Docendo Discimus: We Learn by Teaching by Katy Lee

Salve, it’s me, Katy Lee, and today I’m practicing my Latin on you. My kids think it’s only fair if they have to learn it, then so should I. But I have to say even if they didn’t, I wouldn’t be a good teacher for them if I didn’t learn right along beside them. How would I inspire them when they struggled? How could I help them if I, myself didn’t understand? The truth is I couldn’t.

Home educating my children was not something I entered into lightly. I knew it would be a commitment that would stake claim to the nume unus place in my life. Their education isn’t something to let slide like the laundry. They are depending on me for their preparation into the world. They are counting on me for the knowledge needed to make good decisions in regards to their lives.

So…Quo vadis? Where am I going with this? What would happen if I provided them with untruths? Facts made up because I was too lazy to do the research.

I might be able to get away with it for a little while, but honestly, my daughter would take so much delight in proving me wrong that in the end I would be the one with ovum on my face. (That’s an egg, BTW) And I know she’s not the only one. This world is full of people itching to catch someone in an untruth.

As writers we cannot be caught flubbing it. (Sorry, I couldn’t find the Latin word for flubbing) The fact is we need to do the research. We need to take our commitment in teaching the reader seriously. Because isn’t that what a writer is? A magister, or magistra in my feminine case?

Writers are teachers. Whether your main character in your story is a medical examiner or a horse trainer, whether your story carries a moral or aims only to entertain you still have research to do for your reader to get a full understanding. For your reader to learn something. And I can guarantee there will be at least one reader out there itching to catch you in a flub.

Now, I’m not saying you have to be an expert on something before you can write about it. But you have to be willing to invest the time needed to become the go-to person on a particular subject. That means shadowing a professional or interviewing experienced people in your field of interest. Get it from the horse’s mouth. (equus for all you Latin lovers.) The internet is great, and you can get a wealth of knowledge from it, but firsthand experience will be best if you can find it. No one can catch you in a flub if it’s the truth.

The Unlocked Secret: Vincit omnia veritas. Truth conquers all. When your work is backed by truth, you are golden. And not only that, but you, yourself, will be smarter for it because if you can teach it, you know you’ve learned it.

Question: What are your favorite ways to get your facts straight? Who have you had the pleasure of interviewing, and what did you learn?

Voila tout! That’s all!

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16 thoughts on “Docendo Discimus: We Learn by Teaching by Katy Lee”

  1. Wonderful post, Katie. I loved Latin in high school. It was a great way to learn about proper grammar and the origins of our language. It also helped me tremendously when I entered the medical profession as a Physical Therapist Assistant. Anatomy and physiology was a snap for me. I immediately got the difference between the extensor digiti minimi, and the digitorum longus and brevis. While others struggled with such distinctions, understanding latin derivatives made learning about the muscles fun and interesting for me.

    As far as research goes, I do try to write what I know about or at least what interests me so that i have fun learning about it. In HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES, my main character, Jordie, takes yoga and martial arts, both of which are near and dear to my heart. There is also a considerable amount of detail about amputee rehab and prosthetics (which I did have to research because it had been a couple of decades since I worked with that population and prosthetics have come a long way since then). I also spent quite a bit of time with a young Marine who gave me awesome insight into the military and his time in Iraq.

    I really do love this job!

    1. PJ, your love and passion for your stories comes across loud and clear. Can’t wait to read this one in its final form!

  2. Oh your post brings back memories, Katy! I gave up teaching my kids Latin after a year. LOL

    But I do love research. I’m a romantic suspense writer and my favorite research experience was attending a Writer’s Police Academy last year. I got hands on fire arms training, felt the adrenaline of trying to talk down a hostage taker, and of taking him out. I was literally shaking. It was a wonderful opportunity to talk with professionals in a variety of law enforcement roles. I learned so much.

    1. Oh, Sandra, I could feel the adrenaline right along with you! What an experince that must have been. I should look into one of those. My husband got to go on a police procedure in the local junior high school last fall, where they had to pretend the school was under a terrorist attack and they had volunteers playing victims and such. He said even though he knew it wasn’t real, his adrenaline was going. And he has so much more respect for our law enforcement and their abilities in a situation like this. (Although, I hope they never have to use them for real.)

  3. My high school (very small) did not offer Latin, and I didn’t take it in college, so my knowledge is pretty much limited to Harry Potter spells. I was also rather good at one time at Pig Latin, ut-bay ot-nay o-say uch-may ow-nay :) So far I’ve not needed to do a ton of research for my mysteries, which is good because I tend to get sidetracked. I’ve been known to start out researching, say, how to hot-wire a boat, and ended up reading about Peruvian mummies and mortuary cults. I have to be careful or I learn a lot of interesting facts (well, interesting to me, anyway), but don’t get much work done. I’m convinced that someday I’ll need to know this stuff, though. For my style of writing and my genre, I don’t need to get too technical (it’s more about the “why” and the “whodunnit” of the crime, not so much the mechanics), so I try to keep the minutiae to a minimum. But in a police procedural, or a techno-thriller, it’s those details that are important. Another great post, Katy!

    1. I loved perfecting Pig Latin when I was younger. So much fun. And I know what you mean about getting side tracked. Happens all the time. I have to file those findings away and say those are not for this book, but maybe for another. :)

  4. Congratulations Katy, for home schooling. Both my daughter-in-loves home schooled their five boys. Two now in college, 2 more part-time college and one 13 year old. Two in Civil Air Patrol and one is a leader. All work except the youngest. He critiques my painting and writing from time-to-time. They are amazing young men, all.

    I founded a school of Interior Design, taught, taught, taught, also in Universities after I sold the school. Teaching was the highlight of my career. Learned and learned and learned. I traveled to Italy to gather information about the Palazzo Davansati for a paper in grad school. How’s that for research?
    Great post. Thank you

  5. Just yesterday my husband and I were watching tv and I saw an African Baobab tree. I was so delighted to tell him what it was and it’s origin story. And I got that from your book as you well know. We do learn so much from reading…

  6. Loved the post, Katy. Latin is the root of the romance languages, so for me it was easy to know what you had written because of my limited knowledge of French, Italian and Spanish. Latin phrases are also used a lot in the legal and medical field. Commendo vos in super labor eell fieri. To answer your question regarding research, in preparation to write my second novel, According to Legend, which is a time travel romance, I interviewed the Tribal Princess and visited the Indian museum to learn more about how the tribe lived. All research done before I ever typed the words, “Chapter One” as it is with each book I write. Fruor inveniendi veri.

  7. Hey, I still have my silver medal from the National Latin Exam :). Speaking of Latin, since my historical took place in ancient Rome I had to do quite a bit of research. I found the best sources to be folks I hooked up with on Facebook. I’d talk with them (I joined a couple groups of very anal history buffs) and then follow up with one of my kazillion books about Rome, or vice versa. Even though I knew a LOT about ancient Rome, I knew that I still had to make sure everything was accurate, because the truth is in the details. Even for my more contemporary stuff, and for things in made up worlds, I still find myself needing to do a lot of research to get those little details rights, so readers feel like they are in that world, and they are experiencing things as they would if they were there (and that’s how the teaching kind of happens).

    We homeschool our son, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, no matter how hard it gets some days! It’s just a joy to be a part of the day to day discoveries, to know that your child is getting the attention and nurturing that he needs to develop. Even though it means revisiting my math fears now and then… We learn so much together!

    1. I’m with you on the math fears! That’s why my kids watch a video series for their math lessons. But I do watch it along with them, and I am learning much better as an adult. It makes much more sense to me now.

      As for your books set in Rome…I CAN’T WAIT!!!! :)

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