Last year when my older son was a freshman at Holmes, I told him not to worry that his school schedule would always be so hectic. Although it seems counterintuitive, I said, it actually gets a lot easier when you get to college and don’t have so much to juggle. Inside, I shuddered to imagine how intense the next few years would be as he aimed for the high school finish line.
Part of what made his ninth-grade year so taxing was high school sports. Maybe there was a way to arrange his schedule better, but we weren’t aware of it when choosing classes. The problem came when he had winter ski team training three mornings each week at the high school, then spring baseball four days a week after school. (When the two overlapped for a few weeks in February, insanity! But that’s a story for another day.)
Baseball season was the most complicated. Aside from the challenges he had racing from Holmes to DHS right after school for practice — changing into his baseball clothes and lugging his huge bag of equipment — our son had to leave school early on game days. He had Spanish class during seventh period, and missing a lot of class time … well, I wouldn’t recommend it as the best way to learn Spanish.
Last summer, I was talking to one of The Enterprise’s high schoolers, Chloe Kim, about the challenges of managing this schedule. Chloe was a great student, en route to UC Santa Barbara. She gave me some insight about the move to DHS that worried me a bit; namely, believe the hype about high school being harder.
She said her sophomore year was a bit of a shock because she previously had been able to skate by a bit in her school work. In fact, every year, people would say, “This is the year it gets harder.” But every year, it didn’t. Until 10th grade.
I’ll let Chloe explain it (from an email she sent me in August):
“In hindsight, the two things I’d like to tell new sophomores is to do all your homework, even when it seems like you can get away with not doing it; and not to take classes you know you can’t handle — DHS is a very high-achieving, competitive-minded school, and it’s easy to get suckered into taking the absolute hardest classes for every subject only to be miserable and not perform well when tests roll around.”
This really is great advice, and I passed it along to many of my friends. But as this year began, we braced ourselves for an even heavier load based on Chloe’s input and everything else we’d learned along the way.
Now that we are a couple of months into 10th grade, our family has been pleasantly surprised how manageable our son’s schedule actually is. (Obviously each student’s schedule will be different; I’m pointing out the flexibility that has been helpful to us.)
The biggest boon by far has been 10th grade “independent lifetime sports,” a class that takes the place of traditional P.E. Student-athletes are allowed to enroll in lifetime sports if they are on a high school team, freeing up their seventh period (specifics need to be checked at Davis High School). This has been a godsend, and has shown me the beauty of not overloading a student’s schedule.
Full disclosure: I used to naively think kids didn’t take a full day of classes only if they were slackers. I honestly didn’t understand the variety of reasons you might take a free period. Now, I am singing the praises of this scheduling shrewdness.
Lifetime sports means my son has no actual class during seventh period; he gets out of school at 2:32 p.m. most days. This was marvelous during fall JV baseball, as we expect it to be when he begins morning ski workouts in a couple of weeks. It will be most advantageous in the spring, as he plays the regular baseball season.
But wait, there’s more unexpected wonderfulness in the high school schedule. Two days each week, the students have “block” schedules. I didn’t understand what this meant until we were in the midst of it, but now I appreciate the greatness of block schedule days.
In a nutshell, on Wednesdays students have three long second, fourth and sixth periods (allowing teachers to get more in depth on subjects), and on Thursdays they have the other four — or three, in my son’s case — classes in long form. Both of these days allow high school students shorter time at school, and more time to study. Just like a college schedule will.
There have been numerous benefits to both of these high school schedule gems, but a big one just materialized this week. For the first time in many years, my son has been able to add a music lesson to his schedule. This is something he’s wanted to do for a while, but he’s felt too over-scheduled to squeeze in another activity, even one that he wanted to do for enjoyment.
High school should be a time to find out what you really like and want to know more about, and we have been thrilled with the flexibility of 10th grade. Thanks to the administrators at DHS who came up with these win-wins for our students.
— Tanya Perez is an associate editor at The Enterprise. Her column publishes every other Thursday. Reach her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @enterprisetanya