My two older sons spent their highschool “unschooling” years home, alone. One exception was that both of them played soccer on organized teams and went off to casual “pick up” games when they were happening, both near and far away. The other exception was our tight friendship with one or two other families who we saw a few times a year. The older boy focused on computer animation, and his next youngest brother, computer programming. This year, the oldest one will graduate, while his younger brother just entered college (for computer programming).
Now, near the end of his 4 years, the eldest has become extremely critical of the expensive art/animation school that he so desperately wanted to attend 4 years ago. Scornful of their cheap protocol that changes when their employees shift, irate about departmental battles that end up putting barriers between students and classes they want to take, and upset about the constant upgrading of equipment irregardless of whether it is actually error-free and ready for students to use, he tells me that the other students dislike him because he is complaining too much about the school. From a distance, I worry that he is not coping well with the “real” world because of his carefree years of studying at home. There was no office here at home through which one had to get papers signed and activities approved. He was in charge as much as anyone else. Perhaps this did not prepare him for cow towing to authority and dealing with less than perfect policies designed to manage complex situations.
But guess what happened next? He got very upset upon being informed that he will not be able to take a special 3-d class in which students would be mentored by a very famous American car company. He has been complaining since he compared notes with other interns last summer at his fabulous gaming internship in LA, that other schools offer students like him the chance to specialize and gain expertise in the aspect of computer animation that they plan to specialize in. Now, at his school, he is being told that there are only 10 seats for this special class in which students will be mentored by an expert from the company. As he is possibly the top modeling student in his program and a senior, he really cannot understand how he could be closed out of this opportunity. Why didn’t they require portfolios if seats were so limited? He gets me to proofread several emails to the department head, the teacher who will be in charge of the class, and his academic advisor. He reproves me for starting to pull out the “big guns” in the messages we are drafting…”No”, he says over the phone, “Everybody is trying to help me get into this class, so we need to keep it pleasant.” But the deadline looms. On the night before the deadline, he decides to use his heavy artillery. He has realized that he showed his portfolio to the head executive at the car company last year, and he has his email address. He fires off a polite inquiry with his reel of work samples attached. The next day, he is called into the President’s office, but the President is not there. He is on vacation in Aruba (I made that location up) and my son is put on a conference call with the President of the school and the car company executive and they inform him that an 11th place has been created in the class for my son.
A week later, I am doubling over with laughter as he tells me over the phone that he scored an interview for a 3-d modeling position with a company he has wanted to work for since he was 10 years old…..in spite of the fact that they had filled their interview slots randomly upon not getting enough applicants and in spite of his having missed their deadline ( which wasn’t posted clearly at the school according to my son) He sent his reel to the recruiter, and meanwhile one of the randomly selected students who had no particular investment in her interview, told the recruiter about my son during her interview, and that they would be crazy not to interview him. The recruiter then remembered his name from previous years of being impressed with his work and said he’d been wondering where his application was. He was then offered an interview, which in turn, yielded the much coveted second interview. (stay tuned)
This is the son who has tended to lack confidence; he often thought that the other kids on his soccer team were all better than him even though the coach did not think so. It is extremely gratifying to see him not taking “no” for an answer.
It is thrilling to see him drawing the lines between the dots…he will owe a huge sum of money when he graduates and there have been many moments in the last four years where I wanted to hang myself by my fingernails for letting him go into a debt like that. What could we be thinking? But now, seeing not only his desirability to employers, but also his self taught confidence and conviction, I feel better about our decision to let him go out on a limb monetarily. Afterall, unlike many of the other students whose parents are easily footing the bill, he is holding the school to its promise of providing him with a top education in the field of computer animation. He is forcing them to let him into the car company class that can yield a top level internship this summer. Again, my goal is to encourage other parents to trust in their children’s ability to forge their own path, and as odd as that path may seem now and then, it is the strength of one’s own conviction that really must be nurtured in our children.