I occasionally babysit for some families down here in Florida. This year, one of the families decided to homeschool their oldest son who is eight. She has occasional meetings so I help out with school work some mornings. This month, however, I’ve been doing some “homework” of my own – I’m in the middle of studying for the GRE.
For those who aren’t privy (oh you blessed, blessed children), the Graduate Record Exam is a requirement for most graduate school programs. The material for the quantitative section is math that you most likely had from 7th to 10th grade. No calculus, no advanced statistics…just some basic algebra, percentages, and areas of shapes.
Which is fantastic for those who have taken math every year since then.
If you’re like me, however, you stopped math at precalculus in high school and only took the required statistics for your psychology degree. You might even consider yourself “bad” at math. If that’s the case, then you’ll be spending at least 4 hours a day for almost 2 months attempting to brush up on your math skills which you haven’t needed over the past 5 years. Thankfully, my verbal score has been quite high, so that hasn’t required a lot of work…other than memorizing a plethora of words that will never be used in everyday conversation! However, the first math practice test I took landed me a score of 143 in a range of 130 to 170. Percentile-wise, that score put me at about the 15th percentile. Yep, you read that right. I was only better than 15% of test takers. Not quite PhD material, eh?
But back to the children. I’ll be with them for about 2-4 hours depending on the morning, and they have schoolwork to fill that entire time. I’ll sit at the table with them and work on my math. One morning, however, one of the boys looked up from his work and said:
“How old are you?”
“And you have a test?”
“Yep, it’s an important test.”
“For school? Are you homeschooled too?”
“No, I have to take it to get into school.”
“What grade are you going to?”
I sit for a moment, counting on my fingers. “I’m applying for…uh…17th grade.” The boys looked at each other.
“Is that college?!” “Nuh-uh! I don’t believe you!” “I HAVE TO GO THROUGH 17 GRADES?!?”
I laughed, and explained that it was for something after college, it really was 17th grade, and no – 17th grade is only if you want to.
How funny though! I remember sitting in 5th grade thinking about how crazy it was that I was going to be in middle school the next year. I remember thinking in 8th grade that I only had four more years to go, and how it was going to be in the big, bad public school. I also remember thinking three years ago that I was going to have a job immediately upon graduation and that I was ready to finally be done after 16 years of education.
Now here I sit, studying middle school math and looking for ways to get myself into a PhD program. Some people will joke that 17th grade is really just a way to stave off real life, but I’ve found that what I want to be able to do requires that I have more education. I do enjoy learning, and a PhD will set me up for research, teaching, and political activism. While it’s not the ideal path for everyone, it is for me. However, if you had told me at age eight that I would have nearly 20 more years of school, I would have had the same reaction as the boys. I mean, going to school until you’re 27 means, as one of them put it, “you’ll be practically dead when you’re done!” Thanks, kiddos, for making me feel old 🙂