Defining our personal “back to basics”

When choosing a university major or college/retraining program, Joseph Campbell suggested we deliberately using our talents and what we enjoy doing. So, when you hear someone say that we have “to get back to our basics,” what exactly does it mean?

What it means to me, for example, as a retired educator, is the traditional basics in the school curriculum — such as the inclusion of phonics instruction at the Grade 1 level and formal spelling up to at least Grade 5. Because, in my opinion, without those specific skills, children are not getting the whole of anything, let alone “whole language.”

To me, it also means: (1) having math drills, at least in the lower grades up to Grade 6, such as the old fashioned ten tests and times tables; and (2) allowing children to learn by doing — in other words to learn from their mistakes.

Put bluntly, we all make mistakes. We all fail at some thing or at some time. That is life. And, no amount of worrying about our self-esteem or trying to protect us from that reality (e.g., social promotion) is going to teach us how to deal with it.  Because, I believe that if children are over-protected in the school system, life will be that much harder for them to deal with when they experience “mistakes” in the home and workplace.

Other people might think of the basics in an entirely different way. For example, as we have found out in the last couple of days regarding the banning of the national anthem at a N.B. school, some might say the basics should be compulsory Canadian history and geography courses in high school (which, by the way, are now compulsory for teaching training admissions) — and I would agree.

To still others, as I said at the start, getting back to the basics might mean changing our consumer driven and fast pace way of life — to living smaller and within our financial means. Yet, since the late 1950’s, and the “fly now pay later ad campaign” it takes most people until retirement age to downsize their housing and their lives.  

What, for example, would life be like without personal credit? What would our lives be like if we actually had to save and pay cash for most of what we purchased? What would our society be like if everyone had to have a minimum of 25% down when they purchased their homes?

Things to think about.

13 thoughts on “Defining our personal “back to basics”

  1. Sandy, you have to do what what you have to do, family and close friends are the most important things in our lives, I for one am very grateful to you for providing all of us with this forum.

    I know you will never back down from your beliefs, I like that kind of gumption.

    Back to basics, I wholeheartedly agree.


  2. My apologies to Marc as I inadvertently deleted his comment when I was deleting some spam. That is one of the problems of having to moderate all comments. However, I do have what he said from my e-mail:

    Marc: “In education, phonics instruction and times tables. You’re 100% right. I’m 50 years old and use my times tables everyday. I used to get into heated discussions at PTA meetings when the teachers would tell us how it was their job to ‘form little citizens’. That’s my job. I need you to teach my kid to read, write and count. If there’s any time left, maybe a little science and geography

    In life, a return to the fact that ‘stuff’ not only doesn’t bring long term happiness but the acquisition of said unfulfilling ‘stuff’ takes time. Time you should spend with your kids, teaching them to read write and count, because our schools are too busy with fans of Che Guevara banning the O Canada and making dishonest excuses for it.”


  3. A very interesting question: back to basics!
    I agree about B2B in education but not to the detriment of creative thinking.

    Our ability to communicate has taken a dramatic downturn with the advent of MP3 players and texting. The 20 somethings can’t converse without moving their thumbs and “talk” about wasted cellphone air time with the “dud I don’t know.. well maybe … oh ya so I’ll call ya …”. Caroline Kennedy should “no” better.

    Bruce makes the point that “family and close friends are the most important things in our lives”, well in my opinion we need to get back to basics and recapture that feeling. Our generations seem to be drifting apart at a rapid rate. I see it every day in my work in a long term care home, the lonely spouse looking after their life’s partner with no family help … until death. Then the tears start and the “if onlys” begin and all that grief. I know it is tough on kids to try and speak to their grandparents when granny can’t remember who they are or where she is … but at least granny would have someone to talk to.

    Back to Basics … it’s all about LIFE


  4. WCT — One more thing. Bruce was reacting to a postscript (that I have revised) when I had added that I was spending far too much time on this keyboard and might possibly make a change in direction. Which is why I am going to focus this site as a place to go to for resource links and specific information. When I look at my site counter, hundreds of people come here using search engines and specific topics. In other words, they are looking for something specific. By doing that, I will have more time for those important things in life. Dealing with political controversies is, on the other hand, all consuming and I have to step back from that or delete the blog altogether. I am at an age where time is of the essence and want to spend it doing a whole variety of things. Besides, my wrist, right arm and shoulders are killing me. 😉


