More On Our Flagship College

The boys had spring break last week. Steve took the week off, too. With three extra people knocking around the house, there was no need to even pretend that I would get work done. Even if I wanted to work, it’s impossible to have that tomb-like quiet I need to concentrate. So, we did lots of stuff instead.

First up was Jonah’s Accepted Student Day at our flagship state college. Jonah had been “meh” about attending this school. When we went for the tour last fall, it looked shabby. An old dean showed us power point slides about the school and got into the weeds about class requirements. She was wearing a sun dress with her bra straps showing. The other colleges gave us tours of the grassy campuses led by perky, preppy tour guides who made lame jokes about walking backwards. Jonah really dug those perky kids and their lame jokes.

But we made a chart of his eleven colleges and ordered it by rankings. We had a column for total cost of attendance and another column for merit aid. The chart was adhered to the fridge with a big magnet. When we were all done filling in the info, the choice was a no-brainer.

As he got used to the idea and talked to more people about the school, he started feeling better. The word about the school is that everybody gets jobs as soon as they graduate. And over and over we kept hearing, “Internships! The school has a ton of internships!”

That weekend, we sent Ian away to a sleepaway weekend camp for kids with Aspergers. We thought it would be a nice treat for him, and it would give us the chance to totally focus on Jonah. Turns out it was a bit of disaster, since the camp also took kids who had bigger issues, and Ian was freaked out by them. Sigh. But at least we had some quality time with the big kid, because there were actually some big decisions to make.

Jonah got into three difference schools at the flagship college – the environmental school, the arts and sciences program, and the engineering school – and we had to pick one. Each school was running sessions on their offerings. There were discussions on the different majors. There were tours of the dorms. The dining halls were open to everyone.

And it was all spread over the five different campuses within that one college. This is the physically largest college that I’ve ever seen. It can take thirty minutes to get from one class to another, if you catch the bus at just the right time. Class selection has to take into account that major commute time. Not every kid can manage this college. It’s overwhelming even for a college pro like myself.

He’s thinking about majoring in bio-engineering, so we went to a presentation on it. He could major in that at two different schools within the college. One takes four years, the other is a five year program. Good thing we went to the presentation and figured that out.

The woman who gave the bio-engineering presentation was smart and helpful. I whispered to Jonah that he should go talk to her when he has questions next fall. Afterwards, she asked if anybody had questions. Hands shot up. All parents’ hands. One guy with a thick Jersey accent asked if his daughter would get a masters with the five year program (no, but two BAs), what was the typical salary for a graduate with this degree (shrug), and what jobs were available for people with this major (cleaning up New Jersey’s superfund sites). His questions and questions from other parents were tightly focused on jobs and money and time spent at college. The other presentations we attended that day hammered on the internship opportunities and job prospects over and over.

I was rather surprised by A. the high parental involvement in their kids’ college decisions and B. by the job training mission of the college. Neither are bad things, but clearly a major shift in college life.

In the end, Jonah decided on the arts and sciences school, because it will give him some flexibility. We walked out the bookstore with all sorts of branded t-shirts and stickers and caps. The school definitely does have some eyesores (hello, ugly dorms!), but it also has the green fields, greenhouses, and new lecture halls that he wants so badly. He hasn’t taken off his branded baseball cap since that weekend.

He’s all in.

Ian’s Birthday Surprise

Yankee games are funny. The stadium is full of a lot of Bronx types – Italians and Puerto Ricans — and former Bronx types who have moved to New Jersey. There are always a few solitary old dudes who come by themselves with binders of batting statistics. They obsessively record every run and error. They are part of Ian’s tribe.

Ian loves going to Yankee games. It’s totally his own thing. Jonah and Steve prefer soccer. I like eating food and drinking beer at sports games, but have very little interest in the game itself. Ian likes baseball, though only at the stadium. He watches every pitch and hit. He likes the corny rituals, like the grounds guys who have to dance to YMCA while fixing the dirt. He reads every word that comes up on the jumbo screen, including the birthday wishes.

Ian turned 15 yesterday. For $25, he got an awesome surprise.

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Apt. 11D Is Now the Home of Many Hobbies

When Jonah was christened, Steve’s cousin came to New York to act as Jonah’s godfather. Looking around for topics of conversation — our dissertation topics were certainly not of interest — he asked what our hobbies were. I think we laughed, which I suppose was rude, but the thought of having time for a hobby was absurd. Steve had just begun working on Wall Street and was finishing his dissertation on the weekends. I was watching Jonah, adjuncting at Columbia, and trying to turn my dissertation into an article. We had no lives outside of work or parenting.

