Parent Involvement

Dec. 3, 2014

Today I want to celebrate one of my own. My middle child, a son, will graduate with a degree in geology in about two weeks. I like to bring him up because he did not take a traditional route through college, but one that led him to successfully complete his college requirements.

I have written about him before, but his story is worth repeating. He is smart and made good grades in high school, but struggled with focus and boredom due to his being attention deficit. Due to the fact that he had taken several IB and AP classes, by the end of his junior year, he had all he needed to graduate except for a one-semester government class. When he showed me his line-up of classes for his senior year, I got a bit worried. I have no problem with interest-specific classes, but when the entire schedule was made up of classes like photography and videography, I got a sinking feeling that he might find himself with too much time for getting into trouble—which he had already proven he was capable of doing.

It was me, not him, that suggested he finish high school early and go do something useful in the world. He was suspicious, but listened as I suggested Americorps or something similar. He countered with the idea of going out of the country to volunteer. We started looking into gap year programs, but ended up constructing one on our own through one of my husband’s work colleagues.

This middle child and his older brother—who took a semester off from college, where he was doing well—took off that January to volunteer with a small NGO in Peru. They both had some Spanish, but took an intensive language course in the country before finding their way to the small community in which they worked. It was a great experience for both of them as they had to figure out transportation and housing, as well as their work project on their own.

After their return, older brother returned to college and the younger sized up his options quickly. He knew the rules: if you are a full-time student, your college fund kicks in; if not, you’re on your own. When he insisted he would attend the local community college, all kinds of alarms went off. I knew it wasn’t what he wanted, but he didn’t want to scrounge for his own rent. His dad and I tried to talk him out of it, telling him if he wasn’t serious, he would be wasting his college fund—so, of course, that is what he did—waste his college fund. He made Cs when he was completely capable of As and took classes that didn’t go toward much when he finally did get serious about college.

Shortly into the second semester of community college, he came to me to proclaim I was right: He wasn’t ready for college. Instead he was heading to New Zealand. He saved a couple of thousand from his part-time job, and his dad and I told him to have a great time. Which he did. He worked when he needed enough money, traveled all over, met lots of people, made all his own decisions, and truly matured.

Ten months or so later, he returned broke, but happy with his adventures. He was forced to live at home for awhile due to lack of funds, and he took the first job he could get: selling high end vacuum cleaner and air filter systems. He actually was a good salesman, but hated the job. About three weeks into it, he came to us and said: “I’m ready for college.” And he was.

He started university the following fall, was a serious student, did well in his classes, loved his major of geology, and is now set to graduate in a couple of weeks—at age 25. I never doubted that he would eventually go to college, but I knew it needed to be on his own terms. That is something that many parents have a difficult time accepting, but accept it they should, as it never does any good to force a young person into college.

Education never has been a one-size fits all, and college is not the right path for every high school graduate, nor is going straight to college after high school. It can be a stop-start, much delayed, or a circular route getting there. But the student shouldn’t start until he or she is ready, willing, and able. That’s what it’s all about.

Congratulation Wes!!

9/23/14

Maybe I haven’t been paying attention, but I only recently discovered “unschooling.” Apparently unschooling has been around since 1977 when it was coined by educator John Holt, who believed homeschooling didn’t allow enough learning freedom. According to the website, http://unschooling.com, unschooling is “a method of homeschooling that puts the desire, drive, motive and responsibility for life—this thing we call learning, or education—in the hands of the learner.”

Reading between the lines, and from blogs and articles on the subject, this means that the student, no matter what the age, is in charge of what he learns, when he learns it, and how he learns it. If he doesn’t want to learn long division, no need. If he wants to design and build things out of hardwoods, so be it. If she doesn’t want to research the Civil War and write up a correctly cited report, no problem. If she wants to plant a vegetable garden and raise chickens, all the power to her. And vise versa on all of the above.

The idea of unschooling is intriguing. Students should be encouraged and allowed to pursue their interests, to go deep into those subjects, and to benefit from hands-on experience. And reading the many blogs and comments on various websites about unschooling, those who have experienced it and parents who have “taught” it, have nothing but high praises for this unusual approach to education.

