High school Chemistry – 26 years later

This is my high school Chemistry notebook from my Senior year.  My Mom found it somewhere and had it out when we arrived in Indiana on Monday evening.   I have been looking through it, alternately shaking my head and laughing.  Shaking my head because the notebook is filled with equations, none of which I remember.   Shaking my head because of notes like this one:

Boyles Law?  Had to look it up on line.

The notebook is interspersed with angsty teen poetry – one comparing myself to snow (“I haven’t snowed in years” being one of the more memorable lines) and others lamenting the loss of a great love.

Clearly I was not always focused on Chemistry.   The notebook became handy paper for writing down whatever was in my head at the time:

You know what’s weird about that one?  I have no idea who Randy is.  To my current knowledge, I never hung out with anyone named Randy while in high school.  Why would I be buying him a going away card?

Left on the counter at home, the notebook became handy paper for my Mom as well:

Mostly, though, the notebook is filled with notes and equations having to do with various gases and the periodic table.   I exhort myself, at various points, not to forget…

And maybe I did remember, at least long enough to take the test.  I believe I received mostly A’s and B’s in Chemistry.   26 years later I have only the vaguest memories of the terminology & definitions.  The rest is gone, and I am left reading a stranger’s notes, written in my handwriting.

The fact of this notebook and my lack of recall about its’ contents is revealing in more ways than one.  First, it is evidence that high school is not the make or break time of life.  The fact that I remember almost nothing from a Senior Chemistry class has not adversely affected me in any way.   Then again, maybe it has.  Maybe I would have been much more successful at writing had I not wasted so much time ‘learning’ things for which I had no purpose beyond passing a test; things I have long since forgotten, because they had no place or importance for me.

I do remember writing the bad poems, (is it any wonder then that writing remains a passion) but many of the notes and scribbles unrelated to Chemistry  are a mystery as well.   This tells me that the amount of pressure put on children to perform and decide their life’s purpose within the confines of a school setting and at the age of 17 is misplaced at best.   Almost none of the things I remember from that time in my life happened in a classroom, including the notes I wrote to fellow classmates.  There are exceptions, mostly related to literature, because I loved books and writing and so those classes aligned with my interests and stuck in my brain.  Otherwise, every single thing I do remember happened elsewhere.

This is why we are life learners; why we unschool.   I want my kids to follow their interests now, and not have to wait until all the mandatory stuff is finished; stuff they likely won’t remember a few years down the road.   Of course as they grow I expect their interests might change (and also might not), but that will be up to them.

Isn’t that the way it should be?

About Amy

Amy Milstein was born and raised on a farm in Indiana, but after 20+ years considers herself a full-fledged New Yorker. She is married with two kids, who do not go to school but are instead life learners. This means they learn by living in the world (real life ) instead of hearing about it and simulating it in a classroom. With her family, Amy loves to travel, read, watch movies, write, sew, knit - the list is endless.
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One Response to High school Chemistry – 26 years later

  1. Miriam AKA Grandma says:

    And to think, I almost threw it away.