Sunday, September 18, 2016

Parenting a High-School Student #IRL

As of today, I'm 37 with a 17-year old son. Over the years, I've been challenged by elementary, middle school, and high school education of a NOW teenager.

I never would have thought it would be so hard. From remembering why words sound a certain way (phonics) in the early years to "new math", and explaining how things like physics relate to "real life" as an adult, I have never felt so challenged.

I graduated high school at 17, just months before my 18th birthday. My grades were "okay". They weren't scholarship quality, but my parents approved. Boy were my parents rigorous.

I was literally afraid to come home and do anything but homework. I thought if I turned on the TV, my parents would somehow get a signal and I would be in deep doo-doo.

In the 80's and 90's, the possibility of this actually happening was slim, unless your parents were loaded. Technology advancements make it more possible for the middle-class family to monitor their teen's every waking moment.

On Friday I received an email from my son's language arts teacher. Apparently, he hadn't turned in a critical assignment. This one assignment brought his "A" grade down to "F". My son was at his FIRST high school football game: homecoming, at that.

What to do? I forwarded him the email, not thinking he would see it so soon. As connected as I am, I should have known better. I gave him too much time to think as I logged on to the parent portal and reviewed his other grades.

In short, what I saw was majorly disappointing. My son is smarter than this. We had brief discussions on the phone Friday with what I felt were excuses. On Saturday morning I walked to defeat ALS, while he slept in and then went to work from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Basically, I didn't feel like there was a need to discipline yet.

When Sunday rolled around, my son told me that he was going out to eat with his friends. Nope!

Then the arguments began. There should have been no arguments, but my son insisted that he was trying as hard as he could. He acted like I was attacking him. I guess that's to be expected as the parent of a 17-year old.

I stood my ground. Eventually, I was able to coerce my son to use the resources that are available, kinda. The kid is smart. He knows that people have different learning styles. He knows that he has a more visual learning style. With all the tech today, what teenager doesn't have a visual learning style?

Alright, I'm sure some teenagers still read paper books with words, some like hands-on experiments, etc. What we have before us is the way his teachers teach for a group of public school children. As a parent, I have to learn how to take that information and turn it in to something my son understands.

Today I'm faced with the challenges of Algebra II and Honors Physics. We did a bit of physics work together today. Algebra II is another story, especially after hearing my son's method of calculating cook time for dinner tonight.

We made chicken wings and fries for dinner. The wings took 35 minutes. The fries took 18 minutes. Since I knew that 18 x 2 = 36, I just subtracted 1 to find out when we needed to put the fries in.  He used "new math". In other words, his steps to calculate the time was several more steps. For the first time in years, I understood the steps, but it just didn't make sense. Why do that when you can use "simple math"....the math I learned.

At the end of the day, things have changed. I have to adapt so I can learn how to teach my son the relevance of everything he's learning in school. We'll be focusing on physics in real life and algebra in real life.

How do you use physics in real life?

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