Here comes my however: I read Huffington Post article from 2013 by Lorraine Devon Wilke that took a close look at one unschooling family, the Martins. Wilke wrote that the Martins allow their children, ages 13, 11, 7, and 4, “to make all their own decisions regarding what they do and when.” Wilke quoted Mother Martin as saying: “We live life like every day is a weekend. The kids have never been to school and we don’t force them to study at home. We treat them with the same respect as adults—there’s no punishments or chores. They can have ice cream for breakfast and go to bed at 4 a.m. if they want. They’re smarter and better behaved as a result.”

The mother goes on to say: “I’m not worried in the slightest that if any of the kids want to go to college they will be behind, as they are as bright as any other child their age. If the kids want to go to college, then they will just have to sit the equivalent of a high school exam, but more and more colleges are actually embracing unschoolers, as they are recognizing how self-motivated most of the children are. For now, we’re not going to obsess about what profession the kids will have and what they are going to do when they’re older—we just enjoy every minute.”

I think it is fair to say that most people would find the Martin’s approach extreme, as Wilke does. Wilke points out that the opposite—parents who dictate everything a child does—is just as extreme. I agree.

I do see the mother’s comments on college as a bit naïve. It takes much more to be successful in college than just passing a high school equivalency exam. Maybe her kids would be self-motivated, but what if they decided they didn’t want to write the papers required for a course? For a student used to being in charge of everything he or she learns, it could be a tough transition to suddenly be expected to adhere to strict guidelines, deadlines, and required tasks. On the other hand, not all students are successful in a one-size-fits-all education system. Unschooling may work for some; for others it could be a disaster. Educational options and diverse learning situations would benefit all students. We’ve got a ways to go.

To learn more about unschooling go to the website mentioned above, or read Wilke’s article at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lorraine-devon-wilke/unschooling_b_2225836.html. And be sure to comment: What do you think about the idea of unschooling?

Sept. 4, 2014

There is a website on which reporters post “want ads” for information on subjects they are researching. Today I saw one of those information requests for college preparation advice for high school freshmen. The ad specifically requested “advice on how to build good habits.” I translate that to advice on how to be successful in college and life beyond high school.

How convenient then that the updated, second edition of Toward College Success: Is Your Teenager Ready, Willing, and Able? has recently been released. It is, of course, full of just that kind of information. It is directed toward parents, however, because they are the ones that through guidance and the handing over of responsibilities give their teenagers those skills necessary for a successful college experience.

Although these skills have been discussed often in this forum, it is never too repetitive to make or update a list.

1. Your freshman should keep her own calendar. Include not only academic deadlines and dates, but have her note sport and extracurricular meeting dates, doctor appointments, and anything else she has going. You also should keep track of those dates because in the beginning she probably will miss a few. You can remind her, but eventually let her take over—and let her suffer the consequences of missing a deadline or an appointment.

2. In high school, many teenagers get involved in numerous activities: multiple sports, music, clubs, community service, a job. This is a good time to guide your teenager through priority management. Teenagers can become overwhelmed juggling too many activities on top of school work. Make it clear that academics come first. If school work starts to slide, then your teenager may need guidance in deciding which activities to let go. This can be hard for parents because the teenager may decide to give up something that mom or dad really want him to pursue—such as piano lessons or a particular sport that is near and dear to mom or dad’s heart. Remember that this is the teenager’s life and he needs to make the decisions.

3. If you haven’t already, this is a good time to put your teenager on a budget and teach her financial responsibility. Make a list of the items you will pay for and those for which the teenager is responsible. Do this whether the teenager’s money is an allowance, from work she does for you, or from an outside part-time job—and stick to the plan. This is a good time to show your teenager your household expenses and how you budget.

4. Provide opportunities for your teenager to improve his communication skills. During family gatherings or when friends are around, ask an adult to start conversations with your teen, asking about the teen’s activities, interests, or views. Teens need to learn to communicate face-to-face instead of relying on texting or social media outlets. Also encourage your teen to ask questions as that is a good way to start networking and building contacts.

That’s a good list to start. It will grow as your teenager ages and as you give out graduated responsibility. Keep reminding yourself that the goal is to help your teenager be ready, willing, and able for success in college and life beyond high school.

Aug. 18, 2014

Today my middle kid boarded a plane to Honolulu to settle in and start his last semester of college. He is a geology student and although he has focused on hydrogeology, he has a keen interest in volcanoes—and where better to study volcanoes than Hawaii? This final semester—his semester abroad—is the end of a college career that started rocky, disappeared for awhile, but finally happened. When he decided he was ready for college, he became a serious student and has done very well.

