Back to School, Old Person Style

Photo used under Creative Commons from yasamaster.

As of today, I have two kids in high school.

Is that even possible? Aren’t I still in college? Or at least only a few years out? That’s the way I feel, but then I look in the mirror and see what I see. Skin not so taut; Grey hair at the roots. Dark shadows under my eyes. No, I’m not into any skincare regimens that require needles or surgery because I am a big wimp who is afraid of altering the body God gave me.

TIme flies. It’s a trite expression but it cannot be denied. So I have to face up to it. Be the parent. Be the parent of two teenaged girls. Oh Lord. Where’s that bottle of gin? I mean running shoes, kids. Where is that bottle of running shoes? Because the best way to calm my nerves is by channeling that nervous energy not numbing it. Yeah. That’s right.

The truth is that I wish I were the one going back to school this week. I would make the most out of it, unlike a huge percentage of those teenage girls who spend more time choosing their outfit and fixing their hair and makeup than they do on their homework. At least that’s what I did in high school. When I was my children’s age, I saw school as a playground; I did most of my school work, I pushed myself in the more difficult classes, but I went to school to see my friends . . . and to see the boys, including the cute ones who didn’t even know my name.

I’d like to think that my kids are smarter than me, not in an academic way per se, although they may be, but in a practical way and in a personal way as well. Maybe they have a hint of what a privilege it is to get an education. Maybe they are wise enough to see that the harder they work, the luckier they get, that their classes are places where they can figure out who they are and what excites them intellectually and creatively. And that it matters in life to know what excites you intellectually and creatively. Yet, maybe they don’t get it. I assume that it’s rare to be a teenager and have that kind of perspective.

If I were to go back to school right now, I would be that kid who raises her hand all the time and annoys the bleep out of the other kids. I would do all my homework assignments and do some side reading to complement the materials I was required to read. I would be a teacher’s dream, even though I wouldn’t care about that. I wouldn’t care about my grades either. Of course, I’ve already gotten into and graduated from college so I don’t have that to worry about. If I were to go back to school right now, I would care about the learning. The new information. The artistic and musical endeavors. The different approaches to life. The tools that can help me better manage my own life.

But you can’t explain that to your kids. Well I can’t, especially since I am not an ideal example of a high school student who took advantage of the opportunities set before me. I have kids who feel connected to the classwork, who take school more seriously than I did, but they still don’t get the depth of what is happening while they are in school. They don’t get that they are building the foundation for who they are going to be as they grow, for what they are going to do in their futures, both privately and publicly.

So what’s a parent to do?

We all deal in different ways but this is what I’m thinking.

I’m making plans for my own edification. I can’t make my kids or any others see the stars that are put in their reach, but I can pull out my telescope and look myself. Learn something new. That’s where I am right now. We’ll see how it turns out.

There are a couple of items on my bucket list that I want to cross off this year. Ones that I believe that I can do while parenting and writing books and living my life.

Confession: I’m afraid to tell you because you may judge me later if I don’t actually get to them. I’m not supposed to care. I even said that if I were to go back to school, I wouldn’t care what others thought of what I was doing. I’d be doing it for me. And I would.

So here you go: The first thing I want to do isΒ  learn how to bake my own bread.And I want to learn to do it well. No tasteless grocery store bread from me. French bread, sandwich bread, pita bread, tortillas. I can’t explain it except to say that it is something I’ve always wanted to do. Maybe it goes back to my desire to simplify things. A little flour, a little water, no bread machine. My pioneer woman is jones-ing to knead some dough and serve up piping hot nourishment to my family. And number two: I want to learn to speak French. Both of my kids are advanced students of the language and every Fall, we host Parisian students in our home for three weeks. The French students want to use their English skills while here but wouldn’t it be nice if I could speak a few words of French to them without stumbling over every syllable. I realize that if I put down the Rosetta Stone money today, I still won’t be able to communicate in French with the students arriving in six weeks, but I might be able to pick up a little bit more when my kids speak French with them. And next year, well, I’ll be able to converse. I hope. That’s my current expectation.

How about you? Do you think about your own education when your kids go off to school? When you think about what you want to know that you don’t already know, do you think about things like baking bread or learning French or things like learning to fix your car engine or how to make money hand over fist?

I’m a student, perpetually. I think we all are, even those who say that they hated school. Being a student is not about getting the right answers on the test; it’s about digging deep and getting a better understanding of the things that impact our lives. There are times when we consciously go out and learn and times when it just happens. But school or no school, I believe that every day we are a student of something, and if we are not, we aren’t taking advantage of the opportunities that life puts before us.

What do you think?


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17 thoughts on “Back to School, Old Person Style

    1. There’s a Bread Bible? I’ll have to check it out. Do you bake bread frequently? Do you have any favorite recipes or any suggestions re: how to make really great bread? Thanks for coming by Laird!

  1. I agree that every day we are a student of something. As long as we are open and keep our curiosity on the surface, we will be living and learning the best way there is to live and learn.

    ..and you’re not gonna believe this, Sara, but 1. I just posted a recipe for baking bread on Pinterest last week ’cause it’s something I really wanna do and 2. I am currently learning French (along with my kids). In fact, I was just going to tweet abt how we’re learning French so that we could communicate in our own secret language (since Spanish speakers are so common these days..) plus it’s such a pretty language..

    I kid you not.

    Is that craziness or what?

    Anyway, I love the post and I’m still working on the ‘accepting that I’m getting older’ part πŸ˜‰

    Bonne journee!

