What About My Perfect Homeschooling Success Story?

Did you watch my recent video interview with my adult son, Callum? If you did, you’ll know he was accepted into university to do a Bachelor of Nursing degree. You’ll also know he didn’t finish the course. My perfect homeschooling story disappeared with his decision to drop out of uni. Not even unschooling ensures the perfect ending. But then again, what does perfect mean? Perfect for me? Perfect for Callum? Perfect according to God?

I wrote this post several years ago. I’m sure not many people have read it so I’m posting it again…

All Callum had to do was go online and log in to find out if he had been accepted on the university course of his choice.

“Did you get a place?” I asked eagerly.
“I haven’t yet worked up the courage to look,” Callum admitted.  But a few minutes later, he emerged from his room, a huge smile on his face, “I did it! I’m on the course!”
I remember how elated we felt that night. I walked around feeling like the best homeschooling mother ever. My job was over. I’d guided Callum perfectly and now he was on the pathway to his dream career. He was going to be a nurse. One day he would be working in the casualty department of a hospital, calmly dealing with any emergency the ambulance delivered. I could imagine it all.
Callum grinned and I smiled and we couldn’t wait to share the news.
Callum accepted the place and he decided to study part time and continue working as well. The first year went exceedingly well. Callum stood out from the crowd. He was the only student with practical experience due to his excellent St John Ambulance record. He was also the only homeschooled student and he impressed and annoyed the tutors with his persistent questions and knowledge:
“Callum, draw the patient in the correct position.” A few minutes later, a perfectly proportioned, realistic looking man lay in the required position on the whiteboard.
“I suppose you learnt art while you were homeschooling,” sighed the tutor. He’d been expecting a stick figure.
“Does anyone know what this Latin word means?… No? You tell us, Callum. I assume you learnt Latin while homeschooling?”
“Not another question, Callum! Homeschooled students want to know too much. You’re not supposed to think. You’re supposed to sit quietly and listen!”

Yes, Callum was proving a headache for his tutors but they couldn’t deny he was set for a brilliant nursing career (or was that only his proud mother’s opinion?)
That was just over two years ago.
But at the start of this year, Callum didn’t look happy, in fact he was rather grumpy and hard to live with. I thought he would enjoy getting back to study after the long summer break but it seemed he was reluctant to attend lectures and tutorials.
“I don’t think I want to be a nurse after all, Mum,” he confessed one day.
“But Callum, you are so good with people. And you loved your work with St John Ambulance. You said you wanted to do something worthwhile to help others.”
“I don’t know, Mum…”
“Perhaps you should have studied full-time. This would have been your final year. Have you just had enough of studying?”
“It’s not that Mum. I just don’t know if I want to do nursing anymore.”
My vision of my son with a stethoscope around his neck, working in casualty, dealing with all the emergencies in his calm and confident and compassionate way, was fast disappearing. And I didn’t want it to.
“If you persevered you could have such a wonderful career. There are so many options within the nursing profession…” I knew from Callum’s face I couldn’t convince him.
I have to admit I could have argued and debated with Callum:
“You need to learn to stick with things.”
“You’ll regret giving up your course in the future. You should take advantage of your chance to get a university education.”
“You’ve come so far, you ought to finish.”
“Don’t give up your dream because it’s got hard.”
“Every course has its boring basic units. Just wait till you get to the practical units. That’s where you’ll excel.”
Don’t take away my dream.
What about my homeschooling success story?

I remember chatting to Callum a few years ago. “I’m sorry Callum, I’m not praying for a perfect life for you… life’s not like that. There will be struggles. There always will be when you are doing God’s work. Difficulties are the only way you will grow.”
Callum just grinned and said, “Why didn’t I get a regular mother who just wants her children to be happy?” I could see he understood.
Yes, life isn’t perfect. Sons change their minds. Mothers’ dreams evaporate. But that’s OK.
A few days ago, Callum arrived home, bursting with something he wanted to share.
“OK. Tell me,” I said, seeing he couldn’t wait a moment longer to share his news.
“When my boss heard I’m no longer studying, he wanted to know if I would be interested in a store manager apprenticeship.”
“Is that what you want to do?”
“It sounds good at the moment.”
“Then it’s fine with me.”

