And yet here we are. August 2023, Prince Edward Island. A year later, in a completely different province.
Although both boys started strong at the Faculty of Arts and Science of my alma mater last fall, Twin B soon found himself uninspired by the various tenets of the somewhat nebulous degree he was pursuing. By midwinter, it was clear that his enthusiasm was continuing to wane, and so we were somewhat alarmed but not really surprised when — with summer just around the corner — there was no clear plan about what was to come next.
The situation seemed particularly dire framed in the stark contrast of his brother’s summer which was shaping up to be a hectic smorgasbord of various jobs. From local and international tour guiding, to running a summer camp at a board game café, to teaching chess part-time to elementary school kids across the city, to jumping on the bandwagon with my wife’s bike lesson side hustle, Twin A applied for an endless string of jobs, was offered most of them, and seemed to accept almost all of the jobs he was offered!
We therefore threatened Twin B that if he did not apply for more jobs and become gainfully employed for the summer soon, we would haul his ass to PEI (where I've been living for the past few years), register him for a multi-day chainsaw training course, and put him to work cleaning up Fiona damage on our property and those of other islanders.
The little bugger called our bluff: “OK, great”, he calmly replied.
And boy, am I ever glad he did! Thanks for the generosity of time and spirit of several friends and others across the island who took him on, and a very generous partnership program between the federal government, a private nonprofit and the local college, the child has learned basic sheet metal roofing skills, knows how to safely fell a tree, can tie seven kinds of knots and climb up a wind turbine, and is excited about getting his first “man kit“ as he calls it, the toolbox gifted it to him by the program he is about to complete as I write this! Not only that, but he’s finally on the road to getting his driver’s license, and has even made some friends here on the island.
As an educator, it is an important reminder of how valuable hands-on learning and multiple pathways are.
Although in theory I always supported college or other non-university post secondary pathways for my former students and my own children, I realize now there was an implicit bias on my part. Although I was first in my family to do so, I had gone to university, and in addition to my undergraduate degree, I hold two post-graduate degrees. So I guess I just sort of assumed my kids would do that as well. I see now that for at least one of my boys, having continued blindly into second year university would have robbed him of a wealth of experiences that are shaping him into the interesting an interested young man he is becoming.
If you are a parent of a young person fretting about their future, realize that they really are a multitude of ways to move from school to under school, and all of them are valid. The exciting challenge for you as a parent (and for your child) is finding and/or designing the pathway or pathways that will best develop and engage the skill set and affinities of the young person in question.