Archive for college

What I’m Hearing is This: It’s About Nothing


This is what I’m hearing in this comedy clip:

“Everybody I know is a character going to college…and it’s about nothing…what’s college about? It’s about nothing…who says you have to have a story?…I have this idea about going to college for nothing…I think you may have something here!”

Seinfeld’s humor notwithstanding, please don’t let your son or daughter go to college without a real plot line. It doesn’t have to be “about nothing.” But if your young adult knows what his storyline is, then he will make decisions that will enhance his future. With his own storyline, then it could be a college degree for something.

Don’t have a storyline yet? I can help you find one that is unique for your child.


I wish I would have started as YOUNG as you did

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Guest Post by Renee Harris.

This question comes up frequently in homeschool communities:

“Is it worth sending the next children in line to college, when we are already not so sure that college is going to make a difference to the son that is currently in college? We are getting more flack from the possibility of not choosing college for our children, than when we first decided to homeschool years ago. What is your advice?”

Here below is my response:

I absolutely think it’s necessary to think outside the box with regards to our kids’ future and education.

Here’s what our family does:

Our two older kids are at the age where they’re starting to get questioned about where they’ll attend college, as if it’s a natural extension of their high school graduation. We’re training them to understand that college should work FOR them, not the other way around. It’s more important that they have a passion/skill/talent (call it what you’d like) that can bring in an income, and that’s the way we homeschool our kids.

My husband and I are using our skills as online business owners to teach our kids how to turn that talent into an income (notice I didn’t say “job” or “employee” – whatever they do to pay the bills in the future may as well be something they love doing). Beginning at age 12, it’s critical that we start identifying and developing that talent by giving them plenty of time to explore it in depth, while feeding the necessary subject content to go right along side it.

For example: our bladesmith will study history and science through the eyes of his craft, and he then picks up physics and chemistry as he needs it for his talent. Because he’s also a very good writer, we use the One Year Adventure Novel curriculum to weave what he knows about history and bladesmithing into his novel. It makes for a much more interesting book. He’s also active on forums (and Instagram)… because it is on the private bladesmithing forums where he’s able to interact with  Master Bladesmiths, and even meet them in person, which he’s done with a few of these men…

He’s almost 15 and what do the people at the top of his craft say to him?:

“I wish I would have started as YOUNG as you did”

I’m not too worried about what college he’ll attend, because IF he chooses to go to college, it will be a college that will support his craft and make him better at it. It’s hard to top one-on-one mentorship with the guys he’s already interacting with. He will have a variety of ways to monetize his craft online, so that he can work from home or anywhere in the world.

Yesterday I was chatting with my CSA guy about my 16 year old and told him that I was able to leave for 5 days and my son had no problem taking over the business with shipping the products and managing my emails. The CSA friend said, “Wow! He deserves his own email account!” Au contraire, mon frere! He already has several emails, his own business website that he created himself, and he’s on his second round of business cards. What’s most impressive is that he has a fantastic business that he loves that generates good income.

His current obstacle? He’s slowed down by the fact that he needs to help out around the house, he still needs to “graduate” from high school, and he needs to fit in regular kid life of taking hikes with his buddies and camping with his family. Here’s what he does… something unheard of a few years ago: (because we think outside the box).

If your homeschooler is approaching graduation and you haven’t thought out the following 4 years, then yes, maybe he/she should to go college. If you have a 12-16 year old, then I highly recommend you think through what the post-high school experience can look like.

I have to credit my husband for having our homeschool goals look different than most. Here’s some food for thought, because he always asks the “why” question :

Don’t let these excuses drive you to sending your kids off to college if there’s a better alternative (and maybe there’s not… it depends on the situation)

1.) I’m getting pressure from the relatives…. (is there a good reason to do what they tell you to do… like, are they paying all your bills?)

2.) The schools/gov’t are offering free/discounted education… (are you sure there are no strings attached, including an opposing agenda? Or the temptation of accepting something for free again and again? Or a mentality that will lure your child into Visa’s free t-shirt booth in exchange for your child’s signature?)

3.) My kids need the experience since they’ve been with me the past 18 years… (please clarify: as in the experience of being in a room full of their peers? or the experience of being on their own? or the experience of having a different teacher? I would discount the first, and find alternatives for #2 and #3)

4.) They’ll make more money if they go to college first… (Look at this differently than how we were raised. Times are a-changin’. It’s not entirely true, especially if they take a talent-based route through homeschooling.  Or, ask those who graduated from college in the past decade how that degree is working for them.)

