One night my husband told me that our four-year-old surprised him with this conversation:
A: “Daddy, where will you be living when I go to college?”
A: “When I’m 20, and I go to college.”
Daddy: “Well, hopefully not too far away. It depends on where you go. If you go to the University of Georgia, you can even live at home if you want to.”
A: “I want to study animals. ALL the animals.”
Daddy: “Well, UGA is a good place to study animals.”
I don’t want to come across as one of these mothers I read about who stress out over the preschool their child will get into because it might ruin their child’s chances of getting into Harvard. The thought of that makes me laugh. As I have said before, I strongly feel that kids should be kids and that “play” should be their primary work. I think the reason my son brought this up is because earlier in the day, he was asking me why he could only spend part of the money his grandmother gave to him when she visited. I explained to him that we’d put some of it into a savings account for when he got big, and it would help to pay for college. I think he asked me how old he’d be when he’d go to college too.
I promise I have not drilled my four-year-old son about going to college! However, my husband and I are going to prep our children for college. I know that many people have different opinions about this, but my husband and I both valued our time spent in college, and college degrees have become as necessary as high school diplomas once were. Having said that, I don’t think I would push my kids into college, if they were dead set against it or didn’t seem suited for it. Different careers have different paths, so we’ll have to cross those bridges when we get to them.
At age four, we have not deliberately talked about college to our son, but we have occasionally talked to him about the things he likes to learn about (right now it’s animals), and we point out people on T.V. who work with animals. We tell him that someday he might want to work with animals, and if he studies hard, he could have a similar job. We do this for a couple of reasons. First, as I read in Michael Gurian’s The Wonder of Boys, it’s good to point out the big picture to boys (girls too, I’m sure). Why would any child want to do anything, if they didn’t see a clear purpose in it? So, I feel as homeschoolers, it’s especially important to foster my son’s interests so that he motivates himself to learn. If he sees the end goal, he’ll understand why it’s important to learn how to read and calculate. And at age four (almost five), he is learning how to read and doing simple math.
He might change his mind about animals. He may change his mind a hundred times before he turns twenty. That’s okay. My goal is to show him what’s possible for the future. To ignite his interest. To make him happy. To allow him to see for himself that learning is fun. And if I don’t start now when he’s four — when he’s excited about the world because everything is new to him — I may lose the chance to light that flame later.
After this conversation, my husband and I decided it would be fun to take him on a tour of the University of Georgia. We started with just a small part of it. The boys loved the fountains and beautiful gardens on north campus. We bought them T-shirts at the bookstore. I told my son that this was a place he could study animals, if he wanted to, when he gets big. Next time we’ll take him to south campus, near biology, the other sciences and the UGA vet school. We haven’t been to the UGA vet school’s open house yet, so that should be fun to do next year.
So what are your feelings about prepping children for college? How do you motivate your children to learn?