It’s not just all about Beth, you know…

We actually do have other children, which you might not realize since our focus has been on Beth lately. Our oldest, Daniel, is preparing to graduate from high school. It has been a long and wonderful journey with him. He had been homeschooled until starting school as a sophomore at The Graham School in Clintonville. I had heard about the school in homeschooling circles for a few years and thought it sounded wonderful. After Daniel’s 9th grade year, still at home, I was feeling like we needed to find some new avenues to help meet his interests. At that point Daniel really wasn’t interested in going to school but I thought we should at least check it out. After the open house Daniel was so impressed he declared that he WAS going to this school. So we started the arduous task of putting together a transcript for his freshman year and talking to the school about admission. Since this was our first time ever in public school the whole process was a bit intimidating. Would he be up to his grade level in all the different subjects, would he be able to get through the day without have a constant supply of food, would he understand that you can’t just get up to go to the bathroom whenever you need to. Schools are funny like that, all those strange rules that had never been a part of our lives. One of the many nice things about TGS is how similar it was to our homeschooling lives. It is a very relaxed school where the students refer to the teachers by their first names, you don’t have to ask permission to leave a room, the teachers are all very respectful and nurturing to the students. I describe the school as a discussion based school, where the teachers get to teach what they’re passionate about as opposed to being required to teach history or science from a textbook. Daniel thrived in that atmosphere and loved his experience. The school is founded in the Experiential Learning theory.

From Wikipedia:

Experiential learning focuses on the learning process for the individual. An example of experiential learning is going to the zoo and learning through observation and interaction with the zoo environment, as opposed to reading about animals from a book. Thus, one makes discoveries and experiments with knowledge firsthand, instead of hearing or reading about others’ experiences.

  1. the learner must be willing to be actively involved in the experience;
  2. the learner must be able to reflect on the experience;
  3. the learner must possess and use analytical skills to conceptualize the experience; and
  4. the learner must possess decision making and problem solving skills in order to use the new ideas gained from the experience

At TGS student have classes M,W,F they then go to their site for the Experiential part T & Th. Daniel had the opportunity to intern at a few different locations during his time at TGS. His sophomore year was spent at Franklin Park Conservatory working on the landscaping and in the gardens. From this he learned that he absolutely not interested in a career in manual labor, an important thing to know when you’re making future educational decisions.

His junior year was spent at Jack’s Aquarium and Pets. This tied into his interest in snakes and reptiles, of which he has 1 snake and 1 bearded dragon. It was during this time that he thought he wanted to go to school to be a herpetologist. The great thing about internships is that you have the chance to learn what you do or don’t want for a career before spending 4 years in college studying it. While he still has an interest in reptiles he decided it was a hobby and not something he wanted to pursue as a full time job.

Then for his first semester of his senior year he interned at the OSU airport. His interest had changed to aviation and he was sure he wanted to be a pilot. The OSU airport was a great internship. He had the opportunity to meet students and professors from OSU, sit in on classes, learn about all aspects of the airport, use a flight simulator then finally fly an actual plane. Which was presented to me a week later as, “Oh mom I forgot to tell you I flew a plane last week.” How does one forget to tell their parents that? After researching this career Daniel decided that he would someday like to get his pilots license but the airline industry was a little too volatile to bank a career on. So he made a slight change to Aeronautical/ Astronautical engineering and that was what he eventually applied to OSU for. During this time he was also involved in several different engineering programs outside of school that gave him access to college tours, lectures and mentors in a variety of different engineering fields. After learning about all of the fields available in the engineering world he has finally found his passion in Mechanical Engineering. He wants to design cars. So we changed his major at OSU, he is now enrolled in the mechanical engineering program and he was also accepted into the Engineering Scholars program, so along with mechanical engineering he will also be learning about green engineering.

Another thing that is different about TGS is how the students complete their senior year. At the end of the first semester if they’re on track with their credits the students start a WalkAbout that finishes off their year.

The idea of WalkAbout is based on the rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood practiced for centuries by aborigines in the Australian outback. A sixteen-year-old aboriginal boy goes through a period of testing under real-life conditions, knowing that during the WalkAbout experience every decision and every action will have a tangible consequence for which he alone is responsible. At the end of the Walkabout, he will have demonstrated to himself and the members of his community that he is ready to accept the responsibilities of adulthood.

They are no longer in the school building except for 1 period, once a week for advisory. In preparation for this period seniors spend a lot of time first semester writing up their plans and working with advisers to make sure they have a successful experience. WalkAbout is a graduation requirement at TGS, it’s not a time for the student to sit around the house and play video games!

