Education Gaps

Here is a secret about me:  I did not actually go to traditional high school.  I was home-schooled.  My feelings about home-schooling, based upon my experience, are decidedly mixed, and lean negative, but that’s not a discussion I want to get into here.

One of the things that has haunted me through most of my life was the feeling that I had major gaps in my education.  I think perhaps one of the reasons that my interests are so varied and diverse is a subconscious desire to close those gaps.  I do not feel this as strongly as I used to, but I still feel it on occasion.  A haunting sense of inferiority that drives me to always learn more, always study more, and it always feels like there’s something big that I’m missing that is just out of my reach.

This weekend I bought myself a present.  I bought a lego model of the Saturn V rocket.  It stands a meter tall, and has 1,969 pieces in twelve bags.  I spent probably three hours tonight building just the first stage.  I gotta say, props to the designers.  They did an incredible job with the details of those monster Rocketdyne F1 engines.  But, as I was literally putting the final piece on the stage, I discovered that I had put an important brick on backwards.  Worse, it was one of the very first bricks that I had put on the model.  I very easily could have had to dismantle the entire thing to turn that brick around.

But in thinking about it, I realized that I did not need to take that approach.  I realized that the instructions built it the way they did in order to maintain structural integrity – everyone who has put together a lego structure understands that it’s very difficult to create a lego structure that does not come apart at particularly weak spots.  So, instead, I just pulled the engines and farings off, popped the sides out, and got access to the brick from underneath.  I turned it around and had the whole thing fixed in ten minutes.

And as I was solving this problem, I realized that I was teaching myself a life lesson on learning, as well.  Children have to build up their learning as a structure – stacking basic life skills on top of others until at the end they are capable of being functional people in society.  But as adults, we do not have to follow that method of learning.  We can evaluate the problem, find a solution that works for us, pop off the sides, and flip that brick without having to completely dismantle redo the whole structure.

So, thinking about it, I don’t think I feel all that inferior anymore.  I had reason to, once, but I’ve learned much, studied much, and accomplished much.  And although there is nothing I can point to as a crowning achievement of my life, I can still point to quite a bit and say “I can hold my own there”.  I don’t have to feel inferior and I don’t have to allow the pomposity of others to get under my skin.

So let me tie this back in to the topic of this blog.  One of the reasons that I attended a college Japanese course in the first place was that haunting sense of insecurity – feeling like if I didn’t take an actual course the people coming out of the classes would know things I don’t.  Maybe that is true.  I hated the experience, but I can’t deny it helped solidify the hiragana and katakana in my head.  But I know things they don’t, too.  I know the difference between ichidan, godan, and suru verbs – they would have never heard those words, because sensei doesn’t teach them.  They wouldn’t really understand how kanji radicals work, and there have been multiple times where I taught sensei something about her own language because I had incentive to learn it.  These are things you don’t really need to know as a JSL student – but knowing them and using them the right way makes life a whole hell of a lot easier.

Classes are good.  They are a basic starting point.  But there is no substitute for curiosity, having questions, looking up the answers, and going down that rabbithole until your curiosity is assuaged.  I don’t have to feel like there are gaps in my structure.  Because if there are, I have the framework that truly matters – curiosity, and the intelligence to find the patterns if I need to.  I can fill the gaps.  Asking “why” is worth more than all of the college courses in the world, if you get As in every single one and never ask that simple question.

I’ve done okay for myself.  There’s no reason to feel inferior anymore.  And Japanese is going to be what I make of it and what I want it to be, for me. No more, and no less.

7 thoughts on “Education Gaps

  1. Oh, I hated school to my bones and always wished I could just stay at home and learn what I’m interested in by myself! Homeschooling probably comes with its own rules and problems as well though, so it’s probably not the same as someone just staying at home and learning what and how they want.

    That Lego thing sounds like fun! Last year I bought something with 800 something pieces, but that was not challenging enough. I think the Taj Mahal is currently the Lego set with the most pieces (5922!), I’ve had an eye on that for quite some time now.

    “We can evaluate the problem, find a solution that works for us, pop off the sides, and flip that brick without having to completely dismantle redo the whole structure.”

    This made me think. I’d say sometimes yes, sometimes no.


    1. You’d think that’d be true, but it’s highly variable. Public school vs. homeschooling is a bit like socialism vs. capitalism (in a general way) – one the one side, you get the bare needs, but if you work within the system, you can figure out ways to shine, and on the other side, you can either become wildly successful or flop bigtime and no one’ going to rescue you. The variability on the home-schooling side is highly dependent on the motivation of the parents and the commitment of the student. In my case, I was committed, my parents were not. So I had the experience that you find appealing – staying at home and mostly learning what and how I want – but with there being no structure at all, it was entirely up to me to succeed. Somehow I managed to, but I don’t feel like I was well served because my parents (deliberately, and for their own reasons) starved me for resources. I am a capitalist – but with some caveats, and thinking about it, perhaps that’s why. There are elements of society – in this case, the children – who have no say about the hand they’re dealt. Someone’s gotta look out for them. No one looked out for me, and it took me many years to get over the sense of loss.

