Sunday, November 04, 2007

unconventional paths to a career

In thinking about the choices we've made about education in our family, I had a realization -- it's not just the kids who enjoy an unconventional path to learning.

Gary's current job is a perfect illustration of how learning happens without formal instruction or a curriculum. Almost 10 years ago, we decided on a huge life change. It's become so much bigger than we could have imagined when it all started. I had just decided to quit my full-time job to be home with Andy. On my 35th birthday. From there things quickly evolved from me working at home to a decision to sell our home in Northern Virginia and move to New Mexico.

We'd expected that Gary would find a job in the gov't contractor field, as he'd done for the previous 18 years. When we arrived, tho, he wasn't able to find work. After several discouraging weeks looking for positions, he saw an add for delivery drivers, using your own pick-up or van. We had a minivan, and he enjoys driving, so he took that job. He found he loved it --just the right balance of time alone and time with customers, beautiful views while driving around, time outdoors in the fresh air, no office politics, no work to bring home, and a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day when the van was empty. He was very happy, but wanted to make more money.

That first job gave way to other delivery gigs, with a couple of nationwide shippers. Really, tho, the in and out of home deliveries wasn't really what he wanted. As time went on, he wanted to do more driving and less delivering. And he wanted more money, which meant getting his commercial license. He continuously looked for new job opportunities, finally finding one with a small, local company, delivering freight. The owner agreed to help Gary earn his first commercial license, a CDL-B. Within a couple of months, Gary had his B license. That company closed up shop and Gary was laid off. He signed on with an office products company, where he was able to gain more experience with 24' trucks that require a CDL-B license.

The real money, tho, requires a CDL-A license, to drive tractor-trailers. The usual route to a CDL-A license is to attend truck driving school. The company he worked for didn't need class A drivers, so they weren't in a position to help him get the training he needed. Truck driving school costs about $4,000 and takes 4 wks of time without pay. We couldn't afford that, so he'd need to get his A license without formal training.

Last October, that company announced they were closing the local warehouse and letting everyone go. This time, tho, he was already interviewing with a freight company that would help him get his CDL-A license.

When the warehouse closed, Gary took the new job immediately. Within 3 months, he had his CDL-A license. Continuing the job search, he found that virtually all the good driving jobs required over the road driving time, anywhere from 6 mos to 3 years. While there are companies that hire inexperienced CDL-A drivers, they usually keep their drivers away from home for weeks at a time, which isn't our first choice for a lifestyle.

Last month, he was offered a job with a national carrier, home at least once a week -- actually, he's home twice a week, tho with only one true 'day' off. He's finally found the over the road opportunity he needs for experience to qualify for better jobs that will bring him home more often. He's finally making the 'more money' he's wanted for the past several years -- a take-home increase of about 40%.

While he misses being home every night and all weekend, he really enjoys this driving job. It's still not entirely driving, but much better than any other job he's had. We all know this is temporary -- just another part of the path to the next thing.

He's accomplished all this without any formal training -- and he was in his 40's when he got that first commercial license, now he's 52. What an illustration for our boys that you can learn anything you want, when you're open to finding the path that fits your chosen life. And that you don't have to spend your entire adult life in a job that's wrong for you. Not to mention that it's never too late to redesign your life to fit your dreams!

How cool is it that our kids get to learn from Dad how to find your own joy in life, on your own agenda?

UPDATE: Now it's September, 2010 and I was reminded of this post today, in a conversation with another unschooling Mom. Now Gary has a job driving a truck on a local route, working for a company whose offices are exactly one mile from our home. Four years ago, when we bought this house, Gary said "wouldn't it be cool if I could get a job there?" Last June, that company offered him a job. Now he has a job he enjoys more than any other he's ever had, and it's right in our neighborhood, so he's home every night -- weekends and holidays, too!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Andy CAN read cursive!

Last month, after the grandparents visited, my mother in law told us "Andy wishes he could read cursive." hmmm, news to me! I asked Andy and he related that during a neighborhood walk with Grandma, they came across a handwritten sign, in cursive, and she asked him if he could read what it said. He had replied, "too bad I don't read cursive." She had taken that to mean he really wanted to be able to. Okay, that makes much more sense, knowing Andy.

"Do you want to learn to read or write cursive?"

"No, I don't really need to -- I don't see it very often."

"If you decide you'd like help, let me know -- and you know Dad or I will always be happy to read cursive for you, if you can't."

I included his answer in an email to my mother inlaw, with an assurance that when Andy is ready to read cursive, we will of course help him.

A couple of days ago, I received a birthday card in the mail from Will's fiance, Elena. It was a funny one and since I was driving when the boys found it in the car, Andy offered to read it to Dan. He read only the pre-printed portion and they laughed at the joke. Later in the day, I stopped for gas. When I came back to the car, Andy held up the card and said "Mom, what's this word -- I can't read it."

"It's in cursive, sweetie -- what word do you need help with?"

"This one here" and he point to a word that was about the eighth in a sentence of a dozen or so words.

I told him what the word was, and he read the rest of the sentence. I said, "cool -- you can read cursive!"

"Oh, that's right. It's in cursive and I read it -- it was easy! Elena's cursive is easier to read than that sign I saw with Grandma. I can read cursive!"

Andy was right -- Elena's cursive is easier to read than most. She writes in big, round letters. Who knows how clear the sign was?