  5. Great question, Sandy- thank you. I, like west Coast Teddi, work in health care. B2B is something we need to address, for resource allocation, but we’re still avoiding the tough decisions. We put so much into treatment of illness- technology and medicines and hospitals,, and I think we need to limit the amount that is publicly funded in cases where the chance of significantly prolonging a persons functional, quality life is low. There are no easy answers and every case is different but we can’t just keep spending more and more on these costly measures. And I think most Canadians would support some common sense limitations, if any politician had the nerve to go there. This financial challenge should force us to make some real changes- for the better. One of my fields in health care is lactation, and most women can breastfeed, but their chances of a sucessful and positive experience are signifantly increased if they have access to timely competant help. Now we have a situation where Health Canada and the Canadian Paediatric Society recommend breastfeeding into the 2nd year of life, and hospitals are closing breastfeeding support programs due to lack of funding. So this low cost/ high benefit service gets axed on the alter of ignorance, while millions are spent on every new little red wagon that goes across an executives desk. And, I’m sure WC Teddi would agree, that we really need to increase staffing levels in long term care.


  6. Paula — I understand where you and WCT are coming from. I think it is healthy for all of us to reflect on our lives from time to time. Sometimes funding decisions are beyond our control but not everything is. When I talked about following our bliss, however, I didn’t mean to ignore reality. The best solution is try to match what we enjoy doing with a type of work that is or will be in demand.

    Re your daughter — the visual arts is a tough choice even in the best of times. I am a former professional artist/painter (now design, teach jewellery/beading in retirement) and former art teacher — before I went back to grad school and took special education and educ. psychology. There are programs that train young people to work in art galleries and/or museums (display, etc) but beyond teaching, it is a hard slog. If you live in Toronto, interior design might be an option but is a very hard sell in small or medium-sized communities. Linking art with the new technology is the ideal situation of course, (designing game boards for computer games) or a program like the animation program at Sheridan. While the tuition is very expensive, the students have jobs even before they finish in a salary bracket that means they can pay their student loans back quickly. There is also a joint art-medical applied degree program at Sheridan with U. of T where “illustrators” learn to draw for medical textbooks and live operations, etc. Same with archeology illustrating.

    Just some ideas. Hope they help.

    There are


  7. B2B – good manners: thank you, please, you are welcome, good job, looking good, holding the door, and yes Ladies First

    B2B – caring for your family, appreciating what each individual in your family has done and accomplished.

    B2B – living by what you believe and not what others want you to believe. Having confidence in your “systems”. Think for oneself.

    B2B – basic foundation education, 3Rs, civics, science, history, trades, skills, art, literature.

    B2B – respect for the earth, the wind and the sky. Mother Earth is alive and well – just a bit stressed.

    B2B – Sandy back to the garden!!!

    Cheers from the West Coast


  8. WCT — Did you notice that I put up a new header photo? I am fed up with winter and just had to get a garden up here.


  9. Thanks for the thoughts re- visual arts, Sandy. My husband graduated from Sheridan’s graphic arts program, and it gave him a great skills foundation that he still uses in his business (Signs) and personally- oil painting. Our daughter, though, is into performing arts- both music and acting. She’s accepted at 2 unis. and waiting to audition at 2 others. Probably will choose a BA with a music major so she can do another major in social sciences- or humanities, or media studies. So many choices, but for this type of education, I think it’s helpful to start with a broad focus and narrow it down as you find your feet. Her band is playing in Toronto Tues. night, so the biggest challenge may be to keep the kid in the pursuing higher education frame of mind.


  10. sure did and “back to the garden for you”. we are seeing the snow drops appear and the daffies are coming, buds on the trees but like you we are tired of winter (west coast style). there was a good sailing wind today and it looked as if the boats were in their glory.

    the longer I live here the more appreciative I am of my good fortune … now if the politics would only straighten up and “fly right”!!!


  11. WCT — Maybe I should add one more theme to this blog. Alphabetically, they would look like: “Disability, Education, the Environment & Politics” and then include gardening and related topics under the “Environment.” For example, we just had Insultint film added to our new condo windows to reduce heat that screens thermal radiation and cuts ultraviolet by 99% — which helps the environment while reducing heat build up and the fading of interior fabrics. The amazing thing is that it didn’t not significantly darken the windows, yet no one can see anything inside during the day — including even the window blinds. It wasn’t all that expensive either — for two sets of French doors and two narrow bedroom windows $285.00 plus taxes.

    Just thinking out loud.


Comments are closed.