldn't read, she just couldn't deal with cursive.

I remember asking my mother when I would be able to read things that were written out like that. She told me that when I learned to write, rather than print, that handwriting would be pretty easy to read since I would be familiar with the letter shapes. She did say that some people's writing was was better than others which helped a lot in the reading of it.

the veg artist said...

"Pinch and a punch, first of the month" in our house, and as the youngest, I always got pinched.
I remember happy hours in my tiny country school, copying lines of letters out neatly in special exercise books. I could read before going to school at 4, and always found spelling easy. Husband, on the other hand, went to school in South London, the land of saying ff instead of th, as in "Souff" London, where it was difficult to spell any word correctly when the children never heard it pronounced clearly.

Gail, northern California said...

Sadly, there may come a time when no one receives a beautifully handwritten love letter to cherish forever.

Susan said...

Teaching seems to evolve greatly over time. Your story about using slate and chalk, then moving to paper and pencil is fascinating to me. A teacher and friend of mine taught children aged 4-5-6 for 30 years. She made sure each child could read when they left her class. When "whole language" took over the reading curriculum she retired. Your plans to share a meal with friends tomorrow are well organized. Everything should be great as long as the weather permits.

Debby said...

My grand daughter belongs to a group in the library: 1000 books before age five. The idea is that if a child is read to, they naturally become readers. From my own experience, I think that children who read a great deal naturally become good spellers, recognizing when a word looks wrong or right.

My struggle was always penmanship. I have a nice hand, but according to the dictates of Palmer, my writing lacked the required slant. The teacher spent a lot of time trying to teach me to turn the paper, or to twist my hand a bit. At 12, I decided that what mattered was whether my writing was legible. I decided it was, and quit worrying about the slant.

Your 'white rabbit, white rabbit' always charms me.

Anonymous said...

In the 50's in the infant school, things were still very tied to England - we saluted the flag each morning, and at assemblies recited "I love my country. I salute her flag. I honour her Queen. I promise to obey her laws." We even had Maypole events - a nightmare for the teacher's I'd think., with all that weaving in and out.
There were lots of English themed dress up days ie 'Pioneers Day'.,Commonwealth Day - hooped petticoats etc.
I think now parents struggle to get an outfit arranged for their child for Book Week. No-one has the time they say,.
Also in this era we compare the Australian culture of those days with now, and acknowledge our Aboriginal people 'past, present and emerging', which wasn't done then. Our readers were the Dick, Dora, Nip and Fluff series.
We were intrigued with our older siblings games of knuckle-bones, hopscotch and marbles and most of us walked to and from school. The school drop-off points seem to be a congested nightmare now. - Pam, Sth Aust.

Anonymous said...

...also I loved the way the teachers beautifully decorated the blackboards then - drawing flowers and fairies in coloured chalks.-Pam.

Red said...

Your statement that children learn in spite of school has been in my head for a long time. I think many little kids know how to read before they get to school. We're not half as smart as we think we are!

Cro Magnon said...

As soon as possible after midnight, without uttering another word, I always say White Rabbit twice. Lady M also gets a dig in the ribs, and is made to say it too. She still talks to me!

Librarian said...

Sorry to hear you had a bad night. I hope the day went well and your friends were able to make the journey without problems.

Much of what was done in schools during the 1960s and 70s was experimental; certainly always well meant but not always well received.

Jules said...

I always say my main concern with school is that Lily is happy. If she learns something as well, then that is a bonus :)
Enjoy your visit. X

Derek Faulkner said...

I first went to school in 1952 when I was five. I can't recall if we used slates and chalk or not.
I do know that that first morning I was left in the playground by my mother and by the time she got back home I was already there, screaming that I didn't want to go back. I was given a smack and dragged back to the school again.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Ever since we had our pet rabbit, we say "white rabbit, white rabbit, white rabbit".

Your story about your first day at school sounds very similar to that of a friend of mine who also walked out at lunchtime!

Your lime tart sounds delicious, hope you have a nice meal with your friends

Gerry Snape said...

I hope that they arrived safe and sound from Grange days for me also started in Belfast with a slate and chalk...made more difficult as I was left handed...but slap across my knuckles changed that albeit not before my mother reported the teacher!!
I hope you get some good nights as sleeplessness and pain are very hard to take Love G.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Tasker that is one rhyme I can well do without thanks!

Some lovely stories about starting school here - thank you for sharing.