As a career coach I’m constantly stunned by how unprepared kids are for the workforce. Teachers and parents spend tons of time telling kids to get good grades and get into a good school, but no one mentions that good grades actually have little correlation to workplace success.
There are three things that make for a successful adult: Grit, resilience, and emotional intelligence. I strive to keep our homeschool focused on those three things. Those three things have been the key to my every workplace win. Here’s what never mattered: I’m fluent in French. It’s been on my resume forever, but it has never ever gotten me a job. You have to be a lot more than “fluent in French” to be useful in the workforce speaking French.
I have a huge farm vocabulary because I spent a summer on a French chicken farm, but there is no way I could write PowerPoint slides to present a marketing plan to a Fortune 100 company. I am not fluent in THAT kind of French. And I wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to use my French to cater to French consumers. In Mozambique, or Quebec, or France. I don’t know enough about the culture.
But you know what? Learning a language taught me what really does get you a job: grit, resilience and emotional intelligence. Because in order to learn a language you have to think in different ways. Construct sentences in new patterns, take cultural differences into consideration. Learning another language shows you how to be a more flexible thinker, and speaking in an accent that is not quite yours, with verb tenses that are not quite yours, that is something that takes courage and self-confidence.
In my family we focus on self-directed learning. As much as possible, I let my kids learn what they want. So I told them they have to learn a language, but they chose which they wanted. My son told me he wants to learn Arabic. We are Jewish and he said, “The only way things are will get better in the Middle East is if Jewish kids learn Arabic.”
I tried not to show shock, because it might make him doubt his own instinct.
I did not tell him that Arabic would not be useful to him at his bar mitzvah. And I didn’t tell him I don’t know anyone who can help if it’s difficult. I didn’t tell him I was hoping for something more conventional, like Spanish. What I did tell him was, “You’ll have to learn it online, by yourself.”
He was thrilled.
And I realized that another benefit to learning a language is that kids can learn one more thing that the adults around them don’t understand. It’s amazing to my son to be able to tell me things I don’t know. And it’s amazing to me to watch my son learn on his own. To me, that’s what homeschooling is all about.