but how are they gonna be doctors??

There’s a smile on my face as I type. It’s actually more of a grin. With a hint of an eye roll and an almost imperceptible shake of my head.

Do you want to know what my all-time favorite question/concern about my unschooled-with-no-current-plans-for-college children is? (And no, it’s not the one about socialization. It’s not the one about math either.) It’s this:

But what if one of your girls wants to be a DOCTOR?

This question might be mildly annoying if I didn’t find it so amusing. It’s just so classic. So predictable. So… I don’t know… funny.

And makes me wonder. What percentage of children grow up to be doctors anyway? I feel like it can’t be that high of a number.

I keep asking my girls why they don’t want to be doctors. “From what all the people are saying” I tell them, “I feel like you should want to be doctors. Like maybe all your hopes and dreams of being doctors have been completely wrecked by this little unschooling experiment of ours.”

They roll their eyes and remind me (even though I already know) that they have other ideas about their future (and their now). They have never, not ever, expressed a desire to be a doctor.

No one in either of our families is a doctor. And, ironically, no one who is asking me this question (But what if one of your girls wants to be a doctor?) is a doctor either.

I’m writing an e-book about unschooling. A couple weeks ago I asked (on Facebook) for some questions people might want answered in such a book.

One friend said, “What do unschooled students need to learn to be prepared for college depending on their career goals? For example, an unschooled student may want to be a doctor and then devote his/her life to assisting the poor, foreign and domestic. They’ll need to meet certain educational requirements to meet that calling.”

What if one of your girls wants to be a doctor?? How is this going to work out for them??

Well, I think I already said that none of them have set their hearts on doctor-hood.

And as for the other part of that (assisting the poor), all three of our girls have already devoted their lives to caring forΒ the poor, foreign and domestic. Honestly, they do it every day here at our apartment complex where most of our friends are refugees from East Africa. Just yesterday, they got out of bed and went straight down to a neighbor’s Β apartment and watched her 7yo, 1yo, and 2-month-old while the mom took the other 2 kids to an appointment.

And they’re also working their tails off to earn enough money to go back to visit our friends in Cambodia. So there’s that.

And then there’s their mother, who only lasted two quarters as a nursing major before she switched to elementary education because SQUEAMISH. And yet, somehow, I’ve got injured and bleeding kiddos knocking on my door every other day for me to wipe their blood, administer antibiotic ointment, and stick on band-aids.

Here’s the bottom line. If, at any point, one of my girls does a 360 and decides she wants to be a doctor, I think we can find a way to make it happen. She can go back to school (although I do wonder what invaluable doctor information my doctor friends learned in grades K-12). Or she can stay unschooled until college (no, I’m not going to discourage a child who reeeeeeeeeally wants to be a doctor from going to college) and spend all her “free time” learning about doctor stuff, watching documentaries, and treating minor wounds of her friends here at Abbey Lane and around the world.

Bottom line? I appreciate the concern, but I think it’s all going to work out in the end.

p.s. Stay tuned for the e-book! I can’t wait to read what I’m gonna write!

28 thoughts on “but how are they gonna be doctors??

  1. Stacy

    I hope you will address (in your book if not here) when unschooling becomes unparenting. You don’t want to study math…no problem. But…you want to stay up until 4am playing video games and watching TV, eat ice cream for breakfast, and never brush your teeth….no problem?!?! I have heard and read people equate the same philosophy of unschooling to pretty much all parenting. Unschooling still must require parental involvement, direction, and motivation when necessary. It is one thing to say primary, secondary and college education is not necessary…but becoming productive members of society should be. How will this translate when these children are grown and have never been forced to do anything they didn’t want?
    Clearly I am not saying you are advocating this but many are in the name of unschooling and I think it has to be part of the discussion.

    1. Marla Taviano Post author

      Thanks for sharing, Stacy. I think you said what many are thinking but are afraid to say. πŸ™‚

      I just read your comment to my 8-year-old, and she laughed. “What? We never do any of that!” (stay up until 4 playing video games and failing to brush her teeth) We don’t even have a TV!”

      I’ll address this indirectly in the book but I’m not going to dwell on it. This isn’t going to be a book about how NOT to unschool. It’s going to be about how/why our family does it. We’re not raising our girls to be productive members of society SOME DAY. We’re raising them to be productive members of society NOW. Which they are. They’ve given their lives to loving and helping others, and they bless me every single day of my life.

