Sunday, November 14, 2010

Life In A Box


The other night we were sitting around the dinner table and having a discussion about whether college keeps you "in the box" and whether not going may encourage more creative thinking "outside the box" and lead to creation of ideas rather than insertion of ideas. I do want my kids to go to college for the experience and for the opportunities it can point them towards. I want them to be exposed to many ideas as long as they don't lose sight of their own. We discussed examples of people who became successful without a college degree, often by thinking outside the box and also the merits of making the box work for you without sacrificing your integrity or individualism and also the financial aspects when making a choice for, or against college. There is a very interesting article about that here .

What is best? Our school systems are "in a box" for the most part due to necessity. Funds and manpower can only be stretched so far. There are programs in some places that offer more individualized learning but they are not the norm. Should we all just sit quietly listening to the same tune over and over, then all pop up at the same time like Jacks in a box? Like a perfectly reproduced pop tart? In order to keep things functioning and compete in the world shouldn't everyone be prepared in the same way? Or should we all follow only a course that feels natural to us? That brings us fulfillment. What would happen to the world? To commerce? To service and government? What if we all decided to become ballet dancers? I have mixed feelings about this. I think it is really important to nurture natural gifts and talents and offer opportunities to those who wish to become skilled no matter what their area of interest. At the same time I worry very much about my children being able to compete for plain old survival in the real world.

My kids were in a gifted program through elementary school that was a part time, two day a week creative thinking/experimental environment type of class. In middle school the gifted program switched to merely an academic performance machine. Ready to turn out highly efficient workers that would proceed to Advanced Placement courses in high school and be college bound and credited before graduation.  One of Middlest life long friends just skipped his senior year. It is cutthroat to get in state college. My girls aren't cutthroat kind of people. Well except Biggest if you make her mad enough but..beside the point.

When Biggest was a child she felt secure in this box. She liked knowing what was expected of her and enjoyed the challenge of "measuring up". She never came out of that box unless she was sure the song was complete and she would shine in the light. She conscientiously strove to meet or beat the criteria and come out on top. She thrived in a systematic learning environment until she died in it. When she couldn't meet her own expectations. When she began to be suffocated in the box she busted out with a bazooka. Unfortunately she blasted a hole in the bottom and fell into a black box. Full of monsters. When we reached in to pull her out she slapped our hands away. She had to bounce off the walls and fight her way through it herself. She found the ladder and came out battered, bruised and behind, but alive. She is just now awakening completely to the possibilities she may have by-passed. She has been outside the box for a long time and quite honestly has done well for herself but with great self awareness she is ready to face it again with the strength to use it to her advantage and not be used up by it.

I think Middlest was conceived outside the box like an ectopic pregnancy on the womb of standardized learning. She has been doing her own thing since day one. She is more like a Jack who escaped on it's spring and bounces from one wall to another constantly springing in a new direction. When she wants to learn she immerses herself and then moves on and has no interest in repeating herself. Year after year I have the same reports. When she does her work she does great work. The problem has always been that she is reading, writing or drawing instead of doing her work. She only does what she wants to do. She is inflexible. Common sense would say that this child could breeze her way to a teaching degree specializing in reading. The experts say that this is a highly needed profession and a good choice for the future. She wants to be an artist. She is very good. Will her creativity feed her? It's hard to say. Will college allow her creativity to flourish or stifle it? Will she be splashed across galleries someday or  in a box designing a shoe box so that she can eat? Will it make her legitimate?  Should she skip college and set up shop on a street corner? Will she have to hold up a sign saying, "Will paint you for food?" Littlest could stand next to her with one that says, "Will insult you for food."
I seriously don't know. And at this point, if she doesn't pray for the gift to speak in tongues, Middlest may be in danger of not graduating in time because of German. Who does that happen to? Why did she even take German, which would come in handy to be a Lutheran  minister ( We are LCMS so only men allowed), an opera singer ( she can't carry a tune) or maybe work at Epcot? Though she once expressed an interest in working at Disney- as a Disney Princess. The kind that only ride the floats and waves so that singing wasn't why German instead of Spanish or French like 98% of her class. Well, because Spanish and French are taken by 98% of the class...and ...well...there you go....