Toward College Success: Is Your Teenager Ready, Willing, and Able?—as the title implies—stresses that students need to be ready, willing, and able to be successful in college. That sometimes means the student’s timetable is not the same as his or her parents. The important thing is not to force a student into college if he is not ready. I think I judged well on my son that I kissed goodbye today.

He had his share of trouble during high school, but being clever, intelligent, and charming he made his way through—a favorite with friends and teachers alike. However, he did get in trouble, oftentimes because he was bored. As his junior year wound down, he had already finished, and gone beyond, all requirements for graduation, save a one-semester government class. For his senior year, he proposed several “interesting,” but not challenging courses. He saw it as a year to have fun and coast; I saw it as prime opportunity to find trouble.

I suggested he finish his senior year mid-term and then do something useful and unusual. At first he was skeptical of my motives, but he eventually came around, but insisted he wanted to leave the country. Thanks to his dad’s connections, we were able to set up an internship for him and his older already-in-college brother with a non-governmental organization working in Peru. They both had a great experience and returned home about two days before graduation ceremonies.

Once home and graduated, he needed a plan. He knew our rule—we offered room, board, and tuition for full-time college students; we offered no financial support for other choices. He proclaimed he would attend the local community college and live with three other friends. I knew he wasn’t ready and tried to persuade him to just get a job and work awhile, but I couldn’t sway him. He went to class, hated it, did okay, and played hard. Toward the end of the second semester, he announced that I was, in fact, right, he didn’t really want to do college at that point. “I’m going to New Zealand,” he said. “Have a good time,” was our response.

And he did. He had a great time, worked when he needed money, played when he had it, and learned a lot about himself. After about nine months, he returned home, broke and needing a job quick. He took the first thing that came along—selling high-end vacuums and air-filtration systems. He turned out to be a good salesman, but hated every minute of it. Two weeks into the job, he announced he was ready for college.

The rest is history. He figured out the best study methods for himself, honestly told us that he knew he couldn’t work and do well in college, and made college his job. He had an internship this summer that paid well, provided him new beneficial experiences, and expanded his networks. He is hoping to network in Hawaii and land a volcano-related internship there. On the way to the airport he told me, “Who knows, maybe I can go to graduate school and focus on volcanology.”

His ticket was one-way to Hawaii—one way to the end of a successful college career, and beginning of the next stage—all on his own timetable.

July 2, 21014

In a recent Education Today article by Donald E. Heller, the author wrote: “The decision to allow our daughter to become a high school dropout when she approached us with the idea was one that our family debated intensely during the last six months. In the end, we agreed with our daughter that this was the best path for her.”

Finding the best path toward success for your teenager is the primary mantra of Toward College Success: Is Your Teenager Ready, Willing, and Able? Yet, choosing to drop out of high school as the best path is tough even for me to follow. Heller, dean of the college of education at Michigan State University, said he and his wife, a public school teacher, did have a difficult time coming to agreement with their daughter. He described his daughter as quite articulate at explaining her reasons for wanting to find a different path to the future.

The Heller’s two daughters had attended a private school in London in their younger years, then an alternative public school in another state before moving to Michigan. The older daughter graduated from the alternative high school, but the younger was enrolled in a local public high school, which had a good reputation. The daughter scored well on state tests and on the SAT, but her school grades were not reflecting the depth of knowledge Heller knew she had. He and his wife noticed the daughter was “not engaged in learning in ways that she had been in other schools she had attended.”

The well-regarded Michigan high school was, like so many of our public schools, “highly traditional in its structure and curriculum,” focused on improving the “performance of students on the state tests rather than to encourage them to grow intellectually and to develop a breadth of learning.” Heller’s daughter realized, and he and his wife came to see, that the daughter was not being challenged or allowed to explore her curiosity, develop her interests, or learn for the sake of learning—something she had thrived upon at her previous schools. An intelligent student, she was not challenged and was slipping through the cracks.

After reviewing the options, the family decided to let the daughter apply to an early college program, 600 miles from home. Heller acknowledges that public schools are under extreme pressure to prove their students’ ability to meet state and federal standards. That focus, however, results in a one-size-fits-all approach to education that simply doesn’t work for many students. Although she will not experience the traditions of a high school graduation, Heller’s daughter will have a college education. Many other students who don’t respond to standard curriculums are not so lucky.

I encouraged one of my sons to finish high school early because he already had all the requirements he needed, and I knew he was bored and headed for trouble. It was a good plan for him. I have a friend who let her daughter drop out, get a GED, and proceed straight to community college—the young women also recognized the “standard” wasn’t working for her.

