A few semesters ago, the girls were at public school and I was deep in quadratic equations, African capitals, and…Vampire Pop Literature (neck deep, I tell you). It was a busy and rewarding time, but I worried that I wasn’t using every one of my talents to its utmost possible limit. I felt afraid of missing out on opportunities. The more knowledge I gained the heavier my heart became. It is not a sin to be driven, but drive is not the same as greed, and sometimes higher education feels more like the latter.
In protest to the system and to my own heart, I submitted a piece of writing to be published in a journal at my local community college. The theme was, “The Future.”
There will be glory and dragons for a few, but for most of us the future simply means putting one foot in front of the other, investing in our small towns, loving our families, and letting our little ones go when it’s time. So we take heart in the present, finding purpose in the midst of our stories whether a thousand miles beyond the gates or right on the other side.
These days I am still immersed in classes, but I am also teaching my own kids. We are all at home together, learning, creating, dreaming, but also (sadly) still worrying about the future.
We are worried about how to pay for extra classes. We are worried that the girls are learning enough and if “unschooling” is really working. We worry about education for everyone, not just our girls who have middle class opportunities and the luxury of my being at home.
Conversely, I spend a great deal of time imagining greatness for them. I think this can be healthy, but I think it can also lead us into a gluttony of opportunity. Should they take every available lesson, just because they have the time? Will they go to college and get advanced degrees before they even turn eighteen, just because they can?
I think homeschooling families (like us) like to cite examples of heroes and prodigies because it helps us remember that homeschool kids can turn out pretty darn amazing. The future is gloriously painted for us, even on the hardest days–those worrying days.
These are the days when I find notes like these on the doors, and I hope that my daughter eventually uses her powers for good (like, say, maybe that early degree) rather than what the sign indicates (murder upon entrance to her bedroom).
Maybe if she were in school she would know how to spell. That would be nice. No, I don’t want my children to be slaves to a system I’m not sure I believe in…. But neither do I want to sacrifice them on the altar of opportunity. We can all get caught up in the allure. We want our homeschooled children to be geniuses! To be inventors! To be entrepreneurs! And the truth is, no matter where our children learn, “success” can be a demanding idol. But so can the education itself.
Should their discerning taste in music, literature, or Ken Burns documentaries (ahem) become so elite that they are completely out of touch with their neighbors? Or should they dig into their communities, get to know the kids around them, and serve others well?
Some say it is impossible to work toward the good of the community and also homeschool. Maybe it is idealism, but I hope there is a third option. Yes, I hope to foster a rich environment of wonder and beauty for my girls–but may they spill that richness out of our doors and onto our street, instead of hoarding it away for their own futures.
Perhaps we are not all called to the same thing. Perhaps there is room for all of us, regardless of education philosophies, to contribute to our communities. There is an abundance of change to be made in this world. Perhaps I just start with these two.
The future is a lucky one to have these girls in the world.
Speaking of the future, you can read my full essay here, at Think: A Journal of Essays, Volume II.