My kids are high school dropouts, and I couldn’t be happier about it

My 17-year-old daughter has been awarded an academic scholarship to the university she’s attending this fall.

But she wasn’t mentioned in the assembly the high school held last week honoring scholarship recipients.

She’s leaving high school with a 3.9 GPA, but she won’t receive any honors.

She quietly walked away from school yesterday, and didn’t even attend graduation (she was working at Little Caesar’s to earn money for housing in September).

Why?

Because she’s not a senior in high school; she’s only a junior. And, like her two older sisters, she’s decided she’s done with the drama and tension of high school life. She’s skipping her senior year and heading straight for college.

Without a high school diploma, without even a GED.

And I love seeing the look of shock on the faces of our friends and neighbors when they hear that I now have five—FIVE—high school dropouts.

“But . . . but . . . they HAVE to have a diploma!”

No, they don’t.

“But . . . but . . . if they don’t graduate, they can’t get into college!”

Not a single university of the four that my kids have applied to has asked for a high school diploma. None of them.

“But . . . but . . .  they need transcripts showing they completed four years of schooling! How do you get around that?”

Easily. Our kids are part home-schooled, part public-schooled. I make transcripts for my children based on what they’ve studied since 9th grade, couple that with the grades they get from their high school courses, and send that to the universities. The admissions offices accept the documents, no questions.

“But . . . but . . . isn’t that illegal?”

Teaching my kids at home? Recording their scores? Nope. And there’s nothing illegal about dropping out of school.

“But . . . but . . . how do colleges accept them?”

Three little letters: ACT.

That test is designed to demonstrate how well a student may succeed in college. Four of my five kids scored in the high 20s and low 30s on their ACTs, and that was good enough for college. One child, who has struggled with some learning disabilities, didn’t score as well, but he’s been accepted to two state schools anyway.

Because college isn’t that hard to get into.

Seriously.

Every state has university systems with “open enrollment.” Essentially it means that if you have a heartbeat and a bank account, you can try a year of college. Having taught at these schools, I realized that this prevailing notion is a good one: maybe someone wasn’t top of his class in high school, but maturity, focus, and time works in favor for a lot of people. Just give them a shot at college. If they don’t succeed after a year, they’re put on probation, but most likely drop out on their own to pursue something else.

Several years ago, my oldest daughter scored the magic number on her ACT to be accepted into Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. She had taken the test early as a 15-year-old, only so that we could gauge where her homeschooling had taken her.

I stared in shock at her score, then was surprised even more when she said, “Can’t I just go to college now? What’s the point of doing more high school?”

I had no answer for her except, “I guess you could go early . . .” She started her freshman year of college when she should have been at her senior year of high school.

My second daughter, not to be outdone by her sister in anything ever, also took the ACT early, and to her delight scored one point higher. She was attending our local high school part-time, and when her guidance counselor brought her in to choose courses for the next year, she told her, “I’m not coming back; I’m heading to college instead.”

The guidance counselor called me that day. “I don’t think that’s a good idea for your daughter to skip her final year. Most kids aren’t mature enough to move away to college at 17. Most kids really struggle.”

I answered, “Most kids aren’t my kids. I evaluate each individually, and my daughter is ready to leave, just as her older sister, who has a 4.0 at BYU right now.”

Where are my two daughters now? My oldest is completing her master’s degree in archaeology. She’s been published a few times, was the head TA for anthropology for many years, directing 20+ TAs who taught freshman anthropology, and is completing her thesis, despite having a toddler at home and another baby on the way.

my kids are high school dropouts

As my oldest daughter, Madison, received announcements of high school graduations, complete with dramatic photos, we decided to do our own photo shoot of her dropping out. (She’s holding a root beer bottle, by the way). Four years later she graduated as valedictorian of her class at BYU-Provo. Now she’s married, a mom, and finishing her master’s thesis. Not bad for a “dropout.”

 

My second daughter earned her associates’ degree with a 3.95, went on an LDS mission to Edmonton, Canada for eighteen months, and now is finishing her first year at BYU’s very competitive nursing program. She hopes to become a labor-and-delivery nurse, and eventually a certified midwife.

I think they were mature enough to leave high school, just as their little sister is.

Now, if you’ve done the math you’ll see I said FIVE high school dropouts, and I’ve mentioned only three so far.

I have two sons who also dropped out, but they went through their senior years. Almost.

