"They were questioned"
My three teens have had a good seven years of complete autonomy in education (and everything else) and are at the stage, at 17, 16 and 14, of working out how to earn a living. Two of them have already started, to some extent. The conversations they had this weekend with one of our elderly, very conventional relatives on this subject were fascinating, I thought.
"So what are you going to do with your life?" Ali was asked.
He looked puzzled before answering: "Oh, you mean for money? More of the same, probably. I do some web design and some internet coding. It pays well enough when I put the work in."
"Oh! And have you done a course in the subject?"
"No, I looked into courses a couple of years ago thinking I might, but I couldn't find any course tutors who were willing or able to teach me anything I couldn't already do. I've learned through trial and error and reading online manuals instead."
"So how do you get work if you don't have qualifications?"
"Well it's been reputation and word of mouth, so far. I haven't had to advertise. People see what you can do by looking at what you've done and they employ you to do more of the same for them."
"Oh! Well! I suppose that's the way of the world nowadays."
"It certainly is in that field, yes."
"So do you think you'll ever go to university and get a degree in the subject?"
"If I thought it would be useful I might. But so far I'm managing fine without it."
She turned to Tom and asked him what his plans were.
"Not sure yet. I helped someone with their shop for a while and they wanted to take me on one of those apprenticeship business management schemes but I didn't fancy it to be honest."
"Oh, why not?"
"Well I worked for them for over a year and having seen what was involved in doing that for a living I decided it wasn't for me."
"Oh! So what will you do instead?"
"Well I think I'll probably travel a bit at first and just take bits of work to earn what I need to fund it."
"Can you get work like that?"
"Yes, I already do, for a local builder. He offers me odd days and if I need the money I take the work. He wants me full time but I don't fancy doing that permanently either. It's quite fun just now and again though and it pays well for the hours I do."
"You don't want to settle into a specific career then?"
"No, not until something really interests me enough to want to do it all the time. I'd rather be sure about that before I get stuck in a rut with something I might not enjoy."
"Oh! Well, I suppose that's good thinking.."
She turned to Zara and said: "And do you still want to be an electrician, Zara?"
"No, I'm into philosophy now instead."
"Oh! Well! That's a bit different! And will you go on a course to study that?"
"I might do if I'm still into the idea when I'm 16. I'm just reading books about it at the moment to learn more, and online forums and websites."
"Well! You can't learn much about philosophy just from reading books, can you?"
Ali was heard to loudly snort at this, and Zara diplomatically changed the subject before things got too embarrassing!
It was very interesting for me to listen to all this, because of course I never question the children like that. I love their attitude towards working and money though: that they'll do things they enjoy and things that interest them, and they're quite confident and able to earn enough money in that way when they want to.
I suppose it's no surprise after the kind of upbringing they've had, but none of them sees the need to earn a lot of money, only enough to facilitate the things they want to do. I can't, at this stage, imagine any of them ever becoming unhappy wage slaves although I guess that might change if they make bad decisions along the way. But I *think* (hope) they're fairly clued up in that respect too.
I'm not complacent because of course life can throw anything up at any time, but from what I knew already and heard them confirm this weekend, I'm very happy with the way things are going and the worries other family members expressed to me about our decision to go autonomous 7 years ago look set to be proven unfounded, if they haven't already been.
In the car on the way home Ali asked, "Why does C think you can only learn things at college?"
"I dunno," was my nonplussed reply. "I guess she's never had chance to consider the alternative."
"That's really narrow-minded of her."
"Um, yes. I suppose it is! But structured education has been her whole life, so she probably didn't have much choice. Very strict parents."