He works at a local grocery store, always wishing for a few more hours. He was finally able to move out of his parents' house last year. He's still wondering what God wants him to do.
"I started high school," he tells me, "convinced that this would prepare me for the 'real world' in a way homeschooling hadn't."
College didn't either. Those four years failed to launch his artistic career, even though the school partnered with an art gallery, had an extensive Senior Show, and all that. His resolution for this year is to have a packed portfolio, planning to create a piece every two weeks; he tells me how much he has learned post-college. The latest four books he's purchased for inspiration and instruction stack themselves neatly on the table between us.
He looks me in the eye, but says nothing. I don't say anything either.
We chat a while longer about work, college dreams, life, and God's leading. Then he has to leave. Work starts early tomorrow.
I sat there, as I do now, wondering what the message is in all this. What does it mean when we complete school without success? And the question is as big as a double rainbow, with as much vagueness as to what it means. As I mull this over, here are a few thoughts that have surfaced:
- This young man was homeschooled. But that can hardly be blamed seeing as how he went on to graduate college. The sobering reality, however, is that school -- of any kind -- does not guarantee a job. I think we, who believe education has tremendous value, can become myopic and miss the complexities of life. Homeschooling, like education in general, is no panacea. I'm reminded of Psalm 127: Unless the Lord builds the house... May we all seek the Lord's direction for our lives and the lives of our children.
- The "real life" lie is pervasive. Perhaps I should write a blog post dedicated to this, but for now I'll merely touch on this topic. School is not real life. In fact, as Paul Graham argues, it is quite the opposite. If you're looking for an educational model that more closely resembles life, homeschooling is the system for you. Traditional schools segment by "batches" and segregate by age. That is not real life. Employers tend to hire people of all ages.
- We never arrive. "School without success" lugs a finality with it. And while this young man has not yet started a career -- indeed, he may never -- that does not mean his life will fail to be successful. In fact, it is important to remember what it means to be successful. And even if he is not yet there -- wherever there may be -- this is a life-long process. We do not "arrive" at success. We run into it when we have finished the race (2 Timothy 4:7).
We've chatted before, this aspiring artist and I. He's certain that stocking shelves is where God wants him; but for how long? I don't know. But if that grocery store is where God has put him, he's on the right path toward success.
Are you concerned that your students will somehow make it through school without success on the other side? I encourage you to keep your eyes focused on what God is calling them to do, remember that the preparation you provide by homeschooling is an excellent option, and that the paths we walk are journeys that last a lifetime and can only be judged looking back from eternity.
Keep up the important, valuable, meaningful work you do.
Filmmaker, Writer, Pseudo-Dad
P.S. I would also like to highlight the "post-college learning" bit. School is great ... when it is a tool that helps us learn more long after we've finished our formal education.