So far Littlest has been the one best able to balance. She can climb in and out of the box at will. When the tune finishes what pops out depends on what the tune was. When necessary she is diligent about conforming to expected standards. She likes to know the rules so that she can follow them to the letter. She wants everything pointed out in minute detail so that she does not vary from the correct course. She does not like it. She finds it boring and pointless and complains about it endlessly but she does it. At the same time, when it comes to her free time and personal thought she not only gets outside the box, she twists the lines to the extreme. She is more "out there" than any of us which in some ways makes her the most "well rounded".

Which is why when we were talking about "the box" she stayed relatively quiet while the SeaMonkey discussed the truth that higher education is not always requisite to success and  Middlest espoused the benefits of going against the grain until a pause in the conversation left Littlest the opportunity to cheerfully pipe up in a moment of silence with

"I Think Inside The Circle"


Whereupon our intellectual conversation culminated with Middlest snorting milk out her nose.

So, I don't know. I want my kids to be able to thrive in the modern world and be self sufficient. But I want them to pop up to a tune they composed themselves.

Is this even possible?
Should schools strive to accommodate a variety of learning styles?
Or is it more important to be disciplined and 'standards' based  to compete on a global scale?
Are some people more cut out to work their way up than learn their way out?

Or will my daughters end up in a creatively decorated Cardboard Box?

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  1. oh, i WISH i could have got in on this conversation. egads! where to begin and end. it's really, in the end, all a bunch of hogwash. the "system" if you will. my tendency is to agree with middlest and say hang the whole business as it is just a societal expectation for "what the smart and successful kids do." but therin lies the problem, it does tend to be "what the smart and successful kids do," so how can you be safe (financially) without that degree? and there is an experience to college that i think would be hard pressed to duplicate anywhere else. i feel just as you, mixed and would feel anxious for sure if it were (when it is) my kids making the decisions.

    my only thought that is sort of advice-like, although i would NOT actually try to give advice on this subject, is that there is no age limit for college. so whether it is "necessary" in the long run? maybe. but does it have to be immediately following high school as society tends to dictate? maybe not.

    i think maybe i think inside the circle too. different, but sort of safe. (ish)

    i once snorted popcorn out my nose. not pretty.

  2. Oh, is THAT all you want to know? Geez man. I was happy in the box too, but I liked going to University and learning about thinking critically -- this is something I've tried to gradually introduce my kids to. Not everyone can be Bill Gates, and I'm too cautious and mainstream to tell my kids to just do whatever the hell they want, but I hope I would be supportive if at some point in their lives they wanted to push the envelope a little. As long as they don't need money, because we probably won't have any, since critical thinking isn't so much a marketable skill.

  3. I know that not everyone's path is to go to traditional college. We all don't think the same ways and definitely don't have the same personalities.

    I always assumed my two kids would go to college and it was never something they questioned. They did go and one graduated. One is still in. However, I have realized during their college years that it would have been ok had one of them chosen a different path in life.

    I just want their paths to lead to a life they can be happy with, and then of course...they MUST give me grandchildren! ;)

  4. You're scaring me! We are homeschooling now, but planning on traditional schools for high school....but, now I don't know!!!

  5. I personal am an "outside" the box kinda gal.
    I have one of each, my soccerboy is the "inside" the box kinda kid, and my tattoo girl is a "outside" the box girl just like her mom.

    SOme people require the safety of the box to get thru life and that is just fine.

  6. Miss G, I'd love for my kids to go to college but I know it may not be cut out for all kids. I also don't want them to go to college and after they're done not able to get a job in their career field. I've never looked at it as being in or out of the box. I don't know where I am. lol

  7. Elissa: You are right about the waiting. Biggest has done that and actually now that she is considered independent she may qualify for more aid.
    Popcorn, hee hee; ) Now That Is Talent!