My oldest son, who has learning disabilities and struggled like his dad to learn to read and write, took schooling slower and finished his high school courses with a 3.8 GPA. Seeing him earn As in English astonished me. Then he quit school, without a diploma.

Then he went to the oil fields of North Dakota.

Then he went on a LDS mission to Pittsburgh, PA for two years.

Then he went into the army reserves and trained in petroleum testing, where he was honored for earning the highest scores. IMG_5690

And now he’s going to college. He’s starting later than most freshmen, but with a wealth of maturity and experience behind him, and with eagerness that a lot of college freshmen, who are burned out from high school, don’t possess. 

I’ve had a few acquaintances surprised by this, too.

“But . . . but . . . he’s getting kind of late start, isn’t he?”

No. He’s only 22. I used to teach evening courses at a community college where half of my students were older than me. It’s never too late to start.

“But . . . but . . . students will be younger than him.”

So what? We’ve been programmed by our many years of public schooling to think that everyone should be the same age in the same grade. But once you get to college, you realize that your classes–if you’re lucky–are populated by a microcosm of the world: people of all ages and backgrounds and even countries.

My son’s starting college in a very smart way: with no debt. He knows he’s not getting scholarships like his sisters, but the army’s helping him pay for school, and he’ll eventually leave with money in the bank, not debts to his name. He’s learned from his parents that student loan debt is a killer.

And what about my other son? He dropped out a little bit early. He left before his third trimester of school. 050

Yep, right in the middle of it all, he waved good-bye and walked away.

He figured, what more could he get out of high school in one more trimester? Nothing, really. He wanted to get to serving as a missionary for the LDS church.

While the LDS church wants its missionaries to complete high school and graduate (the minimum age to serve for boys is 18), I pointed out to our local leadership that none of my kids graduated because they are home-schooled, and my son had been 18 since the beginning of the school year.

Our congregational bishop, a teacher at the high school who had my sons in his classes, scratched his head at my argument. Then, knowing me and our family too well, said, “All right. I guess we can submit his papers and see that the church says.”

By April of his senior year, my son was already serving an LDS mission in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He missed all the graduation parties, just like his sister has, but he doesn’t care. He’s already moved on to real life.

I have four more children who will also likely make me proud by being high school dropouts. I’m not proud that they “dropped out,” but that they made decisions for themselves as to what they wanted to do with their lives.

My husband and I haven’t told any of them what we expect of them. I have, however, told them I want them to try at least one year of college, just to see if it’s for them. I want them to have that experience of learning from various people—even the liberally-minded, to help challenge and strengthen our conservative beliefs. When they do that year of college, and where, and how, is entirely up to them.

Back to my latest high school dropout. When she came home from high school for the last time, I asked her, “Any regrets? I heard your friends saying how much they’ll miss you next year, how they wished you’d stay.”

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

All of my kids do things differently, like making a prom dress skirt out of storm trooper fabric.

Oh, if you could have seen her eyes rolling. Like planets falling out of orbit.

“No!” she declared. “I am done! Let’s get on to real life!” Then she pulled out her tablet, with yet another recipe on it, and headed to the kitchen where she’s been experimenting with meals she can make after a day of college classes.

She’s moving on when she’s ready to, not when some random bureaucrat declares her “mature enough.”

She, like my other children, is making choices for her life, based upon her needs.

I love having a house of rebels.

“Let’s hope there are still a few rebellious ‘teenaged’ souls out there,” Mahrree whispered to Perrin.

“Besides us, I mean.”  

~Book 2, Soldier at the Door

(Book 5 is published and available! Get Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti at Amazon, Smashwords, or here on “Start reading the books!“)

12 reasons why I want to be a better Grown-up

A young mother who was recently put into leadership of our church women’s group told me she was worried that she didn’t “adult” properly on her first Sunday in charge, but I assured her that she displayed a great deal of “adultery” at church. (She’s still hesitant to speak to me.)

I was proud of her worry, though. She understands that being an adult, or a “Grown-up,” is a good thing, and she wanted to do it right. Too many people, however, are content to remain “Children”: they don’t want responsibility, they expect to be handed everything as if they were still babies, and they’re easily offended if the world doesn’t go their way. 

But being a Grown-up is a great thing. Here are 12 ways that Grown-ups make the world a better place, and why I’m resolving to be a better one. First, some definitions:

“Grown-ups” can be any age, and they’ve discovered that life isn’t about satisfying themselves: it’s about serving others. And when you take care of others, most of your problems take care of themselves.

