Why do you send your kids to school?

If you’re like most people there are probably several answers to that question:

  • So they can learn
  • To socialize
  • Because you want them to go to a good college
  • Because it will help them get a good job

But the big overarching reason encompasses the long list of micro-goals we have in education: We want our kids to be successful.

Does school really help kids become successful?

To answer that question, we have to answer another one first:

What does it mean to be successful?

This is an essential question that all humans must grapple with and answer for themselves, adults and kids alike.

For many people success = money…

You make a lot of money, you’re successful. And, yes, financial success is an important measure. We all want our kids to make enough money to live comfortable lives and struggle less than we might have.

But is that the whole definition of success? Are you successful if you have a million dollars but you’re standing at the top of a bridge considering jumping off? Maybe there’s more.

Are there other elements of success that are important?

  • Happiness
  • Purpose
  • Self Determination

Does going to college or university make you successful? Or is it having the “right job”?

And who defines success?

  • The individual?
  • The family?
  • Your community?
  • Your church?
  • A professor or boss?

How do cultural influences affect success?

And by cultural influences we’re talking about things like patriarchy, systemic racism, ableism, and the myriad assumptions that are made about people who in some way don’t fit the mold or play by the “rules.” Are those things a liability to success, or are they actually a super power?

And what about the power dynamics of success?

Who decides? The admissions officer of the universities you’ve applied to? The gate keeper at your new job? The CEO who determines you’re “not qualified” for that next promotion? Are they in charge? Or are you? I guess that depends on how you’re measuring success, doesn’t it?

Where does failure factor into success?

Is it antithetical to success or vital to it? How do you view your own personal failures? What about those of your kids? Are you allowed to fail? Are they? What happens next?

How do you know if you’ve become successful?

  • How do you know in your relationships?
  • How do you know in your work?
  • How do you know in your own inner life and soul?

As parents, these are really important questions to consider within the context of the education of our children.

Making decisions by default, because “everyone else is doing it” or it’s the normal and expected path, is tempting, and easy; but is it the right thing for your child? Is it going to lead to their eventual success?

When my kids were small, I made an exhaustive list (like, 30 pages) of all of the things I wanted them to learn before they grew up. This was a granular definition of what “successful adults” would look like. Twenty years later, that’s kind of embarrassing to admit because it was a bit of a silly “new parent” thing to do. However there was real value in thinking deeply about how we would define success and what, specifically, that looked like. It gave us the confidence to make decisions around education (and many other things) with our end goal clearly defined.

At Omnis Education, we talk about this question a lot: What does it mean to be successful?

This is the end goal that all parents share, and we don’t give it enough thought when we’re in the trenches with our kids. But we’re all here to do better, to do more, to level up with and for our kids, right?

So let’s do that!