      And my kids are the un-laziest kids I know. They do plenty of things they don’t want to do. They just do real and important things, not stupid and pointless ones.

  2. Kim

    My question is about missions…my daughter Moriah (yes, named specifically for that mountain in Genesis 22) is being made to feel that she has to attend college or Bible school in order to be qualified to serve overseas. She’s not the “school” type….she reads and writes well but feels inferior to her peers because her schooling a hasn’t been formal (ie she can’t regurgitate useless facts!) She’s struggled with the intricacies of learning grammatical structures of other languages…she knows she’s not gifted to be a linguist with Wycliffe, but still wants to be a missionary of some sort.

    She is 17 and has already served in five different countries. Last week a little boy became attached to her while she was working in the Dominican Republic, so she inquired (on her own initiative) if he had a sponsor. He did not, but now he does! She is overjoyed to earn money to support “her” Elito. Not many get to meet their sponsored child, but in this case, the child actually CHOSE her…I love that πŸ™‚

    How do I find a place she can intern with to learn the real life practical aspects of serving the poor in other lands? Does she really need a degree to do this? Katie in Uganda is the modern day Gladys Aylward who did it on her own with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, so that’s been my inspiration these past several years. But I’m not sure exactly what Moriah should be doing in this final year home with us before she “graduates” (we’re strong believers in life-time learning and don’t like the concept of being “done”, but don’t have a problem with a launching ceremony into another level of life, so will participate in a homeschool graduation/public blessing even tho we’ve been rebels against the rest of the worldly system of education!)

    I did not want to stifle my children’s natural desire for learning so we avoided most “curriculum”….we’ve focused on Christian worldview, character development, stewardship, service, Bible study and memorization, music, practical skills, nutrition/health, and reading LOTS, both books and blogs.

    Tomorrow my 22 year old starts an internship with the prolife group Justice for All in Kansas (we live in AZ and are friends with your Uncle Rod πŸ™‚ People in general don’t understand how or why she “skipped college” but JFA went after her knowing she had no degree. The employers/ministries want to know what kind of person you are and what you can DO. She’s proved herself as she’s volunteered for JFA these last several years, through writing on her blog, and by the character traits she displays as she serves wherever God puts her (music ministry, historical reenacting, creative arts, being a foster/adoptive sister to children in need, teaching children Spanish, writing, sign language, etc.)

    But even with that example before them, our other two teens are insecure and fearful they aren’t doing it “right” because others go to “real school”. I hate that! Satan will use whatever he can to discourage and tear down their dreams and aspirations. Our adopted sons are too young to compare themselves to others, but will soon discover they’re a little behind, possibly due to drug exposure in utero, possibly just because they’re boys and I’m not willing to push them and discourage them this early on.

    Sorry for the long rambling comment….I’m emotional from launching my first arrow to another state and anxious about the next one who wants to serve in another country. The quiver must empty for us to have impact on the world! It just hurts to not have them in my arms anymore πŸ™‚

    Thanks for any input and for writing the book…I’m eager to read it.


    P.S. Moriah has adored and emulated your cousin Jen from afar most of her life…she would dress up and tell stories like “Lady Jennifer”, is a singer and dancer, went to Africa twice, has two younger adopted siblings, and even cared for newborn twins last year until they moved away (she’s devastated about losing them!) My husband stopped doing magic before Moriah was born, otherwise she would have have been a beautiful tall blonde assistant as well! Lots in common….glad to have good role models like Jen and you out there πŸ™‚

    1. Marla Taviano Post author

      I am soooooo thankful you took the time to comment. This is amazing, and I would LOVE to write about your family in my book. (I’ll be in touch.)

      Jen and I couldn’t stand each other when we were younger, and now we love each other like crazy. She’s a great role model for your girls.

      I do want to say one thing about your boys being insecure and fearful. Ours is a society based on insecurity and fear (especially when it comes to education). And the “security” that a college education, successful career, $, and the American Dream “promise”? Are nothing I want in this life.

      Like I said, I’ll be in touch! Bless you, friend!

