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Surprise: Both My Kids Start College in the Fall

Surprise: Both My Kids Start College in the Fall

By Mir Kamin

We had kind of an exciting day, yesterday. We’ve been prepping my oldest for her departure for college for months, but yesterday, her little brother was admitted to college.

More specifically, my 16-year-old son was accepted to our state’s flagship university as a Move On When Ready (MOWR) student—a program which allows students to concurrently enroll at the university and complete their high school graduation requirements. Next year, as a senior, he’ll spend his mornings on campus and his afternoons at the high school. This will allow him to begin his college experience but still be with his friends at the high school for a few classes and various extracurriculars.

When I was in high school (you know, back in the Stone Age), the options available to my kids and probably yours, today, simply didn’t exist. My high school proudly boasted a roster of AP classes… which were available only to seniors. My kids have been taking AP classes since they were high school freshmen, as their school (and many others) is using AP-level courses as their “accelerated track” for all four years, now. There was no such thing as a Career Academy, which many schools now offer, which involves gaining college credit either on a nearby dedicated public school campus or at a community college. And as far as I know, any sort of dual enrollment at a “real” university didn’t exist.

As admission to college becomes more competitive, and as educational options become more plentiful and more widely accepted—when I was growing up, homeschooling was very unusual, and nowadays it’s much more common, for example—more and more high schoolers are being encouraged to start gathering college credit as early as possible. AP courses are being offered to high school freshmen, as I mentioned. All students are being encouraged to enter “college equivalent” programs as early as their sophomore or junior years. And top students have the option to go into programs like MOWR, where they are indistinguishable from “regular” students in their university classrooms.

I’m having a bit of a love-hate relationship with the state of education today, as a result.

On the one hand: I love that there are multiple paths to academic achievement available. I love that when public school stopped being a good fit for my kid, we were able to homeschool for a few years. I love that when he started to outrun my knowledge (which happened a lot sooner than I’d like to admit…) there were online classes and qualified instructors at our disposal. I love that we were able to cobble together a tailored curriculum he loved, such that he was able to skip a grade (and that it gave him some much-needed confidence). I love that when homeschooling stopped being the best option, we were able to build a customized school experience for him as he entered our local high school. I love that once he was fully acclimated back into the public school routine, there were rigorous classes and life-enriching activities there for the taking. I love that he’s now going to have this “bridging” year of half-college, half-high school before he graduates.

But on the other hand: I hate that we as a society are forever pushing our kids to gogogo, do more, be more, be the best, work harder, race to the imaginary finish line and then don’t stop, no, keep going, there’s another finish line over there! I hate that my son’s asynchronous development means that meeting his academic needs always comes with a heaping side of anxiety about whether or not he’s being pushed beyond his socio-emotional capabilities. I hate that we talk about his advanced intellect, mostly, when we talk about the educational choices we’ve made for him over the years, and that that’s true, sure, but the bigger truth is that the main impetus for most of these choices has been the relentless bullying he has experienced over the years from some of his peers. We are not a “race to be the best” family, actually. We are a “be the best you” family… and also a family that spends a lot of time assuring our youngest that “eventually people grow up and mature and you have more choices about who to be around, and the bullying diminishes.”

My son shouldn’t have to choose what he’d like to do with his education based upon where he thinks he’ll no longer get roughed up in the bathroom or shoved in the hallways between classes. And yet, here we are.

Am I a wee bit terrified about my 16-year-old—who has a lovely safety-net of an IEP and parents to advocate for him when needed, at the high school—joining a campus of 35,000 students in August and being expected to handle everything himself? Sure. I can’t call his college professors, even if I wanted to. As an autistic student, there are certain disability accommodations the university will offer him, but 1) not as many as he can have in high school and 2) no one can address any problems which arise but him. That’s scary, for all of us.

But at the same time, am I super proud of this young man? Lord, I am so proud of him, you have no idea. Only a couple dozen kids are accepted from the local high schools as MOWR students here each year. The requirements to get in are insanely stringent. My son has worked his tail off for years and it’s nice to see that recognized. It’s great to see him feeling smart and capable, and to see him so excited about his future. We’ve come such a long, long way from that day when he crouched underneath a desk at middle school orientation and begged us to take him home.

