Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Day at College

So, I'm ridiculously behind on the many, many things I'd like to share on here. Part of me wants to spend a lot of this summer blogging and posting pictures, and part of me thinks about going private with the blog and just updating it for ourselves (does anyone even read our blog anymore?).

Oh, speaking of . . . LMW, if you're still reading, I commented back to you on an old post that I'd love to communicate by email and put my contact info there - let me know if you got that. I would love to hear from you and get to know you better! :) 

Anyway, I'll post this short (ha! Just finished the post and came back up here to say, "Never mind!" As usual, it's long) one for today and then figure out what I'm doing.  

Seven years ago, I started a homeschool group in our area. It has grown like crazy and we've met some of our dearest friends through this group. It feels like an extended family to us here. It's always fun to see the group grow; and, every so often, I feel like we get some especially great gems that join the group. 

Well, in the past year, we've had yet another great addition to the group and we really enjoy our friendship with this family. Both the mom and dad are college professors and their son is a fantastic kid whom everyone loves. They are great people in and of themselves, but add to that that the mom started blogging recently and you just know I'm ecstatic.

So, my friend "seventytwofishes" is smart and interesting and fun. She's up for getting together whenever we can, she's a great mom, and we like a lot of the same books. We're also all big Amazing Race fans. She also happens to be a professor of writing and women's studies.Yes, writing. Not going to lie - I was pretty excited when I saw a college professor of writing, no less, join our homeschool group. 

And as if all that wasn't already cool enough (and have I mentioned she started a blog? Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!), she is super super super supportive of Thing 1 in her many writing endeavors, keeps us posted on local writing resources and events, and - get this - invited Thing 1 and me to spend a day on campus with her and attend some classes, including her writing class. For us, it was like being invited to Disneyland. Nerd Mecca. Thing 1 got SUPER excited about this opportunity, as did I. 

My friend's cute son, my friend, Thing 1, and me on campus

Well, on a beautiful spring day in April, we went down to her neighboring county, met at her house, and joined her for the day. We saw her office, sat in on her class (our favorite part!), hung out for her office hours, got a tour of the campus, visited the book store (where Thing 1 learned that some books cost more than $500 each), ate at the cafeteria, and got a feel for campus life. It was grand! On top of all that, she loaded Thing 1 up with huge piles of writing books (Thing 1 devours those continually) as well as an entire DVD course all about honing the craft of writing great sentences! Seriously, now we're talking Nerd Mecca on speed

Sitting in on class was fantastic. Thing 1 and I took notes. I was reminded how much I love college. I mean, I already know that - I loved college/grad school and I love learning - but sitting there brought back so much: class discussion, note taking, analyzing stories, learning, group work, books, backpacks, pencils, chalkboards . . . aaaahhhhh. We ate it all up and were left wanting more - not a bad thing.

Look closely - you can see Thing 1 and Thing 2 checking out the pond and birds and animals on campus

Talking about our day by the gazebo

Relaxing on campus - gorgeous day!
We took all of these pictures after Mark and Thing 2 met us on campus. See, while Thing 1 and I were lapping up college life, Mark and Thing 2 went to a local museum for the exhibit, "Did dinosaurs POOP?"

Thing 2 at the exhibit

A simulated dig with buried fossils

Thing 2 loves birds, especially eagles

Cute snowy owl!

At the museum
Mark and Thing 2 went out to lunch, and Thing 2 declared it to be some of the best pizza EVER
We talked a lot that day about college and learning and types of colleges (community, state, private, non-traditional, ivy league, etc.) and cost and education and life choices. I think that when our parents were young, it was a no brainer - go to college. When Mark and I were growing up, it was also a no brainer - go to college (though by the time we graduated, it was clear that graduate school would also be necessary for many fields). But nowadays?

While we lean heavily toward "college is good," we do not think it is so cut and dry anymore. The writing is on the wall - things are changing. Between technology and the astronomically rising costs of college education (along with a dearth of jobs), more varied opportunities are also arising. Many people are opting for trade schools or careers in computer-related fields or running their own businesses. There are many autodidacts in this world - the Internet makes that kind of learning and enrichment easy. Many courses online are free and accessible. More and more, except for some obvious exceptions, there are several different routes people can take to be successful in their chosen careers, including, but not limited to, college.

