During a party, my brother asked Annie how to spell “unacceptable.” Ever the joker, he placed this note on her report card which was hanging on the fridge! It points to the one “A-” on her report card!

What’s it all about? I’ve touched on this theme in the past – love of learning, how do we foster it; success, how do we ensure it; preparedness…. I don’t have all the answers. I think I would define my success as a parent if I instill a life-long love of learning in my children. I want them to have a thirst for knowledge, a love of books. I also want them to have interesting experiences so they can explore their talents. I want them to have the opportunity to delve into their creativity. And I want them to have time to be bored….to dream…to be alone and be ok with that.

As Annie approaches the end of her junior year, the “all-important year” according to the college-prep gurus, she is working hard on her studies, prepping for ACT and SAT exams, practicing for the school musical (her first time!), babysitting, managing her Etsy shop and designing her prom dress.

Annie’s most recent set of custom wedding clutches.

Kids are WAY busier than I was as a kid. I lived too far from school to get involved in any extracurriculars. By the time I got home, I did my homework and watched a LOT of TV  I worked hard and graduated at the top of my class, but I’m not sure I was all that “smart.” I had fun friends, a great neighborhood that kept me busy and was social. (We used to go out dancing on Tuesday nights at the teen disco club!)

Some of the elite colleges were hard to get into, but if you wanted to go to Ohio State, you applied and went there. Today, OSU is HARD to get into. I happen to know talented, good kids who got wait-listed there! And the elite colleges….you have to be a “freak of nature” to get in! (As I’ve so lovingly said to my older daughter.) So, as my third child approaches the college discernment period, I reflect on the games we must play. The “required activities” kids have to participate in, the financial wrangling you have to go through to pay for it all, the scholarships, the Fafsa, …..all for 16 year olds to “figure out what they want to do with their lives.”

It is much more important for me that my kids find balance. Balance between working hard and having fun. Balance between working hard and having a little down time in front of the tv. Balance between working hard and finding time to get outdoors to run, ski, sled, skate, walk, fish, swim, or just lay out on a blanket in the back yard. Balance between hitting the books, and finding time to create.

To me, it’s sad that kids’ futures are “decided” by the College Board. An SAT or ACT score does not define who you are. My brother? He is quite successful! He may not have been the best student (I’m pretty sure his wife – at-the-time girlfriend – helped him with a thing or two in college….) But he used his gifts and talents and forged his way. That is my hope for my children.  That they will find happiness and fulfillment in life, whatever they may do. That they can find their passion and live it.

Project Memory – in which Annie’s art class created pencil drawings of children who rarely get to see their reflection.

I believe life is a journey. That it is not a clear-cut path. I believe in goals and hard work. But I also believe you can adapt, change, or try a new path.

You are not your SAT score…..