Now that we’re not slaving away in the netherword of adjuncts and temporary administrative positions in finance, we have more time, and, thus, have hobbies. If Steve’s cousin ever asks about our hobbies again, we’ll have lots of answers.

I’m collecting old books at estate sales and then reselling them. Steve and Jonah are growing heirloom tomatoes in the basement, which they’ll replant in the garden in a month. There’s European soccer on the TV. Ian’s drums and music. Jonah’s longboard. Steve’s genealogical research on his cousin-marrying Mennonite farmer ancestors.

We sometimes think that we’ll return to the city when this parent thing is over. But we need elbow room for the hobbies, so maybe not.

 

 

 

How a New Supreme Court Ruling Could Affect Special Education

In a stunning 8-0 decision in the case Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a higher standard of education for children with disabilities. Advocates and parents say the case dramatically expands the rights of special-education students in the United States, creates a nationwide standard for special education, and empowers parents as they advocate for their children in schools. But critics say the decision will not have any impact on schools, arguing that the vast majority already provide a good education for those kids.

As I explained in January, the parents of Endrew F. removed him from his local public school, where he made little progress, and placed him in a private school, where they said he made “significant” academic and social improvement.

In 2012, Drew’s parents filed a complaint with the Colorado Department of Education to recover the cost of tuition at the school, which is now about $70,000 per year. The lower courts ruled on behalf of the school district on the grounds that the intent of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is to ensure handicapped kids have access to public education—not to guarantee any particular level of education once inside. But the parents appealed, with the case eventually landing at the Supreme Court.

More here.

Landmark Decision for Special Education

I wrote about Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District for the Atlantic in January. At that time, the case was under review by Supreme Court. The justices were debating whether or not children with special needs were entitled to an education that provided them with de minimus benefits — basically no benefits – or whether they were entitled an education that enabled them to make progress.

Today, SCOTUS ruled in favor of Endew F. and all special ed kids. Yahoo!

And this happened just as Judge Neil Gorsuch was being questioned by the Senate. He was forced to explain to Congress why he ruled against special education students in several cases. He was forced to admit that he was wrong.

Oh, life is very, very good today.

Trump’s Budget Isn’t a Surprise

I’m reading commentary on Donald Trump’s budget with a certain amount of dread. It’s exactly what he promised. We shouldn’t be surprised, but still I’m depressed.

Let me just focus for a minute on the funding for special education and services, because it’s very much on my mind today. I put aside the rest of the day to find appropriate programs for Ian for the 2-1/2 months of summer.

Ian’s public school will take care of him for a half day through July, but that’s all I have. Without lots of stimulating activity during the summer, he’ll retreat to his computer and have no socialization. He’ll be mute by the time we get to September. There are no state sponsored activities that are appropriate for him, so it’s going to be lots of out-of-pocket expenses with me not working at all, so I can drive him around.

I’ve been calling the financial aid offices at several colleges if see they’ll take into consideration our special education expenses when putting together a financial aid package for Jonah. They won’t. They also don’t care that we wasted too many years in graduate school and didn’t get started on new careers until our mid-30s.

When things get tighter for the special education community, we go into isolationist mode. We take care of our kids first, and we stop advocating for the greater community.  I know very well that as tough as things get for us, it is NOTHING compared to families with less means and with kids with more severe problems. (I have horror stories.) But the responsibility of a parent to care for his/her kid first. I can’t advocate for others, if I’m scrounging around for my kid.

Things are going to get tighter for families like ours. For families with less means and more severely disabled kids, situations will become dire.

I need a little more time to read everything and figure out specific details.

How will the cuts in the budget impact you and your family?

UPDATE: What to be depressed? Look at this chart.

 

Blizzard Fun

While Steve and Jonah attempt to extricate our cars from two feet of snow (with some minor assistance from Ian), I’ve been nesting inside, because back pain. We’ve done some minor useful activities today, but mostly it’s been sheer laziness around here.

There’s been some music listening.

and

And some online shopping. I’m really into feminine, delicate jewelry right now.

And some cooking. I’m making Anthony Boudain’s meatloaf with a mushroom gravy. Meatloaf has been a bust in my family in the past. I’m trying to convince Ian that a meatloaf is really a rectangular meatball and, thus, it should be delicious. He’s not entirely buying this framing device.