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Monday, September 18, 2017

School Daze

Ah! Autumn!
I love school. To this day, I love stepping on to a campus – any campus. Grade schools. High schools. Colleges! The aromas of autumn and cafeteria spin me back to those days of learning. Armed with a new batch of pencils, it was a time to reunite with classmates after summer break and show off my new roller skating jeans. Not everyone had roller-skating jeans.

My parents had a sneaky way of instilling my love of learning. They loved to quiz me on news and topics I was oblivious to. Eventually, I grew tired of being dumb. So I convinced myself to study harder and read stuff beyond my Nancy Drew mysteries. Learning paid off of me. And there's one thing I know for sure: I want it to pay off for my kids.

This has not been a problem for my daughter who is naturally-inquisitive. I've never had to push her to study. As a matter of fact, she found my homework assistance detrimental to her grades. (I offered to help with a TAG English assignment once. Apparently, it was one of the worst grades she got that semester.)

My son is a different story. Not only would he prefer to be doing just about anything else in the world than study, but he believes there's absolutely nothing wrong with a B. And I agree. There's absolutely nothing wrong with a B, as long is it's someone else's grade. I'm only kidding. Sort of.

To be fair, Cole is doing well in school this year. (So far!) Some of this has to do with the fact that he's beginning to realize college is around the corner. Some of this has to do with the development of his teenage brain. Mostly, I think, it's because he's not obsessed with any particular girl right now.

There's been a learning curve for me on this whole business of "raising your son to take school seriously." But here are two actions I have found to be somewhat helpful:

  • I never assume he has studied for a test, even if he says he did. 
  • I push and push and push him to explain concepts to me. Within 30 seconds I can tell whether he understands what he's talking about. It's not just about memorization anymore.

A few years ago Cole told that he received an A on a test. My response was, "See Cole! Doesn't it feel  great to get that good grade? It's kind of like when you get a goal in soccer!" He quickly retorted with a snort. "No, Mom. It's nothing like getting a goal in soccer." He went on to explain that the first thing he thinks about when he gets a good grade is how it will make his mother happy.

Professor Steffie
But I'm sensing a change in Cole. He texted me the other day about getting an A on a science test. And that night? He went on to talk about what he was learning. With great interest, I listened intensely as he droned on about anatomy. I wasn't so intrigued with the content. But I was excited to detect a bit of pride. It might not have been as exhilarating as a soccer goal, but he certainly seemed to feel a sense of achievement. I think a love of learning might be starting to percolate.

I'm teaching Principles of Management at Iowa Western this semester. I didn't decide to do this because I've been sitting around twiddling my thumbs. I decided to do this because I value learning. And as many of you have probably guessed, I like to share my experiences. Maybe, just maybe, I'll help a few others to percolate a love of learning.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Pulling off the Band-Aid

The other night I was walking a track around a soccer complex filled with intense youngsters wearing colorful uniforms and the most adorable, tiny cleats. As I watched pure exuberance chase soccer balls, my heart sang and stung just a little. Weren't those my kids just only a few short years ago?
watching them play is still fun

Last weekend we traversed (in our Traverse!) to Iowa City to enjoy the first football game of the season. The plans were to meet up with our good friends and catch a glimpse of our college-aged daughter. And a glimpse is all we got. She's a busy girl with a full course load, a job, and friends who do't go out until after 10 PM. Crazy kids.

I'm so proud of our kids who are focused and have goals. Alex will become a journalist tackling social issues. Cole will either be an MLS soccer player or something else. (He really is talking about the "something else" possibilities.) 

Sometimes it just hits me. My usefulness as a parent is waning fast.

I was expressing this sentiment to a recently-retired friend of my parents. This is how he responded:

I remember when we took Michael to Luther College in 2001. Everything I had read said to not prolong the "tearing" apart by lingering at college after getting him settled into his dorm. They told us that parents weekend was just six weeks away and a good time to linger. So, with an abruptness we took him, moved his stuff in said our good byes and departed. It was rough on me and I was full of tears in the car pulling away. It was not that I was first experiencing his independence that we trained him to have but the finality of it all that the corner actually turned. Since that date our times together are richer and better with time. A beer or glass of wine are not required to make this so but they are a compliment for part of the times we are now together.

Beautifully-worded, Chris Hoffmann.

an Iowa City party sans the daughter
Last night I was completely sacked out when my son came home after midnight. He had driven a carload of kids to Council Bluffs to see the movie. The kid just turned sixteen, and I don't even remember saying goodnight to him! According to Doug I said, "Home so early, Cole?" Bad mom? Nah. I'm a good mom who has a proclivity for deep sleep. As most mothers understand, deep sleep is typically not an option as your kids grow up. Maybe, just maybe I'm pulling off the band-aid. And you know what? I'm going to enjoy that deep sleep – and every other moment as it comes.