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Get Schooled Good advice from educator: Let your kids choose own path, in college and life

Susan Notes:

on AJC website: Thank you for this breath of fresh air--and good sense. For those who deny the unrelenting pressure of our current school regimen--and the tragedy it produces-- I recommend the film "Race to Nowhere," which is intended to provoke community discussion of this important topics. http://www.racetonowhere.com
With all the Race to the Top and imposed Common Core State (sic) Standards, the very real needs and hopes of communities have been left out.

by Maureen Downey
Here is a thoughtful guest column by Stan Beiner, head of the Epstein School.

By Stan Beiner

At the Epstein School, a private K-8 program in metro Atlanta, we prepare students to excel in high school and beyond. If we do not maintain standards of academic excellence, we would not have the opportunity to fulfill our other mission, which is creating well-balanced individuals who will continue in the traditions of our people.

With a deep sigh, we turn our innocent, middle-school graduates over to high schools that who will prepare them for colleges that don̢۪t exist. In high school, our students will balance heavy homework loads, AP courses, honors classes and multiple extra-curricular activities.

But the demands of high school far will likely outstrip what teens will encounter in college, where most students try to plan their schedules around sleeping late, working out and avoiding Friday classes. They take four to five courses a week and have time for Greek life, dorm life and partying.

How does this parallel the endless hours of high school work exacted upon students? The long list of summer reading? The eight or to nine hard core subjects taken concurrently? The sense that there is no down time?

It would be disingenuous to say that college work does not require hard effort and produce stress at times, but it̢۪s disproportionate to what high schools purport to be preparing students to anticipate. A better focus might be on how to handle freedom while balancing leisure time and school work.

The high school years should be about friends, sports, clubs, youth groups, summers off and, of course, school work. Yet last year, my wife and I were informed by our child̢۪s private high school that 10th graders would now be invited to college orientation sessions. We responded politely that the only expectations we had for our 15-year-old was that she focus on her classes, play sports if she wanted to, engage and debate youth group politics, hang out with her friends and worry about boys. We asked to be removed from the invite list. The school honored the request, and our daughter thanked us.

There are high schools that are purposeful about the way they teach students to study, balance time, manage projects and develop self-discipline. I wish that was the norm, but it̢۪s more likely that your child will attend a school that employs pressure and fear tactics to motivate its students lest less they be relegated to the dungeons of a two-year college in rural Slovakia.

We have to be careful about slinging around words like rigor, challenging, competitive and heavy course load when discussing college preparation. I am not sure that parents and educators quite understand the stress it causes. It is no wonder that cheating, eating disorders and depression are more widespread than most can fathom.

As parents, we need to set boundaries for ourselves, our children and our schools such as:

â€Â¢Actively review your child’s class load, sports, youth group and work commitments.

â€Â¢Continually take the pulse of your teenager’s outlook and perspective by having open conversations and listening to their concerns and frustrations.

â€Â¢Let your teens live their own lives and have their own dreams. The college or career path chosen by your child is not a badge of honor or shame that you wear.

â€Â¢Assist them in developing time and cash management skills. Discuss the dangers of alcohol abuse and potential hazing brought about by lax college town and university oversight.

â€Â¢And finally, make sure you model that behavior by taking the time to show up at sporting events, programs and plays without a cell phone in hand. Being available, being aware and being an advocate are important ingredients for maintaining the sanity of a high school student.

If you can provide that perspective, your child will thank you — even when she is calling you from the college gym at 4 p.m. before she heads off for a caramel latte and evening yoga class.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution Get Schooled Blog



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