I love college and think it's a great place to go, learn, and meet people. The cost is scary. We know - we've had student loan debt for 14 years now. This past month we celebrated going from 6 figures of debt to 5 figures! Exciting, right? It's a lot to carry. And we're trying to do right by our kids and help them see all the pros and cons of various decisions. Yes, education is good and can most certainly help you be successful. But yeah, most people our age worry about the associated debt and how that factors into the equation.

College is not that far off for our kids. There's a lot to consider. They have friends who are starting college soon - some are taking out loans, some are getting grants, some are getting it funded by grandparents, some have a little saved, some have nothing saved. It's nearly impossible to graduate debt free anymore.

Education has also changed - we talked a lot about that that day as well. "No Child Left Behind" has majorly screwed up so much about our education system. Every professor I know, in various fields of study, all say the same thing - kids are entering college with shortened attentions spans (Facebook and Twitter and mobile devices, anyone?), consumed with worry about grades, entitled and whiny about how to get good grades, and completely focused on testing and just getting out with that diploma - hardly any of them are there to learn or even care to learn. It's all become rote and robotic and utilitarian. How very, very depressing.

But I do not want to end this post on a downer, because it's not - all of this is good discussion! And the point of this post is to say we had a GREAT day on campus. I'm so grateful to our friend for inviting us down there and making it so special. We had a wonderful time and it prompted so much good thought and discussion. She is so so thoughtful. In addition to all of this, she even got Thing 2 some of his very favorite seltzer waters. I always appreciate when people remember special little things - how thoughtful and sweet is that? It shows she listens and cares and is considerate. I love that about her.

It was so nice of her to invite us down, take time from her day, and spend it with us. The class was my favorite part - she's a great teacher who makes you think and critique and analyze. Her students are lucky to have her. I know that Thing 1 is using information she learned that day in her writing. Thank you, seventytwofishes, for inspiring her and encouraging her and helping to mentor her. And thank you soooo much for such a great day!


Dr. Mark said...

That was a really fun day. Thanks for posting all about it!

I loved hanging out with Thing 2. He's a smart and fun kid and it was nice having that one-on-one time.

I'm not at all surprised Thing 1 was experiencing Nerd Mecca. I'm having visions of her attending college and it's just not that far away. So hard to believe sometimes.

You've always loved the college learning environment so I'm not surprised it was a great day, plus, our new friend is awesome! Maybe we could all do this again sometime . . .

Emily Foley said...

That is so cool! What a fun day, and thoughtful friend.

College was an automatic for me, not really a choice, but it is something I will never regret. I have taught my kids that it is an automatic for them. They are welcome to be whatever they want....AFTER they go to college. :) the experiences there are so important, I think, even beyond the education. Staying out late, being on your own (kind of) for the first time, motivating yourself to get up and go to class, to choose on your own to go to church...things like that are things I learned that are so important. And I'm lucky I was able to do it all safely, knowing my parents had my back. I want that experience for my kids.

Anonymous said...

Awww, you are too sweet! I had fun, too. I love hanging out with all of you! I think you definitely helped my students out, too! All of you are welcome to return any time! I'd also love to get you in some other classes, too!

That's a great picture of Thing 2 eating pizza! I love those kinds of pictures.

I hope your kids do attend college. As Emily said, the experiences you gain there are valuable, and I want that for your kids. Of course, knowing how brilliant they both are, they will probably whiz through in just a couple of years, so their debt load will be lighter! :)

Boquinha said...

Ha! Awww, thanks!

Just to be clear, I *love* college - everything about it . . . the learning, the social aspect, the independence, etc. I am so glad I went and I hope the same for our kids. I want them to make their own choices in life - I want them to know themselves so well that they know and do what's best for them.

I've also long said that a bachelor's degree doesn't really get you a job anymore unless you get more education (graduate school, medical school, law school, etc.) - there are a handful of jobs you can get with a bachelor's degree that don't require additional education/training, but most require more.

I also think that learning for learning's sake is WONDERFUL. I think college is a great enrichment. It's also a very expensive one.

I've always hated when people focus on what *job* you're going to get after college ("What are you going to do with it?") to the exclusion of the learning/enrichment that comes from college itself (the ability to write, speak, present oneself - an art that, I fear, is being lost).

That being said, it's becoming a VERY expensive endeavor. It's becoming a crisis that needs to be addressed.

Saw this video today and thought it addressed some of those points - watch to the very end:


Things are changing and it's important to see the big picture. Yes, I hope college is a part of it.

LMW said...

