I am constantly writing about the connection between education and careers because that’s pretty much all I think about. How could I not because they are so clearly connected. Look, if you are just wanting your kid to love learning, independent of the need to have a career, then you don’t have to worry about education at all. The human brain is made to learn. Kids will learn no matter what. So you can stop thinking about education at all.
But if you want to prepare your kids to have a fulfilling adult life, a mere love of learning won’t cut it. Educator Isaac Morehouse points out that if we taught kids to ride a bike like we prepare them for careers, it would be a disaster.
First, we’d never buy them a bike. We’d do all the bike riding preparation by having kids learn things that do not involve bike riding.
Then we’d put them on the bike and the second they fall off, we’d tell them they failed and we’d start worrying they’ll never ride successfully.
Morehouse’s piece goes on and on with great examples of how poorly we prepare kids for careers. (But also, inadvertently, he writes that finding a career is like riding a bike. And then it becomes logical that I have photos of riding bikes on every single trip I’ve ever taken with my kids.)
So I’m giving you a list of books I’ve read recently that have great ideas for thinking about careers in new ways so that you don’t have to wait until your kid is 22 before they start to investigate careers.
More than Happy: The Wisdom of Amish Parenting, by Serena B. Miller.
Our farm is in the middle of a huge Amish community. We do a lot of business with our Amish neighbors and see their culture first-hand. There are many things I love about living in such close proximity to people who make such different life choices than I do, but one of the most interesting things we see is how hard the kids work. The kids are all major contributors to the family, even very young kids.
Whenever we go to our Amish neighbors, it spurs a conversation about whether our family should depend more on the kids for labor. I see how good my kids feel when they are an important part of a difficult farm job. Before I moved to a farm I would not have considered putting my kids in a cattle lot and telling them to sort calves. Before I lived near an Amish community I would not have believed kids could look happy and confident working all day in the fields.
The Misfit Economy: Lessons in Creativity from Pirates, Hackers, Gangsters, and Other Informal Entrepreneurs by Alexa Clay and Kyra Maya Phillips
So many of the things your kids do all day might well be considered work in their generation. For example, gaming is now something kids can get paid to do. Crafting is a path to an etsy shop, and learning to download free movies is a path to a coding career. This book teaches us to recognize that play and mischief and work might be the same thing.
Yes, Maria Montessori said this, but she wasn’t thinking of the same type of play that you’ll read about in this book. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that this is a career manual for the kids who got kicked out of Montessori.
How to Raise an Adult: Break Free from the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success, by Julie Lythcott-Haims
When you prepare your kids for a career it’s so much like teaching them to ride a bike. You can put them on the bike and give a push, but they either pedal or they don’t. They balance or they don’t. They practice or they don’t. You can’t do this stuff for them.
That said, I find that helicopter parenting is enticing since I’m around my kids all day. And because I give career advice for a living. I say I’m hands off, that kids are independent learners, and so on, but actually I watch what they are doing all the time, and so often I find myself putting options in front of them that address my own agenda.
It turns out that this sort of parenting leads to depression in kids (and, I have to guess in parents as well since really, we should be living our own lives). Lythcott-Haims shows us how to walk that fine line between neglect and helicoptering.
And so really, (even though I’m giving you a list of books to help you think about new ways to help your kid find a career) it’s not your job to get your kid a career. And it’s probably your job to get out of the way so your kids find careers on their own.