5.) There’s status with a degree. (How many people have asked you where you went to school and what degree you have? We usually volunteer it, right? There’s also debt with the degree.)

All that said, we are NOT against going to college. Our kids may decide that they need a particular degree, certification or even status to do what they want to do in the future. If that’s the case, they’ll at least already have an income first, and then they can pursue the degree. They are strategizing what they need and where they’ll go to get it, but it won’t be to just attend Shasta College because they didn’t have anything else to do.

My husband has been blogging about this for the past 2+ years and has begun to create ebooks and video courses to teach people. Check out the guide “How to Discover and Develop your Child’s First 100 Hours of Talent.”

Here’s what his ideas are all about:

(Note: The 10K part doesn’t refer to money, but to time – it takes 10,000 hours of focused time to become really good in your niche, so the idea is to start early, when you have the energy, resources, and you’re not strapped with a mortgage, or, um… college debt.)

Renee Harris

Mom of 8


Can Street Children Use Your Talent ?


college for charity work.jpg

Is my skepticism of college education nullified if it is going to knowingly be used for serving the poor and the weak? And if it is fully understand that the student will not be able to earn a living from it? In other words, it has no value in the marketplace, but the charity value still makes it worthwhile for the student to invest the time and money.

For example: you and your student hope that in her adult life she will be able to help street children in Sao Paulo, Brazil by using her skills as a master violinist.  Clearly, the street children have nothing of real value to offer in exchange that could possibly pay you back for your student’s time and expense. To add to that, the children may often not even understand the value you bring to them that starts the change in their lives until years later.

I will answer that I still maintain skepticism of expensive college degrees, even for charity work. Here’s why.

Putting aside other considerations for the moment, I would still recommend that if a long-term talent is being developed solely to be given away freely to others, then some of the same principles apply for talent applied to charity as to talent that is being developed to bring market value to others. Specifically, the principle still applies that there should be a continuous effort to discover where and how the talent will be applied to bring added-value. Normally, the marketplace recipient would tell you if your music is adding to their quality of life: if they never buy your violin concert tickets or you can’t get others to play your compositions, then clearly you are not meeting their wants and desires.

But in the case of charitable giving, you still have to have a goal you want to accomplish with your talent. If your goal is to change the lives of street children, will your violin playing change their lives? There is one way to find out for sure BEFORE you commit to four or six years of advanced formal training. You test the value by attempting to apply an aspect of your talent to a charitable group already working with orphans.

You may discover, as you attempt to play your violin, that what really brings in the street children is…warm food…or rap music…or loud speakers playing MP3…or staying up through the night to help with detox from drug addiction. It may even be your violin music that brings them in, after all (pardon my extreme doubt here). But there’s the key. You will know for certain as you attempt to gradually work it out. That is why I encourage students to gradually discover their long term talent. If it is not violin playing that really helps street children, but instead raucous loud story telling with a rap bent to it, then all your years of expensive violin training are really doing nothing to change the lives of those you hoped to impact. If it’s loud story telling, are you ready to have your student stop college and instead invest in practicing that skill on the street and in clubs for four years? If you are not ready to have your child do that, you may be trying to justify a fantasy status education. It will turn out to be an education that will neither help your child to earn a living nor help the needy to climb out of their difficult situations.

What about getting a medical degree to help the poor? – this has not only charity value, but true market value.

What about bringing your business degree and experience to help refugees start businesses of their own? – this has not only charity value, but true market value.

What about an engineering degree to help dig wells and build charity hospitals? – again, this has not only charity value, but true market value.

Clearly, some expensive college degrees have straightforward charity value while also having market value. Others are much more dubious. Of course exceptions can be found. But make sure you choose wisely your college degree even if it is for a lifetime of work in charity.

If you could use an approach that gently guides your child over time to developing a talent that is very valuable and useful to other people, I recommend you fill out the worksheets available in my talent guide.


The Knowledge Gourmet Mentality

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Parents, don’t allow your child to fall victim to the Knowledge Gourmet mentality. Read this metaphor and see how long it takes you to figure out exactly what I’m talking about.

