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Top 20 Things We Learned from the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts

“I’m thinking about going to the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts.”

math and science

Our daughter was a freshman in high school when she said those words to me. I knew nothing about ASMSA beyond “that’s where the really smart kids go” so I did what any good parent would do, I Googled it and felt sick to my stomach when I realized you have to let your child move out two years early to attend. When she approached my husband with the idea he replied, “absolutely NOT, end of discussion,” which she took to mean “we’ll talk about it later.” When she mentioned it again he reluctantly agreed to go on a tour of the school.

I should give you some background so you understand our family a little better. My husband is a research professor for the University of Arkansas, I’m also an educator, so we truly value education, but she is the youngest of our three children and letting her leave home early wasn’t in our plans. The day of our tour we were impressed by the level of security and the clusters of students engaged in studying throughout the campus, but it wasn’t until we got to the science department that my husband began to change his mind. Hanging in the hallways were the posters from the previous seniors’ research projects. My husband looked at me and said “I have had Masters students who would struggle to conduct research on this level, these are high school students. I guess she can come.” Now, two years later we’ve all learned some things, and I would like to share those with you.

10 most valuable lessons our daughter learned as a student:

  1. She’s not the smartest person in the class. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but our daughter always had an aptitude for excelling in a classroom setting. There are always people who are “smarter” than you are. To put it another way, sometimes you have to work hard because not everything will come easily for you and comparing yourself to others is a destructive pastime.
  2. If you’ve truly tried your hardest, you have nothing to be ashamed of, even if you don’t make an ‘A.’ Learn to let go of perfectionism. Sometimes your best effort is only average.
  3. Different doesn’t mean “bad.” Living in a residential high school with kids from various races, ethnic groups, socioeconomic backgrounds, religions and so forth was a good lesson in accepting, getting along and being kind.
  4. Asking for help is a good thing.
  5. Procrastination is a bad thing.
  6. It is good to stretch and put yourself out of your comfort zone, even if it means you can’t keep a 4.0 GPA.
  7. Faculty are people, too.
  8. How to fail. Conversely, learn how to celebrate others in their successes even if they succeed in an area you struggle with. Mistakes are awesome learning opportunities, but they still suck.
  9. Take care of yourself, both physically and emotionally.
  10. Don’t wish away today, even if it is stressful because you’ll miss it when it’s gone.

2016 Arkansas School of Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts Gradu

10 most valuable lessons we learned as parents:

  1. We are supposed to let our kids go, and it’s okay to enjoy this next phase of life, even if it is two years ahead of schedule.
  2. Sometimes when our kids call with a problem, they just need a safe place to vent. They don’t necessarily want or need us to fix the problem. So ask “do you want my opinion?” Or “What would you like me to do?” Usually she says “I just need to vent.”
  3. Get out of the way and let your kid communicate with their professors. They need to learn how to communicate with adults, and this is a safe environment for them practice. College counselors cringe when parents over-insinuate themselves into the higher education process, start letting go, this is a safe place for you to practice, too.
  4. There is a trade-off to consider when letting your kid go to ASMSA. Sure, they’re getting a top-notch education at one of the top 10 high schools in the country, but you’re giving up nightly suppers at home and extracurricular activities. In the end, it’s all worth it because your kid will probably find the transition to college is no big deal.
  5. Sometimes you’re the only constant your kid can rely on. You’re their safe place to land, you’re also an easy and safe target for their anger and frustrations. Don’t hold it against them when they lash out at you. It’s not really about you.
  6. Be willing to let your kid fail. Failure is a valuable asset to learning; you’re cheating them if you intervene. Besides, it’s not really about you. You’re still a good parent.
  7. Kids will spend as much money as they have. There is such a thing as a “Pizza Emergency” and it is usually accompanied with an overdraft charge. Learning how to manage personal finances is as important as learning about the laws of motion in Physics class.
  8. Many of the ASMSA classes are concurrent credit through the University of Arkansas Little Rock and very reasonably priced. This is a huge benefit to letting your kid go two years early.
  9. When your child finds his/her tribe, you need to encourage them.
  10. When they toss those caps in the air at graduation it is a physical releasing of all negative experiences and they’ll walk away with only good memories of their time at ASMSA; it was all worth it.

Group photo courtesy of Donnie Sewell, Public Information Specialist, Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts.

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Arkansas Women Bloggers member Melissa Beck lives on a farm in southwest Arkansas with her husband of 25 years. Together they have raised three great kids and innumerable head of cattle. Melissa is a writer, a stocker-cattle producer and enjoys taking pictures of cattle noses.

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