School vs. Education

Posted on February 2, 2011


A friend stopped me once and said,” You should be so proud of your children. They are so well-mannered, etc. How do you do it?”  I answered as honestly as I could. I was very uncomfortable with her observation. I said,” Don’t give me credit for what they accomplish unless you want to blame me for their short-comings.”


When we had only four children I remember telling them that they were different. They were special. They would beam at me. They believed me. But it was true. They had very easy temperaments and were flourishing in a world that was very simple. Those four children are almost all grown and either graduated from college or anticipating going later this year. I have done nothing to help them get there  except fill out some financial aid forms. They kept track of applications, fees, deadlines, departure dates and every other detail related to college. I’m glad they took control. It showed me that they cared.

When I went to college I found out I wasn’t ready to be there. I didn’t love learning, yet. I learned three languages and did some dancing. But it was more of a social experience than anything. My mother filled out all the paperwork, bought the airplane ticket, and drove me to the airport. I took everything for granted. I found out that no one cared if I showed up for class or if I failed an exam. Nothing prepared me for that.


I would love to sit in a class full of people eager to learn now. I’ve become curious about things and love to solve problems. That leads me to educate myself if I find I’m ignorant about something. I devour books and start to feel panicked when there isn’t a new one ready to pick up. The books whose interesting contents are woven around vulgar language are too distracting and I won’t read them. I will forever be amazed that so-called intelligent people don’t have the ability or desire to use words that make their books great instead of mediocre. I just don’t get it.


I won’t be going to college any time soon. I just don’t want to. I learn differently. I like real life. I read about a woman once who complained about not getting a formal education. She was asked what she did while sitting on her steps while watching her children. She said she did nothing. She was encouraged to study the ants working below her feet. So she immersed herself into that world and became an expert on ants. Then she moved on to the study of the bricks where her feet rested. She continued to study and learn that way. That’s real education.


There are so many ways to get educated and so many places where it happens. I’m open to them all.


I will be so happy for my children if they learn that one truth. I hope they catch the bug of learning to follow their passion and enjoying every moment that life gives them. I hope that they know that college is a good place to find mentors. But the desire has to be there. If they find that they are wasting their time because they’d rather be mountain climbers or serving in the Peace Corps, so be it. My success as a parent does not show up in anything they do. But my joy does. I just want them to find out who they are and continue learning how they are unique in the world.


Who knows? At 49 they might decide that what they thought they wanted to do isn’t what they want to do at all. And, if they’ve got a head on their shoulders they’ll be courageous enough to say so and risk changing directions mid-stream. As long as they’ve observed well enough that living below your means allows you to be creative with your life and not scared because you’re tied to mortgages and unnecessary bills, they’ll be fine!


I think in the end my kids will like that I’ve always been true to myself. I haven’t done everything I could’ve done, but I’ve always stuck to my personal priorities. That’s what I want to pass on. Work hard because it feels good. Study hard because your brain likes the stimulation and will reward you with amazing thoughts. But, one step at a time. And don’t think about what other people want you to do. God knows you better. Ask Him. He’ll speak to your heart and mind and tell you that you are on the right track . You’ll know if you’re going in the right direction if you’re excited about life, and if you are happy waking up to a new day!

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