It’s Schoolhouse Rocky,
that chip off the block
Of your favorite schoolhouse,
Learning comes in all forms. Some people are visual learners. Some auditory. Some need to get their hands in the thick of it to grasp concepts the best. I’m of the belief that regardless of what kind of ways you learn best, we retain the most concepts when we’re having fun with those concepts. Sometimes it’s a project in school that got you jazzed to be taking part in, or a teacher that made you laugh while you learned. The association with your enjoyment brings back and retains the knowledge you gained along with it.
And I think that’s why Schoolhouse Rock! has been a reference point for so many of us from the 1970s, 80s, 90s, and to my surprise, beyond.
In case you weren’t around during any of its original run or its encore, the Emmy award-winning Schoolhouse Rock was a series of short animation segments that aired in between various Saturday morning cartoons on ABC. With humor and catchy tunes, they taught elements of history, civics, grammar, science, math, and more. Its initial run lasted more than a decade, from 1973 to 1984, and came back with a mix of new and old episodes for a few years in the early 1990s.
To my generation, they’re classics, but they’re the sort of thing I’ve always felt would end up being just a fond memory of our childhood when we look back on those halcyon days of Saturday morning lineups, a box of cereal, and toy commercials that flood through our nostalgia-soaked minds. So imagine my surprise when I recently walked into the living room to find all our children laughing along with the series, courtesy of Disney+!
Since the series was released on the streaming platform earlier this month, they’ve watched them over and over again, quickly weeding out their favorites, viewing them (and singing along) again and again.
There’s certainly no shortage of great entries in the Schoolhouse Rock series, but in no particular order, I present to you our kids’ top three Schoolhouse Rock installments to both educate and earworm!
I’m Just a Bill
The 1976 classic still gets a lot of play in our home, and its influence already has our 7 year old discussing the process of lawmaking in discussions. Spoofed dozens of times over the years, this one stands out as probably the most famous of School House Rock entries, with a walking, talking bill explaining to a small boy why he’s sitting on Capitol Hill, hoping he doesn’t die in committee, and can one day become a law. History rock that makes an impression – for any generation!
Hey! Wow! Yeow! Hooray! They show emotion! They show excitement! Sometimes with an exclamation point or a comma if the feeling isn’t strong. A wonderful 1974 entry in the grammar themed segments, whether it’s a great grade on a report card, a shot in the bum by the doctor, or losing the big game, this drives home with various scenarios how much the words we use can express ourselves when used correctly.
The Tale of Mr. Morton
One of the later entries into the series, this one comes from the early 90s but is no less catchy and fun.In the story of shy Mr Morton, the song teaches the grammar elements of subject and predicate. Our kids quote its small bits of dialogue all the time and I find myself walking around singing part of its chorus “Mr Morton is the subject of the sentence, and what the predicate says, he does.”
What about you? Were you a Schoolhouse Rock fan? Any favorites on your personal playists? Feel free to share them!
The little guy and I went for a short walk when out of his mouth he says to me:
“Memories lose their meaning…”
When I asked him what he meant he said he had no idea, but my head began swirling nonetheless. I couldn’t shake it as we walked along, internally laying out the case with myself like Sherlock Holmes trying to unravel a mystery.
Anything we possess, the places where we live, it all comes and goes.
In the larger scheme of life, we’re here for such a short period of time.
In the end, our memories are all we have. But there are memories that fade. Things we can’t quite recall in the vivid ways we once did. Which ones start to fade and what dictates that they do? Is it because we are filled with new memories, or were they not vivid enough to burn permanent places in our brains?
I thought of the memory videos I make for the kids around each birthday time, filled with photos and videos of the previous year. I’m always amazed to see how he recalls things that happen when he was a baby, or a year, etc…something I’ve often wondered if could be attributed to the videos (which he enjoys watching and asks to see rather frequently) reinforce those memories, making them less likely to fade as quickly.
Where was this all coming from? What did it mean? What memories were once of the utmost importance to me but have since faded and lost their meaning?
And how was he so astute to blurt out this mind-blowing revelation to me on our walk?!
It rattled my brain.
Later, while riding in the car, after all that contemplation at this profound statement, Meg reminded me that it’s actually a line from the Beatles song In My Life.
He’s been a fan of the Beatles for some time, the Sgt Pepper album especially. Much like cartoons, comics and pop culture, a lot seems to come, not from us pushing anything on him, but his mere exposure to it through us – what we’re reading, watching, listening to. Some things he honestly admits he doesn’t like, and others (like superheroes, or The Beatles, or The Monkees, or certain Christmas songs) he latches onto and weaves it into the fabric of his own mind and personality.
