Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What?! You Have a GED?

I admit it. I didn't graduate high school. I'm not usually eager to share that information, because I never know how people will react. It's not that I wasn't smart enough; I was an honors/AP student who loved reading and writing and knowing more than most people I met. I was the teacher's pet who screwed up the curve in biology class. My teachers loved me and I stayed after school just to talk to them. I loved the idea of school, of education. I thought about maybe being a teacher one day. I was never a very social person when it came to other students; I mostly just felt uncomfortable and out of place with them. But the teachers spoke my language. I could make connections with them.

But at some point, I just didn't want to be there anymore. Actually, it wasn't a specific point; it was more of a gradual realization that I didn't see a purpose in going to school. English class was a joke; they never taught us anything new. I was reading and writing at a level higher than any of the classes that were offered, so what was the point? I found it insulting that I had to sit there for two more years, when I had already taken courses beyond what most
graduating seniors had taken. Why couldn't I move on? Was this a prison sentence? And then there was the whole issue of What I Wanted To Do With My Life. I had no idea. Teaching? Art? Writing? They all seemed like viable options, but I didn't feel passionate about any of them. I had just taken the classes that people like me were supposed to take. Was I supposed to think about my classes, as far as how they related to my future? No one had ever told me that....

So I approached my parents with my plan: Drop out of school, get my GED, and go to community college. And somewhere in there, figure out what to study, since that would determine my future career path. Surprisingly enough, my parents let me leave school, probably because my mom couldn't deal with the stress of trying to get me to go any longer. I didn't get my GED for about a year and a half. My parents weren't thrilled. I spent time working, being with friends, reading, thinking, talking, learning, and trying to figure out who I was. I toyed around with the idea of college, but every time I thought about it I still had no idea what I wanted to do.

During this time, I met my husband and fell madly in love. We got married and had two wonderful children. By this time I had figured out what I wanted to be, and it wasn't a complete shock to me when I finally realized it. I wanted to be a mom. I had always wanted a family more than anything else. Of course, when you're young and people ask you what you want to be, they're asking about what paying career you want. Mom is not really an acceptable answer; it's more of a side job than a career. But my mom had always made us her full time career and I wanted the same for my kids.

So as time went on, I had to start thinking about schools for my girls. I researched everything I could find about the public schools in our area, but nothing really seemed good enough. I looked at private schools, but we couldn't afford them, especially on one salary. While looking at private schools, I stumbled onto this school that I absolutely fell in love with. It was called Sudbury Valley School and it embraced everything I never knew I believed about education and learning. There were no mandatory classes, kids had freedom to explore their interests, all ages mixed freely, and the students set their own goals for graduation. It was like education heaven. Unfortunately, it was in MA and we were in NJ. So much for that.

Funny thing is, that school was what pushed me toward homeschooling, and, more specifically, unschooling. It was the combination of all my frustration with public school and the realization that there were alternatives that were so much better. I took the philosophy of Sudbury Valley and used it as a jumping off point. Of course, I did tons of research into homeschooling and unschooling once the idea planted itself in my head. And the more I read and thought and talked about it, the more right it seemed. Like it was the natural next step our lives were supposed to take. And it really has been the best thing I could have done for my kids. So it turns out I became a teacher after all. But I didn't need to finish my prison term and march off to college for 4+ years to do it. In fact, if I had done what I was "supposed" to do I probably would have been leading a much less fulfilling life than I am now. As happy as I am with the way my life has turned out, my best friend never really forgave me for leaving school. She thought I was wasting my intelligence, which I find insulting. I don't think I could have put my intelligence or life to better use.

And even though I'm technically a dropout and haven't had any "formal" higher education, I still know more than most people I meet. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I think for myself, as opposed to being told what to think. Or that I actively seek out information all the time, not just when I have to. Or that learning has become such an integral part of my life that I'm always eager to find out something new.

Or maybe I'm just conceited.


honkeie2 said...

My outlook on this is: Who gives a hell what anyone else thinks. I personally loved High Skool, not for the learning, but for the girls lol. And a GED, is a 'Good Enuff Degree', life is what you make of it and if it makes you happy.....screw everyone else. My ex homeskools my 12 year old. I dont not agree with her completely but she has been doing it now for about 6 years. He will be going into publick skool next year because he wants to try it out. Like I said I am not big on the homeskooling thing but thats me, and not everybody fits in the same mold.
I love being a dad and my heart melts everytime my little ones call me dad. I have 3 boys (nothing but John Waynes in this 6 shooter) 12, 4 and 9 months.

Jenn said...

Yeah, kids are great that way.

Not June Cleaver said...

What a great story of the transformation of your educational paradigm. If you don't mind, I will try to write a blog about your post and link to it in the next couple of days (no promises, it may be a couple of weeks because that's just the way I am!).

Jenn said...

I don't mind at all, thanks so much!

Judy Aron said...

What your "credentials" are is not really important unless you want to be a space physicist or heart surgeon. Many successful people haven't graduated high school or college, and lots more got a GED. School didn't work for you and you found other paths.. bravo! You had the intelligence to know that and set up other plans. You are an educated person, you are not illiterate that I can tell.. and you are doing a very important job raising a family. If your life is happy and healthy and full of love and family with some goals thrown in, then that is really the only thing that really means anything.
Glad to read your blog.

yoominbeanie said...

I was raised from the '40s through the early '60s by parents who were not Catholic and who had faith in the public school system in this country. To the best of my knowledge, home schooling was not an option back then. I and my three brothers were encouraged to do our best in school, and my older brother and I graduated first in our class. We went on to college via scholarships, but I had girls on my mind and dropped out after a few months. I didn't appreciate the value of college education. In retrospect, everytime I look at my paycheck I kick myself in the butt for my foolishness.

When I was raising my kids, allowing any one of them to drop out of school was unthinkable to me. Yet my wife permitted my oldest to do just that, in her senior year. I discovered it after the fact, and was appalled by the decision that was made without my consent. I wanted my kids to excel in high school so that they could obtain scholarships for college educations. Nevertheless, after I found out that a GED was not viewed by colleges as inferior, I ceased (grudgingly) to object. But I wonder what kind of free and substantial financial assistance is available for GEDers who decide to eventually go to college. Nothing comparable to a full or partial scholarship, is there?.

I'm very pleased that it has turned out well for you. The happiness that you describe as a result of the decisions you and your husband have made is of immense value, something sought by many and obtained by few. His decision to take the bull by the horns in terms of employment has been somewhat of a catalyst for the delightful position you find yourself in as a full-time mom and home schooler, and I commend and applaud him for that.

Home schooling has its share of controversy, all of which is well documented. A major advantage, in my mind, is a measure of freedom from peer pressure, be it good or bad. Another is being able, without argument, to place in your childrens' minds those things that you know are true. Your responsibility as their teacher is very great, but I'm sure you realized this long ago.

Anyway, happy home schooling, sweetheart. Love you with all my heart.

debra said...

When I was a student at a local university, a professor told me that my "problem" was that I wanted more from an education than a degree.
I quit the next week. I looked at a bunch of options and found the University Without Walls where I designed my own program, found my own resources and got credit for what I had learned as a result of my experiences. On my own terms. On the 9 1/2 year plan.
We've been hsing for 14 years and our oldest just returned from 8 weeks in Buenos Aires. Where she learned lots and lots.
Life is good :-)