After I graduated from college, I remember telling people that I wished I could have majored in off-campus studies. I spent 6 months on a Germany/Austria program, but would also have loved the London program, Kenya, Jerusalem….. Unfortunately, financial aid could only be obtained for one off campus semester – if you did more than one, it was all on your own dime, and it wasn’t cheap.
When I look back now and remember myself saying those words, I can’t believe how clueless I sound. As though the ONLY way to go to London, Kenya, Jerusalem, Germany & Austria was in college on an off campus study program. Umm, how about just traveling there for much less than the college charged?
What was I thinking? Well, basically I wasn’t.
It’s funny how easily we fall into societal expectations. It is expected that kids go school and then college. If you are a “good” student in high school (I was) then you go to college. I applied to only one college, (oooh, what a rebel) much to the chagrin of my high school advisor, was accepted and attended for 4 years. I don’t know why. I didn’t have any real passion about it, though I loved the fact that I knew not one single person on campus the day I arrived as a Freshman. Of course, had I backpacked across Europe, I would have known not one single person in almost every country I visited… I chose Earlham College because of their off campus study. Which kind of makes me crazy now.
My college experience was not devoid of value; I liked Earlham. I loved studying abroad. But it wasn’t thought out. I didn’t weigh my options or look into other ways of expanding my views and learning about the world.
I just went because that’s what everyone was doing.
On Tuesday someone asked me if Maya would be attending high school. I said no. Unless something changes drastically, none of us, particularly Maya, see the point. She can pursue exactly what she wants to pursue and get a head start on all the people who are going through the motions because “that’s the way it’s done”. In 10 years they’ll all be weighing their grad school options and racking up debt, and my guess is that Maya will be well on her way to her life’s work, or maybe to exploring the world and her place in it.
One of the best things unschooling gives my kids is the ability to avoid the pitfalls of societal expectations when it comes to learning; to avoid doing something – going to high school & college – just because. (Or for “the experience”. Really? How about we all get incarcerated for “the experience”. Not everything NEEDS to be experienced, people.)
Study. Learn. Travel. If you decide to go the traditional route, be sure of the why behind it. Weigh all the options. There are many. Choose the best one for you. Nothing is impossible.