The Essence of Highschool - Part 2
- Friday, January 13, 2006
[ Editor's Note: This is the final part of a two part series. If you missed the first half you may view it online here: Click Here]
Real life experiences come into their own in the high school years as our students prepare for adulthood. Virtual reality, even at its best, is really not reality. Learning how to do things is. Studying about canning green beans is nice. Doing it is real. Studying about woodworking is good. Learning to use power tools, cut, measure and build is real. To this end, seek to open up opportunities in areas of your child's giftedness, giving him or her a platform for gaining confidence and expertise.
Depending on availability and the natural bent of the child, endeavor to get them involved in real life experience. Besides their work at home, they might volunteer at the vets or the local museum or fire station. Clean, weed, or mow at the neighbor's. Teach music. Work in their dad's cabinet shop or on his roofing crew. Each family will have their own variation of real-life opportunities to explore. The important thing is to give the teens room to learn skills and make decisions while they are still able to avail themselves of parental feedback and security.
However, beware of thinking that dabbling in different fields in an area of giftedness is sufficient preparation for adulthood. Becoming an adult is more about attitude than ability, which is why practical life skills/experiences are so valuable. They give abundant opportunities to keep going when the going gets tough. That is where character is forged. A word study on discipline in the best textbook cannot substitute for the discipline and submission it requires to work for someone else, doing the "grunt" work as well as the fun stuff, and doing the kind of job they're asking for, even if all you really want to do is curl up somewhere with a cup of tea and a good book.
Diligence takes on new meaning to your son as he rises at 5:00 a.m. day after cold winter day, and into the sweltering summer, to help out at a neighbor's dairy. Becoming a "self starter" and possessor of a great work ethic doesn't usually happen playing computer games. Determination, self-reliance, and self-lessness--these are hallmarks of maturity, and they are earned, not awarded. It takes consistency and patience, and logging a lot of hours of just plain hard work in order to learn to function as an adult should.
Finding opportunities for your teens to learn life skills is also vital because reality breeds contentment. As parents, we want to avoid revolution. Revolution is almost always a fight for independence, and the high school years can be a battleground. But they need not be. How much better if parents can open doors of opportunity and challenge as fast as the teen reaches them. Or faster. Keep those kids on their toes. Challenge them to go beyond their previous comfort zones. Mental knowledge without the chance to try their hand at what they've learned foments discontent. If highschool kids feel they don't have any essential skills, and if that insecurity is coupled with parental control, they are in danger of feeling trapped. Whether they then try to break out, or just resign themselves, it is not the freedom they should walk in, nor what we as parents have been entrusted to do for them.
Springing from our own public school backgrounds where the responsibility for getting an education falls to the teacher, not the student, one of the myths that has surrounded high schooling at home is that the parent must be able to know/teach everything from chemistry to calculus, or the student will not get what he needs academically. Wrong. If instruction is needed in a realm you don't excel in, there are many ways to utilize the expertise of others. Video teachers. Co-oping. Tutoring. If your child shows a strength in an area that you can't help her with, check out the options. They're out there.
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