Going against the entrenched mainstream belief that to have a successful life you have to get higher education, can you define your idea of what success means?
The standard, at its core, seems to be college = wealth = success. College means you get into a high-paying job (whether or not you actually like it is irrelevant); wealth means you make tons of money at this high-paying job, therefore having the financial capacity to own signs of wealth, such as nice cars, a big house, etc. As an unschooler, this confuses me, which led me to want to redefine "success" in the first place.
However, overall people will respect you more if you are feeling successful in your own way, whether that is by going to college and becoming a CEO, or by bypassing college and starting up a small gym downtown. Being successful is you doing what you want to be doing, in my opinion.
I'm not a professional concert pianist, I just started taking piano lessons last year; but I consider myself a successful piano student because I am learning exactly what I want to learn and I am at the exact point I want and need to be in my lessons right now. And the same goes with everything in my life. So, to me, success is accomplishing exactly what I want and need to accomplish at this specific time in my life.
Right now I am doing a self-study project on chinchillas, volunteering at a local wildlife center, doing a marketing internship for Homeschool Leadership Retreats, writing my blog, "Life Without College," taking piano lessons, and I even have some spare time for performing with a local improv troupe I've been on for 4 years, and reading and writing.
I am also going to be volunteering next month on the inaugural Homeschool Leadership Retreat in Ashland, Oregon, as a mentor, lackey, dishwasher, and anything else the leader, Blake Boles, decides he wants me to do or learn.
But I had a lot of freedom to pursue my own interests. I could often get kits and books through curriculum companies, and then I would take ballet and drama classes, read books from the library, and watch TV. Those were my forms of "learning intake." Output often was in writing, playing, painting, performing, and talking with great enthusiasm.
I am extremely self-directed, and, frankly, I like to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. Of course, it's not reasonable to apply that to everything in life, but when it came to learning in my "grade school" years, my curiosity and love for learning were able to flourish and grow because of the freedom I had.
I could spend two or three weeks finding out everything I possibly could about snakes; my mom suggested I write fact pages and draw pictures, and of course that reinforced my learning. And that, of course, has led to me getting to work with snakes on a regular basis now, and that is so awesome.
Every time I set foot in a different place, whether it's across the street or across the country, I see the most gorgeous landscapes and the most interesting quirks that land has; and I meet new people who, for lack of a better word, are amazing. There's the avid cuckoo clock-collecting poet; the old man with the family-run bakery serving the most delicious danishes; the "accidental" friend who shows you how to look at the world in a whole different way. There is just too much good in this world to only see its rough edges.