How important is academic success to overall success? The answer may surprise you!
We’re continuing our 5-days to a more confident homeschool series. Read the entire series starting here.
I’m going to start this post with a story – my story actually.
It’s important for you to know how much I value academics before I tell you to rethink its value.
I come from a long line of highly educated people. Both of my parents have college degrees. My father has multiple degrees and my grandmother, who was born in 1906, had a master’s degree!
I was raised to value education. To me SUCCESS = COLLEGE.
So when my creative, entrepreneurial husband suggested that a college degree wasn’t necessary for our kids, I was seriously concerned.
Over the years, I watched my husband support our family (without a degree). I observed other businessmen and women find success without degrees. I even began my own business that had nothing to do with my own degree.
I continued to prep my kids for college by trying to meet all the college entrance requirements, but to be honest, it was hard. A few of my kids struggled to get through Algebra, let alone Geometry and Algebra 2. I struggled to keep a balance in our homeschool that valued their individual learning abilities, using accommodations to help them work independently of me, and still doing the college prep thing.
As of this writing, four of our kids have graduated from our homeschool.
- One of our kids did some college and then opted for a certification program. She spent six months training and got a respectable entry level job. She would have done more training but chose to get married and start a family making me a grandmother!
- One kid is in college and doing great even though she has to work really hard. She’s learned how she learns, where she needs help, and where to find that help.
- Two of our kids have followed in my husband’s footsteps and are entrepreneurial and self-employed. Both are successful. They are working in an area where their unique strengths are needed and they shine in their professions.
Things I worried about while I was teaching them:
- that they would have big gaps in their education
- that they wouldn’t be able to handle the demands of a job
- that they wouldn’t go to college
- that they wouldn’t get a good job
- that they would be insecure because of their reading and spelling troubles
How it worked out:
- Any gaps they had were filled, if and when the information was needed.
- They tried different jobs until they found a good fit but they did find a good fit.
- Some went to college and some didn’t and nobody died!
- They all have good jobs.
- They have learned to compensate for their reading and spelling difficulties (hello, assistive technology) and are confident.
Here’s what I’ve learned about what was important as I look back at our homeschool.
- Early years can be relaxed.
- Use research-based reading programs (Orton-Gillingham).
- Using interest-led learning resulted in the most memorable learning.
- Don’t be afraid to use assistive technology.
- Keep relationships and confidence in tact.
- Observe their interests and abilities – this is where their calling may lie.
- Teach them to be curious, to question, and model how to find the answers.
All of my kids are life long learners. They are curious about the world and know how to learn whatever they want to learn. They are avid YouTube watchers, podcast listeners, and audiobook consumers. You see, even though they can all read, they prefer to listen to learn.
Success is Much More Than Academic Ability
Over the years, I have seen how my adult kids have become successful despite their academic struggles. So when I stumbled upon some research conducted by the Frostig Center, it all began to make sense.
In this 20-year longitudinal study (they followed the same subjects for 20 years) struggling learners were tracked and their level of success in education, employment, relationships, health, and their own measure of life satisfaction were observed. The study concluded that there were six attributes that the successful subjects possessed:
- Goal Setting
- Effective Support Systems
- Emotional Coping Strategies
I didn’t see advanced math or excellent 5-paragraph essay writer on that list, did you?
Now I’m not saying not to teach advanced math or how to write an essay. I’m saying these things are not a hill to die on.
Relax. Remember, kids with dyslexia learn differently and on a different trajectory.
Teach. Teach them where they’re at and give them the support they need.
Coach. Help them to develop the six success attributes.
Watch. Watch for where their interests and abilities intersect – even if they are not academic in nature.
Cultivate. Nurture their strengths and give plenty of opportunity to develop interests.