Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Not Back to School: A Dancer With Many Hats in a Thankless and Undervalued Job

by Amy Cortez, Editor Eclectic Telegraph

As a parent, sometimes we feel that in raising teens we have a thankless job. Often your teen is too busy to recognize all the things you do, all the support that is there for them. Just for them. They don't ever really look at all the hats you have to wear to all the groovy dances you attend on their behalf.

As a homeschooling parent, not only do you need to be a parent to a teen, and God knows there are the endless days you spend parenting a young adult, but you are also signed up to be the teacher and mentor to your young adult.

In the days before high school, homeschooling is an endless educational stream of books and Science experiments and trips to the museum and library. You have as many as three hats, parent, teacher, chauffeur. The dance is a well timed and methodical glide across the floor.

Once your student becomes a teen, studying to become a University student, the educational stream becomes a little more complex, the dance gets to look more like a tango. As you have encouraged, and as your student has learned to be independent as a student, he is now more than ever dependant on you, the adult, to be his guidance counselor. Another hat for the rack.

As a guidance counselor, it is your huge responsibility to learn how to play the college game so you student can reach his ultimate goal. The college game as it seems is a very complicated dance, one that has all the timing of ballroom dancing and Tango - combined.

"Freshman" year, you learn as a guidance counselor that transcripts are very important, and you develop a format. You begin to understand what the differences are between an "Honors" class, an AP Class, what International Baccalaureate is. You begin to look at what your student has done educationally thus far and you try to determine what it is they need to do to reach their
goals, that is if they have settled on goals at all. If you're lucky, your student will be right there in the trenches next to you determining all of these things as well...

By "Sophomore" year the two of you determine that PSAT is important and that your student might do OK, so you schedule that milestone. This is the year that you get to wear the parenting, chauffeuring, counseling hats a bunch (the teaching hat gets a rest, because at this age, teens know it all anyway). But also, just as you are getting used to wearing these hats - sometimes all at once, your new job kicks in as the Driver's Ed teacher. This hat looks sort of like your chauffeur hat, but it might be a different color and now you have yet a whole new set of dance steps to add to your already complicated dance ticket.

In some states the driving laws are quite complicated, like in our state of Ohio. Not only do you have to teach about vehicle operation, safe driving and traffic rules, you get to drive in the car with your student for 50 hours. This is a tall order for 2 parents to manage, a huge order, for a single parent. It's hard to switch hats wearing a straight jacket and it's really un-parent-like to wear any of the hats backwards, like your student does.

But even once you've got the driving under control, you then begin to realize that you won't have to be the chauffeur much longer and begin to think about retiring that hat. But as soon as that hat goes in the cedar chest, you schedule those first classes at the Community College and find out that they have their own dance steps as well, because often they require that your student "test" into their classes and you juggle between being the even tempered guidance counselor, and the parent encouraging the student to knock 'em dead. Both hats can't be on in this case. That's the rule.

So then Summer comes between the Sophomore and Junior year and your teen fills his schedule with volunteering and working, traveling to and from each gig in your car. Meanwhile, wearing at least four of your hats, you begin to realize that Junior year is the year of the tests. PSAT, SAT, SAT Subject tests, ACT. All important, each with it's own set of dance steps, so you begin to figure out how to blend ballroom, tango and flamenco steps into the grand dance of Junior year. You hope the year goes well and only imagine what new hats may come and which of your dance steps you'll need to fine tune Senior year.

But the funny thing about your grand dance
ticket and all the hats you wear, not one person outside your house realizes the lunatic you have become and that Flashdancing is now your specialty. But the thing is, you really don't care, because with all your hats and dance steps and endless lists of tasks, when the ones who really love you say "you're awesome", you forget that at one point you thought you were a dancer with many hats in a thankless and undervalued job.


topshop said...

Beautifully put. I can relate because I have 17yo and 15yo daughters, so I play guidance counselor, driver's ed instructor, etc...

I added this lovely post to the Carnival of Homeschooling Labor Day Edition under Labors of Love. Thanks for sharing.

Carol Topp

Danielle said...

Really nice blog - I'm still at the middle school level, so I'm not there yet. Thanks for fair warning :)