Daniel really struggled with what he would do for WalkAbout. He knew he would continue to take college classes at Columbus State so that was part of his plan. He also had to work in his job at COSI. But the other part, the part where they hope the student travels outside of their comfort zone either geographically or emotionally, he had not been able to figure out. He thought about doing an Outward Bound Expedition but that would have cost more than $2000 so that was eliminated. Then I reminded him of the scuba diving experience he had enjoyed through COSI Academy. He was certified to scuba dive but he had not had the chance to go out on any dives. That idea was what Daniel needed to start the research and set up (on his own) an internship at a local dive shop. During that internship he has assisted the dive master in training others at local quarries. He also got to purchase all of his gear at a substantially discounted rate. He plans to continue interning through the summer so he can receive several advanced diving certifications.

He has finally completed everything he needs to graduate from TGS. During the process he has grown into a young man that is able to search out what he needs in the community and negotiate with other adults an experience that is beneficial to all involved. He has loved his time at TGS, he has had wonderful teachers that have guided him and he has made friends that will be with him for many years. I’ll let Daniel’s own words finish off this blog, this is the letter he turned in for his final biography:

My name is Daniel Wehner, I have been at The Graham School three years and this is what I’ve done in those three years: I’ve grown a lot, I was only 5’10” my first year now I’m 6’4″. I’ve matured even more. I’ve made a lot of friends. I’ve lost a lot of those same friends. I got into a lot of drama. I learned to stay OUT of drama. I dated five girls. I still talk to two of them. I have tried my best to help the students beat the teachers in the ultimate Frisbee game. I flipped my go-cart and destroyed my hand. I became a certified diver. I reached my goal of banking enough money on an online game to be in the top ten richest people playing that game. I learned that I can actually have fun with other people, in REAL life. I learned that I can teach a rat how to play basketball. That same day I learned that the rat was actually learning how to get food without knowing what it was doing. I currently work at COSI, and I LOVE my job. I applied to OSU. I was accepted to OSU. I applied for the Engineering Scholars program at OSU. I was also accepted to that program. After I graduate from OSU I plan on trying to get a job at Mercedes Benz as a design engineer. I am glad I came to Graham. I am also glad that I am graduating.

Thank you everyone who has helped me get through these first 18 years.

Surreal

  1. Having the intense reality of a dream.

That is how this feels. One moment you’re sitting there thinking your normal thoughts; I need to do the dishes, pay the bills, go grocery shopping then it will hit you: my daughter may become one of the worlds top fashion models. It takes your breath away. How do you balance your normal everyday life with something so huge and life changing? Every dream that Beth has ever had could become reality. She may get to travel the world, meet top fashion designers, play dress up and get paid for it. She could work for several years then never need to work again. She may be able to pay for college without the daunting task of negotiating student aid. Or it could be a short lived, fun experience that doesn’t go any further, who really knows.

What we do know is we had a great time in St. Louis. We decided that we really like taking short family trips to new cities and exploring. The kids have started putting tacks in a state map marking all the cities and states that they have visited. It’s become a competition to see who has more locations. Then one of those thoughts will pop into my head and I’ll think, oh Beth may need to start using the world map and there is no way her brothers will be able to keep up. Except Thomas declares that he will go with Beth on her photo shoots and you know it’s just so she doesn’t get ahead on the map challenge, (or I guess it could be due to the company that she’ll be keeping.)

After all our site seeing was done we got to the real reason we were in St Louis; Beth’s preliminary photo shoot. We all were nervous not knowing what to expect. Meeting with Mary and Jeff the night before at dinner really helped. They were so friendly and silly it helped put Beth (and the rest of us) at ease. Some of our questions were answered; what do we do with Beth’s hair? wash it and let it air dry there will be a hair designer there to do it. What about make up (Beth doesn’t really wear any?) no make up they want a clean face. How will she know what to do for the poses? the photographer is great and very gentle and he’ll guide her (he did and Beth loved him.)

The photo shoot was done in the photographer’s apartment/ studio, a very cool downtown brick high-rise. Very trendy and artsy feeling but also sparsely decorated with only one small couch, that Thomas sat down on then never moved from for the 4.5 hours we were there, leaving the rest of us to stand around observing the recreation of Beth.

From tall, skinny, gawky girl into a beautiful young lady that could have been posing for a magazine spread right then. When she walked in front of the photographer in her first outfit she was obviously nervous, not knowing how to stand or what to do with her arms and legs. But after a few minutes of quiet guidance she was relaxed and focused. In the open room was Dan, Thomas and me plus Mary and Jeff the agents, the photographer, hair designer and later 2 other people. There was a lot of activity and conversations that Beth had to block out. And besides a couple times when I made her laugh (note to self don’t joke around Beth when she’s trying to be serious and focused) she did a fabulous job. While I thought she looked shaky holding some of the impossible poses, the photographer said she did a great job and that she followed his directions very well. As I watched her I couldn’t help but think that yoga would be beneficial for her. To help with staying calm and focused and also to develop the strength needed to hold the awkward positions that are required. So that is on my list of things to check into.