    Bibliomama: That's just it. My kids are all over the place and I keep telling them to get back in that damn box. At least until the get all the financial aid possible, then they can go beserk in their own free time!

    blueviolet: You are right. I've assumed mine would all go to college but they have not always stayed on track. Biggest let it go but is regretting that now and finding her way back.

    expressmom: Goodness Dear, don't be frightened. My mom-in-law homeschooled my sisters-in-law. The youngest asked to go to highschool as a sophomore because she wanted to be more involved in sports. She did fine and it helped with college scholarships. On the other hand i took my oldest out in 9th grade because of the problems we were having and homeschooled her. It did not stop the problems. They were her bad judgement. My youngest goes to a specialized arts magnet where she has to work very hard but gets specialized classes that she loves. My middle child left that school because the expectations were too much for her. You have to take each child, school and even class on a case by case basis. You just have to fight some times to make the system work for you and if not you find a different system.

    Kittycat: True. We all have to find the best way for us. And hopefully it will keep us fed! Not living off our parents....till we are 30...; )

    Help! Mama: I know! it was real helpful when Middlest's school counselor told her he had been an Art Major...that's why he was a school counselor : )

  8. I think college can provide more than just traditional academia. It gave me an opportunity to assert myself, to meet new people (some like me, so not), and to find my way. All the while getting "smarter." And going away to college is not a lifelong commitment.

  9. Wow a lot to think about.

    Peace, Love and Chocolate

  10. The Sweetest: My oldest child jumped right in to being an adult. I would like the other two to experience just learning, expanding their environment and being young.

    Redbonegirl97: I know, it makes my brain want to explode : )

  11. Absolutely shameful that I haven't commented in soo long! Especially because, of all my "bloggy" friends, in so many ways, I relate to you the most! We seem to have identical personalities we deal with in our kids, with you just a step ahead of me. This means that a) I can learn from you as I go along lol, & b) that I have someone who understands my specific struggles & worries with my kids. I already worry about college/university...with the expense of 4 of them, & my own non-conventional views, it's a tough call...realistically, without it, society dictates that you just won't get as far...yet, I want my kids to follow their bliss, & realize too that the world is changing significantly as to technology & careers & opportunities. Where we used to get out of school & hold down one job for the next 40 years, now, the average person will change careers/companies 5 times in their working life. My own husband got packaged out after 20 he's 42, with 4 kids, & jobless...& screwed. He worked in manufacturing...companies no longer manufacture within North America...his plant closed up & reopened in Mexico. Now he can't find work in his field nor can he find another 6 figure income at 42 years old....

    And for the record...that is my 2 daughters on the street oldest: will write you a song for middle daughter (The Diva): will insult you for food,,,too funny! :-))

  12. Mayor: What happened to your husband sucks and really ticks me off! We have two businesses and one of them depends on manufacturing. We felt strongly about having a USA made product and because of this our product costs more to produce and is more difficult to sell in competition with products made overseas. With some help from the economy this business is pretty much washed up. Sadly, the company that makes our product is struggling badly because of the competition. The are small and family owned and at this point are in danger of closing after 40 years in business. More people will lose their jobs. We seriously lost our butts on this business over the past ten years and will probably close it if they go under. Right now one of the reasons we bother to keep going is to try to help them, tiny as that help may be. Luckily our other business is in a completely different field and is keeping us far...but it is a type of contracting business that doesn't supply continuous work.

    When I asked my daughter if she would be willing to go into a technical field that would compliment our "working" business and maybe expand our capabilities, she said she "would die".

    I say we set them all up on the street corner with a can and see what we get. I bet it's more than I'm making on that first business!

  13. First and foremost I am a tool. For not commenting in so long. Life just seems to lately, be trying to put ME in the cardboard box. As always, you always manage to say everything...well...just right. I worry all the time about school and my girls. Big'K is so smart. Scary smart. Her math teacher actually calls her "one of my 100's" due to her always making 100's on her tests...homework: different game completely. 0's. I often feel that if the schools would actually think outside the box and not just agree that kids learn in different ways, but truly incorporate that into their learning methods that we would not have so many children slip through the cracks. If they would allow kids to be creative and learn to think on their own in addition to learning the material they would see more success and not so much failure. I do not know what the answer or the right way to do it is, I just feel something should change. I too want my girls to go to and finish college but I worry that having to fit in that box will cause them to just slip right on out.


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