      It is an interesting set, but for me, it’s kind of somewhere between interesting and tedious. But, the tedium is helping me to get through a difficult medicine change, so it’s not a bad thing I have always had a very long attention span, so I know I’ve accomplished something when even I say “that’s enough for today”. I hit that point after about three hours last night. But it did help.


      1. Well, having no structure is what I’d find great, because I’d be able to create my own structure, which I find very satisfying and way better than having to adjust to some system made by other people that I find completely useless and inefficient.

        If your parents weren’t committed, why didn’t they just send you to a public school? Or did they want to kind of lock you up on purpose? You don’t have to answer that, if you don’t want, of course.

        By the way, “Best Kids Toys” liked this post. They probably just saw “Lego” and boom. I find it really funny to observe these things, but sometimes it also makes me think, why is everyone so pathetic? lol. So yeah, your “disdain for the quality of comments on the Internet in general” is understandable. Not just comments, almost everything. If you use a specific tag, people who aren’t interested in your content at all just like your posts and follow you, which I personally find pretty cheap and obnoxious, but oh well.


      2. I don’t mind. Like I said, I don’t have many secrets. There were two reasons my parents took me out of public school. One was understandable if myopic, the other was unforgivable. The understandable reason was because I was being bullied and the principal blamed me for some of it. Looking back on it, I don’t completely agree, but she had a point. It’s not so much that I was asking for it as it was entirely avoidable. The other reason was religious – I was being exposed to ideas they didn’t like. and they wanted to make sure I was “protected”. But their reasons for pulling me out of school did not include ensuring I had a good education, which is where I think it went wrong. There’s a reason I have a difficulty interacting with people. I don’t think home schooling was the cause, but it didn’t help.

        I think they do that so I’ll look at their posts and follow back. It’s a way of gaining engagement, I think. I rarely do that, for precisely that reason. If I’m not interested in the content, what’s the point of following? But that said, it’s a very interesting data point on how to “game the system” and I’d be lying if I didn’t sometimes branch out into other topics to get more exposure to different sets of readers. But yeah, I get your point. Why follow me if you’re not interested in what I have to say? But yeah, that’s kind of why I’m careful what and how I post here, much as I’m careful who I interact with in real life. It’s kind of the same thing. Even in real life I can turn on a kind of “don’t mess with me or you’ll regret it” aura that is surprisingly effective, but I’m actually a really kind person once you get to know me. Few make the effort, though.


      3. Well, could’ve sent you to another school or a private school or something, if it had been just because of the bullying.
        Okay, the second reason is really unfortunate and closed-minded.
        There are several reasons people have difficulty interacting with other people, I’d say it actually very common.

        Exactly. A lot of people just like and follow random people and everything that has even just remotely to do with what they want to sell. I don’t branch out into other topics just to get exposure, I just branch out into whatever I find interesting at any given moment, which then sometimes attracts all those sellouts. Sheesh lol. Then there are also those people who like every single post, but don’t follow you, eh? What’s the logic behind that? If you like every single one of my posts, why don’t you follow me? Or do you want me to follow you first? Like all these stupid mind games, I get so sick of them sometimes lol. Honestly, I wished I could just turn off the follow and like functions, so only people who are truly interested in what I post will come and read my blog, then I’d know that most of them truly care, you know?
        Yes, very few people will actually make an effort, especially if your first impression is somewhat reserved, but with that aura, at least you can know that those who make it into your inner circle are sincere and the connections you do make are much stronger and long-lasting. I basically followed you, because you kind of reminded me of my (former) self lol. But I gotta admit, I did get the impression that you didn’t really want anyone to comment and talk to you at first.


      4. I will say I don’t do that on purpose. The thought is always “I feel like talking about this”, then I tag appropriately. I’m just not afraid of doing so.

        As for the rest of it, quite frankly, I’m wondering if I’m cut out for this “online presence” thing, now. Sincerely, I’m not sure the world is ready for me. And vice versa. I do think the follow and like functions service a purpose, I just don’t think they really mean anything. I treat it the same as YouTube subscribers… nice to have, but ultimately just a gauge of how good one is at pandering.

        All that said, I really do wish I’d had the foresight to time lapse the assembly of that lego set. But another part of me is glad I didn’t. I was already shaky enough for some reason. It’s all done now. Time consuming but barely a challenge, to be honest.


      5. Sure they have a purpose and I also use them to show people my appreciation as much as I appreciate appreciations of “real” people. I think I’d just like something like a filter for all the spam and fake people, if you know what I mean.

        I know, I think the fact that those sets have detailed instructions makes them less challenging. If you want a real challenge, try to build it without looking at the instructions lol.


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