Whew, folks! After last week's--and weekend's-- full agenda of festivities...and whatnot....life around Casa WestEnders quieted down and returned to more of "the usual", which was a welcome relief. Now we're on the cusp of Memorial Day, which around here means that another school year is careening toward its close. I'm never 100% sure what to expect in late May/early June, because it seems like each step on the academic ladder is different, but I'm here to tell you, the waning days of the 2016/17 academic term have touched off verrrrry different reactions from the minors in our household.
Let's start with Derek, who reports that his classes have become fairly chill, with no new concepts being taught as teachers review previous material and prepare students for end-of-grade exams. This also translates to "very little nightly homework", and therefore "more leisure time than usual". Sounds pretty nice, huh? In some cases it's even more extreme, like A.P. courses, whose tests have already occurred. Derek took A.P. Biology this year, with a 2-period block for lecture and lab, which finished up with the nationwide testing date on May 5th, leaving them to do...absolutely nothing for a month. Add to that the fact that in his daily schedule, this chunk is adjacent to his Study Period, and you have a great big black hole of GOOFING OFF in the middle of his day.
When I heard about all this free time he'd be enjoying, I did mention that he might consider putting it to good use--by researching potentially interesting colleges and lining up tours, perhaps? And he does still have regular finals to study for, so I assume he's not sitting in school twiddling his thumbs (or the modern-day adolescent boy equivalent: watching YouTube videos or ESPN sports highlights)...at least not all day, every day, anyway. I keep telling myself it could be worse: some of his friends who have their own cars and drive themselves to school get to LEAVE in the middle of the day when they have empty hours, and come back for their necessary classes. Jeez, Louise!
(And seriously, what is this, college....lite? I swear I never had this much freedom when I was in High School....back in (mumble mumble never mind)...once we arrived for the day, we had to stay there until dismissal, or face the consequences, by golly! Well...maybe that had something to do with the fact that my school was--literally--in the middle of a corn field...and there was nowhere to go...and it would have taken a while to get anywhere, much less return. But STILL!)
So to sum up, Derek has several concrete goals for the remainder of Junior year: 1) continue to pay attention at least well enough to ensure that his final grades are strong; 2) plan some Summer college visits that we can get on the calendar and 3) arrange an activity that will shape his character, instill discipline and good habits, and line his pockets, all at the same time...that's right, I'm talking about the time-honored tradition for American teenagers, the Summer Job, y'all! (Much more on that to follow--stay tuned....) But mostly, he seems to be relaxing and taking it relatively easy as his academic demands dwindle.
On the other hand, Riley is skidding into the holiday weekend wound tighter than...I don't know....a big ball of rubber bands? But wait, what could an 8th grader possibly have to worry about, really? Hmm, let's see...he has his own final exams, which--although he's a great student--studying for the tests has him waaayyy stressed out for some reason. Then in 2 of his classes he has an extra test (Bonus! Yaayyy....NOT!), since they're technically High School level courses, and in order to earn credit he has to pass the statewide measure of competency. One of these (that would be Math, in case you're wondering, also known as "the bane of his existence" this year) is giving him fits, as he struggles to limp to the Finish Line with a teacher who...let's just say has been "less than stellar" in our opinion. Therefore he's not exactly feeling all confident, like "I'm gonna kick these numbers' BUTTS"...staring down the barrel of the assessment.
On top of this the local soccer league, in all their infinite wisdom and understanding, scheduled their annual tryouts for this week, while the rest of this nonsense is already weighing him down. So for 2 nights (it would have been 3, if it weren't for the delightful tornado watch we were under on Wednesday) he had to take time away from schoolwork to participate in drills and scrimmages and such on the field, under the watchful eyes of a group of coaches whose job it was to evaluate everyone's skills and place them on the appropriate team. And, you guessed it: while he's a talented player and already a member of an elite team, he put all kinds of pressure on himself to turn in a flawless performance (which I know and you know and even HE knows, isn't even possible, but that's how hyped up he is right now), lest he be demoted.
Oh, and add to that a perfectly normal, healthy dollop of teenage hormonal angst, and you've got the recipe for one (temporarily) extremely unhappy, somewhat emotionally volatile kid. Fortunately, he's willing to air out his grievances with me (thank heavens!), and seems comfortable talking things out, listening to advice, trying various suggestions for...relieving stress and...increasing inner calm...or whatever. (Right? Because it makes sooooo much sense that his much more spazzy, dramatic, high-strung parent is the one offering him techniques for promoting peacefulness and serenity and emotional stability. Yeeaaahhh, maybe we should practice these TOGETHER, ya think? That's what they call a Win-Win, for sure...)
One of the options I mentioned to him--based on the popularity of a recent craze among adults right now--was...coloring. That's right: breaking out the old Crayolas (or, you know, a brand new box of 64, like I did when I joined the trend) and filling in the lines (or roaming outside them--whatever, you're not being graded on this, it's for fun, so do whatever you want, that's the point! Ooohh, sorry. See what I mean about where Riley gets it from? How 'bout those joint coloring therapy sessions?).
I honestly wasn't sure how this would go over, since he's at an age where it could be seen as insulting and babyish, or it could go the whole other way and be a "Wow, that sounds cool! kind of notion. And whattya know, he LOVED the idea. In fact, he was so enthused that we immediately searched Amazon for some coloring books related to trains (since these have been a source of fascination for him since he was a wee tot) so he could get started....after the obligatory trip to Michael's for a fresh set of colored pencils--his artistic tool of choice.
Aaaannnd...it seems to be helping. When he's riled up about something, he'll pull out his new supplies, get settled at his desk, and color away. (For the record, he falls firmly in the "Design and Fill In", rather than the "Random Scribbler" category. He visualizes the finished picture, selects hues accordingly, and applies the shades neatly. Is anyone surprised? I didn't think so...) How well does it work to temper his moods? The other night I went into his room to ask if he'd heard the thunder, and he looked up from the page he was working on, blinked at me owlishly and replied, "What? Oh...no. When I'm coloring, I'm completely focused, and not aware of anything else!"
Alrighty, then. mischief managed...for the moment. Team WestEnders will continue on our merry way, counting down until the lazy, hazy, crazy days of Summer unofficially begin....um, "June 9", for those of you scoring at home. Fingers crossed for a smooth...final fortnight!