My oldest will be graduating high school in two short months. Since elementary school, he has scraped by, just barely passing each grade. He despises school and can’t handle sitting all day. There have been many times I’ve wondered if he’d even graduate at all.
I can only do so much to get him to hand his work in; I am not one of those parents who will ever do my kids’ school work. If they don’t take action and have to go to summer school, or repeat a grade, that’s the best way to show them the importance of getting their work done on time.
However, my son is one of the hardest workers I know. He’s just not meant to sit behind a desk. Right now, he is out collecting trash at the local dump. He’s been working outside for 10-hour days during his April break, then for his dad plumbing on the weekends. This is who he is. He loves to move, to fix things, to work with his hands.
I knew early on he might not go to college like his father and I did. When we had three kids, we assumed they would all follow in our footsteps and go to college, so we started saving.
However, having three kids — then going through a divorce — can make it almost impossible to save enough so your kids (or you) don’t have to take on any debt. The average cost of a public college for an out-of-state student is about $21k per year. And that’s a deal compared to the cost of private colleges, which is closer to $37K.
I graduated from a private college in 1993. My mother helped a little, but she was a single mother to four kids. I am still paying on my student loan every month, and will be for the next five years.
If my son wanted to go to college, he would be going — but honestly, I am relieved that he’s not going to take on a mountain of debt, and I’m glad I don’t have to take out more loans to help him pay, because that’s what would happen.
Even though his father and I make a good living, he has siblings that are right behind him in school. There always seems to be something that comes along in life to make saving for college feel like an impossible feat.
We also want to save for our retirement so we can be financially independent and be able to pay for any care we need so our kids don’t have to when that day comes.
If my son changes his mind, and decides he wants to go later in life, I will be all in and contribute what I can because I believe he’s more than worth it. However, the fact I don’t have to deal with loans, grants, going to the bank, filling out God knows how many forms, and hoping we won’t be strapped too much, is a huge weight off my shoulders.
I’m thankful he’s not going simply because all his friends are going and he thinks it’s the thing to do. I’m thankful he recognizes that he has a choice. College tuition comes with a hefty price tag, especially if you are going just to fit in, or because you think your parents want you to go.
Bottom line is, I want my kids to be happy. If that means going to a technical college, a trade school, a university, or not going at all, I am going to support them.
But the one thing I will never do is force them into more schooling — because that’s what I did, and I think they will regret it if they don’t.
My son is a young adult and he has to make these decisions, and learn from them, on his own accord. I know when I was his age, I couldn’t grasp how much money I was borrowing for school, even though it was spelled out right in front of me and the paperwork broke it down for me.
As a parent to teenagers, there’s so much we need to worry about as it is. I know saving and paying for college are all a part of it. But it’s been a struggle to get him engaged in school, and there’s no way in hell I am going to send an unmotivated learner off for more school and watch him go into debt in the process. So I’m not afraid to say that having this burden lifted is a relief — for me, and eventually, probably for him too.
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