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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Balancing Act

Today I'm going to vent.  I'm just telling you that up front so you don't go looking for a recipe.  In fact, pour yourself a glass of wine and settle in.  Here I go.

The junior year in high school is a lot like child birth.  You forget how bad it is until you go through it again.

Kate and Charlie are four years apart in school and at the moment I have two juniors.  Kate is a junior in high school and Charlie is a junior in college.  Back when Charlie was a junior in high school, he was up until all hours of the night doing unending amounts of homework.  He slogged his way through SAT's, SAT Subject Tests, AP Tests, and a host of extra curricular activities all designed to make him look like a person who didn't only do homework and take standardized  tests.  It worked and he got into a good college.  That's all great but the junior year almost killed us all.

Now Kate is a junior in high school and we're back on the hamster wheel of more hours of homework in a day than there are actually hours.  We are back to the SAT, ACT, AP, and any other initials you care to throw in our direction.  In short, it's just as bad and as unpleasant as it was the first time through.

I guess I had forgotten what the junior year was like, or maybe I just blocked it out.  But it's bad.  Really bad.  And I have to wonder why it has to be this way.

It seems to me that balance is a good thing and these days education doesn't seem to be about balance at all.  In fact, it appears that it's becoming more and more difficult for our kids to actually achieve a healthy balance between academic achievement and human achievement.  The stress to take the "hardest" classes offered at school in order to make the colleges think the kids are "challenging" themselves is ridiculous.  The quest to achieve a 4.7 GPA has become commonplace.  Come on.  Is doing four hours of Latin homework every night actually going to make my daughter a better person or the world a better place?  I think not.

Charlie is off at college so I'm not as intimately involved in what he's doing.  This is a good thing.  I probably wouldn't approve of how he's managing him time anyway.  But I will say this:  He seems to have achieved a better balance between school and social than he ever had in high school.  Maybe it's because he's living at school, but I think it probably more likely because institutionally colleges understand the value of balance better than high schools do.

Shouldn't balance be just as important in high school as it is in college?  How do you encourage your child to get involved in things that actually interest them, not those "resume builders",  when they barely have enough time to get the six hours of homework they have every night done before 2:00 a.m.?

Time management only goes so far.  There are only 24 hours in a day and sleep counts for some of it, although rarely enough of it.  The school day never really ends.  In fact, school is like the Ever Ready Bunny.  It just keeps going and going.  Before the kids know it, weeks have passed in a sea of problem sets, history papers, and foreign language translations.

I know that this is a much much bigger discussion than my little rant here on my blog.  But I think it's something to think about.

Okay.  I've gone on long enough.  I feel better now.  But the question is, do our kids?

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