Then today…

Callum again arrives home bursting with something he wants to share. “OK. Tell me,” I say.
 “Hey Mum!  I had my employee review today. I got full marks for customer service. Apparently all the customers like chatting to me.”
“You’re supposed to be an unsocialised homeschooling graduate, Callum! You shouldn’t know how to talk to people of all ages and situations.”
We both smile.
So my son is going to lavish his charming smiles and caring bedside manner on all the customers who come into the supermarket looking for a bit of human contact in their day. And I can accept that. It’s Callum’s life, not mine. This isn’t about perfect homeschooling success stories, or perfect mothers, or what other people think. No. My job is over and I’m letting him go.
The future? That is in God’s hands, not mine, just the way it should be.

This story was written with the full permission of Callum: “Hey Mum! Perhaps you can write a blog post about me dropping out of uni.” He really is a true blogger’s son.

Callum’s story has moved on a bit since I wrote this post. If you’d like to hear what he’s doing these days, please watch out for Part 2 of From Unschooling to University and Work: an Interview. I’ll be publishing the video on Thursday.

You probably know by now I have a Facebook page for my blogs! It’s called Sue Elvis Writes. I post links to resources and other interesting stuff,  photos, news… I update the page regularly. If you haven’t yet visited me, I’d love to see you on my page. Please stop by and say hello.

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  1. Reply

    Love this post, and no, I hadn't read it before. I can understand how you felt Sue, and I think I've shared with you before my parent's disappointment when I dropped out of uni.
    Out of interest, I wonder if Callum is content to stay in his current job or whether he has other plans. Maybe that's in your next video and I'll have to wait and see!

    1. Reply


      I think I have quite a few posts in the archives that not many people have read. When I originally wrote them, I didn't have many followers, only my sister Vicky!

      I remember you sharing your story. Yes, parents can get disappointed. They set their hearts on a particular pathway, thinking it's the right one, but sometimes children have their own ideas. I'm familiar with that story too!

      Callum doesn't plan to stay in his current job forever. He hopes to follow his current passions. You are quite right. We discuss that in my next video!

    • Hwee
    • June 30, 2014

    Sue, I can relate to what you're saying here, in terms of not letting our children's decisions become a benchmark of how we measure ourselves as homeschooilng mothers and the efforts that we've put in over the years of educating them at home. There is so much of unconscious or subconscious projection of our own hopes and dreams onto our children, isn't there? Even though Tiger is still too young for me to have any personal experience of the situation in your post, I can totally see it coming and am bracing myself for the day when he decides to take a path that I might not understand at the first instance. 🙂

    1. Reply


      I sometimes look at my children's strengths and imagine what I'd do if I had their talents. But I'm not them and I'm learning to let go. I guess it would be nice to be able to say, "I homeschooled all my kids and now one is a nurse and another is a lawyer and a third is a scientist… They all have successful careers." I could congratulate myself and then go write a best selling book! But life never works out that perfectly, even if it appears to, I'm sure.

      A path you might not understand at first instance… Oh yes! I bet one day everything will fall into place. We just need to trust. Things will probably turn out even better than we imagine.

  2. Reply

    I saw that picture of Callum hugging you, his beautiful mother, with a huge smile on his face. In my mind that is a sign of success!!!!! I hope someday my boys will do that! Right now, at ages 12 and 8, they roll their eyes and pretend that it is a chore when I hug or asked to be hugged by them. In the video Callum seems so kind and confident and very intelligent. He works hard at his job and long hours too. He is mature enough to know when the path he is on is not right for him and to get off it. Those, to me, are all signs of great success as a mother and homeschooler. I hope to have success like that with mine! 🙂

    1. Reply


      Oh yes, when my boys hug me it's absolutely wonderful. I can't get over how big they are. They really do care about me even though they are grown up. I think I am very fortunate. It won't be long before your boys will get to that stage too, I'm sure. One day you'll realise you're looking up at them, instead of down. They'll be wanting to hug you instead of the other way around. Boys and their mothers… very special!

      I've been thinking about changing pathways. I guess it's hard when things don't work out as we'd hoped. That can be disappointing. We have to start all over again with a new idea. It's not easy. It's not just about throwing in the towel and giving up. Yes, I think you're quite right. It's okay to do that!

      Virginia, I am sure your sons are a delight too and are headed for success. I can see you care about them deeply. You know what? I would love to visit you and meet your family!

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