You Can't Stir Fry in the Blender: My Journey Away from College
I'm in a small white room, lying back on a long, adjustable, vinyl covered chair. There's blinding white light fixed above the chair shining right into my eyes. The room is silent except for the occasional clink of steel on steel as someone out of my line of vision readies the (gulp) instruments. I know all too well what will follow, but I still give an involuntary jump when it happens. Without warning, a figure in a white lab coat stands over me firing question after question. "How old are you?"
"What grade are you in?"
"Um, tenth, I mean eleventh, well, sorta both. You see, I skipped a grade and--"
"You're homeschooled, aren't you?"
"Thought so. Do you floss every day?"
"Can we try another question?"
"What are you going to do in college?"
I fight back panic as I try to think of something clever to say. It escapes me and I find myself saying in a very small voice, "I'm not going to college." Dead silence fills the room. The dental hygienist holds up two small, plastic x-rays and pronounces my sentence. "Two cavities."
I am part of a small, but significant, minority of homeschoolers (mostly homeschooled girls) who have decided not to go to college. However, even though I'm odd, I still don't get the satisfaction of feeling a "part" of this community of odd people. I don't live on a remote farm, shunning the world with my twenty siblings. I'm not a disciple of the "back to the Victorian era" movement. I don't believe that all college girls are feminists, and I don't even think that all colleges are part of a vast communist conspiracy.
In the beginning, at least, my parents and I decided that I would not go to college, for lack of a nobler sounding way of putting it, because I just wasn't interested. I had other things to do with my life. I love to write, hate math, love working with my hands, hate bookwork, love small children and old people, and have never hit it off particularly well with the "hip" young collegiate crowd. There was so much I wanted to learn about real life skills after I was done with school and I wasn't too thrilled with the idea of sitting in a classroom studying biology and calculus instead. Until the spring before my senior year, I was perfectly content with this choice.
Then panic hit. It all started innocently enough. I announced one day that I would like to take the SAT. I'd never taken that sort of test before, and I thought it might be fun. It was fun, challenging and interesting. My math scores certainly ruled out the possibility of my ever becoming an Einstein, but my verbal score was good enough to almost make up for that.
The wheels began turning . . . I had never taken much algebra. I wonder how my scores would be if I studied algebra 2 this year . . . You know, I probably could hold my own in college after all . . . I always thought that I would be a wife and mother when I grew up, but, what if I don't marry for a long time, or never marry? It would be kind of fun to be a teacher, or what about a political journalist? That sounds intriguing. The next few months were a whirlwind of scholarship and college application forms, morning to evening bookwork to fill in my "gaps" and endless conversations at the dinner table about whether every daily activity in my schedule would fit in with the "Possibility of College Plan."
Finally my patience snapped. I could not prepare for two kinds of lives at the same time. Once and for all, should I definitely go to college, or should I definitely not? What did God have in mind for my life? I wanted to know now. God doesn't often answer questions on our schedule, but this time, He made a gracious exception. We had a family powwow in the dining room. My dad set up the white board and we started by listing my interests and goals. I'm quite eclectic in my interests so lots of things went on the board, and, for awhile, we weren't getting much of anywhere with the discussion. Then a pattern began to emerge. It became more and more apparent that whatever I did was motivated by a desire to help, or simply enjoy the company of other people. I'm a one hundred percent people person. No surprise there. We were surprised to see that the things we had considered my "primary" interests, such as writing, fiber arts, music and politics, were really only enjoyable to me when I was making gifts, teaching my skills to others or fighting for a humanitarian cause. As we went through all this, the thought kept coming to me, "What does this all have to do with college?" And then we saw. It didn't have anything to do with college. It had to do with who I was, and who I was had about as much to do with college as making stir fry has to do with a blender. Let me explain.
It would be pointless for me to walk into the kitchen, wanting to know what we're having for supper, and say "Hey, Mom, are you using the blender today?" The sensible question would be "What are you making for dinner?" If her answer was "lentil soup puree," then I would assume she was using the blender at some point in the recipe. If her answer was "stir fry," the blender would obviously be out of the question and I would know that a hot wok was the tool she needed to use the ingredients the way they were intended to be used.
College can be viewed in the same way. College, like a blender, has many uses. It prepares many different people for many different jobs in many different fields, but it is by no means the best tool to process every combination of ingredients. If your own special blend of personality and giftings seem to be sending you in the direction of a lawyer, scientist (or a smoothie), then college (or the blender), is a wonderful tool for the job. However, if, like me, you happen to be made of humanitarian worker, missionary (or stir fry) ingredients, then, no matter how you try, college (or the blender) can not turn you into a very good lawyer.
Once again I'm in the little white room with the person in a lab coat. This time I'm prepared.
"How old are you?"
"What grade are you in?"
"I'm a senior."
"Really? What do you want to do in college?"
"My family and I have decided that there are more efficient routes for me to learn what I want to learn."
"Well, I'm a freelance writer for one thing, I also spin, weave, knit, sew and enjoy designing my own patterns. I also teach sewing lessons. I think I'll pursue those interests through a course of home study as well as working in my current job of telecommunications manager in my family's business." (I don't mention that my telecommunications job primarily consists of finding creative ways to convince other telephone companes that I don't want to save incredible amounts of money in three easy steps.)
"Wow! You homeschoolers are amazing! I saw that you came with your mom, don't you have your driver's license yet?"
"Well, actually no. I haven't been in any hurry to drive."
Dead silence. Then, "I see you've been grinding your teeth. I'll see Dr. Carlin about making you a mouth guard."
Oh, well. You can't win them all. My mom just announced that her future plans do not include being my personal chauffer, even if I am scared of winding roads and big trucks, so it's off to the transportation office to get a permit.
[Editor's Note: Did you miss last week's article from a dad's perspective? Click Here ]
Bethany G. Smith is the home educated young author of I Remember Mama from Sweet Home Press, an activity book for mothers of young children. She lives with her family in Tennessee.
This article was originally published in the Jul/Aug '05 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. For more information, visit http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com. To request a free sample copy, visit http://homeschoolenrichment.com/magazine/request-sample-issue.html