Paul has an amazing life. In his mind, it’s pretty grueling, but you and I wouldn’t mind a day or two of in the life of Paul. After all, he’s a Knowledge Gourmet. Each day Paul spends at least three hours in three different restaurants, sampling, nibbling, engorging on the restaurant’s “special.” He’s there to taste and enjoy everything from garlic fries to coq-au-vin, from Dutch apple pie to Zabajone gelato. Every menu is memorized, every taste is logged into a book, and part of his work involves being able to recite the biographies of every chef he meets. Along with the tastings comes the Venn diagram: he must compare and contrast the Asian cuisine with the American, noting even the differences between the wall art and types of napkins used.  Clean napkins are there at his disposal, and they miraculously appear with every swipe of food from his lips. I neglected to mention that this is not a weekend retreat for Paul.

This work involves daily restaurant visits and weekly reports that will take him four years to work through. Before you ask how Paul pays for this experience, let’s first talk about his goal, which is far more important. Paul’s plans are to become the next big celebrity chef. Good thing he has such a lofty goal, because reaching it will pay the restaurant tabs, right? His parents sure hope so, since they co-signed the tabs to prove their dedication to their son’s future. The government, too, wants to invest in Paul, so they happily send him the paperwork to promise him both grant money, and an amazing loan opportunity with low interest rates he won’t have to pay back on until he’s finished with the program.

I will stop this metaphor at this point because this is so obviously preposterous and foolish that someone would so easily confuse information consumption for the ability to produce. Some occasional fine dining here and there, yes, but he should have been starting at the stove and learning the business management of a restaurant in order to later have a chance at becoming a celebrity chef.  Now all he will have is the cruel memory of four extravagant years, followed by years of paying back debt and probably working on anything but the culinary world (unless it involves a cash register and a “would you like fries with that?”).

Unfortunately, without careful planning, parents approach their child’s college experience the same way: apply, get accepted and then acquire a taste for the most expensive educational courses possible. This teaches the child how to consume information, but without producing anything genuine of his own.  Some of the most abused college education by knowledge gourmets are those who pursue music degrees, history degrees, fine art degrees and English literature degrees.  It is consume, consume, consume, but as the formal education comes to an end, all their involvement in that world of knowledge also comes to a complete stop. Why? That’s because there is no training or ability to produce anything of value for others and the money that has thus far fueled this most delicious consumption has come to an end.

The moral of this story: if you wait for your child to turn 18 to suddenly look for a talent direction, you might have already raised up a Knowledge Gourmet who is headed for years of post-college heartache. Instead, start early in his teen years looking for ways to gently build up a long-term talent and get him used to producing something of value for others in that domain. Then when he’s ready for college, he and you will know which educational investments will make the most sense to his future and his family’s future. And yes, somewhere in there, there’s still room to enjoy a little bit of Zabajone gelato after all.

Your child doesn’t have a serious talent yet? Drop your haphazard two-year search for a unique talent of his own down to only seven days by following my talent discovery method. Order and download my e-course “How to Discover and Develop Your Child’s First 100 Hours of Talent.”


Grades Matter But Caveat Emptor!

Ponder this excerpt of a blog post from the author Daniel Schwabauer. He is best known as the celebrated host of the online “One Year Adventure Novel” program for getting young people to finish their real first novel. He gives this cautionary bit of advice to aspiring writers about demanding and interesting, but in-the-end essentially irrelevant university degrees:

“I graduated from Kansas University with a Masters degree in Creative Writing, an experience from which I am still recovering. Not that I mean to disparage KU’s writing program. Science fiction notable and KU Professor Jim Gunn was one of the best instructors I’ve ever had.

What bothers me is the fact that I left KU having learned a lot about words, and very little about story. This is remarkable considering my experience with a wide variety of classes and teachers. I studied British and American literature, Shakespeare, drama, poetry, short fiction, novels, technical writing, ancient myths, medieval English, essays, even sci-fi. I studied every conceivable kind of writing. But…”

This candid reflection by a professional writer about college helps me to revisit this subject of grades in full context. Remember that in a previous post I disparaged the pursuit of good grades. Here I come back to add a disclaimer and clarification of what I mean. Good grades do matter, but in specific situations only. You need to be sure that your child fits that specific situation or you might be missing out on having your child construct a real life-long talent that will change your son or daughter’s life.

