I had an inter­est­ing dis­cus­sion with my eldest son yes­ter­day. Involved as Dan is in the world of the web and design he is now in demand (around the world!) as a speak­er. This from some­one who only spent one year in school and per­haps 6 semes­ters in college!

Dan recent­ly gave a 5‑minute talk to a group of web edu­ca­tors in which he expound­ed on ‘self edu­ca­tion’ – his own in fact, includ­ing query­ing why we all ‘need’ the more tra­di­tion­al and for­mal edu­ca­tion espoused by the system.

This is very inter­est­ing to me since I cur­rent­ly work in the field for which I was edu­cat­ed — ear­ly child­hood edu­ca­tion. Five of my col­leagues, includ­ing my boss, have degrees. Our own­er is a lawyer who is try­ing to keep her day­care run­ning (strug­gling with the dai­ly demands of a busi­ness she is nei­ther trained for nor expe­ri­enced in), a sec­ond lawyer can’t find a job in her field so is work­ing with our tod­dlers as a nurs­ery assis­tant, also with­out train­ing or experience.

Two oth­er staff mem­bers in our facil­i­ty have degrees unre­lat­ed to child­care or ear­ly child­hood edu­ca­tion – one has a degree in Eng­lish and is work­ing towards her nurs­ing degree, the oth­er has a degree in busi­ness. She con­fess­es that she couldn’t make it in busi­ness so took a job in ear­ly child­hood care to hold her over – near­ly 3 years lat­er she’s still there! 

Our most recent staff mem­ber actu­al­ly has a degree in ear­ly child­hood edu­ca­tion, is well experienced…and it shows!

Yes­ter­day I met two young peo­ple in their 20’s each with a Mas­ters in Music. I am becom­ing sus­pi­cious of young peo­ple with Mas­ters degrees! Most of them can’t find jobs in their cho­sen fields once they have their advanced degrees and are there­fore work­ing in jobs offer­ing a much low­er pay scale.

So tell me: what are the ben­e­fits to spend­ing so many years ‘getting’ an edu­ca­tion if you then end up work­ing out­side your field for way below the salary you antic­i­pat­ed? I am at least work­ing at a job I feel pas­sion­ate about, know­ing full well that it does­n’t pay well, nor is it a revered occupation!

It seems to me our son­s’ tra­jec­to­ries on their self-edu­ca­tion route has giv­en them bet­ter prepa­ra­tion for the real world of work and com­mu­ni­ca­tion that they now inhabit. 

Being total­ly home edu­cat­ed afford­ed Dan’s younger broth­er Alex to start real world work when he was just 8 years old — his choice. Dan, who need­ed more time to recov­er from his one year in pub­lic school at age 6, start­ed work­ing just a year or so lat­er when he was 13! Both their jobs were very part-time but they were in real world places offer­ing real world expe­ri­ences. Their ear­ly step­ping stones of real life learn­ing. They haven’t stopped!

My British train­ing as a teacher, respect­ed there but not in the US, didn’t teach me a lot aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly but gave me numer­ous oppor­tu­ni­ties to edu­cate and dis­cov­er for myself what made young chil­dren tick. 

After near­ly 38 years of diverse expe­ri­ences, includ­ing rais­ing and edu­cat­ing my own chil­dren, I’ve learned my true lessons about teach­ing and care­giv­ing, from babies to 90 year olds.

I guess when I write my book my ‘qualification’ will be ‘life’!