Alternative Paths

Last night, I went to a presentation at school for parents about post high school plans that aren’t necessarily four-year colleges. It was a packed room. The speakers hadn’t expected so many people and had to run out to make more hand-outs for the parents.

Like most middle class parents, I know how to get my kid on the right road to middle class, if not upper middle class, life. I know what colleges are the best. I know how to help a kid construct an amusing, thoughtful college essay. I know how many times a kid should take the SATs to get the best score. I know which majors are best to choose at these schools that funnel kids into careers that will provide them with the means to afford a comfortable lifestyle.

I have no idea what kids, who can’t handle college, should do. What’s the difference between a vocational school and a community college? What careers are possible? Do any of these careers lead to a real job with benefits? How successful are vocational college in preparing kids for jobs that still exist today?

I’m embarrassed to say that I know very few people who did not attend a four-year college. I have no role models. There seems to be very few books on the topic.

While Ian is very gifted at music and computers, a liberal arts college would make him miserable. He would hate campus life. He would hate classwork that was outside his strengths. He would hate the lack of structure. He just wants to sit in front of a computer or a keyboard for fifteen hours a day and just do his stuff.

So, I’m figuring it out and relying, as always, on MY strengths, which are research and networking. I’m actually having a lot of fun, because it’s terra incognita. Exploration is exciting.

That packed room of parents was fascinating. I wonder if there is growing acceptance in parents like myself to look beyond college for options for their kids. I wonder if they are hearing stories about kids who are forced to go to college, because everybody does it, but then end up back in the parents’ house after a year of F’s. Lots of food for thought.



Well, I’m back. Sort of. I took a little time off from blogging, because we were in the midst of a national meltdown, and I was fearful that one of our little debates was going to get misused by someone with an ax to grind.

I’ve turned back to education policy, which has all of the sudden gotten very crowded with new writers. Good for schools, bad for me. I have about seven different topics that I’m working on right now, but nothing solid yet, which is making me feel very unsettled. After I lock down my next article, I’ll be back.

Frats, Beer, and In Loco Parentis

Last Wednesday night, Jonah and two of his housemates went to a frat party two blocks from their off campus house. His roommate, David (name changed), was a member of this fraternity. It’s a high end frat, according to Jonah, and one that he’s considering on pledging.

Everybody had a good time. They connected with friends that they hadn’t seen since last semester. There was a keg of cheap beer, but people weren’t totally smashed at that time. Jonah and his other roommate left early at around midnight, leaving David, a first generation kid whose dad is a pipe fitter from Philadelphia, with his fraternity brothers.

Around 2:00, Jonah was going to sleep and called David twice to see where he was. No answer. In morning, when he was bed was empty, they called him again. No answer.

By mid-afternoon, the housemates were stressed, so they tracked down his girlfriend through Instagram and heard that David had been in an accident on the way home.

It seems that David did come home, but slipped on the front stairs and fell on the back of head on the pavement. There’s a pool of blood about five feet from the stairs. He staggered around for a while, nobody know how long, before the cops found him and took him to the hospital.

He had four skull fractures and bleeding on the brain. At first, his brain was still swelling, and he couldn’t recognize his parents. By last night, he was eating food and his memory was returning. Still, he’s out for the semester with months of speech therapy, at the very least.

Did this happen because of booze or was it a freak accident? While Jonah insists the kid wasn’t smashed, he probably was. If I was the parent, I would have already employed an army of lawyers to wreck unholy vengeance on the university and fraternity. Weirdly, the cops and the university haven’t come by to talk with the kids. When we were there this weekend, I made Steve take pictures of the dried blood puddle, in case the parents should need it in the future.

Jonah was a hot mess, so he came home for the weekend where we babied him with special foods, hugs, and frequent lectures about responsibility, education, and the fragility of brains.

What should we do about fraternities?


What To Do With Kids With High Functioning Autism?

I first wrote this blog post back in October 2013. Due to the mysterious magic of google searches, it is my most popular blog post. I thought I would update it this morning, five years later. 

My son has high functioning autism or Level 1 autism or whatever they’re calling it these days. Because researchers now think that there are many different kinds of autism, my kid’s variety is characterized by speech and social deficits, average to superior IQ, hyperlexia, some anxiety and sensory issues, no obsessions, no stimming.

