Millions of people around the world rely on Grammarly every day. This handy piece of cloudware has impregnated itself into all my computer applications. According to Grammarly, its application helps students achieve academic goals. Professionals use Grammarly to provide expert help with their writing in a variety of fields, such as law, healthcare, academia, marketing, engineering and, as it turns out, paddlesports journalism.

Today there is such a thing as parenting guilt. It comes in all forms. Working too much. Not being able to afford to give your child any extras. Your child’s diet may be awful. There is only so much time in the day. No matter how hard we try as parents, something can always be done better. And, as you can see in the above illustration from my daughter, Kate, I let spelling fall through the cracks.

There was this 800m portoge. The tral was so bad because there wasn’t a tral.

Kate is at a summer camp for the entire month of July. Grammarly hasn’t yet figured out a way for their AI-powered algorithms to flag issues created with a pencil in the hands of a 13-year-old ponytailed girl sitting cross-legged on the top bunk. In the accompanying letter, Kate wrote, “I just got back from trip. There was this 800m portoge. The tral was so bad because there wasn’t a tral. We couldn’t get threw it. We had to take a different route. I can carrie a canoe by my self. The last two days where so much fun!!! Next year I want to do double trad.”

Double trad at her camp means she would like to do two five-day canoe trips, one per two-week session.

Kate and I could have read together more. I could have conducted daily spelling bees. We could have sat together at the kitchen table on Saturday mornings rewriting class assignments. Instead, we made up skits, played ukulele, rode bikes, paddled rivers, camped and skied.

The way I see it, Kate has the rest of her life to learn to spell, or not. Millions of professionals pay $11.66/month to Grammarly so they can do something else on Saturday mornings. Something else, in my opinion, should be inspiring ambition, creativity and a love for adventure.

I don’t remember spelling tests when I was a raft guide and ski patroller.

What will Kate end up doing when she grows up? Maybe she’ll travel the world guiding clients down wild rivers. I’ve already offered to split on an apartment in Whistler if she wants a gap year. She will be fine; I don’t remember spelling tests when I was a raft guide and ski patroller.

I failed with grammar and spelling with Kate’s older brother too.

Last summer around the campfire on the final night of our 11-day canoe trip down the Broken Skull River in Canada’s Northwest Territories, Doug asked me, “I don’t know what I should do. Should I be a camp counselor, raft guide or a wilderness canoe guide for Black Feather?”

“Yes,” I told him, pride replacing any feelings of parental guilt.

Mr. Walker was my grade 11 English teacher. He was a wizard with words but no fortune-telling psychic with a crystal ball. If he could have seen the future, he would have invested his pension in Grammarly and not bothered me so much with the nitty-gritty rules governing the English language. In my mind, he should have spent more time inspiring ambition or fostering creativity and a love of words and adventure. Walker suggested I look at engineering, at that time the only university program not requiring a further English credit.

I imagine someday bumping into Walker in the produce aisle of my hometown supermarket. He’d say he’s retired and then politely ask me what I ended up doing. I’d tell him for the last 20 years I’ve been the publisher and editor-in-chief of magazines. I imagine him staring down at fresh lettuce running his finger through his beard and muttering something like, “Well, I’ll be damned. Didn’t see that coming.”

Scott MacGregor is the founder and publisher of Paddling Magazine. If u can reed ths… Go paddling.

Summer camp teaches you how to be hard coral. | Illustration: Kate MacGregor


  1. Great article, witty and also thought provoking. As a parent, do you really need to choose between teaching effective written communication and the non-academic values taught in the outdoors? In my opinion, no. Again, thanks for the great article.

  2. Grammar vs paddling – I love articles like this. Using one person’s unique experience to establish life rules for all those of us who, by implication, have been too hidebound or rule driven or cautious to replicate the author’s example. Setting it up as an either/or argument ignores the possibility that the child may not take up paddling – may want , instead, to pursue something else that requires grammar, for which he is now sadly unequipped. You have managed to become a writer because you had a teacher that obviously managed to.drill something into you. Your offspring will be starting with a disadvantage because he or she has not been given the tools to allow for actual choices. Picking it up late and relying on IT are not options, despite your self congratulatory thesis. I wish them luck.

  3. Loved the article Scott. Well said.
    Would love to be a “fly on the wall” when you bump into Mr. Walker.
    Keep writing, and the open end up!


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