Rounding the Last Lap

Closing in on the final 5 1/2 weeks of school! That’s hard to believe isn’t it. Depending on what grade level your children are in, they are facing smooth sailing to a good finish, a steep climb with some big challenges, or a steady run to the finish line.

The smooth sailing group have been faithful, they have developed solid skills that will be put to good use on the remaining work, they have been reviewing their recitations all year long, and they feel like a runner whose last lap is mostly downhill.

The steep climb group includes students like our seniors. Their biggest and best project is culminating in its final test. They are working on two plains at once–finishing refining the Senior Thesis paper while preparing for a brand new experience: the Oral Presentation and Defense of the Senior Thesis. Their brains are on the verge of exhaustion. They can hardly think of a better way to say something, but the words in front of them are still not just right; the words are not saying what the students want them to say.  Other steep climbers might be students facing their first final exam ever or finishing their own tough project.

The steady runners are those who have been functioning to the max along the way. They have not gotten to the place where things will come easily. Rather they will still have to dig deep and git ‘er done each home day to finish strong.

Regardless of where your children are, let’s encourage them to enjoy the challenge; to appreciate being stretched. Let’s cheer them on in their race, letting them know that they have rounded the bend and are on their last lap. Perhaps we can help those struggling to find the reserves to put things in for a final kick. For some of our younger runners, they have yet to experience this part of their academic life. For many of our older students, they also have yet to discover the rewards of reaching inside of themselves to put forth more effort than they knew possible.

I remember when in my college days I discovered the final kick. I had several things that yet had to get done along with an important final exam. Despite my lack of training earlier in my academic life, I had a roommate and some other friends who told me how to get it done. It involved staying up late, disciplining my time, cutting out distractions, and prodigious amounts of caffeine. (I found strong black tea worked best for me.) It involved carrying flashcards with me everywhere, including the bathroom, etc.

I remembered ending the school year feeling pretty strung out, but my grades showed a jump that I hadn’t expected or achieved earlier. From that point on, I had a vision of what I could do in the future and ended up with a Magna Cum Laude for my Masters. That was from the kid who barely finished in the upper half of my high school class.

Now, obviously, for our younger students we don’t want to push them this hard. And even in the School of Logic, one casts a vision for this kind of extra effort. Some students might catch the inspiration at this point. But as our students move into the School of Rhetoric, there should be projects along the way when this kind of focus and extra effort is put forth.

Our students often do this kind of thing for a weekend sports tournament. They feel the burn and taste the victory. Why not let them “enjoy” the hard work and victory in their academics as well?

God’s best, Christopher

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