The Toward College Success mantra, “help your teenager find the path to success,” still stands. It can be scary figuring out the way, but until there are enough alternatives to the standard curriculum, parents need to remain alert and open to helping their teenager find that path.

To read Heller’s article: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/06/27/36heller.h33.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-TW

June 18, 2014

It is the day after my middle kid’s 25th birthday, and I find myself reflecting on the paths my three children have taken toward their futures—some of it success and some of it not. In the past, when I have spoken to parents about Toward College Success: Is Your Teenager Ready, Willing, and Able?, I have used my three children as examples of the different paths teenagers may choose. Mine are no longer teenagers, yet their journeys toward college success and life beyond high school is still evolving.

My oldest went straight to the University of Colorado after graduating high school, struggled to choose a major, but did well and graduated four years ago. He landed a job in his field right away and was gainfully employed until this spring. As difficult as it was to lose his job, he sees it as the kick in the pants he needed. He feels he had “outgrown” his job and was ready to move on to something else—what? The same problem that plagued him in college remained—what did he want to do? He always assumed he would go to graduate school, and that is what he is planning to do. He has discovered that he can combine graduate school and the Peace Corps at Colorado State University, although he is still trying to decide which program to apply for. He now studies for the GRE and wishes he’d taken it within six months of graduation, is filling out the Peace Corps application and wishes he’d finished it two years ago, and works a part-time job. I still think he was, and is, ready, willing, and able to find his way.

The one who had a birthday yesterday took the bounce-around route through college. He finished high school a semester early, then went with his brother to Peru where they worked for a small nongovernmental organization. A great experience, but it still didn’t leave him “ready and willing” for college. Once home he insisted on going to our local community college despite me trying to discourage him to wait until he really wanted to go; I believe he went primarily because he knew that was the only way he’d get help from mom and dad with living expenses. The second semester he conceded that I was right—he wasn’t ready for college, but he was ready to travel. He put his savings together, and with our blessing, went to New Zealand for a year. He had a great adventure, learned a lot about himself, and returned broke. He took the first job that came along—selling high-end vacuum cleaners. Within two weeks, he announced that he was ready for college. Yes! He was serious about his studies, he figured out the best way for him to stay focused (attention-deficit issues), and he has done well. He will graduate in December, a semester behind schedule. He had to drop out last fall when he broke his leg after being hit by a car riding his bike home from class; he couldn’t participate in his geology field trips on crutches. He has a paid internship this summer, and hopes after graduation he will land a job doing field work. He doesn’t want to be in an office all the time. Will he be “successful?” He is easily bored. Will he eventually go to graduate school? Maybe, but not soon. Will he travel? I’m sure of it. When he returned from New Zealand, I knew he was ready, willing, and able to succeed in college. I think he’ll find his way.

My daughter, now three years past high school graduation, believes she is not ready, willing, and able to succeed in college. In her defense, she is plagued with undefined illnesses despite years of doctors and tests. She tried college for a semester, but took a medical withdraw. She tried an online class and withdrew within two weeks, again because of health constraints. She believes her health issues prevent her from working. It is a difficult situation, and one, that as a parent, is painful and heartbreaking to watch. She is an intelligent young woman paralyzed by her circumstances, unable to move forward. We latch on to the next “hope” and I pray that someday soon she will be ready, willing, and able to find her way.

The point of all this? Just to say that even after all we do to help and guide our teenagers to be ready, willing, and able to succeed beyond high school, it usually doesn’t look like what we envisioned. That is okay. If we do our best to give them the tools, the responsibilities, the freedoms, the consequences, allow them to experience failure, and the encouragement to try again, then I believe they have the best chance to find that path to success—no matter how long it takes.

April 1, 2014

A recent debate between two writer/educators caught my attention. The debate: Should schools prepare students for college or something else? My gross summary of their debate is that they both thought students should be well educated as it enhances and benefits lives, but that college doesn’t have to be the end goal. As Toward College Success: Is Your Teenager Ready, Willing, and Able? points out, being prepared for college and being prepared for success on one’s own require many of the same skills.

Many of the points that Robert Pondiscio of CitizenshipFirst makes in his post, “If Not College, Then What?” supports the premise of Toward College Success. He writes: “…I do not believe that a student has ‘failed’ if he or she doesn’t go to college. There are many ways to live a rich and fruitful life. I do think we have failed, however, if a child remains in our care for 13 years and does not leave prepared to live independently, whether or not they attend college.”