  3. Melissa

    I think the bottom underlying part of this question is the assumption that homeschoolers/unschoolers can’t get into college. Which is just a bunch of bologna. Many colleges find homeschoolers to be appealing are becoming very appealing to colleges because they are often more self-motivated and more independent learners. So the assumption that tahe couldn’t go to college is, in some ways, just silly. It takes a little but more work and creativity sometimes if the colleges want transcripts, but as the “teacher” you could make those transcripts and I am confident in your ability to do so. Just takes a little more outside the box thinking if you were to create a transcript for an unschooler, but it would be far from impossible. Also P.S. My sister starts Basic training as part of the army reserves on July 1st. When she is done in six-ish months, she will be a paramedic/emt (the speciality she choose). All without college. And all paid for by the military. I know she wasn’t homeschooled, but I just wanted to point out that there were other ways to get more specialized/technical skills that don’t necessarily require college.

      1. Melissa

        Also sorry for the bad grammar. I was typing from my phone and it wouldn’t let me see more than 5 words at a time haha. I just re-read one of my sentences and yikes!

  4. Darius T.

    So if one of your kids decided she wanted to be a doctor (or engineer or scientist) after years of unschooling, how would she go about doing so? No college would admit her, right? They aren’t geared for teaching basic secondary education to their students. They expect that students come to them with a certain prerequisite education with the grades/proof to back it up. Maybe I am missing something, but I don’t see how an unschooled child would suddenly have all of these educational opportunities still available after burning those bridges for years.

    1. Marla Taviano Post author

      We’re not burning any bridges; we’re making new ones. And calling attention to the fact that the current bridges are rotted, in serious need of repair, and not serving their intended purpose.

      And by the time our girls are old enough for college, colleges in general will be hurting so badly, they’ll be begging for my unschooled children’s money.

      1. Darius T

        While I agree with you that most of the current bridges are rotted (and full of termites), it seems it’s a bit of a stretch to expect that your kids will be able to easily plug back into the educational system after having been unplugged for years. I know from experience that it’s not the easiest for homeschooled kids to get into many colleges, all the more so for unschooled kids. Grades and academics aren’t everything, but they are significant when colleges are deciding on whom to accept.

        I also agree that the college system is in dire straits and badly needing an overhaul, but I don’t think that is going to come soon enough to “beg your kids” to attend college. College education is quickly pricing itself out of the market and, barring interference from Obama, will see its bubble pop within the next few years. What that will look like is hard to say, but I would be very hesitant to expect that colleges will be inexpensive and accessible by the time your kids might want to attend them.

        I am not saying that a college degree is crucial for life… as you’ve said elsewhere, it can be very overrated. BUT, if one wants to go into certain fields, it is essential and required. And to even study for a degree, there are requirements that unschooling won’t provide.

        1. Marla Taviano Post author

          You say, “it’s a bit of a stretch to expect that your kids will be able to easily plug back into the educational system after having been unplugged for years.” But here’s what you fail to realize. If they can’t plug back in, it will be because they’re bored to death, not because they’re behind. They learned far more in the past year than their schooled peers. They just did it on their own. And according to their interests. Unschooling does not equal un-learning. Far from it.

          And I wasn’t going to play the bragging card, but you’ve forced my hand. My 8-year-old knows where almost every single country in the entire world is. Just say a country, and she’ll point to it. Even Benin and Lesotho. Although, I just asked her to make sure she could do it and she said, “Yeah, but I’m not that good at Oceania.” I’ll have her work on those 7 million tiny islands and get back to you. πŸ˜‰

          1. Don Church

            Allow me to offer some insight as well. A little background: I started college in 1998 to be a computer engineer. I was a National Merit Scholar and aced all the standard exams. I then dropped out one step ahead of getting kicked out because I was failing everything. Not because I wasn’t intelligent enough, but because of discipline and motivation. I eventually went back and earned my BA in Spanish and French. Why? Because I was told I needed a degree (any degree) and it was fun. After a few years of being married and having kids, I went back and just finished my BS in Computer Engineering. This time I aced everything– so much so, in fact, that I was offered a fellowship that is paying me to get my MS in Human-Computer Interaction. Why go back? Because I finally figured out what I wanted to do and it requires those degrees. If I had just waited until I grew up a bit and then gone, I would have saved a ton of money and grief. I can actually provide specific figures on the economic cost if you really want.
            I say all this to make a point- “school” did not teach me what I use as an engineer. In fact, I stepped directly into Linear Systems (advanced differential equations applied to signals) without having touched calculus in 13 years. I got through it. Not easily, but neither did any of the class. The lack of a common educational background means that most universities start at the bottom. If you place well, you can bypass algebra and trigonometry, but that’s about it.
            While going back full time, I worked on a project for the State of Ohio attempting to identify industry gaps so they could assist workforce retraining before it becomes a crisis. As part of the effort, we identified skills necessary to entry-level tech jobs and where people could get them. The major assumption was that all candidates for these jobs would need a year to retain just because of the math: one semester of remediation in algebra and trig and two semesters of applied calculus.
            Bottom line- universities assume that not all their students have a given knowledge base. They just tailor their programs to what most have. Case in point: I have a friend who just finished med school. He started with a BA in Communications from an unaccredited program. He had to take one semester of remedial work to be admitted to the program proper, but he succeeded. The Universities are businesses and make money by admitting students and build market presence by graduating people. They want to let you in.
            All this is to say that the lessons of dedication and hard work go a lot further that a typical high school diploma. For the record, the only math I “needed” for my entry Engineering Calculus course is stuff I learned on my own by 8th grade…
            I hope this comes across as explanatory and not hostile. It certainly is not my intent to belittle or disregard these concerns, but having “been there and done that,” I hope to offer a perspective to alleviate some of the concern.
            ~Don Church