Sounds like a great day and an experience for your daughter that most kids her age don't get the opportunity to have. It's pretty cool that it's an experience that she wanted to have at her age too.

I second Emily's thoughts about college. I learned so much there and met people who are still prominently in my life today, including my husband and a couple of our close friends. College has shaped a lot of who I've become for sure. With that said, it's horrifying how expensive college is and the talk of such high interest rates for government loans is sad. My husband and I accumulated a lot of college date with two masters between us, but I don't know another way that we'd be able to do the jobs that we do with those degrees. Then again, there are a couple people in my own family who don't have Bachelor's degrees (including one with just a high school diploma from being homeschooled) with jobs that pay equal to ours. Furthermore, my husband's brother has a Bachelor's degree and makes $13,000 more than either my husband or me. In the end though, I don't think college is everyone, but the experience of it is worth a lot for sure.

Also, I didn't see the comment with your email, so I'll go back and get it so that I can email you soon.:)

LMW said...

* Oops! I meant to say "without those degrees", not "with those degrees."

Dave Johnson said...

What a fun day! Nerd mecca indeed - I'm going to have to steal some of Kate's writing resources.

Being somewhat stuck (both physically and financially) in a position where I can't re-enter college, I'm finding great satisfaction building my own continuing education between all the free MIT courses, TED talks, Kahn Academy, etc. I wish I had more time to dedicate to it, but it's nice to have all that at your fingertips and convenience.

We're having these exact conversations with Rich right now. He's really struggled to stay invested in academics these last few months and we don't want to make college the end all and be all. He really gets excited about people starting businesses - he loves shows like Cake Boss and Shark Tank and the ideas there seem to inspire him so much more than formal education. We don't know what exactly to do with that, but we want to encourage him in whatever ways we can. Such a tough time to know what to do as parents. Hopefully it will be clearer in the years to come.

Kristie said...

My oldest is just about to enter college and my husband is about 1/4 of the way through his return to college. Much of what you said hit home. I'm watching the grants and scholarships pour in for my oldest. Seriously, she has half of her first year paid for. While she was a good student- mostly As, and some Bs and one lonely C thrown in (first trimester of Spanish 3- thank you very much), she wasn't a GREAT student. She didn't excel in sports, music, or any other student activities. So, in that respect, I was VERY encouraged to see so much of her schooling paid for. On the other hand- that leaves her with half of her tuition to pay for. And yes, it is SCARY. Since we have 8 children, we are unable to financially pay her tuition. Truthfully, after seeing those bills, I'm not sure we could have paid for her to go to college had she been an only child. And then I see my husbands bills come in. Luckily, he is reimbursed for his tuition as long as his grades are above an A (I could go off on a tangent here about your comments on No Child Left Behind- but really, all I would be doing is agreeing with you), but it is only a reimbursement- we have to come up with the thousands of dollars he needs 3 times a year (fall, spring, summer) before we get that money back. When I pull my emotions out about how wonderful I think learning is, I am able to look at college as an investment, and I wonder- is the pay off worth it? Will both my husband and my daughter someday see this money returned to them in fat paychecks? With the job market the way it is, companies outsourcing, and taxes getting higher and higher- I'm just not so sure anymore.

Regardless, I am SO happy that Kate got to experience college for a class. When I was a bit older than her, I went to Franklin and Marshall for writing classes (and camps), and they were such an inspiration to me. And the picture of Max eating a slice of pizza literally made my stomach growl, LOL!!

Boquinha said...

Agreed, LMW. College is a great place to meet friends for sure. And you're right about considering the debt for the degrees also leading to better-paying jobs. I also agree with the statement that it's not for everyone, but it is a great experience for many.

(And thanks for the email)!

Dave, you should see her pile of writing books! You are SPOT on about all that is available nowadays - that's part of what I think is changing the landscape. That's not necessarily a "bad" thing!

I do think having one's own business is a great, alternate route for many! And the world needs that, too. I mean, really, thank goodness for varied paths and outcomes that help the world go round, you know?

Kristie, yep. It's like when someone considers a huge upgrade to one's home (like central A/C or some such) - at what point are you saving/getting back financially? Of course there's the obvious enjoyment of cooler temperatures right away (analogous to learning enrichment), but financially, much needs to be considered.

No Child Left Behind = No Child Gets Ahead. I find it very telling that more and more teachers and college professors are homeschooling their kids . . .

Also? I could go for pizza right now . . .