My youngest child is gifted. He's an excellent student. A smart little fart. You would think that comes with a lot of expectations, but along the way raising four boys I've learned the expectations we set for our children and ourselves don't necessarily have to align with what society expects.
With the new STEM program (Science Technology Engineering Math) expecting more work than advanced placement (AP) or dual enrollment college classes (at least in my area), high school kids are exhausting themselves trying to fit in every "requirement" to make college applications look good. From more demanding academic schedules and outside activities to after-school jobs, we are raising a generation of stressed out young adults dealing with emotional and physical health issues that simply aren't necessary at this age. Put the brakes on!
This new school year I raised a few brows when I discouraged my son from participating in STEM classes. He enjoys his peers in the music programs and wanted to join marching and concert band. At his school, it was impossible for students to be in STEM and take any other classes outside of academia. The schedules simply would not align. Knowing that music and friendship were a part of my son's happiness, we decided that he could take advanced classes and maybe an AP course now and then, and still have a quality, worthwhile high school career--all without losing his mind.
I understand our country has fallen behind the rest of the world in many areas and our education system is one of those concerns. However (and what I really mean is, so what), one of the great things about our nation is we don't do things like everyone else. We are all about figuring it out as we go along, giving ourselves a break, and taking advantage of our individual strengths and creativity to benefit the whole. We know how to work hard. We know how to succeed.
Now, I'm not saying kids shouldn't be busy. I'm not saying kids don't need to learn how to work. It's the trend of overdoing it in every aspect of our lives that has gotten out of control. And now we are pushing Go! Go! Go! on our children. Multi-tasking is a way of life and "too busy to think straight" is a badge of honor. When we are bragging on how we are too busy in our lives on Facebook in order to impress other people, something is wrong.
I'll only have my little boy for four more years. As his mother, it is my job to make sure his quality of life supersedes the quantity of society's expectations. That doesn't mean I won't set the bar, but I will not set a bar that requires him to give up everything else that he loves in order to fit the mold of today's new stereotype of success. For us that meant given up some popular new programs in order for him to have a balanced life throughout his high school years.
The world today is too concerned with who can carry the most stress and still make it to the top. We no longer focus on personal capacity. We no longer nourish individual strength, talent, and passion. I think it's time to re-evaluate where we set the bar. It's not necessary to raise it to someone else's standard just because it's on trend or the thing to do. What is important is moving at our own pace, and not raising the bar higher than we can ever reach without everything else crashing to the ground.
"You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day; unless you are too busy then you should sit for an hour."
So think about the goals others are setting for you. Examine yourself and set reachable milestones. Don't get caught up in keeping up with what everyone else is doing just because it seems everyone else is doing it. Set the bar. But don't raise it higher than you can reach.