  5. Charise

    I appreciate your point of view and how much this life is working for you and your family. And I totally get how you see the “drift” of your girls’ adult intentions. My daughter left for college set on being a teacher. I could not fathom it. I wanted to be supportive, but teacher? She switched majors pretty quick and is now going for social work which is so much more “her”. I think the point of this question is valid though- what if your girls do want a career requiring formal education or would be enhanced by formal education or just would like to go? For other people considering unschooling (or variations on the theme)- this could be a big deal. It would be for me. (The answer is with equivalency tests and junior colleges and even some 4-year schools, they could easily “test in” to school and get whatever education they want. Even medical school.)

  6. Dorian

    Of course, my reply would be, “If they want to be doctors, then they will be doctors.” No traditional K-12 school has pumped out a doctor yet, to my knowledge. πŸ˜‰

  7. Colleen Mitchell

    I have five unschooled boys. My oldest is somewhere in the middle of ninth and tenth grade and is actually thinking about being a doctor. He also rather likes, literature, digital art and design, and being a missionary. He is taking FOREVER to finish algebra because he hates it. I could stress and tell him he is never going to be a doctor if he doesn’t finish his math, or I can smile as he translates for two pediatricians for a week in our medical mission and is offered an internship to work in their offices for a summer and see if he really likes the daily life as a doctor. Smile as he says that maybe rather than going straight to college he’ll get his paramedic license first so he can work and take his time and that no matter what he decides to do that would be an asset. Smile as he spends all day engrossed in A Tale of Two Cities and writing new content for the beta version of a video game and know that if in fact he does become a doctor, he’ll be a better one for being able to quote Dickens and understand technology. And if he really wants to be a doctor and finds he needs more math to succeed, that he’ll be sure enough to dedicate himself to that purpose when the time comes.

  8. Amanda Espinoza

    This is fascinating. I have a friend who homeschools her 9 children. One them wanted to go to law school. They found a way and later he passed the Bar exam. Anything can happen!

    Both my husband and I have Bachelor degrees, but we feel they are less important now. We only want our kids to go to college if they want a profession that requires the qualifications. They shouldn’t go to school, because it’s the norm. If anything we will encourage them to go serve on a mission field for a year first. Looking forward to your ebook!

    1. Marla Taviano Post author

      I like the way you think, friend. Does Daniel use his degree in his work now, or is he self-taught? (Gabe has a degree in graphic design but has taught himself everything about web design.) And I LOVE the idea of a year of missions work first. And I DOUBLE LOVE that your kids will have spent MUCH time around the world before they even get to middle school. πŸ™‚

      1. Amanda Espinoza

        I asked Daniel and he says that he uses 3 classes from his Computer Science degree. However, those classes are now available online. We think most tech companies are more interested in what you have done (what code have you written) before a degree. A programmer needs a profile and experience on GitHub instead of a resume.

        In was in Tsh’s Art of Simple Podcast with Susan Wise Bauer where I got the gap year idea. Susan’s son spent a year in missions before starting college. She says he was a much better student and more mature be on his own at school.

        1. Marla Taviano

          That’s exactly what Gabe said. Everything’s available online now and companies don’t care about what piece of paper you have; they want to see what you can DO/have DONE.

          A gap year sounds dreamy! How about a gap life? πŸ™‚

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