Monthly Archives: August 2016

hard work

How our daughter paid her way through college

In my last post I shared that our daughter was the top student in her graduating class.  I didn’t mention, that while she was engaged in a very demanding full-time academic program, she was also paying her own way through college and seminary.

Someone recently told me dd was ‘lucky’ to be able to do this.  I think luck is what happens when hard work and preparation meet, and while dd is the first to say that she felt that G-d helped her to achieve all that she did, I wouldn’t say that luck played much of a part.  Money didn’t fall on her from the sky!

She worked super hard, didn’t lose focus and didn’t get discouraged – she had clarity about her goal, continually looked for ways to make it possible and organized her time and energies to support her goals.  She worked really, really hard for the last three years.

For her first year (age 17), she was simultaneously studying in an Israeli seminary (without a dorm) and at college.  She lived with an elderly woman and helped her out in exchange for room, board and a salary.  She later switched arrangements to live with a family in exchange for room and board, and did house cleaning to cover tuition expenses.

Second year (age 18)- she studied at an American seminary along with attending college. (This seminary did have a dorm.)  She was offered a scholarship at the seminary in exchange for a work-study arrangement, where she was the kitchen supervisor.  She qualified for a Pell grant to supplement the remaining seminary costs.  She volunteered for the Perach organization as a tutor for children in need; volunteers for this organization are given a stipend of several thousand shekels for every year they participate towards their college tuition in Israel.  She continued doing cleaning work to cover remaining expenses.  (She did not continue with Perach for her third year because she felt she would have more control over her schedule if she worked for pay the same amount of hours she volunteered.)

Third year (age 19) – Since she had finished two years of seminary by this point, she only had college tuition to pay.  We had moved to RBS from northern Israel so she was able to live at home and commute daily to college.

She had several jobs during this time.  1) She was hired as a workshop safety instructor by the college.  The workshop is filled with industrial tools like a huge carpentry shop and her task was to teach younger students how to use the tools and to ensure their safety when they worked there.  2) She worked once a week as a mentor for an organization that helps children at risk.  3) She did cleaning work once a week.

I believe there was one scholarship that she applied for in her second year and I don’t remember if she ended up getting that or not – it might have been around 1000 shekels. She also had some financial help from a family member in the first year that she was very appreciative of.  It’s likely there were other stipends or scholarships she might have been able to get if we had known about them.  Not being Israeli and not having lived here very long, we don’t know the system as well as those who are native to Israel.

Attending school and getting an education are two entirely different things.  Dd really invested herself in her studies, and got a great education.

Is it because she paid for everything herself that she did as well as she did?  There’s no question that as seriously as she would have taken her studies, she valued it even more because it was her initiative, her effort and her money that paid for it all!



College staff: “Your daughter is remarkable – how did you do it?”

Dd20 is now a college graduate!

Dd20 graduated a day before her twentieth birthday with a specialization in technical engineering/industrial design. At the graduation event, dd was called up to receive a certificate of excellence, which she was later surprised to find was accompanied by a generous check.

I got teary eyed during the speeches as the significance of this milestone sank in. Less than five years ago we moved from the US to Israel with a fifteen year old daughter who couldn’t speak Hebrew, who faced every challenge thrown at her with a good attitude and never gave up.  And here she was, not only coping in an Israeli educational institution in a very challenging field but excelling.

Afterwards the head of her department came over to me to and told me that not only is dd the top student in their college, but she would have been the top student in the best university in Israel.  She went on to detail the personality traits she based her statement on and asked me, “I honestly want to know – what is your recipe for raising a daughter like this?”  I deflected the question and said that dd has had the main part of turning herself into an amazing person, but the department head told me that she has seen many, many students and she is convinced that how dd was raised is a big part of her success.

People have asked me how I raised my children to be high achievers.  My honest response is that I didn’t actively set out to do this.  The fact that my older kids have all excelled in the academic and work frameworks they’ve been in is a reflection of their personal motivation and work ethic.  If they hadn’t excelled, I would think just as highly of them all.  If they do their personal best then I see that as a success, regardless of how that compares with anyone else.

I tried to create a home environment in which their internal motivation had space to develop, where their unique personalities and gifts were recognized and supported.  I didn’t have a personal agenda that I pushed on them.  I didn’t give them the message that I needed them to succeed in a certain way to make me feel like a successful parent.  Parenting isn’t supposed to be about me – it’s about helping my kids become who they are meant to be.

I’ve tried to communicate to them my deep belief in them without pressure to perform or produce.  I trusted that they would all develop according to their own individual timelines, and to believe in their abilities and competence even when I didn’t yet see it.  I encouraged them when they were unsure of themselves but didn’t push them to do what they didn’t yet feel ready to do.

It was important to me that they were hardworking and responsible – and they are – and those qualities have served them well.  I wanted them to believe in themselves, to invest themselves fully in whatever learning or work experience they were involved in.  And they have.

It was nice to be recognized as having had a part in dd’s success, but really this is her success, her hard work, her investment in herself and in everything she’s done.  We are so, so proud of her!


Things People With Down Syndrome Are Tired of Hearing – video

Last night we attended the graduation exhibition for dd19, who today will be graduating after three years of college!  (More about that in another post!)  Also in attendance was the sister of a graduate, a young mother who has an infant with T21.  Dd19 happened to have Yirmi (4) with her when she was chatting with her, and they were very encouraged just seeing what a child with Down syndrome actually looks and acts like – not at all like the misconceptions that are typically thrown around.

There are unfortunately a lot of limiting and false beliefs about what Down syndrome is and what it means for the life of the person who has it.  I loved the following clip, sent to me this morning by a blog reader, because it’s so real  – people who themselves have Trisomy 21 responding to common assumptions regarding Down syndrome.

Our expectations are that our four year old son who happens to have T21 will need a bit more time and support but that’s he’s fully capable and will be able to do the things that most of us can do.  Just like any other child!