This is part 2. If you haven’t read part 1 yet, please do so.
So I was utterly amazed by what happened when I published part 1 of this blog. Not only did tons of people read it, tweet it, and comment, but it actually hit the front page of Hacker News, which completely blew me away. What I had to say really caused quite a stir.
One of the things I was really surprised and overwhelmed by was the vast amounts of passion I saw about the subject of history, which I think is awesome. I love seeing how passionate people are about things they love, and hearing them talk about the value of such things.
First off I want to say that I myself am a huge believer in education. In fact, my job is education. I author training videos for Pluralsight.com.
As Katya began to show more and more interest in programming, I began to ponder more and more on the relative value of public high school vs. something less traditional, based on where Katya was at currently in her education.
One of the things that stuck out to me when considering what was best for her is that Katya is already a very well-rounded individual. She knows geography and history well. She loves writing, and has a good command of English. She loves to read both fiction and non-fiction, usually historical non-fiction. She adores theater, and she hates math and gym, but of course nobody loves all subjects. This really made me think that what public high school had to offer her over the next 18 months until graduation, really wasn’t as important as what she could gain elsewhere. Katya is a Junior. She’s currently halfway through her Junior year. She has taken 10.5 years of English, History, and Math. (ignoring kindergarten here)
Why is 12 years exactly the magic number? Why not 13 instead of 12? If she will be that much more “well rounded” by 12 years of school, why shouldn’t it be 13 or even 14? A degree gives you 16, but why then not 18 or 20?
And what about the thought that she’s too young to know what she wants to do, and she should be exposed to more things through the rest of high school before she decides? Well, why is 18 years old the magic age when someone can finally know what they want to do for the rest of their life? I know plenty of people in their mid 20’s who still don’t know what they want. I have friends in their mid 30’s who don’t like what they are doing, and have never known what they really want to do for a career. And I know people, like myself, who discovered something at 15 or 16 and knew it was what they wanted to do for their career and anything that held them back was only an obstacle, and not a blessing.
As Katya’s mother and I began to discuss the possibility of taking her out of public high school, we also talked at length with Katya about this, and the pros and cons of this decision. I emphasized that high school gives you a nice on-ramp into the intensity of college and later life. That skipping that can be detrimental to kids who are unprepared. Katya is NOT what you would call a good student. She struggles with completing homework, especially in classes she has little interest in.
I stressed to her that leaving high school had all kinds of costs associated with it. She would have lots more responsibility. The teachers would no longer be hounding her about homework and she wouldn’t have a report card to judge how she was doing in class. She would have to either sink or swim, and most of the responsibility would be on her shoulders. It was going to be much more difficult than any class she had taken previously. Being a programmer myself, I can help a lot, but I can’t make up for a lack of self-discipline.
I frequently told her that ultimately the decision had to be hers, and she needed to be sure that it was something she really wanted to do, and was the right thing for her. We also stressed that this was a decision she needed to pray about, and make sure that this was something that she felt that God wanted her to do.
After she decided that she wanted to leave high school and attend the bootcamp, she was given some pre-coursework. It represented about 40 hours of work. She was still working part time, and had 2 weeks until the class started. I told her that she needed to prove that she wanted to go to the class and that she would have to complete the pre-coursework before class started, all through her own self-discipline.
In the end, even though she didn’t scream through it in a couple days, she completed it with several days to spare.
Before making a final decision, I was really worried about what would be best for her. But after committing to action, I have felt a lot of peace in the decision.
One of the primary drivers in our decision to put Katya in a bootcamp was all the opportunities that she was missing out on because she was in high school. Yes, high school can offer her prom and theater and book club. But it also offers her one-size-fits-all educational plans and cliques and cyber bullying and a fashion-obsessed culture.
There are so many awesome things she can do by attending a bootcamp and then doing online high school which will take less time compared to public high school. She has already been asked to speak at two conferences. I know there are many more that would love to hear a 16 year old girl talk about tech and tech education. Her and I were able to go to 5 different elementary schools and give 4th through 8th graders their first exposure to coding. That’s not something you can do much of if you have to be in school every day. I also believe that online training sites like pluralsight.com could benefit from having courses directed at kids, that are actually authored by their peers, instead of old men.
She will also get the opportunity to face an academically challenging situation with this bootcamp, but it will be in a subject she loves and is passionate about. So she’ll have the opportunity to excel at something she truly cares about, and gain the self confidence to know that she can do amazing things with the right motivation and discipline.
She will also have the opportunity to work alongside her father. I think one of the sad byproducts of us becoming a non-agrarian society is that we no longer work alongside our parents and learn our trades. I am a firm believer that the influence of a loving father is not only far more positive on a young girl than the influence of her peers, but also critical in her development. If you have any doubts of this please read Strong Fathers Strong Daughters by Dr. Meg Meeker.
As I pondered this decision, in my mind I saw Katya authoring training courses for other teenage girls to learn web development, building the mobile apps she wants to build, speaking to audiences of hundreds and thousands on all kinds of technical and educational topics, and those visions made me so excited for her future.
But ultimately it’s the opportunities that I don’t know about and can’t predict. Once she has these valuable skills, and time to leverage them, what opportunities will the world hold for her? I don’t know, and that excites me more than anything else.