“Children” are adults of any age who still think life is about getting all they can for themselves, and whose single-minded selfishness causes frustration to just about everyone they come in contact with.

Here’s why being a Grown-up is better:

  1. Grown-ups are modest. While they’re proud of their spouses and family’s accomplishments, they aren’t Children who brag incessantly about perfect grades, or post college acceptance letters online, or post a hundred photos of their latest and expensive vacation. Grown-ups will discreetly mention a promotion or a child going to college to let friends know that a change is occurring, but they also know that many of their friends are struggling, and that boasting about successes frequently make others feel inadequate and discouraged about their own failures.
  2. Grown-ups are discreet. They’re careful with what they reveal, especially on social media. While Children air out all of their dirty laundry about family, work, or awkward personal problems, Grown-ups think before posting, pause before venting, and consider if they really want the entire world knowing their troubles. Grown-ups realize that most people don’t want to know, and that unloading your troubles to only a couple of people who can really help resolves their problems much faster.
  3. Grown-ups build up others. They are concerned about making everyone around them feel comfortable and loved, and when they ask how someone’s doing, they really want to know. Children, on the other hand, are concerned only that everyone notices they are in the room. And they want to be The Most Important Person, too, so they frequently insult or tear down others, then claim they are only “teasing” when they go too far. Grown-ups, however, go out of their way to lift those who are flailing, encourage those who are discouraged, and be genuinely kind to everyone, everywhere. It’s rare when someone notices that a Grown-up has a problem; they won’t advertise it or draw any attention to themselves.
  4. Grown-ups are secure. They don’t need expensive cars, fancy clothes, remodeled homes, or any other status symbol because they are confident in who they are. Children, however, are easy to spot because they make sure you see they have the latest, biggest, and most expensive of everything, because that’s how they feel important. They excessively post selfies of themselves desperately searching for praise and approval. Their possessions define them, whereas Grown-ups are defined by what they know, who they love, and what causes they worry about. Grown-ups never create drama, but Children always do. Children crave drama, and never realize that everyone else hates it. 
  5. Grown-ups are selfless. They care more about others than themselves. Among Grown-ups is the company president who stays after the holiday party to vacuum so the janitorial staff doesn’t have too much extra work; the grandmother who’s absent from the big family party because she’s in a back bedroom with an overwhelmed four-year-old, reading him a book; the popular teenager who decides each day at lunch to sit with the loner kid because he needs a friend. Children, on the other hand, steer every conversation to themselves, don’t listen to anyone else, and sulk when not enough attention is given them. A Child may be the grandfather who pouts because he thinks he’s been disrespected by a clueless grandchild, the employee who feels her accomplishments should have been publicly acknowledged at the boss’s luncheon, and the college student who complains no one is his friend when he does nothing but play games on his computer all day.
  6. Grown-ups make life easier. They step in when a problem arises. They clean up the messes, they offer the jobs, they pick up your kids, and they spend their Saturdays helping you move. Children cause problems, and when their family/coworkers/friends see them coming, people tense up and tell each other to brace themselves. But when the Grown-ups arrive, people relax, smile, and know that everything’s going to work out. 
  7. Grown-ups are responsible. They pay the bills, balance the checkbook, clean up the house, cook the meals, go to work on time, and check the air pressure in the tires, even when—especially when—they don’t want to. Grown-ups work first and play later. Children reverse that, and as a result their lives are more chaotic than they need be. Children have to be prodded and nagged to do nearly everything, and are resentful when someone doesn’t swoop in and rescue them from their consistently poor choices. When a financial windfall comes to Children, they blow it on vacations and toys. When Grown-ups come into money, they pay off debts, donate some to charity, save the rest, and blow maybe only a hundred bucks on dinner out for the family.
  8. Grown-ups are generally happy. That doesn’t mean they don’t have problems. But because they are mature, they seek solutions to their problems and humbly change their behavior when they see their faults. They realize that everyone has struggles, and they don’t see that as something to resent, but to transcend. Problems become challenges, which become triumphs. Children, on the other hand, are generally miserable. Because they expect the world to conform to their desires, they are frequently disappointed and rarely see that they are the root of their problems. Children demand others make them happy, without realizing that happiness is cultivated from within. 
  9. Grown-ups are tolerant. They don’t feel threatened by others’ ideas, but allow all people to make their own choices and believe what they want to. Grown-ups don’t need everyone to approve of them, nor do they need constant reassurance that what they do or want is perfect. Grown-ups are content with themselves and with who they are, so they aren’t easily brought down by dissenting opinions or nasty barbs. Children, however, feel threatened by everyone and everything, if insults are intended or not, because they have no sense of self outside of public approval. They demand everyone to conform to their views and desires, and feel terrified of the world at large because it doesn’t acknowledge them as the center of it.
  10. Grown-ups take care of themselves. They get proper amounts of sleep and exercise, they pick up new skills, they learn how to use new technology, they read books and newspapers, and they pay attention to their health. Grown-ups realize that hot dogs and soda hasn’t been an acceptable lunch since they were eleven years old, and that their physical and emotional health is something they can—and should—take control of. But Children want to follow every impulse, and balk when someone suggests they eat better, or exercise more, or go to bed at a reasonable hour. They want to live like irresponsible teenagers as long as they can, but then are resentful when they need a handful of pills each day just to function. Children rationalize and whine they have no control over their situations, that genetics or family expectations hold them back, but Grown-ups accept that nothing, really, is out of one’s control.

