I have been debating on and off whether I should write this post.
The struggle is so real to me that I have to physically hold myself back from letting it get the best of me because if I do that, the push back may be permanent. And I can’t let that happen – kids need support in ways that wasn’t prevalent in my day. And it’s not just the internet, there are other things going on. Things that didn’t seem to be so up front and in your face in my day the way they are today.
But at the same time, I also question the sanity of this society at times. How is it we push kids onto career paths earlier and earlier with every generation?
I was talking with my chiropractor a few weeks ago whose daughter is the same age as my son; both are in grade 8 and visiting high school open houses to determine the next step. His words resonate loud and clear in my head:
“They’re only 13, they’re still children.”
In the meantime, the focus on preparation for high school is predominant and time-consuming. There is lingo involved that reminds me of college and university application processes, not entry level high school. For example, there’s talk of AP courses (Advanced Placement) which essentially means the secondary student can study University level courses in high school. He or she can apply to be in a pre-AP program at the grade 9 level which will prepare them to study at the post-secondary level as early as grade 11. Ultimately they can earn early University credits in grade 12. (The Toronto Catholic District School Board explains it here.)
Here’s the other thing:
Our kids attend public, not Catholic school. But they can switch to a Catholic high school if they wish to do so.
In order to be accepted, they would have to apply as optional attendance since they consider students from the Catholic elementary schools first (naturally). No problem there, right?
There is a Catholic high school that offers a program that is appealing to grade 8 students who are in French Immersion and wish to pursue studies in AP (or AP prep). Few schools offer this option (French and AP a the same time) so my kid showed interest in going to the open house at that school.
We all went. They put on great presentations and had a huge turn-out. Way more people are interested than the school can accommodate.
This means I had to explain to my kid, in tangible detail, what it means to be in a process of elimination situation:
In order to be considered at a Catholic high school when you are not currently in a Catholic elementary school, nor baptized, you must apply with the understanding that you will be placed on a waiting list.
If there is space after they accept their Catholic students, they will consider your application based on the usual criteria: grades, application essays, extracurricular actives, community involvements, etc.
This is all pretty standard information (for me). But for a 13 year old kid, it may appear a little bit daunting.
On the one hand, he knows that he’s not automatically considered due to the Catholic restrictions. On the other hand, he’s attracted to the challenge that pre-AP in French will provide him.
His dad went to the office to get the application form when we were at the open house a couple of weeks ago.
Then he handed it to me.
The significance here is two-fold:
1) He (and by default our son) are expecting me to fill out the application form (because that is usually what happens, I’m the admin person in the household)
2) They are expecting to be done with their share of the responsibility.
This is where it gets tricky. I asked my partner whether he truly thinks that going to all the trouble of filling out the forms for a slim chance of getting in is even worth it.
He thinks yes.
“You never know, and I don’t want him to miss out on an opportunity.”
I think his chances are less than slim, and feel defensive at this statement from my partner. Does he see the same boy I do?
Academically, he is a good student. He gets good marks with relatively little effort. But he is still ‘waiting’ for the perfect teacher to ‘ignite’ some sort of push to do more than what is required.
Maybe I’m the more negative person here, and I acknowledge this. I say things like “what is keeping you from doing more? You have access to all the tools you need if you find yourself interested in a particular topic at school that you want to explore beyond what they teach you in the classroom” or “we’ve all had teachers we don’t like, it’s not about them, it’s what you make of it yourself”.
My boy interprets this as ‘mom wants me to do more work‘.
His dad will pick out the positives and generalizes. He’ll say things like “he’s like so many other boys, when I talk to the hockey or baseball dads, I hear the same kind of stories” or “we can’t push him to pursue things, it has to happen on its own”.
Neither of these statements are incorrect.
At the same time, I stand by mine.
Make no mistake, his grades are fine. More than fine. But will the Catholic AP program see his ‘more than fine’ grades as enough?
They have thousands of students applying to this school for a select few spots. They are almost certainly not going to give him an opportunity. They haven’t met him. They only know what shows up on the application form (i.e. numbers and words). They probably feed the info into a computer and have it chop out the students that don’t meet their criteria.
The entire process is impersonal, which is ironic given how much effort and paperwork it takes to submit the application form.
The other part that bugs me is the lack of interest and self-motivation to even research a bit more than what the open houses provided. Dropping the application form in my lap and then assume it will be handled is not the way to approach your future post-secondary education.
“I read every word in these two packages,” I announced to the man and the boy in my basement. “All seven pages, front and back.”
“Unplug yourself and pay attention,” I continued.
“Did you read this through?” I asked next, first the kid, then the husband.
Neither one had had ‘time’. (Whatever.)
“Are you aware the deadline is next Friday?” I asked.
No, they were not.
“Are you aware there are seven sections to the application form, two of which you, the student, has to fill out yourself?”
Um, no, they didn’t know that either.
“You not only have to write an essay, you have to submit this completed application to your principal for sign off. When would you be able to handle this? Because I can guarantee you that if you drop this in his lap on Friday after school, the day of the deadline, the principal will not be particularly happy and quite possibly not even available.”
Oh, they said.
The entire process was eye-opening for me. It taught me something:
My 13 year old kid has shown maturity and skill in places that have astounded me. Yes, some of those are sports-related, he just has this athletic knack in him. Yet in other places, I can see he is clearly still a kid who is interested in kid things. I would not categorize him as immature, not at all, but rather I would say he is simply not ready to consider all the implications of career planning via secondary education that some kids seem to take so seriously right now. I’m not sure that he is ready to put his life on hold and focus on something that may seem rather foreign and complicated to him.
There is nothing wrong with this. Like my chiropractor said, they’re still kids. Some kids are younger than others at the same age…and some kids are more than able to rise to this, and other, more challenging occasions.
I see my son’s rather passive interest in this AP French Catholic school application process as him not being ready. (I am ok with this.)
The other thing is that in my opinion, switching to the much more rigidly structured Catholic school system is perhaps not in my son’s best interest. How will he adjust to their world view injected into every course? How will he adapt?
I don’t think that this is the right path for him. I do think that he has the right to choose that path, or not.
My point in my rambling is that he make that decision, not his parents.
Besides, nowhere does it say that you can’t get into University or College without AP course credit in high school…
I left the application form on the dining table between the boy and the man’s place mats last Friday and left. When I got back several hours later, the application lay untouched in the same spot.
It’s still there, several days later, seemingly untouched. They’re out of town until Thursday (and yes, the deadline for the application is the next day…)
I think I have my answer. And also a bit more free time since I don’t have to go digging through old report cards to fish out grades and averages for the application process. Certainly I’m not going to spend an hour filling out, scanning and copying pertinent documents if there is no intention to submit the application. Right?
In the meantime, the open houses at the public high schools are in November. The French Immersion public high school has an automatic spot for him if he stays with the language, so that makes it a touch simpler. For all of us.
Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise. 🙂
What do you think? Are kids pushed too hard too soon these days? Or is this a product of our society, a necessary evil? How do people deal with kids who aren’t ready, but feel the pressure by the schools, the parents, the peers to raise up? It’s all so overwhelming…