    1. Okay, that’s just bizarre. Great minds and all that. How are you learning French, btw? Maybe we can share bread recipes and tips once we start baking. πŸ™‚

      1. I’d love to swap recipes, for sure!

        About French – I have a book called French in 10 minutes a Day, which is good, but I like to hear the language. So, I started listening to Katia & Kyliemac – – they have podcasts with French phrases that you would commonly hear in France and not necessarily learn in a book. Plus, they’re funny.

        Recently, though, I decided to pay attention to common things that my kids and I say on a daily basis and look up/listen to the phrases on the net. Then use them daily. That’s working out pretty well.

        Then I just found another, more current, podcast series called Daily French Pod ~ which I like too. And, of course, the BBC has lots of lessons that I listen to.

        What I’d really like to do is find local French people and make them hang out with me. LOL! That would probably be the best way.

        Boy, can I ramble or what? πŸ˜‰

        1. Learned a lot in that ramble. I might give the bread baking a try this weekend. I’ll let you know how it goes (and if well, I’ll share recipe).

  2. I totally hear you on the getting older front, my 35th high school renunion was this summer and while I couldn’t make it due to our own vacation, in a way I found the whole thing to be so unreal that I’m sort of glad I missed it. I don’t think there is a way to teach perspective to our children, you have to have an experience in order to look back on it. Instead I try to point things out, gently, along the way and tell funny stories to my daughter about my own experiences that she may either learn from, or not want to repeat, like the story of how my boyfriend ‘streaked’ through the cafeteria as a senior prank with a few other idiots and could not attend graduation…that kind of thing πŸ™‚

    On breadmaking and French and other learnings. I would LOVE to make my own bread so let’s find a class Sara? I actually work for a very French company and speak a bit and have learned how to recognize foods that I would never ever eat in a restaurant in Paris (squid jelly??). Ironic though that with my full time crazy job working for the French I have little time to learn their language. With all of this said, my focus is to learn how to keep my head above water, my daughter happy and curious, and to put dinner on the table a few nights a week. That’s the cooking class I need (along with the breadmaking!). XO

    1. Oh Sharon. I’m laughing all over again about the streaking story.

      We could take a class or you could just come over one day and we could follow a recipe. And then you could make it the centerpiece of one of those dinners you’d like to get on the table.

      I’m a little daring when it comes to food and I love squid, but I’m not sure I would’ve tried the squid jelly either. πŸ™‚

  3. This is truly a beauty of a post–full to overflowing with the very sense of things I’ve turned over in my head a bazillion times. My three daughters have all graduated college now and my son is a senior in high school. They are smart, work hard, and manage to have a fair share of fun and frivolity. Even so, there are more than enough occasions when I need to hold my tongue from spouting the wealth of truths I’ve learned courtesy of the knowledge that only comes with age.

    To my credit I understand that my kids DO NOT tune-in to statements that begin with “When I was your age,” or “If there’s one thing I’ve learned,” and so I avoid them. I’m trying hard to achieve that balance of sharing acquired wisdom without coming across as a dated lecturer. Very difficult in situations when I’ve “been-there-done-that” and long to spare them in a way that leap-frogs them into the right direction. Possibly the very thing my parents might have wished for me had I been listening :-/

    I think all the best party tricks and stunts I’ve learned have been as an adult and just as you said, it’s such a joy to learn new things now because we really truly WANT to.

    I have little doubt that you will be baking bread while singing in a french accent just as you’ve proposed, Sara. I am a lifetime collector of goals and aspirations. And although I haven’t accomplished each and every one, I have a pretty good track record and enough optimism to keep making additions and subtractions.

    1. You clearly have never heard me sing. Although I have always found the best way to memorize things is to sing them to myself over and over. So maybe you’re right. I will be singing in a French accent. Do you think that if I sang my “wealth of truths”, in a French accent, to my kids, they’d appreciate them? HA. Not likely. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. I say go for the bread making! It’s not that difficult, and it’s so much fun to experiment with all the different kinds of recipes out there. But be careful – eating your results can be hazardous to your waist line. It’s one of the most satisfying things I can think of doing and I love it. There’s nothing that makes a kitchen smell better than fresh baked bread. Have sourdough starter that’s now about 35 years old and seldom make anything but different versions of sourdough breads but I’ve made bread from recipes that came down from my great-grandmother thru my grandmother and mom to me.

    I think if we quit learning, we quit living. I would love to go back to college and take all the classes I didn’t have time for – arts, crafts, literature, language, history. My husband and I have been working on Spanish and I love the language. I’ve learned to do French flower beading and stained glass and taught myself how to do flat beading and would love to do some silversmithing if only I had the room.

    I love the internet and the ability to have so much information at your fingertips – its a marvelous resource for opening new doors into unfamiliar worlds and learning new things or opening your eyes to everyday things. I love aspen trees – always have – but had never known what the fuzzy things that pop out before leaves in the spring are. I Googled it and spent the next day learning all kinds of things about aspen and similar trees. It was fascinating!

    Now you’ve got me wanting to make bread again. Guess I’d better refresh my sourdough starter and find my bread pans.

    1. I love sourdough bread. Once I get the basics figured out, I may come to you for some guidance. Sounds like you have taken full advantage of the opportunities to learn more. Also, I love Aspens as well. Maybe I’ll google and learn some more. Thanks for coming by Helen.

So what do you think?