The Secret of Being Connected
Written by Stephanie M.
Back in my day it was “Dude, we’re with the band” and these days it’s all about “Likes,” “Streaks,” and “Followers,” No matter the time period, it seems like getting ahead has always been about “who you know.” Here’s the secret:
This post isn’t anything about that.
Feeling “tricked?” Sorry. You may stop reading now, but you will miss out on the “treat” of reading tips for helping you and your student(s) stay connected through the Whitmore School curriculum…
Let me be clear, this is not about doing the actual coursework with your child. Go back and re-read Learning to Let Go where we discovered it’s okay to stop hovering. This is more about using what your student is doing in their classes as a springboard to:
- Help your student understand how the information they are learning pertains to “real life.” (My two personal favorite questions in school: “Is this going to be on the test?” and, “Why do we need to know this?”)
- When your child is able to share/teach what they are learning, they are displaying mastery of the information.
- Okay. It might be a little bit about trying to spend some extra quality time with your teen – they’re going to be out of the house in just a few short years…
You may ask, “Why would I want to use a high school curriculum to connect with my teen?” The short answer, because it’s easy. The longer answer might be something like:
- It shows that you think their education is important.
- You need something to fill in the awkward silences during car rides.
- Trying to connect through their special interests can end up embarrassing for the both of you.
Let’s stick with the easy stuff.
By far, my most favorite class for making real world connections is Community Service. 90 hours of volunteering to earn 0.5 an elective credit may sound like a lot, but it is 90 hours of helping those in need in your community. Doing good deeds and meeting new people is fulfilling for all parties involved. In some cases, your student might need an adult with them to be able to volunteer (this is where the extra quality time comes in). Either way, volunteering will definitely spark a number of life lesson conversations. It’s an educational opportunity that gets your student out of the house and connected with their community. Community Service is a must take class, for sure!
My second favorite class is Conceptual Chemistry. The science behind cooking put my student in my favorite space – the kitchen. The deal was, he could use the kitchen if I could try whatever he made. He made some tasty “experiments”, except maybe the first lesson – burnt toast… but figuring out the scientific secrets behind baking chocolate chip cookies made up for that one.
Even though the course has little to do with the culinary arts, your student will learn some valuable kitchen skills, which will hopefully help them survive on more than PB&J sandwiches when they eventually move out (Real life connection, skill mastery and quality time. Woohoo – Trifecta!) All this fun and a 0.5 Science credit too! Make sure this class is on your student’s chart toward graduation.
As long as we’re talking about Science credits, Environmental Science (lab) is a fantastic excuse to get outside and explore nature in your own backyard and beyond. (Read: fieldtrip!) Talk about opportunities for real world connections! You and your student can go anywhere: the park, the beach, the grocery store, the mall, the zoo, literally ANYWHERE, and discuss (and probably even see) the effects of human behavior on our planet. BEWARE: some topics of discussion may get awkward, the rhetorical question that keeps popping up at our house is, “Why are people so stupid?” (Sharing mastery of new knowledge.) Try not to choke on your Starbucks the first time you hear that one.
Social Studies courses hit the “connection trifecta “with the most obvious and easiest way – current events! Read the newspaper, watch the news, or listen to public radio and then talk amongst yourselves, I’m a little veklempt. (Shout out to Mike Meyers & SNL) Of course, there are a countless number of field trip opportunities to places of historical interest in every state and every country. Or, you can always stay home and watch all the Ken Burns documentaries on Netflix – it all works as long as you’re doing it together.
English courses also lend themselves to staying connected with your teenager. I recommend using whatever novel is assigned as an opportunity to have a family book club. You may have read the titles back in high school, but a refresher never hurt anyone. Book club is a good way to open the door to discuss some of the topics mentioned in high school required reading, and a way for your teen to express their feelings. (Mastery of information and quality time – Bonus!)
Math. Math, math, math. The bane of my existence. The Jerry to my Tom. The Superman to my kryptonite. The Road Runner to my Wile E. Coyote.
The only connection I have made here is between my head and the wall. I’m sure it doesn’t have to be this way for Whitmore students because there is a course called Practical Math. This math class should be mandatory for every person to graduate into adulthood. How to balance a check book, figure discounts, and learn about the dangers of high interest credit cards is, well, practical – and necessary. If your students are anything like mine, a quick trip to the mall or grocery store is an easy way to connect what they are learning to the “real world.” Having their own checking account and/or credit card is an even quicker way to master the information.
As far as making connections with that other math, the math that uses letters in place of numbers…You are on your own. I got nothin’ – it’s all Greek to me.
Most of the elective classes are total no-brainers for finding ways to link the class information to the real world – and maybe even squeeze in some extra family time. Is your student enrolled in Art History? Plan a trip to an art exhibit or museum. Break out your old record collection (or start a new one) if your student is enrolled in Music Appreciation. Does your child still need to earn that 0.5 credit for PE? Offer to buy a pass to the local gym and work out “together” for those required 90 hours. Of course by saying “together” I mean drive in the same car, walk into the same building and walk out at about the same time. No self-respecting teenager wants to hang out with their mom at the gym, and no self-loathing mom wants to be seen in spandex or watch how easy it is for their teenager to run on the treadmill without breaking a sweat.
There is one other class I would be totally remiss if I did not mention, Stress Management. Talk about a class that screams “Teach me everything you have learned!” The class provides information on how stress negatively affects your body and provides useful tips on how to relax and deal with situations that make you feel nervous or uncomfortable – sounds like real life to me. Just BREATHE!