 

But in order to live that “rick and fruitful life,” Pondiscio states that our “big-picture goals for schooling—reading comprehension, critical thinking, problem-solving—depend on specific knowledge”—something teachers and parents need to understand. If they understand, then “a grounding in history, mathematics, science, literature, and the arts would be seen and seen correctly as the route to the outcomes we seek for all learners”—no matter what the student chooses to do after high school.

 

Pondiscio defines adult success partly as “the ability to care for oneself and one’s family. We fulfill our responsibilities as citizens by making our own way in the world, freely and independently.” He concludes by stating that teachers and schools must sell independence and self-sufficiency as strongly as going to college is sold.

 

Regardless of what a post-high school student pursues, that student will need to be mature enough to handle conflicts, resilient enough to find her way through life’s roadblocks, and adaptive enough to find the path to a fulfilling life. While Pondiscio was debating the role of schools in teaching such skills, I believe parents must be even more involved in both modeling and teaching those life skills. Such lessons should begin at home, long before a teenager nears high school graduation.

 

In fact, that is why Toward College Success was written—to drive home the point to parents that it takes much more than academic success to be successful in college or in any aspect of life beyond living at home with mom and dad. Yes, some of it is basic parenting, but once our kids hit the teenage years, it is critical to reinforce those life skills by gradually giving them responsibility and letting them learn from their mistakes.

 

To read Pondiscio’s post, go to:  http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2014/01/if_not_college_then_what.html

To read the post he debates, go to: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2014/01/deborah_meier_continues_her_co.html

Jan. 22, 2014

It is always encouraging to read about “experts” that confirm many of the points that are addressed in Toward College Success: Is Your Teenager Ready, Willing, and Able? Such was the case when I read a recent article by Forbes Contributor, Kathy Caprino, in which she interviewed “leadership expert” and author, Tim Elmore, about seven parenting practices that are harmful to our children’s chance to grow into mature, resilient, confident young adults. Elmore is the author of 25 books, included one titled: “Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenges of Becoming Authentic Adults.”

I would combine two or three in his list to: We often don’t allow our kids to make mistakes or fail, nor do we acknowledge that sometimes they are simply mediocre at some sport or task. I’ve written in the past about the dangers of rescuing kids from every mistake or failure. It is inevitable that they will make mistakes and/or fail in many encounters in life. Our job as parents is to help them realize a mistake or failure is not the end of the world, help them learn and grow from the experience, and help them pick up and move on. This skill of moving through mistakes is crucial to success in college—otherwise a student becomes paralyzed with fear when confronted with his or her first difficult class.

Likewise, it is important that kids learn that they can’t be the best at everything. When my kids were playing recreational soccer, I was always annoyed with parents that wanted to buy trophies for every kid at the end of the season—aren’t treats at the end of the game enough? Trophies every time for everyone sets kids up to believe that they always will be rewarded regardless of their skill, and sets them up for devastation when they finally figure out that they really aren’t the best soccer player or guitarist or whatever. Elmore says it also can lead to young people who exaggerate or cannot face “difficult reality.”

Elmore also points out that parents sometimes mistake intelligence and giftedness for maturity. Just because a teenager makes straight As or is a gifted musician does not mean she is ready for independence. Being able to manage time and priorities, peaceably manage conflicts, knowing when and how to get help, or communicating clearly and effectively are not skills automatically attached to intelligence. They have to be taught and learned, and they are essential to college and career success.

Elmore’s other points include being a good example and sharing our past errors with our kids. He recommends “coaching instead of coddling—and caring enough to train them, not merely treating them to a good life.”

In other words, guide your child/teenager to be ready, willing, and able to succeed in college and beyond.

To read Caprino’s article, go to: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2014/01/16/7-crippling-parenting-behaviors-that-keep-children-from-growing-into-leaders/

Nov. 8, 2013

In yet another article, an educator stresses that academic skills, by themselves, do not guarantee college and career readiness—the same message put forth in Toward College Success: Is Your Teenager Ready, Willing, and Able?

David Cook, Director of Innovation and Partner Engagement at the Kentucky Department of Education, questioned in an Education Week blog whether we are graduating students that truly are college and career ready. His conclusion, after talking to business representatives, is that education is not providing a crucial part of what is needed. Cook wrote: “Being able to read, write, and demonstrate math knowledge are not the only readiness indicators. In fact, they are the bare minimum.” A statement that reads as if it came straight out of Toward College Success.

