None of Our Children Attended Harvard

“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition.” Colossians 2:8

We successfully homeschooled four kids. They’re all decent adults, capable of thinking for themselves, independently minded, cognizant that nothing in life comes easy, and not easily fooled by the words of others.

Eyrie inspirational original oil painting of Grand Canyon sprite facing sunrise by Steve Henderson licensed wall art home decor at icanvas, framed canvas art, great big canvas,,, and

The spirit of independent thought is not something one acquires through a specific path. It may not make you a lot of money, but it will keep you free. Eyrie, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed wall art home decor at iCanvas, Great Big Canvas, amazon,,, Framed Canvas Art

Not one of them, however, graduated from Harvard. Nor did they attend the school. And when they did go on to higher education (not all of them did), they were decidedly older than 12.

Judging by the assorted pop-news articles I’ve been running into lately on Facebook, my children are — by contemporary homeschool standards — failures, because truly successful homeschooled kids

  1. attend Harvard,
  2. matriculate into Harvard, or some other acceptably elite post-secondary institution, well before the age of 15, and
  3. become doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs in the technology or engineering industry.

One article chronicled a family of 10, or maybe it was 8 or 11 or 15, that was “deeply Christian,” which was the unspoken explanation for why all their children past puberty attended Ivy League schools and entered into elite professions. The younger kids are presumably still stuck at home, working through calculus, intermediate Latin, and Keynesian economics for kids. My sincere sympathies extend to any outcast who has a leaning toward art, or music, or writing, and isn’t blessed with a last name like Warhol, Spielberg, or Cyrus.

Child of Eden inspirational original oil painting of little girl with green hat and radishes in garden, by Steve Henderson, licensed wall art home decor prints at icanvas,, and Framed Canvas Art

Quite frankly, all children — and adults — have the capacity to be amazing, because all children — and adults — are unique individuals, with unique gifts. Child of Eden, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed wall art home decor at Framed Canvas Art, iCanvas, and

As a homeschooling parent who made it through the gauntlet, I have read more than my share of articles about amazing families — most of whom gauge their amazingness by the number of children, at a very young age, that they have sent on to Harvard, and I’ve always wondered two things:

  1. How do they PAY for this? Harvard, or any private university — or public, for that matter — is not inexpensive, and even the best financial aid doesn’t fund the whole package. Private, elite schools are so named for a primary reason, most notably that many children from elite — read, rich — families attend there. Those without a significant amount of money face a major hurdle that the articles never address — and one would think that families of 8 or 10 or 12 — unless they have managed to secure a plushly lush reality show — would struggle to make it, especially upon the regular incomes that many ordinary families depend upon.
  2. For those who call themselves Christians — and theatrically point to God and their faith as the means of their affording elite options — why do they use the same standards as the corporate world to define success in the lives of their children?

Obviously, there’s nothing wrong about attending Harvard — but neither is attending there the pinnacle of everything right.

Being a doctor or a lawyer or a banker isn’t necessarily a bad thing — but neither are these professions the exclusive representation of all that is good, honorable, decent, or right. Many families, homeschooling or not, simply want the best for their children, and our standards are not too low if we desire that they make good choices, have enough to eat, find something to laugh about, and have people in their lives whom they love.

Within our anxiously frenetic, corporately controlled American society, however, the simple things in life not only are not enough, they are not a sign of a successful life. Being a decent, honest person is fine, we grudgingly admit, but only if the job title and yearly benefit package are concurrent. Sadly, to many Christians, the definition of success is the same as that of the world around us, only we toss the name Jesus in now and then.

True Christians, we aver, are happy and content and joyful and rich — with that last item in the list being the most significant, and truly successful homeschooling families produce children who attend Harvard.

So I guess we didn’t make it. We just raised kids who like to read, know how to milk goats, enjoy being around one another, can create something edible out of a can of tuna and a bag of noodles, and, most importantly, put a value upon their independence higher than the imagined status they receive from their job titles.

Independent thinkers: now those are a rarity.

But thankfully, attending Harvard is not the means to achieve them.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where I integrate Christianity into real life, and seek to dispel the myths that attach themselves to a serious belief in God.

This article is linked to Graced Simplicity, I Choose Joy, Hope in Every Season, Shine, Favorite Things, WonderWoman, Grace and Truth, Missional Woman, Fellowship Friday, Soul Survival, Family Fun Friday, Weekly Wrap Up, Monday Moments, Wake up Wednesday, That Friday, No Rules Weekend, The Jenny Evolution, My Joy Filled Life, Inspire Me Monday, A Mama’s Story, Faithful, Monday Musings, Nourishing Joy, Moms the Word, Mum Mondays, The Chicken Chick, Life in Balance, Motivation Monday, Homeschool HopTell It Tuesdays, Gracious Wife, Dedicated Homeschooler, Link Tuesday, Blessed LearnersHope in Every Season

About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. She writes about life, art, and the art of life.
This entry was posted in children, Christian, Culture, Daily Life, Education, Faith, Family, home, homeschooling, Lifestyle, Parenting, simple living and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to None of Our Children Attended Harvard

  1. Nita says:

    Sorry that is the takeaway you got from those articles. Homeschooling is so unique to each family. We are working parents and would never have been considered homeschoolers. Success is different for every person. But those story paint an amazing picture of what controlling our kids learning can gain them – if you want it. I’m visiting from weekly wrap up.

