Balancing Current Happiness Against Future Plans

When Kiki was a sophomore in high school she nearly broke for a little bit. Utah is strange in that freshman year is spent at the junior high school. Sophomore year is when the kids start high school and the switch was really rough on Kiki. It was so rough that we found ourselves in a school administrator’s office saying that we wanted Kiki to drop out of one of her classes so that she could get extra sleep. The administrator advised against it. Making up lost school credit is difficult. But we chose the option which allowed Kiki to retain a good life balance for that year even though we knew it could adversely affect her later.

When Kiki was signing up for classes for her junior year, her teacher gave her a slip of paper saying that her next math class should be pre-calculus. Those teacher recommendations were spoken of as edicts in the group scheduling meeting. “You must sign up for the math class that your teacher recommends.” Except that we had spent all of sophomore year struggling with Algebra 2. Kiki only survived it because an adult friend came over and tutored her at least once per week. We could not picture Kiki having a happy year if pre-calculus was part of her life. I was very ready to get off of the math emotional roller coaster. So we put Kiki into accounting. It was not college prep. It would not help with her ACT. But it filled a math credit and was likely to be very useful for her long-term life plans. We chose what was right for her growth at that time instead of for an imagined future.

The moment kids hit high school, it seems like everything is aimed at getting them into college. I know much of this effort is because some kids do not think of the future at all unless someone really gets in their faces. It is good for kids to have an inkling of the big picture, yet it is more important that they make choices based on what they need to develop as knowlegable human beings rather than because it will look good on a college application. The truth is that kids who are living life fully and who are growing and developing will look good on a college application. They may not get into high-pressure schools, but then maybe a high-pressure school is not the best choice for their ongoing growth and learning.

Despite the fact that Kiki had to make up a credit and that she took accounting instead of pre-calculus, Kiki made it into college. She even got a scholarship. The school she entered was only medium competitive to get in, and she is very happy there. It is exactly the school that she needs.

I keep this all in mind as I’m helping Link figure out what classes he should take next year. There are so many factors to weigh, because I want to foster current growth while not closing off future possibilities. Yet I find that I don’t have to carry that “won’t get into college” panic, because I know that we’ll find ways to make things work so that he can keep growing through high school and beyond.

5 thoughts on “Balancing Current Happiness Against Future Plans”

  1. It seems to me that a lot of bad advice is given in high schools about what it takes to get into college. My high school had it’s own rumors about what you had to do to get into college. I did almost none of those things, taking classes I preferred or classes that fit my life better, and I still managed to get into a school that was a great fit for me. There’s a wide variety of colleges that are appropriate for a wide variety of people, and I think that it’s ok to go to a less prestigious school that is a better fit for you academically, financially, or socially (or whatever your parameters are). And getting into those colleges are, in my experience, very rarely based on whether you took the “right” classes in high school.

  2. Yes! Sleep! Always sleep! We need a world full of moms who demand special exceptions to protect their children’s sleep until the other adults in the world change schedules and expectations to respect kids’ needs for sleep. And as for accounting vs. pre-cal? I know a lot of adults (including me) who would trade their pre-cal educations for an intro to accounting principles. Go you!

  3. That reminds me of my senior year. I knew I was college bound and going to study engineering. So, of course, I signed up for calculus. My (very wise) mother counseled me that I would still have to take calculus in college and that it made sense to take classes I wanted to while they were still free. So I took Advanced Acting instead of calculus. Becuase of that I met and made two of my life-long friends, truly enjoyed my senior year, and was MUCH happier. Oh, and I did indeed get into college on academic scholarship and high school calculus had nothing to do with it.

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