Being at the “graduate” end of the K-12 education system as a parent, I have had a number of conversations with other parents, family members, my older children and their friends about post-secondary plans and life goals. Some of the stories make me happy and hopeful and some a bit worried and sad. Life and planning after K-12 schooling can be exciting, but also complicated and confusing.
As a parent, I avoided referring to school in terms of its importance to find a good job… or good for “x” next year… or for “y” for life.” I tried to help my children value, enjoy and celebrate the learning and experiences of where they were at in the present as much as possible. They still heard the messaging elsewhere about their education being essential for their employment, post-secondary plans and life. I am not sure they heard it in a regular way about why a particular subject or lesson was necessary to learn and I am not sure that was always necessary. I am glad they found some learning interesting and persevered through the more tedious aspects of school. Did they find their passions and interests through school? I am not sure, but I am also not sure if I expected that only from their schooling. I think they discovered their interests through a variety of experiences and people. I did hope that school would help them enjoy and find passion for learning in itself, even through all the evaluative and uncomfortable aspects of it. I am sure they were exposed to a variety of teaching methods and learning experiences overall that were beneficial in various ways.
As we help them make plans for their future education and learning, it can feel conflicting. On one hand, they can now really focus more on what they want to learn, or explore their passions and interests. On the other hand, the need for them to make plans for independence and self-sufficiency is getting more immediate. And not all students will have the opportunity or ease to try out and learn what they are really interested in after they graduate, or will want to. How many really get to do that during their K-12 experience? When is that best to do? Will an increase in project-based or inquiry learning and other program changes coming into place now give future graduates a different starting point at graduation?
Appreciating how scary the future can seem, I try to impress upon my own children that they might have a career that is their passion — or they might find satisfying work and include their passions in their life in other ways. And they might not need post-secondary education to ensure either. As I was reflecting on this and drafting this post, I appreciated the thoughts that both Shawn Davids and Dean Shareski posted to their blogs.
The Great Motivators: Necessity and Passion by Shawn Davids
Do What You Love: A selfish and misguided message by Dean Shareski
As part of the discussions with friends and families, we also have debates about taking a “gap year” after high school or before doing a graduate degree. I try to avoid calling it a “year off”, as I trust it could still also be a year of learning, exploring, personal growth and reaching goals. That said, there is still some stress and worry about appearances and impacts associated with doing this. Yet in some countries it many be more acceptable. On a New Zealand website it stated the following benefits of the “gap year”:
- experience the world of work in a real way
- become more mature
- become more independent and experienced in your decision-making
- clarify your study and career future, and make new or more informed decisions
- work with people from different walks of life
- experience different types of workplaces
- learn new skills.
How do parents proceed if they want to support their children in gaining experience, confidence, and new learning in areas that they may not have had while enrolled in formal education systems or institutions? Should this fall on individuals or a family? What will help decision-making the most? Who should make these decisions?
No easy answers.
I thought I would also share 2 videos that helped our family with discussions on this. The first is by a physics video blogger: “Should you listen to your parents?”. I thought he shared a good story regarding post-secondary decision-making. The second video was recommended by him: “What to do with your life”.
A humorous presentation, but some good messages about idealism, practicality, and decision-making. One of his final bits of advice is, “What you do isn’t going to be as nearly interesting or important as who you do it with”. Maybe that is one good consideration regardless of the path taken after school and beyond.
I welcome thoughts, insights, or other resources that anyone has found useful as a parent, teacher, or a student.