Cook goes on to say that employers told him that they “don’t terminate employees because they aren’t able to grasp the content knowledge needed to do the job. Instead, they terminate employees because employees don’t know what to do when they face a challenge or problem, they can’t think creatively about new approaches to issues on the job, they can’t adapt to new work, and most importantly they don’t understand the importance of showing up to work and being persistent when faced with challenges.”

Wow. These are the points that I make in presentations and that I make in this venue, only I relate it more to college success. What these businesspersons told Cook is even more disturbing than the number of kids who get to college without these skills—these same young adults are graduating college still lacking time and priority management, conflict management, and, it seems, basic maturity.  I think it would be interesting to review the history of some of these unsatisfactory young employees to learn what courses they took and the grades they received. It sounds as if something is amiss.

But to reiterate my point: It does take more than academic skill to be successful in college and in life. And while Cook challenges high schools to tackle the issue, I challenge parents to step up. Schools can certainly reinforce “soft skills,” but I believe most need to be taught at home long before the end of high school. Parents are the ones who have the opportunity to give graduated responsibility, who can offer choices that demand careful consideration because of the consequence or outcome attached. Mistakes, even failures, are great learning opportunities; parents can guide their child through learning from a mistake, being persistent, and moving on.

To read Cook’s article: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/engagement_and_reform/2013/11/we_arent_really_getting_them_college_and_career_ready.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-TW

Aug. 30, 2013

One of the points I make in Toward College Success: Is Your Teenager Ready, Willing, and Able?, is that some parents don’t realize that once their teenagers reach the age of 18 they are protected under privacy laws. What that means is that parents cannot call their student’s college and request information about grades, discipline issues, or even tuition payments without the student’s consent. The same is true for medical issues. If your student ends up in the hospital, the hospital cannot release information without your student’s consent. If your student is unconscious, that could be a problem.

This issue was brought home to close family friends a couple of days ago. Their son just started his freshman year at a school that is about an eight-hour drive from the family home. Their son, riding his long board, collided with a bicycle and made a face plant onto concrete, breaking his nose and suffering a severe concussion. He did not go to the hospital right away, but called home to tell his mom that he was nauseous and feeling dizzy. Similar to a story in Toward College Success, this young man needed some direction during his time of difficulty. Mom told him to go to the hospital, where the concussion was diagnosed, but because the family had not gone previously to the local hospital and signed a release for the parents to receive information, my friends had to wait until hospital staff obtained that consent from their son. Luckily, he was coherent enough to do so.

In the meantime, the doctor ordered “brain rest”—no reading, studying, or anything strenuous for two weeks. The young man is an engineer major and missing two weeks of school could be difficult to manage. My friends drove out, picked up their son, and will decide over the long Labor Day weekend as to whether he should continue the semester.

The issue of giving access to parents hit me directly just yesterday. My son, Wes, flew to Honolulu to start his “semester abroad” at the University of Hawaii. He is a senior geology major and he is already excited about his volcanology and geology of Hawaii classes. In two weeks, he has fallen in love with hiking around the island, cliff jumping, and surfing.

Yesterday, he was biking home from class when he made a blind left turn and was struck by a car. He suffered a serious compound fracture to his leg, but miraculously no head or internal injuries. The only reason I knew about it immediately was because a man at the scene of the accident got my phone number from Wes and called me. The man gave me the name of the hospital and I was connected with the ER’s social worker. She was very helpful, and lucky for me, like my friend’s son, Wes was coherent enough to give his consent for release of his information. I had not followed my own advice to obtain a consent form in advance.

The hospital staff was very helpful and tried to relieve my anxiety, for which I am grateful because it was over 12 hours before I got to talk to Wes for the first time. He had surgery last night and I am scrambling to get a flight to Honolulu. Today I will call the university to ask about transportation services for students with mobility difficulty, and I will call his department to talk about the feasibility of his continuing in classes that have at least six field trips scheduled. If he does have to pull out of school, it will delay his graduation next May.

The message here is to check with the local hospital and find out how to obtain a consent form before an accident occurs. If my son, or my friend’s son, had been unconscious, there is no telling how long it would have taken to get information on their conditions. It is a worry and concern that can be avoided if parents insist on that consent in advance.