Kid #3 started 10th grade last month (that’s how we roll here in the Land of the Modified Year-Round Schedule). I remain unconvinced that the new public school standards (Common Core) are a step forward in education, particularly in math instruction. However, the accelerated English classes rock.
The first unit in 10th grade accelerated English is all about happiness. The students have read a number of articles, scholarly and popular press, as well as watched documentaries and TedX talks to examine happiness from lots of different angles. Last week the class had a “Socratic seminar” (what we called a group discussion back in olden times) and discussed what the various sources claimed increased and decreased one’s experience of happiness.
I’ve been impressed with my 15 year old daughter’s insightful comments on happiness. She’s been exposed to concepts like does having a vast array of choices make one more happy (research says no. Having a lot of choices tends to lead to feeling overwhelmed and indecisive. Here and here). I think this unit has so much real world, lifelong applicability, even though I can hear my father grumbling in my head about California’s all-around silliness. Asking what makes us happy gives us the chance to examine our experiences, internally and externally, then perhaps change how we think or what we do with our time.
All this examination of happiness has prompted my daughter to initiate chats with me about family —- how she felt when her father left, how our family has changed, how much fun she and I have together. She has begun to use my maiden name hyphenated with her father’s name on her school assignments. I didn’t change my name back with the divorce; that was my choice with my name. I did, however, start using the hyphenated version. It’s not a legal name change, but it better reflects who I am. She feels the same and it makes her happy to honor and connect with all her family.
What really blows my mind is that she saw my action (hyphenation in common usage), thought about it, and made a choice for herself. I only ever asked my three kids if they had an opinion about my changing back to my maiden name (results were mixed). I didn’t even think to ask how they felt carrying their father’s name after his craptacular abandonment.
It’s a reminder to get out of my head and ask other people about their experience of life. Ask what someone else needs or feels instead of guessing or assuming. Maybe we’d both be a little happier.