Unplugging to Reconnect: Homesteading and the Kids’ Higher Education, Part 1

Reader Contribution by John Atwell
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Homeschooling field trip to a live volcano.

Many folks, upon learning of our efforts to move into a homesteading lifestyle – including a shift toward homeschooling and plans for kids’ higher education close to home – have asked us about what lies ahead for the four younglings in terms of college. (It is clear that many anticipate an unconventional response and fear that our brood are going to end up running hippy communes with degrees in yoga postures or in survivalist camps teaching the next generation how to gut and skin rabbits while dodging bullets from federal agents — not that there is anything wrong with that.) It is safe to say that we are probably some of the most misunderstood people we know.

Well…I am here to try to help put minds at ease, especially for any of you readers out there who may be toying with the idea of leaving a more conventional lifestyle while your kids are still at home. Even so, I’ll have to begin by saying that our thinking and plans on college are certainly considered unconventional in today’s typical fast paced “hyper parenting” urban and suburban environments, and they would have been looked at askance when we graduated from high school some 26 years ago in the affluent Northern Virginia area.

It turns out, however, that–even back when we were students — there were many folks out there in various parts of the country, and from very different socio-economic backgrounds, who were successfully approaching college (and education more broadly) from a much more pragmatic, economical, and — frankly — objective angle. (It would seem that, contrary to thinking in some socialite circles, you do not need to send your child to a high cost, invitation only pre-school with live classical music quartets during math instruction and afternoon meditation sessions to produce a person that can succeed in life.)

That slowly-evolved realization, coupled with a good deal of reading of modern literature on the issues surrounding higher learning in our country over the past decade, convinced us to take a different tack than the so-called mainstream and throw out many of the “standards” you hear parents cite. “Kids should be able to study where ever they want.” “Kids should try to go the ‘very best’ (most expensive) schools in order to succeed.” “High school graduation immediately followed by entry to college immediately followed by grad school or a job is the surest path.”

In reality, there are just too many accomplished, notable people out there in the world who did not adhere to these “truisms” to give these ideas the weight they are often assigned.

“Who?,” you ask. Too many to list in full, but here are a few modern personalities: Apple Co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (both college drop outs), Founder of Virgin airlines, mobile, records, etc. Sir Richard Branson (never completed high school), Wendy’s restaurant chain founder Dave Thomas (high school drop out), Oracle CEO Larry Ellison (dropped out of 2 colleges), Dell Computer founder Michael Dell (college drop out), cooking T.V. star Rachel Ray (never attended college). Looking back through time a bit, consider Lincoln, Andrew Carnegie, Ansel Adams, Ben Franklin (self-taught, homeschooled, or grade school drop outs with little or no college education). (For a more extensive dip into this corner of esoterica, check out College Dropouts Hall of Fame or 100 Top Entreprenuers Who Succeeded Without a College Degree).

Closer to home, one of my first senior executive bosses in federal government graduated (initially) from community college, joined the organization as a secretary, and worked her way up. Later, one of my secretaries, who graduated from an small obscure college, rose to become a senior manager overseeing a multi-million dollar budget. These were not isolated cases in my place of work or in many others.

Still awake? Allow me to further expound on this crazed notion. Click here to read Part 2.

John Atwell and 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 atSojourner Chronicleand read all of John’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS postshere.

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