School vs. Home (an ode to vocabulary)

Jack is in 2nd grade. He’s a pretty good speller and knows lots of obscure words and their definitions. His new teacher will be focusing on “trick” spelling words, which are mainly words that most kids have trouble spelling because they’re a little … tricky. Hence the name. However, at HOME, Jack is learning a whole different set of words. These are words from whatever book he’s currently reading. Can you see the difference? Hmmm… Now picture a day where you’re asked to define a new word, oh, every two minutes or so. It’s not like you can brush it off or fake it. This kid really wants to know what these words mean and he won’t give up. I usually have to tell him to read to himself and make a list of words that he doesn’t know and I’ll tell him about them later.

me: Jack, if you don’t know more than 5 words on a page, didn’t your teacher say that maybe the book is too hard for you?

Jack: Yeah, but if I read a book that has only words I know, how will I ever learn anything new?

me: Good point. Carry on.


A sample of Jack’s vocabulary list from school:











Jack’s vocabulary list from home:

Zilch – Jack: What’s zilch mean?   me: Use it in a sentence.   Jack: Father knows zilch. Calvin says that should be a new TV show. I don’t get it.   me: Sigh.

Consistency – Jack: Moms’ rules have no consistency. What’s that mean?   me: It’s a lie.

Fiendish – Jack: What’s “friendish”?   me: Huh? You mean “fiendish”?   Jack: How should I know, I’m asking YOU!

Cholesterol – Jack: Do little boys have lots of cholesterol?   me: Doubtful.   Jack: Well?   me: I said I doubt it.   Jack: I mean “Well what does it mean??”   me: Sheesh.

Commission – Jack: How can you be out of something if you don’t know what it is?

Persuasive – Jack: I’m very pervasive.   me: Yes you are.

Extorting – Jack: Is that like blackmail?   me: How the heck do you know THAT?

Surreal – Jack: What does surreal mean?   me: Weird and unnatural.   Jack: What’s unnatural mean?   me: Not normal.   Jack: What’s normal?   me: I don’t know anymore.

Percussion – Jack: Is percussion an instrument?   me: It’s a group of instruments that you bang on.   Jack: That’s funny because the word sounds like what it is.   me: Hmm, pretty good Jack.

Legible – Jack: Am I legible?   me: No it’s about handwriting, whether or not you can read it.   Jack: Is that like legal and illegal? Is there an “illegible”?   me: Now you’re scaring me.

Controlling – Jack: Daddy says you’re very controlling. What’s that mean?   me: It means I’m always right.   Jack: Oh.

Hypothetical – Jack: What’s “hypothecal” mean?   me: What? You mean hypothetical?   Jack: I guess so.   me: It’s like when you think about something that COULD happen, but it’s not really going to happen, but maybe it might happen..   Jack: You can stop now.

5 thoughts on “School vs. Home (an ode to vocabulary)”

  1. I just found your blog and already I think I am in love with Jack. Though I am also glad I’m not having to answer all those questions! ‘Surreal’ really made me laugh! Can’t wait to read more.


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