The Pekin Public Library is offering a class called Etymology Detectives to area home schooled students twice a month, daring them to become sesquipedalianists, which are people who tend to use long words.

Enrollment is open to children in 3rd through 12th grades. Currently, there are 38 children enrolled and two spots are still available. There is no fee for the class, but registration is required. The class will begin Monday, Sept. 10, and run from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Laura Wilson, Pekin Public Library’s Head of Youth Services, said the homeschool class program originally started 10 years ago with grant funding but is now part of the library’s annual budget.

In the past, the library has offered classes about research skills, sign language, Spanish, science, music, math and history. This year, they will offer the etymology class and Mini Monets, which is a hands-on art history and mediums class for those in kindergarten through 2nd grade.

Wilson said the enrollment is more than she expected, because typically there are around 20 participants in homeschool programs offered at the library. Registration flooded in as soon as the class was posted.

“It sounds like the topic generated interest and word-of-mouth definitely helped boost enrollment,” she said.

Etymology Detectives will be taught by Sue Renner, who taught etymology for 15 years at Pekin Community High School before retiring four years ago. This is Renner’s second class at the library with the homeschool group. Last year, she offered mythology. She enjoyed teaching that class and decided to offer another class.

“Kids loved the mythology class,” Renner said. “I was blown away by the prejudices I had walking into teaching such an age range that ended up not being true. They listen well. They’re pretty good about staying on task. I used a lot of the same activities I used when I taught it for high school kids but was flexible for the younger kids. We made a 3-D mural of mythical creatures using the library’s recyclable materials.”

During Etymology Detectives, Renner will teach the origins of languages, which she said have primarily Greek and Latin roots.

“We’ll learn about how our language got to be such a hodge-podge and why,” she said. “We’ve got wacky words from language like ‘sandwich.’ It’s easy to know the meanings (of words) once you know the prefix, root and suffix.”

Renner said learning will take place in the classroom, which will be in the library’s Community Room. She will have assignments and activities. With all the different grade levels, the answers could be simple or sophisticated depending on the age of the student. Therefore, she will not assign homework and there will not be formal tests. 

The key to success in etymology is repetition. 

“We will play review games, because by the end of the semester, the words will be second nature. You won’t even think about it,” said Renner.

Corrie Salmon is a mom who enrolled two of her children in Etymology Detectives. She also happens to be Renner’s daughter. Salmon said she nudged her mom in the direction of teaching the classes her mom has taught.

“When she knew she was really retiring even from part-time teaching, I asked her about teaching a mythology class. That went well, and there was an interest in an etymology class,” said Salmon. “There was not really a homeschool curriculum for this, and knowing what words mean has its place. I think she likes the age range because she can reach kids of all ages.”

Renner said she is grateful to former colleagues Henrietta Davis and Judy Streid who were instrumental in getting an etymology class at PCHS.

“They were the pioneers,” she said. “I’m so glad it’s still taught at PCHS. I love this program at the library, because it’s so innovative. I’m a huge fan. Each age group can perform up to their ability level. The younger kids certainly rise up to the occasion. The older kids get the chance to become the teachers when working with the younger ones. They are still challenged, too, and can do more sophisticated work.”