Raising three daughters has taught me a lot. The process of trying and failing - or, perhaps less often, succeeding - to make the right decision is a rigorous and rewarding education. My girls are tough. They remind me of those professors in college that everybody loved even though they were incredibly serious, strict, demanding, and always ready to flourish the red pen and cross out pretty much everything you wrote except your name and the date. Here are the courses my daughters made me register for, take, and occasionally pass:

Gender Studies 101

Real men play with Barbies. They just lie about it to their friends.

Or, when real men are caught giggling and clapping, dressing Ken and placing him at a tiny plastic table with his stiletto-heeled date, they say, "I was enjoying myself ironically."

Cosmetology 203

Your hair won't necessarily fall out some time after getting married and before sending your first child to summer camp. You might pull it out, but that's different. That's not a genetic issue - it's a standard coping mechanism.

Alternately, you might lose a few sizable clumps of hair while your 5-year-old plays "beauty" parlor; she will brandish a comb, hairbrush, barrettes, a toy blow dryer, rubber bands, glitter and - probably, but we're not sure why - a My Little Pony. Friendship may be magic, but it still hurts when a little girl plucks an eyebrow hair or sticks a red crayon up your nose. This course is cross-listed with Gender Studies 101.

Instructional Technology 417 (computing for humanities majors)

You don't need another computer. You don't need a tablet. You don't need a smart phone. You don't have to Google it. You don't need GPS. You don't need another hour tapping a screen. You don't have to post photos of yourself looking at other photos of yourself. This advanced interdisciplinary workshop explores the effects of technology on human subjects. We have been using computers in schools and at home for several decades now. We will be asking a number of straightforward questions about this experience. Have computers helped create a human race of super-geniuses? Are eating disorders on the decline? Have emotional and psychological disorders been wiped out? Do our kids use computers to write code, get ahead in Physics and teach themselves Japanese? Or to play video games and find out who portrayed Urkel's Aunt Oona on "Family Matters"?

Active class participation is expected and required. There is a mandatory 1-credit lab in which you will volunteer as the subject of a social experiment. You will sit down with your family to eat dinner. You will use a map and your frontal cortex, to find the location of a soccer game. Your family will enjoy an hour of quiet reading time using three-dimensional books (the ones that don't plug in, hurt your eyes or require orthopedic wrist splints). You will go outside - that's the place without air conditioning or electrical outlets, the one with butterflies and bears - and walk around. You will interact with your fellow, kinship-based, on-ground colleagues (i.e., family). Lab goggles, light refreshments and sunscreen will be provided.

Comparative Religion 364

There is such a thing as Buddhist Speech or Conversational Karma. If you use nice words, such as "thank you," you will be rewarded in the future. If, however, you use inappropriate language when hitting your thumb with a hammer or watching a televised sporting event, your child will one day embarrass you by repeating these words in front of your boss or client. This is an ironclad law. Moreover, if the child is asked where she learned such language, she will - immediately point to you.

Sports Management 234

This course explores the theory that girls should be given equal encouragement in sports, that training should start early and never let up. Start them jogging at 5, even if it's only around the block. Push-ups, crunches, yoga, soccer, rugby, swimming, basketball. You don't have to commit all your time, money and sanity to hyper-competitive travel teams or Junior Olympic leagues, which often leave little time for real life. But do get your kids out there, and get out there with them. The more you expect, the more they'll achieve. The goal shouldn't be pushing them toward professional sports, or even the varsity team, but rather fun, fitness and lifelong health. It's also nice to spend time together as a family, in the fresh air, for interpersonal reasons, though this falls outside the parameters of a university course.

Economics 101

You don't need to buy all that junk. Sippy cups? Why not have your child learn to use a real cup? It's a valuable skill. New stroller when they're 4? Make 'em walk. It's good for their health, self-esteem and sense of responsibility. The sooner they learn that our solar system is heliocentric, not Amanda-centric, the better. Wipe warmer? Changing Table? Diaper Disposal system? Baby detergent? Baby food processor? Diaper bag? The Baby-Industrial Complex is targeting your insecurities - and your wallet. Don't let them.

Prerequisites: Marketing 101, 102, 103, 104, 201, 202...

Psychology 201

The monster at the end of this book is not lovable, furry, old Grover. It's over-scheduling. Don't do it. It drains the bank account, the gas tank, your own energy reserves, and the child's spirit. We will examine two case studies. The Chilliams are the area's most under-scheduled family. The children are not "behind" academically, athletically, creatively, socially or emotionally. Quite the contrary. The O'Veracheevers, however, schedule every minute of their daughter's life. This includes 15 minutes for "free play" every second Wednesday. "Your Ancient Greek tutor will be here soon!" Mrs. O'Veracheever says. "Hurry up and start having fun - now!"

Mrs. O'Veracheever can't understand why her daughter scored lower than Cathy Chilliams on the Big Math Test. She has two Advanced Math Crams each week, and Cathy doesn't even have one! It. Does. Not. Compute. Mrs. Chilliams is a slacker. I know she sits on the back porch drinking wine while I selflessly circumnavigate the Beltway. Before bedtime, Mrs. O'Veracheever looks at her clipboard and reads. "Have special bonding time with daughter. Kiss on forehead." That was a mistake. She's tired. She didn't mean to read it out loud. But it's okay. Her daughter is content to initiate her two-hour sleeping window, a relatively stress-free break between homework and enrichment activities.

Physics 414

Pauli's Exclusion principle. Two solid bodies can't occupy the same space at the same time.

Not comfortably, anyhow.

This course poses the question: If Dr. X has three daughters, one wife and 2½ bathrooms, how early must he get up in the morning if he wants a hot shower? Prerequisite: Mathematics 110, Organizational Management 302.


The graduation ceremony is next week. Even though I was the only student, I didn't make Valedictorian. My girls voted for somebody named Harry Styles.


Andrew Madigan is a freelance writer. His first novel, "Khawla's Wall" was published Dec. 1, 2014, by Second Wind. Find it on Amazon or Second Wind.