Thursday, October 6, 2016

Having a Plan

Growing up I had a best friend who loved to dance.  When I would go over after school the rugs would be rolled up and she would practice her ballet or tap or jazz before we could hang out and play.  Their living room was her ballet studio and her calloused feet were her trophies.  She was a dancer.  School was just something she had to do until she got old enough to dance full time.  After graduation she worked for Disney and went on to have a family and over the years we lost touch and I'm not sure where she is or what she is doing now, but I'll bet it has something to do with dance.

What do you do when you have a child with interests that don't fall within a traditional education framework? Grace feels about photography the way my friend did about dance.  It is all she wants to do, well, that and music.  She starts her day with new product releases from Olympus. She watches YouTube tutorials on product usage or technique.  She does not dream about owning her own car, she dreams about owning a professional wide angle lens.  She has made the decision to pursue photography professionally and we have two schools to look at.

Following behind her is Lilah.  Creativity oozes from her pores.  She can read for hours, draw, paint, and write.  She is a storyteller and while she has work to do in the grammar department, she tells stories I can only dream of creating.  She thinks kitchens are beautiful and has a beautiful eye for photography but she lacks the desire to be technically proficient.  I don't know what her future holds.  She does not have a set desire in terms of a career.  Since she too favors the arts (language arts), I doubt (although I never rule out) a S.T.E.M career is for her.

I wonder how my friend's mom felt raising her creative, talented daughter.  Did she worry about math or science?  Did she worry about booklists, AP, wait, AP was not even an issue then.  Back then it was just honors and you took one or two and if you didn't it was no big deal.  AP did not drive high school students.  We took the SAT, there was no ACT, and we did not take prep classes that cost thousands of dollars.  We did not hire college consultants.  We did not stress over extra curriculars.  To be fair, I'm sure some did, but not in my circle of friends.  We went to school, did sports, were part of a club, did our homework, still had time to hang out after school and have weekend sleepovers.

Now I think kids have to excel in all the do.  They must have a plan.  They must "keep up".  They must compete at the highest level in their sport possible.  They must be prepared for a "global workforce".  They must produce more than we ever imagined in the same amount of time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for four years.  What if your kid does not fit into this standard mold?  I see it with my nieces and nephews and I see it with my kids and my friend's kids.  We have kids that have talents and gifts outside of those which are conventionally seen as valued and honored.   They are writing books, winning photography contests, fixing their own cars, working jobs to earn money to pay for their cars, clothes and insurance.  They are caring and kind.  They are honest and trustworthy.

Grace has two options she is debating right now:

  • two years of community college to earn her AA in music then transfer to a 4 year art school focusing on photography.  Having her associates in music will allow her to teach music lessons with more credibility while she pursues photography.
  • Attend a one year intensive photography program in Manhattan and come out ready to pursue her dream of being a photographer.  She can then do two years at community college for music. We are blessed to have a community college nearby with an excellent music program.

Lilah is 14 and she has no plan.  And that is just okay by me.


Sandra said...

It really does seem that being ordinary/average or even excelling in one or two things is enough anymore. Kids are expected to be involved and excel in everything. It can be so hard not to get caught up in the hype sometimes. I've tried to look at what my kids will realisticallt need to survive (and hopefully thrive) in university (if they choose that path) and in their adult lives. I plan our homeschool accordingly and try and keep things sane. And I thought I was fine with that but then I read all the back to school posts full of 12 hour schedules and curriculum for 10 subjects and I felt like such a slacker. Luckily sanity returned. Right now my daughter's likely path does require creative writing, calculus or advanced chemistry and making her study them would likely make her utterly miserable. So we don't. I remain confident that if she should need such skills and knowledge in the future she'll find a way to get them. In the meantime we'll focus on what we think she really needs as well as what she wants.

Theresa B said...

I love, love, LOVE this post! I read it saying, "yes, Yes, YES!" This post makes me want to blog again!! I have so much to say about this that I don't know where to begin!

I know that some kids thrive on this pressure but I feel for those who don't. I wish it were as simple as it was when we were kids (and I can remember when my parents said the same thing, thinking it was complex when I was preparing for college). My brother is a high school teacher and we often talk about the pressure on kids today.

I so admire how Grace does everything 150%. If that girl likes something, she is ALL IN.

Many of the kids in the girls' circle of friends are not really thinking about a traditional college program. Some are in vocational school part-time, homeschooling the academic subjects. Some are considering entrepreneurship. Allie's best friend's dream is to attend culinary school. I think it is wonderful to encourage kids to think about all of the options and not to pigeonhole that you MUST get a 4 year degree.

As for my girls, neither really knows what they want. Allie really wants to be a mother and wife, but realizes that in today's economy she probably needs to be thinking broader. Unless something suddenly clicks and she knows what she wants to do, she is planning to go to community college and take a variety of classes, meet with advisors and figure it out. My brother took 8 years (mostly part-time) to complete college. he was not the same person when he graduated as when he started and taking his time served him well and helped him to find a career that he LOVES and is passionate about. He would have gone for business if he had done it in 4 years and he has said he could not imagine being as happy with that as he is teaching.

LJS said...

Grace just moaned to me that she wishes she could just study what she needs for photography. I told her literacy matters, no matter what career you choose so she has to keep reading and writing. Science matters because you have to understand you world and our place in it so we will plug away but we have chosen a less stressful science pathway. Math. Well, she will need business math far more than algebra II or trig so we are looking to do this next year or in January when she finishes geometry. Customizing an educational plan that looks different than a traditional one does cause anxiety from time to time, especially when others do not understand it or judge it. I remind myself that my girls are driven, they are not lazy or complacent. They will find their way and they will do what they need to make their plan a reality. That brings me peace.

LJS said...

I love that we can understand each other's children and their pathways. It gets hard when I am around parents of high performing high schoolers (mostly at church or within my family) and I slip into comparison mode. It is not that Greg and I don't have high standards, it just that our standards seem to be life standards, not arbitrary numbers designed to rank a large number of students in order of greatest to least.

Grace is an all in kind of girl. I love that about her. Right now she is having an email conversation to schedule a visit to a photography institute in Manhattan. I don't know exactly what her path will look like, but I know it will look much different than her cousins and some of her friends and I think she is confident enough to own that and be proud of it. My brother also had an unusual path. He did 4 years of school but switched schools, then went into business, hated it, then did what he always wanted to do and is now a marine and police officer. NO ONE asks him what his major was or his GPA or even were he went to school, unless it is in association with his basketball. They see what the outcome is, not the processes. I'm so glad our girls can figure this out in their own way, in their own timeframe, while focusing on WHO they are, not WHAT they are.

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