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Aug 24 2017

When your 2e kid is a non-traditional learner

Office of Redundancy Department Administration
File under: High Priority
Tag: DUH!

Of course your 2e kid is a non-traditional learner, that’s practically the description of 2e. That’s why they struggle in school, that’s why they struggle with life, that’s why we pulled Andy to homeschool 5 1/2 years ago. When he was a toddler, he was king of “ME DO IT!” and god help you and the neighborhood if you got in his way. He had to do it himself and had to figure it out himself. “He marches to the beat of his own drummer” was floated to us at his first preschool parent/teacher conference. Over a dozen years later and I’m still grateful that his preschool teacher truly grokked what he was about and accommodated him easily. If only all his teachers had been like that… His drummer has only gotten louder and stronger and more confident.

Non-traditional learners are the outliers now, when that used to be how people learned. You know, before education became the factory system it is today. Hands-on learning, apprenticeships, that sort of thing. Granted, that was also back before child labor laws, but go with me on this. We (as a society and culture) push kids through the school system, shaming them for their weaknesses and thinking we’ll get to their strengths if and when the weaknesses are shored up. We (as a society and culture) rush them into college, to spend another four years trying to figure out what to do, to graduate with a hefty chunk of student loan debt. We (as a society and culture) look askance at tradesmen and women, at people who work with their hands, at people who do the behind the scenes dirty work that keeps the aforementioned society and culture chugging along.

Not all students need to go to college. Not all gifted kids need to go to college. And not all 2e kids need to go to college.

At least, not traditionally.

Tom and I have been talking about college for a couple years now, figuring out how we feel about the boys and their futures, whatever they may be. And it hit me that I am the outlier in my family. On both sides of my family, going back generations, I am the only one who went the “traditional” college route of high school straight into higher education. My dad was an older college student, married and a father by the time he got his degrees; his parents barely had 8th grade educations. My brother took 20 years to get his degree, his wife traveled the most zig-zag path to becoming a physician’s assistant I’ve ever seen. My cousins, all non-traditional college students. Tom is much the same; his siblings took alternative routes to college, and they’re both highly educated and well employed. He and I are the outliers in our families, going from high school into four year (ok…music education is and was a five year program) colleges, eventually into masters degrees.

So why do we expect that our boys will do that? They surely don’t need to.

Andy has taken the next step in his homeschooling journey. He started at our county’s Tech Campus last week, a fantastic vocational school, to study computer systems for the next two years. He’ll earn college credit (I big puffy heart LOVE YOU, dual enrollment!), learn professional skills (which will help shore up his executive function weaknesses), and get a strong sense of what working in the computer industry is about. He wants to go into cybersecurity, so this knowledge will be a solid foundation on which to build. Will he then go on to a “traditional” four year college? Will he do a two year program closer to home? Will he start his own gig? Seriously, the kid has started writing viruses for fun, so he can see how to crack them. He also hacks together computer hardware to…ok, for real I have no freaking clue what he does, but he speaks with great confidence and authority and people who actually understand the words coming from his talk-hole are impressed. We don’t know his next step in life, and we’re ok with whatever he decides.  Besides, in technology, most of what he learns his first year will probably be obsolete by the time he graduates.

So as has been the case for the last dozen years, this 2e asynchronous non-traditional learner is forging his own path with pure curiosity and strength of will. But for the first time, I’m slightly more confident that he will be okay.

It’s all going to be okay.

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  1. Summer

    From a fellow Music Education major, I felt the pain in your comment!

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