Guest Post by Renee Harris.
This question has come up frequently in the past several years of raising our teens:
“We’re not sure that college will be a good fit for my child. How did you make your decision with your kids?”
Here is my response:
I absolutely think it’s necessary to think outside the box with regards to our kids’ future and education.
I’m about to share a word-for-word post I wrote over five years ago. I considered re-writing it but that would make it past-tense, and to be honest, in this case, what I wrote back then is exactly the same advice I would give today.
So here goes:
Advice about college that we gave to parents in 2014:
Here’s what our family does:
Our two older kids are at the age where they’re starting to get questioned about where they’ll attend college, as if it’s a natural extension of their high school graduation.
We’re training them to understand that college should work FOR them, not the other way around. It’s more important that they have a passion/skill/talent (call it what you’d like) that can bring in an income.
My husband and I are using our skills as online business owners to teach our kids how to turn that talent into an income (notice I didn’t say “job” or “employee” – whatever they do to pay the bills in the future may as well be something they love doing).
Beginning at age 12, it’s critical that we start identifying and developing that talent by giving them plenty of time to explore it in-depth, while feeding the necessary subject content to go right alongside it.
For example: our bladesmith will study history and science through the eyes of his craft, and he then picks up physics and chemistry as he needs it for his talent. Because he’s also a very good writer, we use the One Year Adventure Novel curriculum to weave what he knows about history and bladesmithing into his novel. It makes for a much more interesting book. He’s also active on forums (and Instagram)… because it is on the private bladesmithing forums where he’s able to interact with Master Bladesmiths, and even meet them in person, which he’s done with a few of these men…
He’s almost 15 and what do the people at the top of his craft say to him?:
“I wish I would have started as YOUNG as you did”
I’m not too worried about what college he’ll attend, because IF he chooses to go to college, it will be a college that will support his craft and make him better at it. It’s hard to top one-on-one mentorship with the guys he’s already interacting with. He will have a variety of ways to monetize his craft online, so that he can work from home or anywhere in the world.
Fast-forward to 2020… we’ll give you an update on what this particular son is doing now, without a college degree, and how he got there. But we’re saving that for a future post.
Now I’ll tell you about his older brother… (taking you back to 2014)
Yesterday I was chatting with my CSA guy about my 16-year-old and told him that I was able to leave for 5 days and my son had no problem taking over the business with shipping the products and managing my emails.
The CSA friend said, “Wow! He deserves his own email account!”
Au contraire, mon frere! He already has several emails, his own business website that he created himself, and he’s on his second round of business cards. What’s most impressive is that he has a fantastic business that he loves that generates good income.
Fast-forward again to 2020… the business website he created over 5 years ago is one of his sources of income that pays his rent, grocery bill and everything else he has going on. No college degree and no debt. Read on for the link.
(Back to 2014…)
His current obstacle? He’s slowed down by the fact that he needs to help out around the house, he still needs to “graduate” from high school, and he needs to fit in regular kid life of taking hikes with his buddies and camping with his family. Here’s what he does… something unheard of a few years ago: www.reddingdrone.com (because we think outside the box).
If your student is approaching graduation and you haven’t thought out the following 4 years, then yes, maybe he/she should go to college. If you have a 12-16 year old, then I highly recommend you think through what the post-high school experience can look like.
I have to credit my husband for having our homeschool goals look different than most. Here’s some food for thought, because he always asks the “why” question :
Don’t let these excuses drive you to sending your kids off to college if there’s a better alternative (and maybe there’s not… it depends on the situation)
- I’m getting pressure from the relatives…. (is there a good reason to do what they tell you to do… like, are your relatives paying all your bills?)
- The schools/gov’t are offering free/discounted education… (are you sure there are no strings attached, including an opposing agenda? Or the temptation of accepting something for free again and again? Or a mentality that will lure your child into Visa’s free t-shirt booth in exchange for your child’s signature?)
- My kids need the experience since they’ve been with me the past 18 years… (please clarify: as in the experience of being in a room full of their peers? or the experience of being on their own? or the experience of having a different teacher? I would discount the first, and find alternatives for #2 and #3)
- They’ll make more money if they go to college first… (Look at this differently than how we were raised. Times are a-changin’. It’s not entirely true, especially if they take a talent-based route for education. Or, ask those who graduated from college in the past decade how that degree is working for them.)
- There’s status with a degree. (How many people have asked you where you went to school and what degree you have? We usually volunteer it, right? There’s also debt with the degree.)
All that said, we are NOT against going to college.
Our kids may decide that they need a particular degree, certification or even status to do what they want to do in the future.
If that’s the case, they’ll at least already have an income first, and then they can pursue the degree. They are strategizing what they need and where they’ll go to get it, but it won’t be to just attend the local college just because they didn’t have anything else to do.
Think through what this means for you, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box!
Mom of 9 (5 graduated and earning their own living)