Follow with me the chain of reasoning as to why good grades do matter for some children:

  1. Your child getting good grades matters now if you are intending for your child to pursue a specific program of study at the university level.
  2. And you must have a researched plan that the university program is indeed preparing your child to do something directly related to his long term plan.
  3. And you must be convinced that the university program your child will pursue is the most efficient route to his success in the talent field he wants to be in.
  4. And some paths require you to go through university, such as to get medical training to become a doctor, and an engineering degree for certifications in order to be allowed to work.

However many children intending to go to college, do not fit the above criteria. Be careful as your child may find himself seduced by the idea of campus life as an easy answer as to what he is going to do with his first few years of adulthood. A talented young writer for example should probably do everything in his or her power to stay away from college.

If your child is already very good at producing work others want to read, universities will want to recruit your child to beef up their star status in hopes of recruiting other students who can and will pay full tuition. This come-hither inducement with scholarships and preferential tuition rates can be dangerous to your child’s talent development. Why? Because the skills acquired during the course of a university English degree are designed for consumption and analysis of the works produced by others – not for teaching your child how to create amazing new works. So unless your child is intending to become a high school English teacher, the college degree will set him back severely in both time and money. This time set-back is often serious enough that your son or daughter may never get back on track to the original aspirations. Caveat emptor!

College Is Not Job Training

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Find out first if your child’s talent can benefit from a college certificate. It may be that to be an overwhelming success in his field of talent, your child needs to travel swiftly down a very different path.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Guest Post by Levi Heiple:

College is not job training, it’s a certification program.

I went to college with the faulty assumption that many others my age have. Namely, that the path to success was to go to college, pick a major, get a degree, and then a job offer would soon follow.

College is not a direct path to a job.

You have to create your path to a job. The degree shows potential employers that you made a good investment with your time.

Undoubtedly, having a college degree is better than not having one. But the question is, “at what cost?” For some people, college is not a good investment.

Help your kids answer this question: “where will my income be coming from, and will those people care whether or not I have a college degree?”

If you are not sure, look at successful people in your child’s field of interest. Visit their websites. See if they put an emphasis on their educational background. If they don’t, then their credibility obviously doesn’t rest on their educational background.

If successful people in the field are emphasizing their degrees, what were their majors? Is it a bachelor degree? Master? PhD?

By asking these questions before sending your children to college, you can save a lot of grief and wasted time and money.


About Levi Heiple

Levi Heiple is a writer/entrepreneur who specializes in electronic training and support systems. He connected with Jonathan Harris after being asked tutor his son, Caleb. You can sign up for Levi’s free weekly tip on “reading for innovation” at You can find his professional website at  You can find his web design service at


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Does Mother Always Know Best?

mother knows best

Guest Post by Levi Heiple:

Your friends and family do not always know what’s best for you.

Before I went to college, all my family thought that I should be a music teacher. I was on the church worship team. I enjoyed music. I had a good knack for it (at least relative to my friends and family’s abilities).

However, after going through an intense music program for a couple of years, I realized that these “gifts” were not so extraordinary. I was consistently the “slow” one in my percussion studio. I never made any auditioned ensembles.

I spent more time practicing than most of the others, but I still just didn’t have the “chops” to keep up.

I should of realized that having a good knack for playing along with a band or picking up on some guitar strumming patterns is really not enough to warrant a lifelong pursuit of that skill.

There are millions of people who have a “good knack” for a lot of different things. That’s not the same as being prepared for success.

In retrospect, I should of realized that my greatest ability was in optimizing systems and breaking down complex information. Oddly, nobody noticed this ability. Nor was I told that I could make a living with these skills.

Nobody I knew personally was an entrepreneur or had any knowledge about the technical communication field.

Family and friends have a limited perspective of the world, namely the world that is their work and their leisure.

The real insight that family and friends can bring is what someone is not good at. I failed biology class in high school. If I told my parents I wanted to be a biologist, they would have laughed at me.

There are many paths to success. There are universal ways to fail. Steer your child clear of failure, but don’t let your limited perspective of the world dictate the supposed path of success. The world is too complex and changes far too rapidly for anyone to know the right path for someone else’s success.

About Levi Heiple

Levi Heiple is a writer/entrepreneur who specializes in electronic training and support systems. He connected with Jonathan Harris after being asked tutor his son, Caleb. You can sign up for Levi’s free weekly tip on “reading for innovation” at You can find his professional website at  You can find his web design service at



Updated: May 2014

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to College


Guest Post by Levi Heiple


I am finishing up my last few credits of a bachelor’s degree. It’s a bachelor’s of science in music theory. I will leave with $20,000 in student debt. The degree will not help me much in my professional pursuits. Don’t let your child make the same mistakes I did.

