Today is my Punkie's (my oldest daughter Clarissa) 27th birthday, and I'm feeling nostalgic. Not for childbirth, mind you. That hurt, tremendously, and I was very tired and sore afterwards. It's amazing that I voluntarily went through that agonizing process two more times before I'd had enough. But anyway, twenty seven years ago I pushed that very red and pissed off 6 pound bundle of dynamite from my womb, and the phenom known as Clarissa Ellen Doutherd came into this world.
Mother and daughter had many trials and lessons to learn from each other. One of them was high school. Clarissa was unwilling to go ("I'm NOT LEARNING anything, Mom!"), and I was tired of the arguments, especially since I could completely empathize with her. Her high school was a joke. After a lot of soul-searching, I took an unprecedented action, much to the horror of my parents--I signed my daughter out of high school. This article reminds me of that time in our lives. Today, my daughter is just fine!
David Gilmour and Jesse Gilmour
David Gilmour let his son Jesse drop out of school — under two conditions: no drugs, and three father-son movies per week.
Talk of the Nation, May 6, 2008 · When David Gilmour's 16-year-old son Jesse was failing out of school, Gilmour offered him a deal: Jesse could drop out of school, but only if he watched three movies a week with his dad. David and Jesse Gilmour tell their story of unconventional home-schooling in a new memoir, Film Club.
Gilmour describes the three years of watching movies with his son as "a magic time that a father doesn't usually get to have so late in a teenage boy's life ... A lucky break for both of us."
Jesse plans to go to Prague next year to attend film school.
In our case, Clarissa and I didn't always "bond" like David and Jesse Gilmour throughout my daughter's teen years. But signing her out eliminated one argument from our daily exchanges. I required her to continue her education through self-directed study, which she did. She also began working, and continued working until she was able to move to the San Francisco/Bay Area on her own. She did that within one year. Now she is working, raising her eight month old son, and going to San Francisco City college with an eye on transferring to Sonoma State.
What happened was that I trusted her, even though she was going through a horribly tumultuous period that made me question my parenting skills and judgment. I knew she had that uncommon mixture of exceptional intelligence and pragmatic business sense to pull herself together and see what she wanted to accomplish in life. All she needed was the space to do that, and I chose to give her that space. She would have taken anyway, and then there would have been bad feelings on both sides. I told her that no matter what, good, bad and everything in between, SHE was responsible for her own life. I was letting go. For both of us, it was the right action to take.
I wouldn't advocate doing this for every teenager. I think parents have to make the decision about what in this type of situation to do on a case by case basis. Some kids aren't ready to be responsible for themselves, or they need an academic environment so they can get a firm grasp of the learning process. My son Marc, for example, thrived(academically speaking),in high school. He graduated with honors in spite of having numerous and seriously debilitating seizures during his junior and senior years. Socially, he had a lot problems fitting in with his peers, who seemed to view him as a bit of an anomaly, an African American "uber-brain kid". This, combined with his insecurities about having epilepsy, made high school difficult for him. But he wanted to get through it, and with quintessential Marc stubborn determination, he did.
Chenelle, my youngest, had social problems of a different sort. Like her older sister, she made friends easily in school. And she did well scholastically, when she decided to apply herself to the work. But she didn't always want to do that, and just like her older sister, she became bored with the curriculum. After several months of refusing to go to school and staying in bed with an alarmingly extreme bout of depression, she decided to take the high school proficiency exam during her junior year. She passed it with ease, then said goodbye to both high school life and depression. The following year, she enrolled in Sacramento City College as a theater arts major, which was both good and bad. Her grades were abysmal in most of her classes except theater. Fortunately, she came to realize that she, like her sister, was responsible for creating her path in life. More importantly, I couldn't and wouldn't do that for her. She changed her major to early childhood education with a minor in music, pulled her G.P.A. out of the cellar, and set her goal on transferring to San Francisco State University to major in either early childhood education or child psychology.
Three different paths for three different children, even within one family. Education, to my way of thinking, isn't a one-size-fit-all deal. There are far too many variables within the human personality types, and an educational system dictated by those mind-numbing standardized tests is going to fail at least one quarter of the students they are trying to educate. I used to score standardized test for McGraw Hill, and all I saw every day was evidence that teachers are not allowed to actually TEACH, consequently, students are not allowed to LEARN and think critically about the world around them. This doesn't bode well for our future, in my opinion.
I'm glad my kids managed to get around the system, and acquire those essential critical thinking skills on their own. I realize that there are other teens who are unable to do that, and they drop out of school with little else to look forward to except a life-long struggle with poverty. It's a shame we can't offer more for them. At this point, I couldn't even begin to think of a solution because there is too much resistance, politically, economically and socially, to changing the way our country educates its citizens. All I know is that I wish there was something I, in conjunction with others, could do to help remedy the situation. The first thing I would propose is getting rid of those ridiculous standardized tests. That would be upsetting the status quo and create a situation where people would have to scramble to put together another method of evaluating student performance. But that's fine with me. Our children, our future, are worth the time and the effort.