Last night we went to an informational session which included, at the end, my son signing up for his first appointment with his college advisor. He’ll go in to see her in a few weeks to plan his class registration for the fall. As we headed back to the car, I asked him if he wanted me to go to that first meeting with him.

“I…” he paused and looked up, as he often does when he’s looking for the right words. “I feel like if you come with me, I’m likely to let you do the talking for me. I think I need to start doing it myself, here.” He paused, again. “I can do it myself. Thank you, though.”

He can do it himself. I may not love exactly how we landed here, but everything that comes before brings us to now. And now? I think he’s going to be just fine.

Mir Kamin
About the Author

Mir Kamin

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now ...

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now her life looks very different than it did back then: Those little kids turned into anything-but-regular teenagers, she is remarried, and somehow she’s become one of those people who talks to her dogs in a high-pitched baby voice. Along the way she’s continued chronicling the everyday at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, plus she’s bringing you daily bargain therapy at Want Not. The good news is that Mir grew up and became a writer and she still really likes hanging out with her kids; the bad news is that her hair is a lot grayer than it used to be.

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  • Jill

    I was able to take one college credit while a senior, offered within my high school walls. While it was nice to be a semester off from the crowd in my major, it came with an uncomfortable side effect. I was considered a “transfer student” at the four- year university I chose and not a “freshman.” I didn’t get a lot of the contact info or invitations most new students get. Assuming he continues at the same college, it won’t matter, but just fyi.

    • I think that because MOWR is a statewide program, and with the prevalence of college credit from a variety of sources, it won’t matter anywhere, but thanks for the heads up!

  • Mom24_4evermom

    My oldest spent his senior year (15 years ago) taking classes at Ohio State and one class at the high school. There are many things that make that a great choice. A downside, for him, was that he felt he didn’t really belong at either place. He clearly wasn’t a typical high school student, yet he also wasn’t a true college student either. I’m grateful there are opportunities like this available, but wish/hope that schools don’t sell them as a good fit for everyone.

    Best of luck to Monkey. And Chickadee.
    And you. 🙂

  • Anna

    I started college part time at 16 through a similar program in Minnesota called PSEO, more than 20 years ago. It was the best decision ever. I was never considered anything other that a peer to my classmates, and I am incredibly shy and awkward, but I was able to find group mates easily (everyone in freshman classes is looking to meet other people). I attended part time for one year, then full time my senior year (except band, so I could technically participate in the extracurriculars). The classes weren’t that much more difficult, but learning how to navigate college expectations with this safety net was great. I was also a transfer student after I officially graduated from high school. This has huge benefits, from getting the classes you want earlier to better on campus housing, since selection was based on credits earned. All in all, it was a great way to learn how to advocate for myself and to take advantage of opportunity when it presented itself.

  • Kim

    Ah, Mir, my heart exploded with pride at those words, can’t imagine how you felt!  Good on you, Monkey!

    (And, yes, AAAAAGGGH YUR BAYBEEEE! feelings, too, I gots them.)

  • LoriO

    With my daughter, we took that other track, where she chose not to gogogo, because she wanted to do other things, and didn’t want to put in the effort. With my son, well, let’s just say my brilliant young man does not show up as brilliant in academic environments, so that hasn’t been the conversation we’ve needed to have. So to really relate and give you my .02, I have to go back to MY school and college career, and let me tell you: these sorts of options, if not these SPECIFIC ones, existed way back in the stone age of my childhood, and not taking that road isn’t necessarily a better choice. I was gifted, my parents felt they didn’t want to see me pushed to move forward ahead of the pack and acted to prevent it when it was being recommended–and I’m talking about starting in first grade and continuing until the end of high school–and I RESENTED THE HECK OUT OF IT as I grew up. Would my life be different if they hadn’t? Sure. Better or worse? Can’t say. But if the point is that MONKEY wants to do this, then you should stop focusing on the hate part of the love-hate relationship. If you have the kind of kid for whom this is a positive…then it’s a positive, no matter why it’s one. If Monkey didn’t WANT to move forward like this but was doing it only to get away from bullies and crap like that, it’d be different. But it sounds like this is what he needs for his brain as much as for anything else.

