Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ivy League

When Kellen got to the age that he started considering college, the one nugget of advice we constantly gave was don't go into debt. You see Tim and I were extremely unwise with our use of college debt. In fact, I just recently paid off the last of that debt. We had been burned, and as parents tend to do, we swung the pendulum way to the other side insisting that college debt should never happen.

In Kellen's high school years it became clear that he would qualify for the Promise  Scholarship. We always told him he could go wherever he wanted while encouraging him to avoid student loans like the plague and not pass on what would could be a debt free education. He seemed to buy into this theory, and I looked forward to having him closer to home for college. Little did I know.

Turns out Kellen had the scores to qualify for Ivy League schools. Turns out Ivy League schools have very generous need based scholarships. Turns out Kellen was accepted to three, and today he committed to go to Dartmouth with a financial package that includes work study, but no loans and an expected family contribution about equal to what he can earn in a summer. Um ok. . .

Of course, I am thrilled for him, and sad that his dad isn't here to see this all play out, and sad that I am entering the empty nest, and excited to watch the man he is becoming, and . . . well name an emotion. I probably am feeling it, but I am awfully proud of this kid.

People often want to give a lot of credit to the way Tim and I raised him, and while I appreciate that, I can't really take credit. The most I can say about that is our natural tendency to be kind of hands off free range parents fit well with his natural curiosity and love of learning. I can assure you that has not worked as well with all the kids.

Kellen always loved books. His vocabulary was large. He talked and read maybe just a tad later than the average, but once he started, he never stopped. One of his college essay topic was "Give a recent example of a time when you embodied intellectual curiosity." I can give you a not so recent example.

He was in the first grade I think. His older cousin came to visit, and she had multiplication homework to do. Kellen wanted me to teach him multiplication. I refused. He was still mastering addition. I didn't want to confuse him. He figured it out anyway. He didn't have the tables memorized, but he understood how it worked. These are the more recent examples he gave in his essay.

Canadian winters are cold, and once they get cold, they stay cold. In Ottawa, the capital city of Canada, the city’s canal system is rebrushed daily, making it the world’s largest resurfaced ice skating rink. The members of parliament can skate into work. Or, so I’ve been told; I’ve never been to Canada in the winter. Yet, somehow, I’m considered my school’s resident expert on the country, and the only real reason is curiosity.

My interest was first sparked in the summer of 2014, by my summer camp RA. He was a
student at the University of Toronto. For the rest of the camp, I pestered him for details on Canada. Being a proud citizen, he happily obliged, even hosting a mock ­lecture on Canadian culture.

That fall in her geography class, my sister was given a large, nine week project on the
Yukon Territories, and I was given the task of helping her. However, in the process of helping her research, our knowledge of obscure Canadian trivia increased exponentially. Did you know the official mineral of Alberta is petrified wood? It is.

941,161. It’s not really a special number. It’s odd. Its prime factorization is 13x13x5569.
It’s the hypotenuse of the right triangle with legs 315480 and 886711. It’s not a perfect square, and it’s not prime. It’s really not a significant number at all except for one thing. 941,161 is the number of points I’ve accrued over four years on the Khan Academy.

Honestly the points don’t mean anything. They’re not something I walk around bragging
about, but they are a point of personal pride to me. Those points are a representation of the time I’ve spent learning things on my own without any outside prompting.
The pinnacle of my time on Khan Academy came in the winter of 2014. In school, I was
stuck in the dredges of Algebra II. The concept of imaginary numbers intrigued me, but an introduction to “i” wasn’t scheduled for several more months. At home, I watched a few videos on complex numbers, but they didn’t satisfy my mathematical cravings. Feeling ambitious, I decided to teach myself calculus. I did it, too. Not completely, and definitely not with complete understanding, but using Khan Academy I taught myself basic derivatives.
Over four years, I used the Khan Academy quite a bit. I never took a full math course on
it or used it to do anything except alleviate boredom, but throughout the last few years it has been my constant companion for indulging my academic curiosity.

I can't tell you the number of times Kellen has shared some random fact with me, and I've asked, "Where did you learn that?" His response is always something along the lines of he saw something about it on such and such, went to research it, read an article, and that is why he knows it.

When he was little it was from books. Now it is from the internet, but the kid has always been interested in learning about a wide variety of topics. He reads about it, and then he knows it. I had nothing to do with that except providing him with frequent library trips and internet access.

He was born with this gift of intellectual curiosity and understanding. It has opened the doors to a debt free Ivy League education. I am simply thankful and a little amazed.

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