Recently he found himself overjoyed upon our discovering a Netflix Original Series called Beat Bugs, a CGI animated series about a group of friends who are various bugs and learn valuable childhood and life lessons often told in musical number renditions of Beatles songs.
Oh, and did I mention that he recently told us his favorite Christmas song was Wonderful Christmas Time by Paul McCartney? It’s one of quite a catalog of Christmas songs he spontaneously has burst into this time of year.
It makes me happy to see a whole new generation discovering the music, the meaning, and the spirit of timeless bands, whether it The Beatles, or other favorites of his such as Mamas and the Papas or The Monkees.
And even if dear old daddy can’t tell the difference between a song lyric or a moment of profound life guidance from a preschooler.
Of course later that same day, from the backseat I hear…
“You have to let things wash over your victims.”
“What, buddy?” I ask.
He laughs, followed by a chuckling “I have no idea what that means.”
Me neither. Except that, sometimes it may be profound, sometimes it’s just repeating (or partially repeating) what they pick up elsewhere, or just kids being goofy kids.
And whatever it is, it’s a-okay by me. I’m just enjoying the ride.
It’s no secret that Meg and I love a Golden Age long before our own. As I’ve mentioned before, my sister-in-law always jokes that our little guy “won’t know what era he’s growing up in” when his parents are watching black and white movies and listening to music from the Big Band era.
He’ll find his own likes and dislikes, tastes and displeasure, I’m sure.However, Meg and I were both tickled to no end with the amount of enthusiasm and energy our little guy showed when, while looking for Fred Astaire’s “Puttin on the Ritz,” we came across a remix and our little monkey’s feet just started going like a little Gene Kelly…
The large white flakes fell outside the dining room windows a day before the official start of Spring, leaving the backyard, the neighborhood, and many across the northeast blanketed in a fresh coat of snow.
Bob Dylan’s gravely voice sang that “Times, They are a Changin’,” as my son sat, propping himself up on all fours atop a white quilted blanket made by one of his grandmothers.
Before Dylan was Paul Simon with “Kathy’s Song,” both making me lose myself in the sight of this little man now getting prepped for bath time.
Times, they are a changin’ indeed, and I don’t quite know why I can’t shake it. My entire life, I’ve thought so much about the passage of time, not necessarily living in the moment nearly as much as I think I should have.
When I was a very little kid, I took a field trip to a museum. There, even at an elementary age, I was fascinated by a series of paintings by Thomas Cole called “The Voyage of Life,” displaying the various stages we each go through, up against the backdrop of an ever darkening sky as our life continues. I’m not saying that’s what it did it, but it was certainly a series of images that have stayed with me to this day.
How did my parents do it? How do they handle even now, having children who are once these little cherub-faced angels, only to have them grow up to become people?
As bath time progresses and Dylan switches over to Billy Joel bellowing out the lament of a Piano Man, the snow continues to blanket the yard, like it has years before and will for years to come.
I don’t know where any of us will be as I look out to that fallen snow and think of the years that will follow, but I know I’ll look back and feel that they went by too fast.
Will I see my reflection in the glass against the sheet of white and see a life lived or a life spent philosophizing on how quickly it all changes?
Maybe a little of both. Who knows?
I hope it’s a life that found a balance between the two, savoring the moments to their fullest because of an awareness that they won’t last forever. I truly hope so.
Only time will tell.
He likes to show them off to us usually ni the middle of the night, working himself into such a tizzy during breastfeeding that he’s too worried about screaming to get fed than actually feeding.
Hey, when you’re under 14 days old, you get a lot of slack.
So, last night in the wee hours of the morning, while my wife set up next to me in bed, struggling with the little one, I looked over to my my Alarm Clock/Radio/CD Player on the nightstand and remembered the CD inside – Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits.
So, I flicked the switch to Track 8 “At the Zoo” – a song we used to listen to a lot when he was in utero.
It took a little bit, but before the song ended, he had begun to calm down, becoming much more manageable through “Fakin’ It,” “Mrs. Robinson,” “Old Friends,” and my personal favorite, “The Boxer,” which all followed. Meg then joined in singing a few bars, which also helped “soothe the savage beast,” as they say. 🙂
A few diaper changes and tears followed, of course, but thank you, Paul Simon, and thank you, Art Garfunkel, for helping calm my little boy down, and making the middle of the night feedings and diaper changes a little more groovy.