Grammar Lessons From an Eleven Year Old

Today I came home with my college books and my curious eleven-year old niece went through all of them. She was particularly fascinated with the book titled, How English Works A linguistic Introduction. This particular edition has a cover page with a list of questions that infected her mind and had me hunting through my book for answers.

Not only was I hunting for answers, but I told her about what we were talking about in class, when to use “who” vs. “whom” and how everyone was struggling through the exercises we did. My niece, on hearing this, burst into laughter, “but everyone knows the difference between who and whom!” She then proceeded to lecture me on the proper definitions.

We then spoke about poetry and how I wrote a poem yesterday, but didn’t know very much about poetry. She informed me that not only was she already taught Haiku’s, but she could define them quite accurately. (Meanwhile, I had to look up the “proper” definition on my handy-dandy IPhone.)

Her twelve year old sister soon chimed in and began testing me on prepositions. While I could come up with a few, I was seriously lacking when we went head to head in a timed competition naming as many as we could.

The brilliance of these two and what they are already learning compared to what I learned in school at their age is noticeably different. For example, I don’t remember ever being taught about Haiku’s.

On the other hand, I am quite certain I learned about prepositions and “who” vs. “whom,” however the time since learning it has been so long that I am now out of practice.

It has been almost 20 years since I last had an English class.

The terminology being thrown my way, while familiar is still light years away from what I’ve been working with the past 20+ years since first learning about it. It’s amazing to me how quickly something can disappear from your mind from lack of use. I’d probably benefit greatly from sitting in on their grammar lessons after all this time.

I foresee that I will be utilizing a dictionary often in my English class, as well looking up old favorites such as sentence diagrams.

I am grateful for this little lesson in humility learned through my nieces’ intelligence. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have realized how badly I need to refresh my skills. I am thankful they are there not only to remind me, but to teach me.



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