Almost every parent wants their kid to do well – I say almost since I’ve met a few who honestly couldn’t give a tinker’s dam about their kid – and that leeches over to the schoolwork. How far do you go in helping before taking over the process in its entirety? When is it too much?
I’m facing that question now as Eldest is involved in an A(dvanced)P(lacement) US History course. Part of her assignment for the year is to write an original paper on some topic of interest. She came home last week with three tomes on US Economic History from the school library and when I inquired as to why she’d have a 400+ page history of American economic development, she told me that her topic was the history and development of the dollar and the controversy between a fiat dollar and a gold-backed dollar. I was honestly stunned as she stood near me in the kitchen; it’s a topic of which few are aware but one that I find of exceptional pertinence in this day. This PracticalDad econogeek has shared concerns over the economic future of the country since it’s her generation that stands on the precipice of an economic cliff and while I talked about it, I was never entirely sure that she or her brother was listening.
Yes, she was listening – even with one earbud dangling from her left ear.
Further discussion revealed that she needed at least a half-dozen primary and more secondary sources and as I also looked at the AP Physics textbook on the kitchen counter, I actually pitied the kid for the amount of work that she’s taken upon herself. It also dawned on me that she’d decided upon the topic because she understood that dear ol’ PracticalDad had a clue of the subject, even if he’s not an expert. Further, It was a means by which I could maintain a common bond with a teen who’s a social butterfly and actively in the college decision process. So it behooves each of us to work together.
But how far do I take it? Both her mother and I have stressed the academics – everything flows from the schoolwork – but we have actively demurred from doing the homework as some other parents do. I’ve even gone so far as to create mock tests for her and Middle and have assisted on isolated questions but have refused to do more than two or three homework problems. Why not? Because I’m not always going to be there, that’s why. Now use what we’ve done as a model. There is no plan to write it for her and I can’t explain everything since she can’t use me as either a primary or secondary source, but I can at least whittle down the amount of reading that she has to do. The result is that I’ve taken the liberty of pointing out what chapters in the three tomes are pertinent to her topic so that she doesn’t waste time reading about American Agricultural Economics in the mid-19th century. Likewise, I’ve pointed her to multiple other sources that provide what she’ll need to gain an understanding of the topic. The final part of my task will be to help develop a basic reading list so that she can read on the topic chronologically and thus keep some sense of order. After that, she’s on her own and I’ll limit any further involvement to explaining what I can.
It’s easy for parents to think that the kids don’t care about being around them anymore. There are friends and activities and they never seem to have enough time in the day for what they want to do, and the parents wonder what happened to that little kid who wanted to spend so much time around them. But there are still moments when the kids will come to you and you have to put things aside and grab the opportunity when it presents itself because it’s often as much the teen wanting to stay connected as it is the question or issue itself. The venue or activity will change as they age, but the desire to stay connected is still there.
I had no intention of spending considerable time perusing economics and historical texts for information on the gold standard and the several decade change to the fiat currency. But it is something that I can do to help the kid as she prepares for the AP paper. And I’ll stay available to discuss the questions that she has as the year progresses, because that time is not long for this stage of our lives together.