While Beth was being prepped, primped and photographed we had an abundance of time to talk to the people that we’ll be so intimately involved with over the next few years. Mary and Jeff are both such easy people to talk to. Jeff is the detail person that stays on top of everything that needs to be done, 24 hours a day, since they have models all over the world. While Mary is the artistic one that paints us a picture of what we can expect. An idea will come to her and she’ll throw it out to Jeff who will agree or fine tune it to something that you believe will happen. One of the most surreal moments of the day was when Mary asked how we felt about Europe because that may be a good place to get Beth started. Up until now the talk had been all about New York but it’s all about “new faces” and Europe can be a good place to gain some experience. And how does one answer that question, how do you feel about Europe? “Umm, how soon can we leave?”

The other thing that felt like a dream was the talk of homeschooling. We have homeschooled since the kids first learned to walk pausing only recently when they chose to try high school. But before any of this modeling had come into play Beth had been considering returning to homeschooling next year. After 2 years in an actual high school she felt that she had experienced enough. There were never enough hours in the day for her to follow her artistic interests or her volunteer ambitions or just time to relax and wait for creativity to happen. This has been something that has been weighing on her and something that we have been strongly considering. We have talked to her teachers (who have been wonderful with considering other options for Beth,) the college that she plans to attend and friends and family. But what was very delicately presented to us (without trying to tell us what we should or shouldn’t do) was that Beth homeschooling next year would open up opportunities that are not available to the girls that have the rigors of a school schedule hindering them. Which is why, when you look through the pages of Vogue you see so many international models. American schools do not give the flexibility needed to pursue this type of life. We will wait for the last possible moment to make our official decision for next year but our unofficial status, that is being presented to agencies, is that we are homeschoolers with a very flexible schedule and a parent willing to travel with Beth at any time. Hmm what will happen to Thomas when his mom and sister leave him behind?

The type of models that MMM (Mother Model Management) represents is: Fashion/Runway/Editorial Modeling: This is all about selling and showcasing the latest clothes and trends in the fashion world. Models in these fields are required to be very tall, very slim, and often possess facial features that are unique. MMM represents girls that they believe can be the top models in the world, the next supermodels. They are very selective about who they represent. They purposely stay a small, personal management company that has the flexibility to travel with the girls when needed and build relationships with their models. And they’re really excited about Beth and think that she’s got what it takes to do this.

Little things we learned about Beth: she has a beautiful neck, she has beautiful lips, her face is a combination of Dan and me, she has a cute, little tush that we hadn’t noticed before (my observation,) her skin is like porcelain, her hair may not actually be a weird crinkly texture- it may just be the (organic, non-chemical, and drying) shampoo that I’ve been buying, the slightly dark circles under her eyes are appealing.

Little things we are now aware of; do not wax Beth’s eye brows, let them be fuller and natural (except maybe the uni-brow part, but don’t pluck too much) don’t cut or alter her hair at all until in NY and someone there wants to change it, don’t get tan while in North Carolina this summer, don’t get any type of visible braces. Do get our passports right away.

Little things we learned about modeling: Beth always has the right to say no to any type of clothing or shoot, she does not ever have to pose in any type of nudity (no matter how artistic the photographer thinks it is) unless she is comfortable with it (and it will not hurt her career to say no,) she does not have to pose wearing fur or smoking or with alcohol. Sometimes (infrequently) the designers will let the girls keep the clothes or shoes. When traveling you will stay in model apartments set up by the agencies or if those are full then you may sublet an actual model’s apartment, you have to pay for this through an advance that the agencies will give you, you pay for your own airfare, Jeff sets up all the traveling so I don’t have to (yeah!)

As for the money: you’re not always making a lot of money- sometimes you just cover your expenses (at least that’s how it sounded to me.) The spreads you see in magazines are called editorials. These are great for getting your face out there but not great for making money. You may only get paid $300 for an editorial but it may lead to future photo shoots or even exclusives. If you’re hired as an exclusive model, you only work for that designer and you get paid a lot more. During fashion week if you get an exclusive contract then you only walk for one designer. Fashion week happens in Feb-March and again in Sept-Oct. You could start in NY then go London, Milan and finally Paris. There is some overlap between shows so you may not make it to all of them. It sounds to me like 40 days of craziness.

This is the start of our journey into the confusing world of fashion modeling and it is most definitely surreal!

America’s Next Top Model or something like that….

