One of the Great Regrets of Your Life May Be—

—when very young, coming into your intellectual maturity, you did not sit down at the dining-room table with your mother and/or dad, together or singly, and, with pad of paper and pen, conduct a formal interview with her-him-them about her-his-their life-lives. You would, in all probability, if you have any basic intellectual curiosity, wish to have known them more intimately.

You would have taken your mom’s hand and studied it, and asked, “Mom, what is the most memorable thing you have done with these hands? I know you have prepared, how many meals for us kids? What is your favorite recipe? Where did it come from? I know it had a Dutch name. Could you understand Dutch? Could you speak Dutch? What do you remember of your mother and dad? Your grandfather and grandmother? Can you go back farther than that?

“Can you recall all the places, the houses where you lived?

“What games did you play? Who were your best friends? How and how much did you date?

“Where did you go to school? You have said that you only completed the sixth grade. Why did you not go further? What did you do then?

“I want to learn what you might have thought to be your successes and failures. What were some of your aspirations and what do you believe are your biggest disappointments?

“What kind of a child was I? What scares did I give you? How was I in school? What do you think I did well? What could I have done better?”

And so you are off, exploring your mother’s life and kin, and yourself through your mother’s or dad’s eyes. Through a wealth of questions.

BUT, if I had only had the hint, to do it! If only!

Now, it is for me one of the great regrets of my life.

That hint? I know exactly where it should have come from. It did not come from my mom. It could not because she was always so self-effacing. Modest. Dedicated to her kids. She had seven of them. That hint should have come from—

It’s history, isn’t it? What better way to begin a child’s education than to get the child engaged in one’s own history! None better than to ask the child, at the beginning of his or her intellectual curiosity, or even to awaken for the fist time an essential curiosity for all things, TO PREPARE A NARRATIVE OF HIS OR HER OWN LIFE?

It would be a communication experience of the formal interview. It would be an education in data-gathering and verifying and reporting in writing. Then to give an oral report to the class about family origins. And to generalize with the whole class about the experience of history making and studying.

Do you remember your required history classes. When did they begin? What grade? Didn’t it seem, for the most part, rather dry memorization of facts to be mastered and tested on?

And I regret I did not have that imaginative history teacher, who could have taught us history INDUCTIVELY, not deductively.

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