    Image result for ron swanson eating a banana gif

    Ron Swanson eats the occasional banana, although he hates it, because he’s doing it for his wife and children. Ron’s a Grown-up.

  11. Grown-ups ‘fess up. They are honest—with themselves and with others. When they make a mistake, they own up to it, apologize, and try to make amends. But Children will rarely admit their errors, and will pretend, in the face of all evidence, that they didn’t do anything wrong. They’ll even try to shift the blame to someone else, even when everyone else can see they are at fault. Children think that admitting faults makes them smaller, but in reality confessing mistakes and rectifying them like a Grown-up is what earns people’s respect.
  12. 23 Times Ron Swanson Was Inarguably Right About The World

And finally,

  1. Grown-ups sacrifice, without telling you the cost. They will give you their time, their money, and their love without ever letting you know how much it may inconvenience them. They give whole-heartedly, because they’re more concerned about you than themselves. Children may give those same things, but they’ll remind you—even years later—about the cost of their sacrifice. Their concern is not with your well-being, but with getting acknowledgement for their service, which then is no service whatsoever.

People love and admire Grown-ups.
They barely tolerate Adult Children.
I want to be a better Grown-up.

   “Perrin, I don’t know of another family that would give up as much as you have. Shem told me that you and Mahrree had amassed a fortune in your cellar. You were by far the richest family in all of Edge.”
   “Wait,” Peto frowned, “we were even richer than Trum?!”
   Mahrree waved him off, but shrugged. “Well, I suppose . . .”
   “When you saw people in need,” Gleace continued, ignoring Peto’s slack-jaw and Jaytsy’s rapid blinking, “you gave every last slip of gold and silver, along with the jewelry you inherited, to pay off everyone’s losses in Edge. You also took that caravan of supplies from Idumea, despite the fact that you could have lost your position in the army, because you felt it the correct thing to do. You and Mahrree don’t care for possessions or status, but for people. Already you understand.”
   “How much did all of that cost?” Peto demanded, still shocked to realize his parents had given away a true fortune.
   “We never counted the cost,” Perrin said. “Never count the cost.”

~ Book 5 (releasing in 2016) Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti

One parent’s response to Time’s “The Childfree Life”

“When having it all means not having children.”

I read that subtitle from Time Magazine’s “The Childfree Life” and I thought:
When did having it all mean becoming as self-centered as the two-year-olds these non-parents sneer at?

Then I thought: 
When did having it all become the purpose of life?

I don’t think that’s a question many people worry about anymore, but it’s a most important one.

But let’s leave that aside for a moment and look at the question of, What’s the purpose of having kids?

I don’t like the answers of “As a duty to our society,” or “To perpetuate the species,” or “So someone will pay for my social security when I retire.” (That’s my reaction when people accuse me of being “overly reproductive.”)

All of those answers smack of some washed-out diatribe, a dull and pessimistic penance for being on the earth. But parenthood isn’t about passing on misery or fulfilling a duty. It’s about becoming an adult, with attitudes and understanding worthy of the definition of “maturity.”

I’m sure most of us didn’t become parents because we wanted to become “mature,” though. It’s a secondary and unexpected benefit, like panning for gold and finding diamonds as well.

