There are so many discussions about college applications, what appeals to colleges, what a teen should do with their time (to satisfy college admissions officers). I am sick of that type of talk. I care more about the academics and doing what is required. Second, I want my kids to do what they enjoy doing with the rest of their time and we have never, ever, ever, ever, done things for the reason to have it look good on a college application. Those are posers. My kids are not posers, they are authentic. I am not a poser either, nor is my husband. If some future college admissions officer doesn’t like what my kids have done and rejects them, so be it. If some future employer doesn’t want to hire me or my husband for what we have done with our lives, that’s fine by us. No one should live an inauthentic life in order to try to please some unknown person in the future.
With that said, in thinking about how my kids spend their time:
The schedule. The schedule. The schedule.
Balance? Is there such a thing?
Reminding myself of our homeschool priorities:
1) physical and mental health and wellness (this includes addressing learning disabilities)
2) academics, as rigorous as is possible
3) extracurricular enrichment
4) healthy socialization, friends, laughs and good times (drug, alcohol and tobacco free)
My older son continues to be passionate about his varsity four season sport: rowing. This takes an enormous time investment for practice as well as weekends away at regattas and volunteer time for fundraising for the team as well as social events with the team.
FIRST Robotics was second fiddle.
Boy Scouts is in last place.
My older son just doesn’t have time for full participation in three major activities along with getting medical care and help for his learning disabilities. I think it is healthy to learn to set priorities and to not over-extend oneself. I am worse about how I do this for my own adult self but that’s okay as this is my adult life and I see the error of my ways sometimes. I want my kids to learn time management and to do a healthy level of activity. Both my husband and I are happy with a full commitment to one thing. You can learn a lot by being fully invested in something over the long term. Half-way participation in one thing or doing nothing is a slacker thing which we don’t want for our kids.
My younger son is also on the same team and practices over 15 hours a week. He is bored at Boy Scouts and has found only two kids he likes. The Scout troop is not providing a fun social outlet for my son. For three years before becoming a Tiger Cub he was dragged to every Cub meeting of his brother’s. In effect that son has had 99+% participation from age 3 to 12. We rarely skipped a meetingh because my husband and I were volunteering we had to go to fulfill our duties, so the kids went to every meeting too. That is nine years of Scouting, that’s a lot. He is asking to quit after he attends Jamboree in summer of 2013. I am sad that he is not happy at his present Scout troop. He refuses to find a new one.
I want my kids to do something because they love it and they are passionate about it not because it looks good on a college application to have it on a list. I don’t yet know what next year will look like for both of my kids.
I am giving my kids leeway to make their own decisions with some guidance (not being hands off). I am trying to have some boundaries and am not interested in micro-managing their teenaged lives, honestly, I am not.
Anyhow the point I have been trying to circle back to is that what colleges want is authentic students who know who they are and who have a passion about something, anything. They want students who are not slackers or couch potatoes. They want the student to do something well, anything. Have a curiosity, learn about it, do something, anything. Participate in something, be a responsible and loyal team member. They’d probably like a blend of leadership skills and self-guided projects or interests and a blend of group or team participation that shows you can work with others, get through things socially and work in a team environment. I think they like the idea of resilience and being on a sport team or in a Scout troop shows you can ride the ups and downs over the years, have strife and get past it, as well as have fun and do enjoyable things that take effort. They do not want students who do a lot of things in a shallow manner or as a poser in order to pad the resume. They do not like cookie cutter same old, same old things like paying $3K each summer to go on a mission trip to build a school for kids in ____ (foreign country).
Transcripts, grades, GPA, class rank tell one story. The standardized test scores tell another story. The last part of the story to tell is who you are as a person, what makes you an interesting person.
There are too many highly educated, high grade earning, high SAT score students out there to compete against to rely on those things alone. You need to showcase who you are as an individual. Anyone living an authentic life is an individual.
ChristineMM, author of The Thinking Mother, is a Connecticut Yankee who recently relocated to Houston. Christine has homeschooled her two sons, now nearing 16 and 13, since birth. When not busy teaching or volunteering she can be found in her new zone 9 garden.