I had that conversation with my father a few weeks ago – the one that all unschooling parents have practiced. “Will he… be able to…?” “Attend post secondary education?”, I filled in for him as he tried to find the right words. I assured him that, yes, unschoolers have a lot of options for post secondary and he still has the option to get a diploma even if he doesn’t go to high school.
I think my Dad was actually asking if he’ll be able to be successful. Get a good job. Be able to make enough money to support himself as an adult. And I would have assured him that, yes, that options are still all on the table.
But as an unschooling parent, those concerns are not my focus.
If my kids never make more than a living wage, if they never buy their own home, if they never find financial “success”, I’m not worried. (which is good because in this economic climate, things are looking iffy…)
As a child, teen, and young adult, it was hammered into my head that I needed to become something in order to be successful. Become a doctor or a lawyer or a scientist or a teacher. I needed to focus my energy on doing well at school so that I could get into a good post-secondary school so that I could get a good job and make good money to support myself. (Jokes on them, I studied philosophy and sociology…) I spent my entire youth striving to reach the goal of being self-sustainable in a capitalist economy.
Really though, sustainability is never the real goal in our economy, is it? It’s always about climbing higher, needing more, finding more security, being able to afford brighter and shinier and bigger things. For me, this is grind culture: the belief that the more I work or the harder I try, the more I am guaranteed that next level status.
This is a sham and we all know it. There are limited high paying careers and an abundance of low wage labour-based jobs. Besides that, endless growth can never be sustainable. What we should be focusing on instead is meeting our basic needs, without the frills, without the excess, without the ever-present need to consume more and more and more.
So if we’re not going to try and climb the corporate ladder and focus instead on meeting basic needs on a lower income, how can we fulfill those needs with a baseline of security? I think that the answer is community. We rely more on each other to help lower our personal costs and limit the number of services we have to pay for by providing support for each other. Where do we find this community that can provide support while living a lower income lifestyle? Well, family might be a good place to start.
I mean, this is how everyone used to live, right? We lived together in multi-generational homes to support each other, sometimes immediate but also sometimes extended families. We shared things like cooking, cleaning, childcare, housing, and even paid labour. If you have four adults contributing to household finances, it should stand that each of those adults needs to work one quarter of the time that a single income family would need.
I wonder if we, as a culture, have replaced extended family support with grind culture in some ways. This plays into the ideas of individualism, where we believe that we can do everything on our own but I can’t imagine why we would want to replace the support and love of a community with more individual work.
I hope that as my kids get older, they know that they’ll always have the option to stay at home, to work together to have our basic needs met. They may not stay and they may go get corporate jobs and they may make more money than they need and work long hours. And that’s okay – if they find a career that makes them happy and feel fulfilled. And maybe I’ll change my tune in another 15 years when I’m ready to kick my youngest out of the house. But I hope not. I hope they know that they’ll always be supported by the community that is family.