What is Most Important to Your Child’s Future?

First, for those who don’t know the above is an xkcd comic. Perl is a programming language with many uses. The comic reminded me of my husband and got me thinking about the really important things and the things that are not so important.

As many people know, my husband is a self-taught programmer who learned everything he knows about programming from his time spent working on his own projects at home NOT what they taught him at school. School, in fact, proved useless for the most part since he didn’t learn to spell until he started using a computer and spell checker, nor did he learn higher level math until he needed it for a programming project (taught himself trigonometry when he was 22). Reading you could arguably say he learned from school but only just since most of his actual reading and writing was done outside of school since he never did any homework or paid attention in class, just took the tests.

On the other hand, he has, in the course of his 37 years, taught himself to play the piano (and write music); taught himself to program in C, html, php, C++, Visual basic, and some other languages I have forgotten; written a full length novel–for fun; written a gaming engine–for fun and to see if he could do it; designed multiple levels for other people’s games; taught himself how to do photography and then edit those photos; read multiple history, political, and religious books (the big heavy ones, not sweet little ones like Max Lucado) so he could better understand what he was reading about elsewhere and form his own opinions on the subjects instead of taking other people’s word for it; and a whole slew of other things I can’t think of right now. I am not bragging on him, I am just making a point (or reminding those who needed reminded or just possibly preaching to the choir.)

My point is that this man went to public school. He was the kid who was always in trouble for not paying attention and not knowing what was going on around him. He never did homework, never paid attention in class. He was the kid who ALWAYS lost recess or computer or whatever the teacher thought might motivate him to do what the teacher wanted. He was awkward; he was even in special ed because they didn’t know what to do about him. He didn’t go on to college (well he tried, twice, but got so frustrated the first time that he wasn’t learning anything he wanted to learn that he dropped out after one semester, and then the second time he signed up to take one class, paid for the class, got the book, went a few times then someone stole his car and burned it, including the book, and he never went back).

He may not be successful as others consider it (he doesn’t make a ton but we get by) but he has worked as a programmer for over 14 years, writes a successful blog and web comic, and best of all he gets to do what he loves. None of this is because of his schooling. If anything, he spent years afraid of trying because of his education and failing over and over. All of it is because he knows what he loves and what he enjoys doing and does things with all his heart.

And who knows what experience in your (and my) children’s lives will most influence their future. For my husband it was programming his best friend’s computer then saving up for his own. In fact, for a lot of other programmers it was the same way. (The link is to my husband’s blog, read through some of the comments on this article to see what I mean.)

Only God knows what experiences may be most important. For myself it was drawing lesson in Girl Scouts when I was 10–I found out I could draw–I hadn’t realized before that. For my mom it was babysitting as a teen, for my dad it was working with his excavator/workaholic dad as an 8-year-old.

What experience most shaped YOUR life as a kid?

~ Heather

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