If I could go back in time and tell myself five things before going to college, here is what I would say:

#1: College is not job training, it’s a certification program.

A college degree will not get you a job. You have to create your own job opportunities. A degree is simply a certification that shows that you made a good investment with the first several years of your adult life and are therefore more likely to have a good work ethic.

#2: Your friends and family do not always know what’s best for you.

Your friends and family only know about the vocations that they have first-hand experience with–the jobs that are on the surface. There are thousands of jobs that they don’t even know about. Browse through the Occupation Outlook Handbook. Talk to professionals in an industry that interests you. See what kind of work is being done.

#3: Money is a means of fulfilling your calling.

Get a solid grasp of the purpose of money. Don’t think that it won’t be important. Money is not evil, it’s a tool that allows you to do what you think is most important in life. Don’t get a dead-end degree. You’ll regret it soon enough.

#4: Take a complete inventory of your abilities.

You likely have more than one talent. Which ones can be the most lucrative for you? How can you combine them to gain a competitive advantage?

#5: Learn about the lifestyle of your career of interest.

Just because you enjoy doing something, doesn’t mean that you’ll enjoy it as a vocation. Meet real-life professionals in the field. See if you can tag along for a day. Find out what the “real-world” is like. It might not be what you want.


Count the costs before you send your child to college. If you do not know exactly what the degree will help your child achieve, it might be best to reconsider. There might be better investments.

About Levi Heiple

Levi Heiple is a writer/entrepreneur who specializes in electronic training and support systems. He connected with Jonathan Harris after being asked tutor his son, Caleb. You can sign up for Levi’s free weekly tip on “reading for innovation” at You can find his professional website at  You can find his web design service at


Grow Your Child’s Talent Like You Hike a Forest Trail

English: Hikers walking along the in the Larim...

Growing your child’s talent means getting him smart about taking advantage of his unique opportunities (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Growing your child’s talent to 10,000 hours of world-class talent is akin to hiking forest trails. At many bifurcation points along the trail you will have to make decisions as to whether to continue to the left or to the right. Some side-paths will only be visible and available to your child because of his unique position in time, place, and in his network of relationships with others. Some clearly marked trails will be overcrowded with lots of other traditional students: noisy and impossible to get around to the front of the crowds blocking your child’s way. In the same way, you should encourage your child to keep moving forward, but to jump onto different side-paths as he sees opportunities that will take him around obstacles and onto unique and less crowded learning paths.

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A 2,000 fold Advantage

A powder snow avalanche

Starting a talent at a young age is like the power of a snow avalanche – your child will accumulate so much knowledge and practice before age 20 that he will sweep away all competitors in his wake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Part of the power of putting in 10,000 hours of deliberate focus on a talent is that it makes it very hard for those who adopt a talent late in life (such as right after college) to come anywhere close to out-performing those who develop their talent early in their childhood. Consider for example that if a child writes about some aspect of his talent, say WWII history, three times a week from age 10 to age 20, that he would have put in over 2,000 writings well before the average college student has even started on a major that has a similar historical focus. If your child majors in history with a WWII focus, he has already out-thought all the others on that same subject by a 2,000 fold factor! Where others don’t even know they could eventually have a unique voice, your child would come across as amazingly confident, dripping with conceptual and tactical details, and supremely at ease in his already well-developed voice. At that point in time, of all the student portfolios, who do you think a college professor or a prospective employer would rather have a second interview with?

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She Got a Degree Instead of a Talent

Emory in autumn

She could have developed a talent, but instead her parents spent  $120,000 on an English Lit degree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christine was a very studious homeschooled girl who went to a prestigious college where she studied the classics of literature and got amazing grades. Her parents generously and sacrificially spent $120,000 of their hard earned money for that 4 year university degree. But where is she now? Now she’s stuck working in a small low-paying cafeteria job with no marketable skill. Consider how much happier she would be had her parents bucked conformity and spent instead the $120,000 developing her writing skill and her love of California history to such an extent that she made a generous living writing wildly popular and historically accurate Gold Rush themed scripts for downloadable Murder Mystery Dinner parties.

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