Poppy's Poem

Poppy has a lot to sort out in the 'sound house' she in building in her mind, that is, the phonologies of the languages she will be living in for the rest of her life.

I saw Poppy yesterday for our second session this fall. We just meet for a half hour, because an hour is a long time at the end of the day when you're just six.

I was pleased to see that the daycare folks had already helped Poppy complete her homework for the week, and had signed off. We practiced spelling words, all 2- or 3-letters, plus good. We played word bingo with replaceable <e> words, a concept they covered last year, but which has not yet circled back around this year.

Watching kids grow up is always eye-opening. There's a big difference between last spring, the end of kindergarten, and this fall, the beginning of first grade. Poppy is just somehow older, more grown-up. She can still melt out of her chair when asked to do something she doesn't want to do, and she is still silly, but she seems to be – dare I say it? – more scholarly now. She has more stamina for sounding out words, and is already less immediately announcing, "I don't know." I've seen her a both times now kind of steel herself for a task, decide to just get it done, and do it, and that is the root of discipline.

I notice the up-growing in my older kiddos too. One high schooler, in 10th grade this year, has recently exhibited a rush of ambition and vision for his future. Instead of just coming along politely for my language ride, he's now more actively bringing me words to study, and – what's really new – asking me to help with specific goals, like improving note-taking skills, and working on essay writing. I can teach language structure, but I cannot teach curiosity, and I can teach discipline, but not to an unwilling or disengaged disciple.

The word discipline has a tangled etymology. The Latin word disciplina is known to derive from the Latin word discipulus, 'student, pupil, follower,' whence disciple. It's one of the relatively few Latin words borrowed directly into Old English, because, of course, it had currency as an ecclesiastical term. It's not like it was the everyday Old English word for 'student' – most Old English speakers were not students of the written word.

But where does discipulus come from? And what light can its history shed on when it means to be disciplined, especially when you're only six?

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