    In other words. CONGRATS to you guys. And thank god for different paths for different kids.

    • Brigitte

      My parents did the same, feeling that I wouldn’t fit or have friends if I was moved ahead academically.  And failing to notice the I already didn’t fit or have friends.  

  • Aska

    It’s awesome to hear your kids are doing so well. 🙂 I’m very glad for you all.

  • Alicia

    I’ve mentioned before that I work in Student Affairs – and I was forwarded an article about working with students who are on the ASD. It was a team based approach and was a great program that focused on developing strengths of the student. I admit, I thought of your monkey as I read it.

    What an awesome step for Monkey and proof positive thy you are one awesome mom.

    Pssst – if you want a copy of the article, let me know where to send it. It really was a great article. 🙂

  • Meri

    Congrats, Monkey!

    My cousin’s oldest has done a similar program for the past year or so in upstate New York and from everyone’s accounts, it’s been great. I hope you have that much fun, too!

  • Heidi

    I quite literally have tears in my eyes over Mr. Monkey’s achievements and drive. For people who’ve been following him–and you–since he was wee, this is an amazing day. Mir, I wasn’t sure if I should bring up this issue here or at your blog, but I’ve been thinking about this as I follow Monkey’s journey and anticipate my own PDD-NOS/Aspie son’s progression toward college. He’s only in 5th grade now, but hey, it’s never too early to worry.

    Has it occurred to you that Monkey may not want or feel comfortable with the traditional away-from-home college/university experience? For instance, that he may continue at Flagship University past next year but wish to live at home? How would you feel about this, and would you strongly encourage an experience more like Chickie’s even if he’s reluctant?

    I guess I mostly ask this out of self-interest, as I’m pre-preparing for my concepts of going to college, and the purposes it serves, to undergo revision as my older son approaches college age. How important is the going away part? And how do you balance your own sense of this importance with your child’s wishes?

    • I think it’s a very logical question to have, and my answer is… we have told him he needs to live in the dorm his first year because we think it’s one of those growth experience things. Left to his own devices, he would live at home, and if I felt like he absolutely couldn’t manage in a dorm, I would let him, but I don’t think that’s the case (for him). I consider gentle but strong encouragement to step out of his comfort zone part of my job, and that includes being honest with him about the fact that there’s dorm life stuff he really won’t enjoy, sure, but also some stuff he might, and we expect him to try it. (If everything goes sideways, home is not too far from campus and provides a handy escape hatch.) I’m not sure this is the “right” answer, but it’s the right-est answer for us for right now.

  • Erin

    I’m a little put off by the implication that community college isn’t a “real” college. Last time I checked, my associates degree from there couple with my bachelors degree from a state university got me the same teaching license as someone who graduated from a “real” college. It also got me my diploma with no college debt, the ability to minimize expenses while living at home & helped me graduate in 3 years instead of 4.

    • I’m not sure where you’re getting that implication, Erin. It’s certainly not my intent. Community colleges are a wonderful resource, but the admission requirements and typical student make-up at them is obviously different than at a major university, that’s all.

  • Lisa

    I did a similar program called PSEO, mainly to escape high school. I loved it, but my parents were engaged enough to know when I was screwing around too much. I graduated with a diploma and an AA my senior year of high school.

    My best friend at the time also did PSEO, but only part time. Her parents were of the sink or swim on your own variety. She sunk hard. She was a brilliant writer, but couldn’t make it through English 102 because it was an 8 o’clock class. She made it fine through Chem (not her best subject) because it was a 1 o’clock class. Not kidding. 

    My point being, every one and every situation is different Hard to know what’s going to happen, but all you can do is keep communication going and let him do his thing. 

    Good luck to all of you!