Ever since Beth had a massive growth spurt a few years ago people tell her ALL the time that she should be a model. She’s 16, just shy of 6 foot tall and wears a size 3 jeans. She definitely has a models figure but my response is always the same, I have no idea how to get her into modeling. You always hear about scams where you have to spend 1,000’s of dollars for modeling classes. We actually did go to an acting/ modeling call downtown that Beth heard about on the radio. We walked out of there feeling really sorry for the 100’s of young children all dressed up in their Sundays best with the hope of getting onto a Disney or Nick TV series, knowing that it was one of these scams.

But that all changed recently when Beth was “discovered” at the Colorado airport. She was going to a leadership conference, with school, when a model scout approached one of her teachers and asked them to pass on her business card to Beth’s parents. Of course, Beth called us right away with the exciting news. We thought it sounded a little suspicious but we were impressed that they approached Beth’s teacher and not Beth.

Thomas & I were in Seattle when Beth got home from her trip so Dan was in charge of contacting the agency and finding out all the details. During the 10 days I was gone Beth and Dan bonded over the almost daily emails working out all the details for our first photo shoot. I would get short phone calls or text messages from the two of them so I didn’t feel too left out of the loop. Unfortunately, I kept getting the outdated info and they wouldn’t always remember to give me the up to the minute news. So some of my facebook updates about all the excitement ended up being a little misinformed.

I originally stated that they wanted us to come to New York for a photo shoot and it was all free. Which does add some credence to them being legitimate. What actually happened was they did want us to come for a photo shoot and they are paying for the photo shoot but the first shoot is in St. Louis where their management company is located. And while they are paying for the photo shoot we did have to pay to get here and pay for our hotel. So it’s not all free but we’re OK with that, it seemed reasonable that we would cover our travel expenses.

We decided instead of flying that we would make a family trip of it and head to St. Louis 2 days early so we could see the sites. Which is where we are right now as I type, in downtown St. Louis overlooking the arch. Tomorrow we plan on riding to the top of the 630 foot structure (against my better judgment) next we’ll go to the Budweiser brewing co. for a tour & to see the Clydesdale horses then if we have time we’ll visit the science museum. Tomorrow evening we plan on meeting Jeff & Mary Clarke (the owners of Mother Model Management) for dinner. That will be our first time meeting them face to face and my first time talking to them at all. I have so many questions! It’s hard when all of my information is coming from Dan’s communications with them, he doesn’t ask nearly enough questions.

When I got home from Seattle Dan told me how much he enjoyed having this thing with Beth that was all his. Generally anything that the kids are involved in is with me and he gets the daily updates at dinner. But this was different, he was the parent in charge and this was his thing. And I was told not so nicely that I was not to take it away from him until he was ready to give it to me. So I’ve sat back and let him be the sole communicator. When he hears from Mary or Jeff he first talks to Beth then I get the nightly updates. I’ve been happy to let them have their moment but I’m ready to get involved, I’m not very good at sitting back and not being in control when it has to do with the kids. I’ve done it for so long now it’s really hard to let go, just ask Daniel he’ll agree with that, even though he’s 18 I’m still trying to be in control (it’s not working but I’m getting much better at letting him be.)

Back to my original comment of everything being free, which I’ve now established that “free” is a relative term. One more expense that wasn’t considered was the need for a new wardrobe, yet again. Last month when Beth was going to the Colorado Rockies for her leadership conference and hiking expedition she needed new jeans, hiking boots, new winter clothes because she had out grown her winter clothes (just what you want to buy when the weather spikes into the 80’s.) So what started as an inexpensive trip turned a bit pricey after our big shopping trip. And now again we get a list of clothing basics (or you would think anyways) that Beth needs for the photo shoot. Nothing fancy; skinny jeans, high waisted skirt, shorts, tank tops, bathing suit (bikini & one piece) blouses & leggings. But, of course, Beth didn’t have any of these items except for the tank tops (how is that possible, isn’t that the kind of clothes she wears ALL the time?) So Friday night after school off we went to the mall (ugh) with the daunting task of finding everything we needed. Seriously, finding jeans to fit Beth can take us months and bathing suits please that always takes multiple trips. But we shopped until we dropped and found everything on our list for a mere $355.00, argh! How did that happen? Well we did have to pick up a dress for her Spring formal (a mere $40 at Forever 21) and I did get a sweatshirt and a new pair of flip flops ($35 for both.) So I guess it’s not quite that bad, no it’s still a crazy amount of money for new clothes for one child (and our other teenager was out shopping with Dan for clothes for his Senior Prom. We thought it would be smarter to buy him a suit than renting a tux.) Needless to say it has been a very expensive week at our house!

So that’s where we’re at right now. I’m going to head to the pool for a bit to watch the kids swim. And I’ll update the blog as soon as we get home from St. Louis!