As a young married I wanted a baby because I thought they were cute. I had the same affliction as many people whose pets double as their children: I wanted something to dote on, to dress up, to call “My Widdle Wiggy-wums” in public.

And then I had the baby.

It was nothing like carrying around a pet/pretend child (which we pathetically did with a cat for the year before).

Now, some who choose to be childless may defend their position by claiming their animal is like their baby. And I know they feel love and affection for it, but to believe a pet is the same experience as having baby is like comparing spending the afternoon in a wave pool with a vacation in Hawaii. The difference is miles apart.

I knew I would love my child, but I was completely unprepared for every aspect of the world to suddenly change. (And to also feel stupid for dragging my cat to stores.)

Parenthood causes a shift. I’ve seen it in nearly every new father and mother. The shift may occur as early as during pregnancy, or may not happen until the child reaches the first birthday, but at some point a person shifts from being a self-centered mere grown-up to a full-fledged adult.

What’s the difference?

Mere grown-ups (and it’s easy to become a grown-up; just don’t die before you’re around nineteen) look at the world and muse, I wonder what it can give me today.

Full-fledged adults (a much more fulfilling accomplishment than merely aging) look at the world and cry, Dear God! How do I make this a better place for my baby!? And everyone else’s baby?

It’s a drastic shift, a necessary shift.

The shift makes you forget about your own petty needs and wants (such as a shower and a decent night’s sleep), and makes you rabid about your child’s.

It’s the shift that makes you stop reading the sports page first and start paying attention to the headlines about education.

The shift that makes you more interested in local and national elections, in crime rates in your neighborhood, in safety in transportation, and in how the future will look in twenty years.

The shift moves mountains. Ask any parent whose child has been diagnosed with a mysterious or even fatal disease. They’ll rearrange all kinds of geography and even defy the laws of physics for that child.

In fact, I’m willing to submit that the vast majority of improvements to society—any society, in any year—was started by someone who was a father or a mother.

Because they felt that shift, and realized the world wasn’t about “having it all”; the world is about making it better for everyone.

The surprise of parenthood is that life becomes so much more meaningful when it’s lived for those you care for, rather than just for yourself.

Maybe avoiding this shift is why a certain segment of the population, not only here in America but in many parts of the world, rejects parenthood. They want to stay children themselves, always indulgent. That may sound like a flippant evaluation, but I’m sorry to say that each deliberately childless person I’ve encountered has had the same trait of, “It’s all about me, dear. Now would you tell that child to be quiet? I’m on a conference call here in the park.”

That’s why I submit that childlessness doesn’t solve problems, but it increases them.
I don’t believe that we should have children because one of them may change the world– someday–but I submit that we when we have children we feel the need to make the change–today.

Now I agree that parenthood isn’t some magical bullet that shoots maturity into people.  They are those who have no business having children, who still regard their Chihuahuas with more affection than they do their tweens.

And there are also some true adults who are childless not by choice but by biology, who do more than just send a couple hundred dollars to a children’s hospital and think they’ve done their part for the future of the world. These full-fledged adults dote on their nieces and nephews, volunteer to coach little league and scouts, and teach the children in Sunday school.

I’m worried about the grown-ups who forgot to outgrow the “mine!” period of toddlerhood. Perhaps the most disturbing element about “having it all” is that it resonates with the increasingly pervasive entitlement that seems to be overtaking the developed world. At some point we need to realize that the more each of us tries to have it “all,” the less there is for everyone else.

And when, in the history of the world, was anyone ever happy when they got everything they wanted? Even Alexander the Great cried like a baby (and threw a tantrum like a toddler) when he realized there was nothing left in the world for him to “get.”

Joy has always come from giving more than we get, from serving more than demanding. That invaluable understanding is what parenthood gives you.

And that also, by the way, is the purpose of life.

“My children have me tied?”
The thought had never occurred to Mahrree. True, her life was completely different now. And she didn’t participate in anything outside of the house. And she hadn’t thought about the condition of her hair in nearly two years. Or the condition of her clothes. Or her house. Or garden.
But caring for these little children, who she thought were funny more often than frustrating, loving more often than loud, was an honor. It said so in The Writings, and she’d chosen to believe it from the moment she knew she was expecting her firstborn. And choosing to believe it had made all the difference in her attitude as a mother.
Were they difficult?
Yes.
Demanding?
For some reason that word just didn’t seem right. 
(Soldier at the Door, Book Two)