Unplugging to Reconnect: Homesteading and the Kids’ Higher Education, Part 3

Reader Contribution by John Atwell
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Homeschool Microbiology – Lacto-fermenting cabbage for kraut, cacao for chocolate, and banana for vinegar.

Read all posts of this serieshere.

The second trend in popular literature that we saw was an increasingly prevalent understanding that, with the exception of a very few specialty disciplines (biotech, robotics, oceanography, premed, etc.), one’s choice of undergraduate institutions was not as critical to one’s success as once believed, especially in the liberal arts world, among others.

Again, we saw this ?rst-hand when we graduated. For example, straight out of school, I was hired at the same salary as a peer who graduated from Harvard (his parents spent many tens of thousands of dollars more than mine for the same result, and I rose further and quicker than he in the organization; the establishment name on our diplomas did not dictate success).

I went on to work for, and supervise, outstanding people who had graduated from schools that I had never heard of. It just simply didn’t seem to matter from where one’s sheepskin came — there were many other characteristics that better predicted potential and demonstrated capability.

All this said, and with a strong desire to see our kids graduate debt-free (without taxing our own  mental, emotional, and physical health with extra jobs and loans) our plan for our four kids’ higher education has long been to put them into two-year associate-degree feeder programs close to home, unless they should show interest and prowess in a discipline that would be better nurtured by immediate entry to a four (or six) year program (engineering, for example).

Our minds were somewhat ?xed on advancing this plan in Virginia, but our more recent move to Hawaii changed that. Of course, as part of our research on the suitability of the Big Island to our big move and lifestyle change, we spent a good bit of time looking at the University of Hawaii program and the University’s offshoot community college, Hawaii Community College Hilo. (Indeed, the church we visited during our two research trips here before deciding to move — the same church that we attend today — has within the congregation three professors from the local university, several teachers from local grade schools, and multiple parents who currently homeschool their kids or who did so before their kids began college–a wealth of information on the education issue.)

Stretch Learning

Based on my personal experience as a college foreign-exchange student in Thailand and the tales of many others who have undertaken unconventional learning opportunities (my wife did some Habitat for Humanity gigs), we have also long encouraged the kids to take advantage of the unique growth experience provided by studying at least a semester, if not a full year, abroad and/or in another stretch environment (semester at sea, for example), and we will continue prodding them in that direction.

(As a side note, many kids today, especially foreign students, actually knock out this life-changing, eye-opening experience in high school. One of my jobs here is to place those international students in public schools on island.)

During education planning discussions with the kids, “gap” years or semesters are not out of the question, as long as the gap has a well planned program of growth and learning, like a workstudy program, an internship in an apiary or museum or government of?ce, a mission trip. I spent two semesters away from campus in a government internship program and, as a result, landed a career-path type job right out of school (and I still graduated early because of the A.P. credits and some summer semesters).

Also on the table is military service before, during, or after some course work. From ROTC to reserves to active duty, in our professional lives, we routinely witnessed the superior work traits and maturity of employees who had spent some time in the military before joining the civilian work force when compared to new hires straight out of college.

There is a nice ?nancial aid side to military service as well, which brings me to our next section… (Part 1, Part 2. To be continued…)

John Atwelland his family’s journey into sustainable living, organic food, and homesteading began while living in the San Francisco Bay area some seven years ago. Their current grand life experiment — detaching from a fast-paced, conventional, urban lifestyle to establish a sustainable, organic homestead, homeschool their kids, and become more involved in community and church — began in earnest in early 2014. Find them online atSojourn Chronicleand read all of John’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS postshere

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