What Should a 12 Year Old Know?

A young girl with her eyes closed and smiling.

“So, what should children be able to do by age 12, or the time they leave elementary school?  They should be able to read a chapter in a book, write a story and a compelling essay; know how to add, subtract, divide and multiply numbers; detect patterns in complex phenomena; use evidence to support an opinion, be part of a group of people who are not their family and engage in an exchange of ideas in conversation.  If all elementary school students mastered these abilities they would be prepared to learn almost anything in high school and collegeâ€.  I ran across that opinion the other day and was certainly intrigued by it.  I think, by age 12 I could do all but the “complex phenomena (Any state or process known through the senses rather than by intuition or reasoning).  I think I was capable of that but when the word “complex†is added I begin to believe I wasn’t capable at that age.  I do remember at age 12, a mother that lived very close to us, getting me to tell her how much whisky my father drank and then feeling guilty that I blurted out our family “secretâ€.  I trusted her but it wasn’t long until my mother found out and I was severely chastised.  So much for the “detect patterns†in the complex phenomena thingy.

My Aunt Helen called me the other night and her call was totally unexpected and very gratifying.  It never fails to make me feel good when someone from so deep in my past makes contact.  She is one of the few people left that remember me as a 5-year-old kid, so consequently, she knows me as few do.  As a young boy I spent many weekends up in “Clell Hollow†at her house with Uncle Guy and their son Harold Gene.  Grandma & Grandpa Hale lived within a stones-throw as did a lot of other members of the Hale Clan.  What made those visits so meaningful was the way they treated me.  For the first time in my young life I felt important.  For the most part, back in that time, children were expected to stay out of the way and go unnoticed.  Aunt Helen & Uncle Guy treated me differently, so I wanted to spend almost every weekend with them.  Looking back, I suspect my visits grew tiresome to them, but to their credit, if they felt that way they never made me feel unwelcome.  Uncle Guy passed away a few years ago but I still visit Aunt Helen every summer.  This wonderful woman still makes me feel as welcome as she did 60 years ago.  I always stop by Uncle Guy’s gravesite for a brief conversation. 

Smileycons! We recently received about 7†of snow, so we were pretty much homebound for several days with little to no activity outside our home.  Jerilyn began working on a 750-piece puzzle with no discernable edges and I spent even more time on my PC.  I sent out a scenic picture to all my email friends showing the winter scene as we looked out across our backyard and down the creek.  A good friend of mine in Florida replied, saying that he had been swimming in his pool of 90° water earlier that day.  Needless to say, I was envious and the thoughts of that warm water jogged around in my head for most of the day.  As I would walk by a window and look outside at the snowy winter weather, a picture of the warm Florida water would pop into my mind.  But, on the other hand, we don’t worry a lot about hurricanes, or suffer thru interminable, stifling hot summers.  All areas of our great country have their advantages and disadvantages.  Some of us live where we do because of work, others because they want to be close to relatives, and for most of us, it’s where we call home.

 As a boy growing up in a small mining community in southwest Virginia in the 1940’s, I was exposed to the daily hardships that came from being poor.  I was not aware that we were poor because everyone in our community of coal miner dads had similar incomes.  Our entertainment was always outside the home at the center of the camp, playing simple games like “Kick The Canâ€, “Tagâ€, or some type of ball.  All of us kids were forced to entertain ourselves, or at the very least, remain quiet and not bother our parents.  In those days’ children were seen and not heard, participating very seldom in adult conversations.  In this environment I grew up loving the written word.  Our small two-room grade school did not have a library, so the books of choice were comic books.  At any given time, I would have a stack of comic books four feet high.  I remember seeing the characters in those books watching TV and wondered what a TV was?  In the early 1950’s my parents purchased a 12 inch Philco television and it only had one channel that snaked its way to our home from Huntington, WVA.  The antenna was secured to a tree atop the mountain above our camp.  The wire was strung down the mountainside using two strands of copper wire, separated by plastic hair pins melted between the two wires by a hand torch.  The wires were attached to a signal booster on a power pole in the camp, then run to each home that contributed to the purchase of the signal booster ($200).  That TV was my first exposure to life outside our small county tucked away deep within the mountains of Virginia.  It was my first inkling of what a big, wonderful world we lived in.  From that humble beginning sprang my desire to tell stories and to tell them in a manner that would enrich or entertain others (I’m still wondering if that’s true).   And so, that brought on my random observations and “The View from My Window on The Worldâ€.  It’s close to midnight as I shutdown my PC and prepare to go down the hall and get ready for bed.  With most of the lights off, I look around the area where I spend a big chunk of my life:  There are pictures of loved ones, mementos from trips, things I use daily and things just laid aside until I find a permanent place for them.  All of these are supposed to reflect what interests me in life, but I have to say that, if true, my life is a mess.  One of these days I’m gonna clear it all away and start anew.  That reminds me of a meeting Jerilyn and I attended a few nights ago about possible trips coming up with a travel service.  Everyone in attendance was retired (old).  The moderator said that he was looking to plan a trip to Spain in a year or two.  Someone in our group blurted out, “Don’t wait too long!â€, meaning we may not be around in two years.  That could easily apply to clearing my desk.  So I had better get to it soon!.