Thursday, September 15, 2016

 

Escape Velocity


This week The Boy’s school had its back to school night.  He’s a sophomore in high school now, and things are starting to change.

The school is starting to use language for which I’m not entirely prepared, like “driver’s ed.”  TB is 15, and the minimum age even for accompanied, supervised driving in NJ is 16, so I still have a bulletproof excuse to keep him from driving.  But when I say “still,” I mean “for less than a year.”  After that, things get trickier.  I’ve read that millenials and younger supposedly aren’t interested in driving anymore, but apparently TB hasn’t seen those pieces.  He can’t wait.  I most certainly can.

In junior high, teachers routinely checked students’ notebooks and graded them on how well organized they were.  At this point, they don’t, and even made a point of mentioning that they don’t.  They’re encouraging the students to take responsibility for their own materials.  “College is only a couple years away!” they explained brightly.  

Hmm.

The teachers are right, of course, despite many of them seeming implausibly young.  Next year (!) the college search really kicks into gear.  They’re offering a “practice” PSAT to sophomores; I’m just old enough to remember that the “P” in “PSAT” used to stand for “practice.”  Now they practice to practice, I guess.  They’re hitting subjects I clearly remember taking.  They’ve even added some new ones, like “financial literacy.”  That one involves some basic consumer math, but also skills like “how to write a check.”  Despite the best efforts of the big banks to convince us otherwise, paper checks still exist in the world.  Kids still need to learn how to use them and how they work, even if they’re less used than they once were.  They’re not dead yet.

The major change from my high school years is (unsurprisingly) the communications technology with which teachers can keep students and parents updated.  Group texting apps are ideal for sending out reminders about due dates and exams, and most of the teachers use them.  Earlier this week, TB mentioned getting a reminder text at 9:00 for some homework he hadn’t noticed.  In my student days, that sort of thing wasn’t an option.  Now it’s an expectation.

Junior high felt like a taller version of elementary school.  Maybe they opened a few windows, but it was still recognizable.  High school feels like pre-college.  Which implies college.

(sound of crickets)

I’m not worried about TB.  He’s a smart kid, conscientious, sociable, outgoing, and funny.  He’ll be fine.  He’s the kind of kid that colleges fight over.

It’s just starting to hit me emotionally that he won’t be here that much longer.  He only has two more back to school nights before he’s done.  We’ve been going to them for what seems like forever, and now there are only two left.  

TB both does and doesn’t see it.  In the matter of fifteen-year-olds everywhere, he experiences time more intensely than the rest of us.  It goes fast, but it’s action-packed.  He’s hurtling headlong towards the future and enjoying the ride, just as he should.  He’s on track to become a capable and good man, which is all we can ask.  We have the unbelievable privilege of being along for this part of the ride.

But this ride will end soon.  And while I’ll never stop being proud of him, I’ll miss him something awful.  

Keep hurtling, TB.  I just need a minute to process the fact that you’re nearly at escape velocity.

Comments:
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Car Spa at Doorstep in Mumbai

 
Driver's ed programs can be good for getting the initial education managed without white knuckle or mumbled parental commentary. Nothing beats hours behind the wheel in the company of a parent for building a capable young driver. Eldest can drive anywhere thanks to the endless hours she spent in high school driving us around (mostly to her sports activities).

Escape velocity is a great metaphor, though. Eldest is pretty close to fully achieving that and Youngest has started her lift-off into university. Fun times!
 
Times are different though. Many grads come back and live with their parents for a while. He may stay in your orbit for a while yet.
 
I'm sure he will bring his kids to visit on a regular basis. ;-)

Yeah, you're not ready to think about that either!

On driving, is it really illegal to take TB to your HS driver's ed lot and get him used to how your car works? My dad did that when I was close to 16, but had no permit of any kind. The most valuable aspect of that was going out in the winter -- after I had had drivers ed -- and learning to turn into a skid. Useful even today, including learning what ABS feels like so he does the right thing with it. He also taught me how to pass on a 2-lane rural road, with an emphasis on just how far away you have to look. And I also was the designated driver as soon as I had a permit. Nothing like experience, including an hour at a time on an open rural interstate. Finally, learning from a parent can be a mixed bag, but so can driver's ed. Look around and see if there is a teen safety program, like the ones run by The Tire Rack and/or the SCCA. Those involve real accident avoidance in a safe environment in the car TB will be driving.

PS - I liked the observation about checking notebooks. I think a fair fraction of my college sophomores could do with a bit of that. I'm sure no one has ever explained to them the value of "working over" their notes. I didn't discover the need to do that until grad school, but it would have helped in a few of my undergrad classes. I never needed to do any of that in HS or pretty much for any undergrad classes, but it would have helped a lot later on if I had practiced that distillation process early on.
 
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