Prepared for the future: the one skill you’ll actually need
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As my kids get older and near the end of their homeschooling journey, I hear more and more often that I need to make sure they’re prepared for the future.
I bet if you have older kids, you hear that a lot, too.
But can we break this down for a second? Because much like with the what about socialization question, I’m a little confused. I mean, prepared for the future. What. Does. That. Actually. Mean?
(Don’t want to read all these words? You can listen instead by pressing play on the podcast player at the top of this post. And hey! You can find all past episodes of my podcast under the podcast tab in the menu bar above.)
Being prepared for the future means…what, exactly?
If someone cooks their whole life on a gas stove and burns their first meal on an electric stove because they didn’t realize the burner stays hot after you turn it off, does that mean they weren’t prepared for the future?
I think we need to be honest about what it means to prepare kids for their future. Because what I see is a bunch of stressed out parents desperately grasping at straws, trying to give their kids a bunch of skills and knowledge to take on a future that no one is being honest about the fact they can’t really see.
And the sad thing about all the parental desperation and anxiety and anguish over their kids being prepared for the future? It’s not just because parents don’t want their kids to fail. It’s because the parents don’t want an unsuccessful launch to reflect poorly on their parenting (and in our case, homeschooling) skills.
Kids, you need to know what to do right now! (Except, spoiler alert: not really. Because it’s gonna change.)
It’s all about age 18, right? Kids, you need to be prepared for all the things. You need to know how to do all the things. And you need to know what you want to do with your life. No stress, kids, but if you could make a decision right now, that would be great.
But let’s be honest here: were you prepared for the future? Which is to say—at 14-17 years old, were you preparing for life at 23, 45, 67? Did you feel prepared for life at 18? 21? And if not, what happened?
Wait, don’t tell me. Everyone looked at you like you were clueless and everything went wrong and the world ended, right?
Or could it be that when you were faced with things you were uncertain about, you continued to learn and you continued to prepare for the things that followed.
None of us know our future.
My plan at age 17 was to make a life in musical theater. Now I’m a homeschool mom (what?) and an author who lives on a homestead (what?) where I bake bread, can spaghetti sauce, and butcher chickens.
Y’all, I didn’t learn how to do any of that when I was younger.
Does not already knowing any of that mean I wasn’t prepared for my future? Or does that mean I just moved forward with the realization that every single day of my future might bring something new I’d have to branch out and learn about?
The future is always changing. Always.
Let’s talk about the millions of ways I was not prepared for my current reality because most of my current reality wasn’t even a thing when I was preparing for “my future”.
I mean, the internet didn’t even exist when I was younger. Now I make my living on it.
As homeschoolers, we of all people should understand that learning never stops. And you know what? I think our kids get that. They live in a world where they can get the answer for any question or tutorial for any skill with the swipe of their finger. Learning is second nature to them, both as homeschoolers and kids who were born into a world of increasing technology.
I mean, ask me about the 40,000 things my kids know about guitars, computers, and music history that I did. not. teach. them. To be honest, I think our kids already have that whole “how to learn” thing down.
I think it’s the adults who have a skewed vision of what’s ahead.
How do you prepare for a future that’s always changing? Learn how to learn.
In preparing for the future, yes, teach your kids life skills. It will obviously be helpful in their adult life if they can cook, do laundry, and change a flat. And yes, encourage your kids to take care of the things they need to take care of because that’s just part being a responsible human being.
But the closer my kids get to launch, the more important I think it is to simply teach kids to learn because that is what we will all continue to do in the twists and turns and highs and lows that the future will inevitably bring.
Listen. We continue to prepare for the future because the future is whatever is ahead of us—whether we are 18 or 58 or 88. The future is always ahead of where we are now.
The future is not a solid block that you hit when you graduate, leave home, and begin adulting. The future is everything that happens after today. (And you can repeat that sentence every single day until you die.) The future is (hopefully) a really long pipe you continue to slide through, not a wall you hit.
So maybe the best way to prepare for the future is twofold:
** continue to live and explore and experience and learn and know that little bits and pieces of it all are helping with what’s ahead,
** but also know that no matter how much we explore and experience and learn, we’re not going to get it all. There will always be stuff we have to learn right when we need it.
Maybe being prepared for the future means knowing how to deal with the things you don’t already know. Maybe that’s a more useful approach than trying to learn every. single. skill by the time you’re 18.
Because—speaking from this side of things—there are far more things I’ve encountered in adulthood that I didn’t understand or know how to do than things that I did.
And no amount of “preparation” from my parents would have changed that one bit.
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