Thursday, January 24, 2008

Appalachia, Economy and Homeschool

I've had a few thought provoking conversations this week. Being part of a homeschool family, I naturally field a lot of questions about it. Aside from the black and whiteness of the law, the answers are as varied as the colors in the rainbow.

Can your kids go to college?

Do you have to be a teacher to homeschool your kids?

Do you have to use a preset curriculum?

These are easy questions to answer. Yes, no, no. The tricky ones are ones that require me to give my opinion. I know it shocks you all that I would find it difficult to give my opinion! It's true. That doesn't prevent me from droning on and on, but I digress.

Why do you homeschool?

Do you think homeschooling produces better results?

What do you teach them?

I can't answer these questions in one word, nor would I want to. The gears in my mind really start to turn when I try to sort out the answers. I won't try to do that here, perhaps another day.

This week I've been mulling over the whole college issue. On Monday, I had a pleasant conversation with a homeschool -mom- friend and we talked about how college courses were not for everyone. Someone has to be a mechanic, a trash man, and a welder. I left that chat feeling pretty solid in my conviction that if my boys decided that vocational school was better suited to their interests, then I would be happy. After all a welder makes darn good money, right?

This evening I had a talk with another acquaintance about homeschool. He wanted to know about the pros and the cons. I jabbered on and on about working at one's own pace, and child lead interests, and the state of our public schools. Somewhere in the discourse I mentioned my revelation that perhaps the boys would choose not to go to college. This sent him into a huge tizzy. What? In this day and age? You can't be serious! How will they support themselves?

Hmm, how indeed?

I started to consider our attitudes towards higher education here in Appalachia. I'm not really talking about parents encouraging their children to get a higher education. Most parents are doing a fine job there. I'm talking about our societal attitude. It's the little hints that we pick up from how people live their lives. So often in our area, we see friends who have taken the leap to be the first ones in their families to graduate from college just to wind up working in a telemarketing warehouse or becoming the assistant manager of a store at the mall. It's no wonder that we start to think, "is it worth it?"

I wonder about people who live deeper in WV. Do they think to themselves, "If I get a degree, where will I work?". If the answer is UPS or the post office or the mines regardless of their degree, then I'm not sure I blame them for never aspiring to anything more.

We as West Virginians have a unique communal dynamic. There is no life outside of the town in which we were raised. Consciously, we know that there is, in fact, a big world out there just waiting to be conquered but it's not for us. We are forever tied to the hills. These mountains are too big, they have too much gravitational pull.

What? In this day and age? You can't be serious! How will they support themselves?

I suppose I too have been consumed by the trap. Instead of aspiring for much, much more for my boys, I've been lulled into the complacency of our local job market. I have become the mountain that can't see beyond my own orbit. My satellites, my boys.

I still do not know what the future will hold for them. They are young yet, but not for long. Giving them the tools and the skill to make the decision for themselves will have to be where I focus my energy now. It's a worrisome thing. Parenthood.


Stephanie said...

Thought provoking indeed.

The phenomenon of a college degree not being used certainly is not just an Appalachia issue. That happens everywhere. I'm not using mine. (well ok maybe I am, but I am not earning money from it...and actually am still paying for it)

I want my children to pursue their interests. Maybe that means college. Maybe not. Maybe it means a good paying job. Maybe not. I hope they learn to be content with who they are, and not measure themselves by what they do or what they earn.

Yes they need to be able to pay the bills, but they don't have to have the biggest and the best of everything. They have to learn to live with in their means.

Maybe our kids will be the ones to create more jobs here? Maybe they will have to leave? Maybe they will decide staying here is more important than the size of their paycheck? Who knows! We can only do what we think is best for them and watch it play out.

Jennifer said...

From on West Virginian to another....well said!!
Of course I'm also the homeschooler but I'm new to it and sometimes I ask MYSELF those questions LOL!!

Amy/thefoilhat said...

I think what you just said goes for a lot of places, Crystal. My boys are fast approaching college age. They will certainly be able to get into college, but we are encouraging them to think about it and perhaps put off that decision for a year or two.

Tim Appleton (Applehead) said...

Our job as parents are to raise children that are responsible adults by the time that are of legal age. A lot of what we are talking about falls into that category,I think.

Chris James said...

You can be a responsible adult and still destroy all competition at beer pong. :)