Karen Weiss is an alumna parent. Her daughter, Lulu, was on the Fall 2021 semester in the Western United States. She is excited to share some of her reflections with the next generation of TTS parents.
Hello From The Other Side……
As a mother of 2 teenage girls, I have become fascinated with my emotions and outlooks on situations as my daughters move through their lives. The before and the after of my feelings as a parent and a mom. I am always acutely aware of the things I am excited and frightened of as I head into an experience knowing that those feelings will either be verified or a waste of stressed energy. As a fairly gutsy risk-taking person, I am the opposite in my parenting style.
My daughter Lulu was part of TTS36. The first semester spent inside the United States, an in-depth study and travel through the American West. Lulu grew up in Utah until she was 15 at which time we moved to Scottsdale. We are a pretty adventurous and outdoorsy family so I was a little worried she would not get the “full” adventure because of all the places and things we had done as a family. I was very very wrong…….
One of the biggest questions from the start was how I would feel about not being able to talk to Lulu whenever I wanted. It made me nervous, and it made her nervous too. What will she do WHEN she needs me? Not IF she needs me but WHEN she needs me. Some parents…. secretly…. may not be ready to give that up. We quietly like to hang on to our kid’s dependence on us even as they become young adults. We want to be there for the NEED of our children, but this is an age to let that go and allow them to manage on their own. That is one of the greatest things about this adventure – your daughter may need you, but she will manage it without you. Our daughters can handle it all on their own and with this new community of peers and incredible mentors that will help them to learn and think about their experiences in a way you as a parent cannot. This is one of the best things about the community they will form in the next few months. The personal interactions they will have, both in a group setting with their fellow students and with their teachers one on one. The problems, challenges, the happy times and sad times will bond them forever – they will be each other’s “people”.
My kids have gone to camps and not been able to use their electronics for 12-14 days. It is always thought provoking to see that understanding twinkle in their eye when they come home and the phone is laid back in their addicted little hands. Lulu was excited to be disconnected for 109 days. She craved it. My husband and I loved the idea too. And now after being home for 2 months she is very aware of the downfalls of electronics – Snapchat is the toughest for her. We reflect on this often and she regularly lays her phone down now and gives her brain a break from all the social media she thought she needed. The phone can be a barrier to the world, preventing them from wondering and just looking out the window and purely thinking about the world and their place in it. The Traveling School gives them their place outside the virtual universe where they have opportunities to completely engage in the people and places around them and security to own that place as well. This is another aspect of real life that has become a struggle to provide for our kids. This has been an unexpected gift to Lu from TTS that we hope she keeps with her.
EDUCATION and TEACHERS
Lulu is a beautiful writer and has endless ideas but her mechanics needed a lot of help. Our big request academically was that she be pushed to become a mechanically good writer. Lu has gotten almost straight A’ s in school, but not in honors classes, so we knew TTS was going to be a big semester. We saw in her letters home the improvement as the semester moved along. We saw the clarity of thinking developed with the small group, Socratic lessons, reading and writing, with print and pencil on paper, lead to remarkable gains. In our first parent-teacher conference here at home, her English writing teacher told us she is a natural writer and has talent beyond any she has seen in a long time. That is 100% the TTS education and the amazing teachers that this school and its approach to teaching gives our daughters. This is something that almost none of them will ever be able to do again outside this semester – outside the confines of a traditional classroom. Nature, the road, the hands-on experiences, the reading, and the writing – all combine to lead our daughters to think and express themselves in an atmosphere they will likely never experience the same way again.
Lu and TTS
When I asked Lu now what she took away that was the most valuable, she said the concept that “there is always more to a story”. She said she learned to hold judgements and to meet, hear and discuss people’s lives and to put herself in their shoes. With all of the challenges of being a young adult and student in this world, this perspective is a gift that sums up the spirit of TTS and one we hope will stay with Lu for a lifetime.
You too will be “On The Other Side” in a few months. In the mean time you will undoubtedly have moments when you miss your daughter so much it hurts but I promise it is amazing “On The Other Side”.