I'm not knocking public school in any way. It works for most families, both for the kids and the parents. For me, however, it was doing several strange things to my brain. (See: murderous intentions)
One of the things I learned in public school was geography. I believe it was in my fourth grade class room that I sat at a desk right next to a map of the United States. It was one of those super simplified maps, like so:
We all remember these, right?
When I was much younger, I was under the impression that the color of the state designated on the map was actually literal. The maps that I saw certainly didn't have pink states, but there were green, brown, yellow, and probably blue. I assumed that this indicated the quality and quantity of grass and other green plants. I figured out differently on my own pretty quickly. I mean, I lived in California, and it was mostly brown. I think the map that I looked at as a kid showed it in green.
It didn't help that I wasn't really interested in geography that much.
Anyway, that's not the point I'm wanting to make. With regard to the map above, I learned the greatest non-fact about my country because of the way it was presented.
I was under the impression that the U.S. was a massive island floating out in the ocean with a ginormous Hawaii and a relatively small Alaska floating underneath. It never occurred to me that it would be rather strange to have an island occur naturally with really straight northern coastline. The same went for Alaska's eastern coast.
Imagine my surprise, years later, when I realized that the U.S. was not, in fact, an island. It was firmly placed between Canada and Mexico and qualified as a Continent! Whatdayaknow!
I also learned that Alaska was not even very close to the U.S. at all and was attached to Canada! How did that work out?
Even after learning all of that, in my head, I still imagined Hawaii to be just a little shorter in length than the Alaskan mainland and I also imagined that it was directly west of California. I think I also figured that you could take a sailboat to get there. I don't remember when I finally realized how relatively small Hawaii was and how far south. I was probably nearly an adult by this time. I do remember thinking, "Why the heck didn't I know this before?"
The same goes for countries like Egypt... I think I spent the greater part of my childhood thinking that Egypt was squashed somewhere in between Italy and Jerusalem. Apparently, Jerusalem was it's own country. Africa, for its part, was one huge country that only had a couple thousand people living there because the rest of it was safari country like the Serengeti. Oh, and Australia was the same size as Russia and was all by itself in the ocean. New Zealand didn't exist. China was just a little bigger than Japan.
All of those misunderstandings can be blamed on the fact that they didn't teach much about other countries in fourth grade. At least, if they did, I wasn't listening.
This is a rough approximation of what I imagined the U.S. looked like when I was a kid.
I find it almost ironic that I ended up marrying a Map Geek.
I suppose it's possible that I'm learning all kinds of interesting things from him almost purely by osmosis... but, most likely not.