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The Almighty ‘Career Path’: What Career can a Homeschooler Hope to Have?

Part four in the four-part series: Is Homeschooling Unfair to Children?

This post is the fourth in a four-part series entitled Is Homeschooling Unfair to Children?

You can read the other posts in the series here:

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Knowledge gaps and the thirst for knowledge

Part 3: Socialization and missing out on important experiences

What does success look like for a homeschooler?

Something that really drives me crazy is when people insinuate (or state outright) that homeschooled or unschooled children have no hope of a future career. This seems ludicrous to me. A simple Google search will put such notions to rest, as there exist numerous lists of wildly successful people who were homeschooled.

The following links are but a few examples of successful artists, writers, scientists, inventors, and athletes who were homeschooled at some point in their education, among them Claude Monet, Leonardo da Vinci, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Robert Frost, CS Lewis, Mozart, Einstein, Louisa May Alcott, and JRR Tolkien.

Throughout history, homeschooling has provided an opportunity for children to explore and develop their passions. It is my opinion that the ability to discover and pursue one’s passions is a greater marker of success than how quickly they climbed the proverbial ladder. As someone who was given the opportunity to attend excellent universities and move along the conventional career path that stems from that education, I can tell you that it was not until I pursued the things I’m passionate about that I felt ‘successful,’ even though in the eyes of much of the world, my success had waned.

But, perhaps your child does have ambitious academic goals. Homeschooling need not be an impedance to that. As this article details, many top-tier schools realize the benefits that homeschooling offers young learners and actively recruit homeschooled students. Homeschoolers bring a unique approach to learning, and their self-motivation and strong sense of self is an asset to academic communities.

Homeschooling and entrepreneurship: a perfect fit

Homeschooling is also conducive to following an entrepreneurial career path. In our case, our own entrepreneurship had a lot to do with our decision to homeschool. Neither my husband nor I has ever been particularly conventional (those who know us well would probably say that’s an understatement). To be honest, we can be a little on the weird side. And we’re fine with that. By the time we met each other in our first year of university, we both knew that we were not suited to traditional career paths. We both felt called to work for ourselves, in whatever form that took.

From the earliest days of our relationship, we started business ventures together. We bought things to sell on eBay, wrote study guides and sold them to our classmates, and had a lucrative tutoring business going. When we graduated, we quickly turned these experiences into consulting contracts, writing business plans and training manuals, and designing websites. Our businesses changed a lot over the years—he currently does business systems analysis, whereas I do a mix of sustainability consulting and writing—but the fundamental principles of the entrepreneurial lifestyle remain. We work for ourselves, set our own schedules, determine our own paths.

Even before I had kids, I knew that homeschooling would be a good option for us. We moved to a beat of a different drum, enjoyed coming and going as we pleased, and I wanted our children to be part of that. I wanted us to be able to take cross-country road trips together in autumn or turn a business trip into a family vacation.

Many homeschoolers, whether their parents are entrepreneurial or not, find themselves starting businesses when (or before) they finish high school. Their education at home has given them the time, motivation, passion, and skills they need to start a new venture. There are many stories of such homeschooled entrepreneurs out there, such as this one and this one.

By the way, if you or your homeschooling child is interested in entrepreneurship but don’t know where to start, check out this website, entirely devoted to homeschooling entrepreneurs.

How much of a difference does homeschooling make?

The important thing to note here, whether your child chooses a conventional or a non-conventional path, is that homeschooling and unschooling are not barriers to success on such a path. Despite the perceptions of many people who are unfamiliar with the nuances of the homeschooling lifestyle, homeschoolers and unschoolers often go own to have meaningful and prosperous lives. This study from Psychology Today sheds more light on the outcomes of unschooled children.

But, before I conclude this series, let me reiterate an important point from an earlier post: the choice of schooling method has less to do with the development of self identity—a prerequisite for social, academic, and vocational success, in my opinion—than does the strength and quality of the family relationships.

People choose homeschooling and unschooling for a variety of reasons: they want to spend more time together as a family, the want control over their children’s curriculum, they want to offer interest-based learning, they desire religious freedom in their children’s education, their children are not thriving in school, their children have special needs, or either the children or parents have a career or lifestyle that is not compatible with traditional schooling.

Whatever it is, each family has its own mix of reasons for not sending their kids to school.

But let’s be clear about this: there is no magic bullet. Taking kids out of school will not solve all of their (or your) problems, and putting a homeschooled kid back into school won’t either. There are going to be roadblocks and obstacles, regardless of which route you choose. There will be doors that open, and doors that shut, regardless of which route you choose.

Many kids will go to school and thrive and go on to have a great sense of meaning and purpose and self-worth. Many homeschooled kids will have the same. But, sadly, there are children who will not go on to have these things, no matter which schooling choice their parents make. We can not hold up a few isolated incidents of children who went to school and say that school ruins all children. At the same time, we can’t look at a few homeschoolers who ‘failed to launch’ and determine that homeschooling dooms children to failure.

One common critique of homeschooled children is that they are ‘weird’. The assumption seems to be that they are ‘weird’ because they are homeschooled. I guess this is where the definition of socialization discussed in post 2 comes into play. Are the children ‘weird’ because they are homeschooled, or has the lack of pressure to conform to societal norms just allowed their inate ‘weirdness’ to shine through?

In The Tech-Wise Family, Andy Crouch explains that his children have gotten used to telling others, “Our family is just different.” When I read that part aloud to my kids, they were all nodding their heads. “Yeah, we definitely have to say that a lot,” they agreed.

But since when is being different and weird such a bad thing? I love how quirky my children are and I love that homeschooling gives them an opportunity to explore their quirks and me an opportunity to enjoy them. I love that my daughter wanted a dragonology book for her birthday, and that when she got it, she immediately dropped everything, read the whole book, and created her own exquisitely detailed dragon, complete with a proper name, history, and characteristics.

Weird? Perhaps. But I adore her weirdness.

The bottom line is this: homeschooling won’t make or break your child. You can relieve yourself of the burden of thinking you hold the keys to their success in life in your curriculum catalogue. You can relax knowing that the love and care you’ve already shown for them, just by putting so much consideration into your decision about their education and future, will do more for them than any lesson you (or a school) can teach them.

So go on and do what you do. Love your children, nurture them, build them up, pray for them, listen to them. If people give you a hard time, you can send them here. But know that you are everything that your child needs you to be, and that they’re going to be okay.

Continue reading the other posts in the series here:

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Knowledge gaps and the thirst for knowledge

Part 3: Socialization and missing out on important experiences