He’s only a sophomore in small public high school right now. His story isn’t over yet. He still has two more years before graduation, and we face major decisions about his future. Sill, in those five years, he has made so much progress. He’s now completely out of special ed for math, and he participates in after school activities with the typical kids. Even in the past year, he has made stunning changes. We’re now considering future plans for him that were inconceivable when I first wrote this blog post.

Because this blog post brings in so many random parents desperate for answers, I thought I would spend the next thirty minutes writing up what worked for us. Now, I’m not a hundred percent sure that our methods for dealing with my kid’s autism are responsible for these changes. Maybe simple brain maturity would have gotten us to the same point. Maybe these methods only work for my particular kid. I can’t be certain, but just the same, I’ll share.  Continue reading

First Day of School

39613694_10155761233638106_8915195205515214848_n.jpg It’s the first day of school out here on the East Coast. Jonah’s first day of sophomore year at college and Ian’s sophomore year at high school.

We finished moving Jonah into his off-campus house over the weekend. It was a month long process with many trips to IKEA and the mattress store. Because it’s a 6 Guys and 1 bathroom college house, I made the pediatrician give him every shot available for 19 year olds. I prepared his immunity system as if he was traveling to a third world nation with open sewer systems.

I think it’s the last time that I will set foot in that house, unless it’s time to collect him at the end of the year. The front shrubs were already decorated with Bud Light cans and cigarette butts. I am so not happy. I can’t remember how he was able to get me to give the okay on this plan.

Ian’s first day is lot less eventful. He’s been at the school quite a bit this month already for marching band. It’s his second year of marching band, which is super tough on him. The music part is easy. Tolerating other kids for a full day and lugging a heavy snare drum around a field in a polyester uniform is very, very hard. But he’s doing it.

We did a lot of different kinds of camps this summer, all of which were good in their own way, but the best was the computer programming camp. It was 9 to 5 computer programming. He did it without an aide. And he hit it out of the ball park. It was super expensive, but so, so worth it. We’ve bought Ian out of autism. I’ll write about that later. IMG_6486-1.JPG

Social Exhaustion

I follow quite a number of academics on twitter for obvious reasons. If I write about higher ed, I should know what professors are talking about that day. I particularly follow political scientists, because they’re family, but I also follow people from other fields.

Recently, a group of female, African American scholars were talking about how exhausting it is to hear middle class, white women talk about dieting and fitness. When these conversations tend to pop up on twitter, I usually tune out, particularly when they start referring to all white women as “Becky’s.” But I read the whole thread about how these academics feel alienated, when small talk turns to topics that are not usual topics in their circles.

Sometimes when I’m walking through the supermarket in town, I’ll run into a neighbor or someone from spin class. I’ll ask her what’s up and she’ll sigh and complain about her busy schedule taking her kids to birthday parties and sports events. And OMG prom dresses are so expensive. And college applications are due soon.

And here’s what I’m thinking (or used to think when things were rougher) … Continue reading

Everyday Fashion

Chris, my brother, on the phone: Hi, La. Happy Birthday.
Me: Thanks, Keek.
Chris: Whatcha going to do today?
Me: I’m actually working right now on the stupid xxx article and then I have a 9:30 spin class. At noon, we’re going into the city to go the fashion exhibit at the Met [the Catholic Imagination at the Metropolitan Museum of Art] and then we’ll get Chinese food or something.
Chris: the fashion exhibit? With the boys?
Me: Yeah, it’s my birthday, so they have to do the things that I want to do. So, we’ll walk around looking at dresses making witty remarks. Well, they’ll be slightly bitchy remarks, but we’ll call them witty —
Chris: — a Queer Eye episode in other words.
Me: Exactly. I have to do boy things for 364 days a year, so for my birthday, they have do a girl thing.

And my guys were champs and gave me as much time as I needed to ooh and aah over the beautiful dresses in a beautiful place and, really, no one was bitchy at all.

Here are some pictures of the exhibit. I want to go back again and reshoot the pictures with more people in the background. I love the contrast between people in their everyday tourist shorts and t-shirts and a few extra pounds gazing at the elegant manikin.

DSC_0105DSC_0101DSC_0107 Continue reading