May 22, 2012

Faith and Heavy Sighs

My sixteen year old just got her driver's license. I am fearful when she goes out. I remind her every time she returns to charge her cell phone. We trade the keys back and forth, and just like my own mother still does, when she goes out the door, I call after her, "be careful!" Every time.

Perhaps I've mentioned it before, but we homeschool here on the chicken ranch. Well, clarification - we un-school, which has a totally different connotation, (images of children lounging about until noon and their brains atrophying.)

Unschooling requires a degree of faith. You have to have faith that you are NOT going to screw up your kids for the rest of their lives, that they will be gainfully employed at some point in time, and that they won't be living in your basement into their forties. (Well, they can live here into their forties if they want to. I'm rather fond of my kids and maybe they'll still be fond of me by that time... when I am well into my seventies.)

And oh, what a golden moment, when you see your faith has been rewarded. I spent the day yesterday, helping my older teen paint her shop. Yes, she has, (and has had for a good while,) a booth in the grandparents' antique mini-mall, and I have to admit, her booth is looking pretty snazzy! Slowly, I've been turning it over to her until now, it is completely her space. Half of our garage is full of stock for her booth, and she has spent days preparing, cleaning, pricing, and now, stocking and displaying her wares.

Still, she is having a bit of a crisis at present, but I think it's a good thing. She's struggling with the decision of whether she should continue with college or not. You see, she started her college course work when she was twelve. She is sixteen now, and she has a half-dozen more classes to take before she can get her associate's degree, but lately, she's been wondering about the value of a college degree for the sake of having a college degree.

I take full blame for her quandary. (Maybe I take credit?) I've tried to teach them that school... education... the acquisition of knowledge should be for knowledge's sake. The whole lock-step curriculum that we have all come to accept as "the norm" is precisely that - a step-by-step instructional guide toward the acquisition of... a degree. Not knowledge. Sure, some vocations require a degree. Degrees give a "degree" of certainty to others that the bearer has attained certain benchmarks of proficiency - important in professions like medicine, law (maybe), architecture, (don't want those houses falling down around your head.).

But I guess my belief comes from solid reasoning. I grew up in a family of successful people, none of whom were in possession of advanced degrees and some of whom did not attend school for all twelve of their grade school years. My mother has been an entrepreneur most of her life, beginning with a "pie stand" that she ran as a teen, then her own hair salon, and now, as a "retiree", her own antique mini-mall. My father was a builder... er... mathematician... er.... "set-up the first radio/TV station north of the arctic circle." He worked for 30 years as an estimations analyst for a private government contractor, and he built investment houses as a hobby - five of them - and renovated three of mine, and two businesses for my mother. My great-uncle, Nick, invented the paper dollar changer... which he then sold for $10,000, which funded the purchase of a house and a pink Oldsmobile. (Amazingly creative, he was not a visionary and probably did not foresee the advent of vending machines.) It was life experience and a pursuit of their interests that led them to their avocations.

My daughter wants to be an architect, and therein lies the quandary. During multiple college tours, no less than three professors have advised against it with advice like, "you'll never make a living that will equal the cost of the education," and "have a back-up plan," and from an architect, "yeah, it's great. You stay awake all night working on projects, eat crap food, weep for hours, endure psychotic mood swings, then your project is critiqued into oblivion." And then there are the student loans - how much is too much? And remember, she's not putting a dollar figure on education. She's putting a dollar figure on "the degree." Is there any wonder the child has walked away wide-eyed and fearful? So, I am hopeful that this life experience - her first shop - will give her the insight and the logistical background for making an informed business decision.

In the meantime, I can relax about her little brother. He DOES sleep in until noon... and plays Minecraft for hours... and only socializes through Skype... and he's right on schedule. He makes me laugh like no one else can make me laugh, and he says he's going to live with me forever. I won't hold him to that proclamation, but if he does, that'll be just fine with me. And in the meantime, I'll have faith in him and his ability to pursue his interests - and learn... for the sake of learning!


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