Dropping Out of College Was the Best Decision I Could Have Made

It’s been over 11 years since I dropped out of college, and it has turned out to be one of the best life choices I have ever made.  My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. 

Straight out of high school, I really had no clue who I was, or what I wanted out of life (I knew my mom wanted me to become a Lutheran minister, and I was strongly considering it if only to make her happy).  When I signed up for classes at a local community college, I ended up majoring in business and minoring in music (I guess I wanted to open a…Music business?).  My class-load was not terribly heavy, but I still had a hard time dragging myself out of bed for my earlier classes, and after a few weeks stopped attending them.  No one seemed to care, so eventually I stopped going to my other classes as well, opting to wander around campus, hang out in the library, or go to more interesting classes that I hadn’t actually signed up for.  Well I couldn’t keep this up forever, at least not without someone getting wise to my shenanigans, so I had to come clean.

I ended up flunking out my first semester, as it was too late to withdraw from my classes.  My parents were not ecstatic (they were even less thrilled in the coming months when they learned I was getting married and moving 1100 miles away).

Sure, the main reason I avoided my classes was laziness, but it seems college has become the lazy option.

I can understand if you have a vision for your future, or a career or vocation that you would like to pursue that requires a degree, but anymore college is just an extension of high school, a way to postpone adulthood.  Not sure what you want to be when you grow up?  that’s fine!  Just change your major 17 times, you’ll get there soon enough.  Why go out into the real world and get real life experiences when you can spend another 4 to 8 years in a classroom?  And hey, If you’re not happy with your degree, that’s okay, you can just come right on back and get another one.

I am eternally grateful to my irresponsible 18 year old self for being lazy, selfish, and reckless.  That one decision propelled me into a life of travel, adventure, and awesomeness (not to mention the lack of debt!).  I may not have a degree, but I have an amazing wife, 4 kids, my own home, and 11 years of real life experience.  (maybe I would have had these things had I finished my degree, but then again, maybe not)

Disclaimer:  Everyone makes their own personal life decisions.  If college is right for you, go for it, just don’t feel like it’s your only option, or that you’re a deadbeat if you don’t have a degree. 

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Harnessing Homeschool Fears

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As a dad* who has chosen not to send his kids to school, my children’s future is always on my mind.  Will they be successful?  Will they be happy?  Will they be ashamed?  Will they want to homeschool their kids?  Will they regret being homeschooled?  I know that homeschooling was the right choice for my family, and I believe that homeschooling is the best choice for most any family, but I still have plenty of room for doubt, and that is a good thing.

If my children turn out illiterate, ignorant, or worse, I cannot blame bad teachers.  I cannot blame stingy tax-payers who refuse to fund better schools.  I cannot blame politicians who care only for standardized test scores.  I cannot blame bullies, I cannot blame behavioral specialists, I cannot blame the lunch lady.  I cannot be irate that my child was not in the gifted program, or complain that they should have been in the remedial program.  I cannot be outraged that they cut band or art.  I cannot say that someone else has robbed my child of their education, their childhood, or their future.  If something goes wrong I cannot blame anyone.  Anyone, that is, except myself.

Because of this, I have a drive and motivation that I would not have if I was counting on someone else to educate my child.  I am always re-evaluating my approaches, reading articles, asking questions on forums, asking the kids for feedback, and trying any means possible to improve the educational experience my children receive.   I have a much more vested interest in my children than any teacher ever could.  Being directly involved in the lives of my children is one of the many reasons I choose to homeschool.

*I’m writing this from my perspective, but we mustn’t forget my lovely wife.  Just know that any time I say “I” I really mean “we.”

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Inside an Elementary School

Occasionally for work, I make visits to local elementary schools.  I have the opportunity to see the way many (if not most) children are spending the bulk of their waking hours.  Having four young children myself, I know what they are capable of.  Children are creativity machines, always singing, dancing, building, digging, experimenting and exploring.  They have a tremendous drive to take in as much of the world around them as possible.  They are bursting with excitement at the newness of everything.  Imagine having 200-300 of these little imaginative beasts crammed into one area!  What would that look like?  What would they learn, create, and discover?

Well, I have seen what it looks like, and it is quite disturbing.  Today was my first visit of the school year to a few local elementary schools.   Each of the schools I visited was the pretty much the same.  None of the children spoke (At least not loud enough for me to hear).  They moved silently in single file lines, and the only sound was the commands and reprimands of the adults.

You couldn’t have asked for more docile and obedient children, but the school staff still found reasons to chastise.  One student put out his arm, and ran his hand along the wall as he walked (still in line) toward the cafeteria.  “Aiden, the wall does not need dusting!”

As I made my way through the school, I heard a teacher inform the students that they ought to walk “Single file through the hall please, quiet as a butterfly,” on hearing this, one of the more spirited children gently flapped her arms (like a butterfly), “SASHA!  We are not birds!”  Whoa.

It was pathetic.  The teachers were really grasping at straws.  On my way out I heard “Why would you put water in your hair!? Why? Just, WHY!?”  I turned to see a boy, not drenched as I was expecting, but patting his slightly damp head with his hand.

These are young kids we are talking about, anywhere from 4 to 10 years old.  I can’t believe that I am the only one who doesn’t think this is a natural or healthy way for them to behave.  And it is not enough for them to be silent for six hours, and walk in single file lines, but they need to keep their arms at their side, not touch anything, and whatever you do, don’t let any of them put water in their hair.

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Bonsai Children

I found this post while revisiting one of my old blogs.  I thought it deserved a re-post.

I have a fondness for bonsai trees.  They are quite amazing, and if  I had the patience to grow them, or money to buy them, my home would certainly be a bonsai forest.

As I was sitting and thinking of the techniques used in growing bonsais:  The pruning, trimming, clamping, and wiring.  And thinking also of the outcome:  The size, the artificial appearance of maturity, the constant care that is required.  I compared these aspects to those of their wild counterparts, which are tall and majestic, with spreading branches, elaborate root systems, and no need for human hands to care for them.

Is it unfair for me to draw these same comparisons between the schooled mind, and the mind that was free to learn for itself?

At school, children are shaped into a form that may not be natural for them, but is acceptable to society.  They acquire an appearance of maturity, but it is merely an illusion based in fear.  They are kept contained for 6 hours (or more) a day so that their roots cannot reach deep into the ground, and find their own source of happiness.  Without school, children are limited only by their nature.  They are free to become themselves, whether that be a shrub or a sequoia, they will be themselves, and in that, there is much joy.

The main difference is that the growth of the bonsai gives a sense of joy and accomplishment to the grower, while the growth of the wild tree gives a sense of accomplishment and joy to the tree.

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