Measuring Success in Unschooling: Real and Perceived

By , February 12, 2011

Helping Aly pursue her education through unschooling has created a dichotomy between achieving the true goals of getting a proper education that will enable her to follow the career of her choice, and “making it” in the eyes of society. The first is a real goal, the second is completely frivolous and largely unnecessary. I have to admit, though, that realizing the second one is proving to be hugely satisfying.

In our society, one of the main goals of secondary education is getting accepted to the university of one’s choice. Ergo, one of the most commonly-recognized indicators of educational success is gaining that acceptance. Indeed, getting into any college, whether it be one’s first choice, or further down on the “wish list” can be considered very laudable.

Therefore, imagine our pleasure at the news we received this morning: Aly has been accepted to the university of her choice. Not just her first choice, but virtually her only choice. She has dutifully applied to a couple of other colleges at our insistence that she choose a couple of “safety” schools, but that may prove to be unnecessary.

I learned of her acceptance early this morning. Oddly, it came as an email, which seems a bit casual, and somewhat anticlimactic to one old enough to remember the suspense of gathering the family around The Letter before opening it to learn one’s fate.

I tried to orchestrate the event, placing a call to Michelle as Aly started looking at her email this morning. I put her on speaker phone, and tried to draw Aly’s grandparents into the conversation.

Aly’s responded typically, for her. I saw her grin widely as she read the news, while I made small talk with Michelle, vamping till ready, as it were. Aly didn’t exclaim, or even interrupt the conversation. In fact, she added a comment of her own to it! Then, she jumped up and hugged me hard. She could barely choke out the news to her mother, at my urging. Beyond that, let me draw the veil of privacy over the many happy tears . . . .

As significant as the event is, it’s not the end, by any means. She’s accepted to the college of her choice, but paying for it—roughly $120,000 over the next four years—may prove to be the biggest financial challenge of our homestead life. (In fact, pray that might be so!) Whether or not she attends the college depends on her earning scholarships to cover the cost. Based on her success so far, we remain hopeful.

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