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Spell-Check

On principle, I don’t do my children’s homework for a number of good reasons, including the fact I am by nature, indolent. I also feel that if the Drama Queens’ teachers wanted to know if I could multiply fractions in my head, then they would ask me in person rather than sending questions home with children for me to do while I am simultaneously cooking supper, giving the dog its antibiotics, and answering calls from cold callers.

As with all good principles in our family—like equitable distribution of chores, dog-walking by children, and family bonding housecleaning sessions—there is always space for adjustment, and last week I found myself caught up in a spelling crisis. The task was to find examples of the list words in either a newspaper or magazine, and then paste them into the homework book. No problem there—it was a great creative exercise presumably designed to encourage students to think about context. Bad news, however, if like Drama Queen No. 3, your list includes in no particular order: epiglottis, cardiothoracic, stalactite, stalagmite, onomatopoeia, guacamole, and Mademoiselle. Should this be the case, I can tell you that you are in severe danger of getting a “homework incomplete” notice.

It was of course, as with all good homework crises, so late that every shop had shut, thus effectively ruling out the option to go and purchase a climbing type publication that might have knocked off the geological features. I knew we should have kept the subscription to National Geographic going to deal with precisely this kind of educational emergency.

Forced to rely on the media resources of the household, conveniently filed in the paper recycling bin, I suggested she search the medical job advertisements in the Sydney Morning Herald. But sadly no one was advertising for a cardiothoracic surgeon with a sideline in exploration of the epiglottis. The Woman’s Weekly gets a medal for coming to the rescue with “guacamole”—never have I been so happy to see a naked avocado. I did have the bright idea of searching the dodgy, adult-only adverts at the back of our local paper to see if I could source a “Mademoiselle”—I am sure there must be someone in a saucy French maid’s outfit advertising her wares—but sadly, no (though there were an number of interesting words, not to mention accompanying photos, that might have caused a sensation had she stuck them into her homework book).

As for onomatopoeia, when was the last time you said the word, let alone saw it written in a paper or magazine? The dictionary that I consulted to check I had got the spelling right (proof positive that I obviously didn’t do my spelling homework diligently enough) suggests “Cuckoo” as an example of an onomatopoeic word, and I think that might be my last word on the subject of this particular spelling task. 

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