Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Learning...about learning...

Ahhhh, Spring. (Well, I suppose it's "Pre-Spring", if we're gonna be all accurate about it...) If you're looking for signs, we've got some undeniable ones: the neighborhood featherbrains are chirping up a storm...a handful of hearty and ambitious buds are popping out on the previously naked greenery...and, perhaps most telling of all, it's time to start giving serious thought to...the upcoming school term. Yep, that's right, folks--February and March usher in the the big excitement of "signing up for next year's scintillating roster of classes"! (Yippeeee!)

For me, this requires showing up at Derek's high school's annual Parent Information Meeting...'cuz, ya know, heaven forbid I ever skip one of these things and miss something important, or new, or different...or whatever. Besides, my oldest baby is going to be a....Junior...in the Fall (one moment: sniffle, gulp...okay, I'm ready to continue) and you know what this means: stuff is about to get all kinds of real...and scary...up in here, y'all.

Now, I know what you're thinking--"C'mon, it's just high school, for crying out loud. How much does it actually matter?" Well, I know it's not Rocket Science...but it's kind of a brand new experience for my teenager and me. For example, the shadowy world of AP courses looms just over the horizon. And with these challenging options available--and with only 2 years remaining in which to fulfill your graduation requirements--you have to begin to consider WHAT to take, and WHEN to fit it into your schedule, in order to 1) choose subjects that interest you; 2) check all the necessary boxes so they actually hand you your diploma in June of Senior year; and finally, 3) balance academic rigor (which is of course appealing to potential college suitors) with the very real need to not spontaneously combust, as an overeducated ball of stress and nerves at age 17 or 18.

Oy. My head was spinning around in circles...and I'm not even the student in this scenario. (Memo to Self: next year, send Husband to this thing. It's absolutely got to be his turn by now...) Thankfully, the meeting itself proved to be the most overwhelming part of the process, because when I got home and talked it over with Derek, we were able to pretty quickly and easily map out his next 2 years' worth of study...more or less. (At least for his mandatory classes--as for Electives, he's on his own.) Whew! Mission accomplished, right? I can just sit back, relax and cruise through the rest of this journey with a frosty beverage in a lounge chair!

Yeah, about that...a few short weeks later the weekly email update from our local library included an invitation to a free seminar given by a "former principal, counselor, and administrator" on the topic of...College Planning. (Sigh....there goes a perfectly good Tuesday night.) This couldn't have had "me" written all over it more clearly, unless perhaps I'd received a personal engraved Golden Ticket. So off I went...and having just gotten back a little while ago, I can assure you that I found the material utterly fascinating...and equally horrifying...and now I pretty much just want to curl up in a ball and cry.

"But, hold on just a cotton pickin' minute! Why didn't your SON--you know, the one who's actually staring down this daunting task in the very near future--accompany you?" you might interject, with a healthy dose of supportive, righteous indignation that I very much appreciate. (And please pardon the colorful Southernism...somehow that's just how I hear it in my head...I really have no earthly idea WHY...) In this case, the short answer is: he was at soccer practice. (Come to think of it, that's the response to a great many fill-in-the-blank "Where's Derek" questions...)

Therefore I had no choice but to bravely go it alone, into the uncharted (for us, anyway) realm of...How to Get Accepted into an Institution of Higher Learning. And I've gotta say, the lady seemed extremely knowledgeable, and spoke for 90 minutes, providing what seemed like an enormous amount of useful wisdom. I mean, she touched on a whole array of subjects--from how to write a compelling admissions essay, to what questions to ask during a campus tour, to advice for taking the (onerous but unfortunately necessary) standardized tests, and even suggestions for narrowing down a selection of schools you might want to attend.

And me? I sat there with my pen, furiously scribbling notes all over the handouts she gave us, trying to absorb as much as I possibly could, to relay it to the rest of Team WestEnders at a later time. (Hey, according to the speaker, it's never too early to start...Riley? I'm looking at you, sweetie...) All of this naturally got me thinking back to my own high school days--and I don't recall doing ANY of this stuff. For me, it was pretty straightforward: I knew I wanted to go to somewhere small-ish...not so far away that coming home would be impossible...and with a strong, well-respected Speech Pathology program. If I remember correctly, I took the SAT once, applied to all of 2 schools...and when my first choice accepted me, I was D-O-N-E.

Somehow, I suspect it's not going to be quite that simple in today's climate of super-competitive...ultra-expensive...college education. Thus, as we navigate our way out of the safety of our home port, into the choppy, shark-infested waters of College Prep, I just hope we can summon the strength, patience, and perseverance to make it through. But hey, I can always turn the boat around and go back to shore for that chaise and icy cold drink, right? Right? Yeah, it's definitely Husband's shift at the...tiller? Bon voyage... (and fingers crossed...)

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