Thursday, February 4, 2010

Education and What it Means; Yesterday and Today

What constitutes a good education? Like most parents, I have the desire for my children to continue to the highest level of education they are capable of and worry about how we will afford it more than I should. "Yes, you are going to college," seems to be a parental mantra in the civilized world. The dream also encompasses a day when our children will reach financial independence because they are living productive, lucrative lives. As "lucrative" is extremely subjective, I am beginning to see that "well-educated" is just as well.

My husband's grandmother went to school until the age of twelve, when she was sent out to work as a servant for another family. In the mornings she worked and in the afternoon she returned to the convent where the nuns taught them to sew, knit and other domestic skills. She must have also learned further "academic" skills there because she is the best one in the family at French grammar, spelling,penmanship, and quick calculations. I would be a proud parent indeed, if my children end up as talented as their great-grandmother! How could we even dream today, of a child's education ending at twelve and being prepared for the real world? Yet, not very long ago, this was the reality for most people in the world. And they are productive, intelligent members of society, more industrious than many today and even better at grammar and math!

A couple of years ago, my husband's company changed insurance policies. There were meetings for the employees and their spouses to attend to understand the "great new healthy directions" the company was taking. I read the entire bunch of literature they sent, understood exactly how it worked and wondered why I needed a meeting to help me understand that we were getting had. (The "new plan" as some of you may have had experience with, was; instead of co-pays at the doctor and pharmacy and hospital, we now had to pay everything out of pocket until the sum of $4300. Much simpler, much less perplexing. Oh, but they provide a tax-free place to put those dollars subtracted from our pockets. In return, this would make us more responsible for our own health, we had the choice!) So I dutifully went to the stupid meeting, and it was stupid. The only point elaborated upon, the only one even mentioned, was what a great investment opportunity it would be to place the "health savings plan" money in various stock market choices.

What struck me is the questions asked (out loud, mind you) by the executive, highly educated audience present. I was the only spouse there that day, the rest were employees, all at least with a BA. Most of the questions reflected one of two things; A) They had not read the policy or B)They had not understood it.

All of my undermined sense of confidence in myself for being "only a homemaker and mother" vanished that day. The dire warnings that I would "be out of touch" with the professional world" if I took a long hiatus to raise my children lost all of their power to worry me. My brain worked just fine, thank you very much. These nicely dressed professionals with their nice salaries had nothing on me, I felt a tiny bit superior even, intellectually speaking. My clothes were a lot more interesting too.

My only question for the nice lady from HR trying to sell us this great new plan with a smile was; "When we accepted this job and had all these children, we were promised an excellent health care plan as part of the deal. So, our family eats a healthy diet, exercises, does not smoke or drink to excess (all points in the new program for taking responsibility for our own health), yet a child falls and has to go to the emergency room or becomes seriously ill and we have hundreds or thousands of dollars in medical bills, how is this a healthy new direction? How can we be more responsible, please tell me? Financial planning was her answer, thank you!

I knew that I could share this with this wonderful group of highly intelligent "homemakers" and you might appreciate it. You are the best, never believe the contrary! As for those of you who are also working; you have all my respect, I know you are doing everything I am at home AND bringing home a much-needed paycheck.And I bet you read the document before the meeting too!


  1. Oh, this was a wonderful read, thanks for sharing it with us!

    I've had moments of doubt, too, that were quickly vanquished...thank heavens! It's so nice when we realize we are doing JUST FINE, thank you. ;)

    Again, thank you for sharing these thoughts of yours with us. Lots to ponder on here today...

  2. Hi,I am over 50 and left school with no qualifications as I was a slow learner, not dum just slow,and in those days if you fell behind,you stayed behind.All my strengths and learning came when I left school,I had a great life.Married, 3 children all grown,all wonderful people. My daughter has just finished in a Steiner School and is 19, her leaving certificate said things like. Good time management skills,shows perseverance,demonstrates self-awareness and accepts feed back,she is punctuate,caring,thoughtful,reliable,dependable,honest, straight forward and succinct. What does it really matter if she got a c- in science,or a c- in dance etc, Education is all about giving the child the freedom to become what they are going to become anyway, the freedom to run in the rain, to play in Nature, to love there parents,to be kind to the world,for then the world will be kind to them. You are all terrific educators, because you care. Cheers Marie

  3. thank you so much for sharing this. as a hsing mom, i sometimes grapple with my decision to put my career on hold, although it feels so right in my heart. beautifully written - thanks!

  4. You're right, Tammy! Even "just fine" has so many definitions. It is great to come into a peace with where one is in life. Thanks for writing.

  5. "Education is all about giving the child the freedom to become what they are going to become anyway..."

    This is such a good point, Marie. No matter what we think about who we believe our children should grow up to be, no one can completely form or compel another human being to be other than who they are.

    Back to letting go again!

    It sounds like you have done such important work in your life, you can congratulate yourself, that's a good place to be.

  6. KB, oh, I know this feeling so well. I spent years without a response to the "where do you work?" Now I am very clear and confident about being a homemaker and mother. Keep believing, it will get easier.


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