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Crunch Time

Pearl of the Post: Old College Try

Spring fever is raging and kids are all but checked out this time of year.

My son is finishing his first year of Middle School and we're prepping for finals for the first time.

He was home sick last week when they reviewed everything. Trying to motivate a sick kid into doing work is just so much fun. He was sick, stressed and overwhelmed. He just wanted to rest and play video games and was really mad that studying cut into his Fortnight mojo.

My mom skills were being seriously tested. If I slack now, we're both screwed.

So I dug deep trying to remember myself in his shoes.

I was a master procrastinator. I'd go into my room to "study" and emerge hours later with a head to toe makeover and not a stitch of studying done. I remember the waves of feelings, guilt, anxiety, insecurity and overwhelm.

I didn't know how to study nor what to expect a final exam to look like.

I framed it like this:

Listen kid, you've worked so hard all year now, you have two weeks to give it a go. You will decide how you're going to feel at the end of finals.

Do you want to feel stressed and like you gave up, let it slide and get bad grades?

Or, do you want to feel confident that you know you're stuff and like you've accomplished something awesome?

The choice is yours.

It took a while to talk him down from the ledge. I penetrated his first defensive wall and continued with:

For two weeks make studying your priority. Put it before your video games, friends, Minka (our kitty) and all the other stuff. Put the work in now and you'll go into finals week feeling confident that you know your stuff.

His ears perked up and I reminded him that, I know when you don't try, you get so upset with yourself after the fact because you know you could've done better.

You gotta put in the work and give it the Old College Try.

He looked at me sideways much like the side eye I'd give my dad, every single test and project I ever had throughout my educational career.

My dad would say, "If you give it the Old College Try and do your best, I can never be mad at the results because you gave it your all." My dad focused on the "A" for effort.

I learned through studying the return on my investment and how you indeed got out what you put in. It always took me a while to get started and find my groove. Eventually, I got the knack for how to study and take tests. While studying is required of all students, younger students don't always understand the purpose nor care why that's all important.

I mean, will Social Studies grades advance my son's level in Fortnight and make him the world's best gamer? No, therefore, to him it's a stupid waste of time.

In High School, my dad further incentivized me and sweetened the pot with monetary rewards for grades earned over 90. By 10th grade, I was rolling in it and negotiated for a raise each semester.

I was heading straight towards nerd status thanks to my dad's prodding.

He'd later pay for college, rent and law school but only if I continued to put in the effort and get good results. I can dust off my diplomas and Juris Doctor degree to prove his method.

Now that I had my son's attention, I had to figure out how to incentivize him and keep off video games for the week.

Luckily, he's pretty easy to please - can you say P I Z Z A????

We had an accord, if he gave it a go, he'd get his pick of restaurants.

We broke down what he had to study into time chunks with small breaks. We also delegated what I'd help him with (anything except math) and what his dad would (math, science).

To my son's credit he spent hours upon hours with his nose to the grind. On Saturday, he was antsy and hadn't been out of the house for days. A little exercise and a change of scenery would do him good.

How did I get him to move, you ask, by promising him lunch at Harbor Deli.

We packed up his pile of books and headed into town. We parked at Town Dock so I didn't have to think about the meter. We walked the loop around the water.

We walked and talked and I turned it into a walking meditation.

I had him take in the water views, the swans swimming, the tug boats, big boats, people sitting on the grass and the patchy clouds over head. I asked him how he was feeling and what he was nervous about.

Then re-iterated each one of his fears and said, "see yourself stomping out each fear with each step." He laughed at first and so I demonstrated, "I feel scared" STOMP!

"I don't know what I'm doing" STOMP!

"I can't do it." STOMP!

"I don't like this." STOMP!

At one point I exaggerated my stomps, totally embarrassing myself and he started cracking up along with the peeps on the grass.


He had so many interesting insights along our walk. After our 15 minutes stomping around the loop, we were back in our groove. We grabbed his 200 books from the car and headed to Harbor Deli.

Happy as a clam we set up shop and got to work over a turkey sandwich. He taught me all about the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Greece, Egypt, Rome and the Middle Ages. I was actually impressed, if not feeling a little dopey that my 12 year old is way smarter than I.

Knowing information and testing well are different animals. We reviewed test taking strategies and different ways his teachers can ask the questions. He keenly listened.

Sunday was my hubby's turn to study with Colby. I talked my hubs through my process with Colby and asked him to carve the day to really work through the material with him. I was nervous that he wouldn't abide but he did!

And, so my boy got his Pizza fix!

I drove him to school this morning, the start of finals week, and he had a much different look on his face than the frazzled snotty mess of last week. He was calm, cool and collected. We reviewed the list of missing informational items for him to review with his teachers today (which I hope he doesn't forget) and he said, "I feel pretty good."

And I said, "you'll give it the Old College try, you've got this!"

Much luck to all the parents, students and teachers getting thorough finals and the close of the year!! Would love to hear your tips and strategies for getting through test time.

(c) 2018 Cynthia Litman, Esq., PLLC. All Rights Reserved.

Related Mommas Pearls Content:

Time Lapse ~ Great read to encapsulate the year and graduations.

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