    • That’s exactly it, Nita! Homeschooling IS unique to each family, and the “success” of the children is so, so, so much more than where they wind up (or if they wind up) going to college — and yet, over and over and over again, that is the yardstick used to measure success.

      Homeschooling is a beautiful opportunity to teach, and live, independence — which is why I encourage parents, and their children, to not be squished into a narrow, confining definition of what constitutes life.

  2. Mrs Tubbs says:

    As long as they’re happy, healthy, capable of making friends and making their own way in the world independently, our job is done. You can do all of that without Harvard. Heck, some of them don’t manage that with Harvard! #mummymondays

    • So true — happiness does not come, guaranteed, with the diploma. Neither does learning. The good, deep things in life are the most abstract and most difficult to pin down — honesty, compassion, discernment, wisdom, knowing when to say what — when. These are things taught, generation after generation, around the dining room table.

  3. Thanks for bringing balance to the story. Sometimes I get the same feeling as you when I read the homeschooling success stories. As Christians we have many ways to measure success that are totally different from the world. My sincere congrats to the homeschooled Harvard grads and my encouragement to all the others!

    • You are welcome, Forever Joyful. We live in a media-saturated world, and too many Christians, unfortunately, steep themselves in it and try to combine it with their Christianity. But mass media, for the most part, exists upon advertising dollars to fund it, as well as sensationalism to keep people’s interest up. No one is going to read an article entitled, “Most Homeschooling Families Produce Decent, Intelligent Children Who Do All Sorts of Jobs,” but they will gravitate toward, “Homeschooling: Do It Right and Your Kid Will Be a Millionaire!”

      In an alternative writing universe, I write about art — — and the things that artists deal with are similar to what we all deal with in general: there are more than enough people out there to tell us how to live “successfully,” and the first step is to buy their book, watch their DVD, and pay for their program. I hear this same spiel in churches — churches that say they teach the truth of Christ — and I think, “You sound just like the corporate world.”

  4. Caroline says:

    It sounds to me like you raised great down to earth kids, Harvard or not sounds like you done a fab job #TwinklyTuesday

    • Thank you, Caroline. I love my kids. Wherever they are, however old they grow, a part of my heart is always with them. I can’t think of anything more precious, down on this earth, than having people to love in our lives.

  5. What a wonderful and thought-provoking piece.

    Every year, I sit down and write out my desires/dreams for my children. It never includes attending an elite school. Actually the success I want for my children includes having a deep and loving relationship with God. Everything else that follows is not even related to society’s standards of curriculum…. I want my children to have a heart to help others, to have practical life skills like changing the oil in a car, sewing, baking, and plumbing. I want my children to care about their community and to serve. These things, to me, are success.

    Thanks for sharing (and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop).

    Wishing you a lovely evening.

    • Thank you, Jennifer. That deep, abiding love of God, that resting in His infinite love, that following Him despite what society decrees as normal — that is, indeed a goal for every Christian. But it isn’t really — so many believers, especially those in corporately controlled, high-money, mass-media controlled societies like the U.S., think that they can mesh massive monetary success with the deep humility that is the result of a belief in God — indeed, they think that the money is the SIGN of this success.

      Getting past the white noise of our culture is really difficult, but not impossible.

      May you and your family just keep loving and supporting and being there for one another, because that is one of the true, precious, highly overlooked treasures of life.

  6. Wow, really? I know homeschooling is becoming more popular in Australia but I haven’t heard that there is any pressure for the children to go into elite universities. Although I will not be homeschooling my son, I do admire those parents I know that do. All I will be teaching my children is to do what makes them happy and what fulfils them. Heck, that’s what I ended up doing after 30 years and I”m in a career I love. No point going and doing something you don’t want to just for the sake of big noting! Thanks for linking up to Mummy Mondays!

    • That’s it, Eva — regardless of where or how we school our kids, as parents we are their first, best, and lifelong teachers — and it is a notable goal, indeed, to teach them to be content, creative, analytical, honest, and good. I don’t know how it is in Australia, but in the United States, where I live, the pressure is on — all the time and constantly — to perform, to reach for “success,” with success being defined as money, power, name, and fame.

      Of course, only a few really “enjoy” this type of success — but for the masses, we are held out the carrot to follow, with this limpid promise that we, too, can have what the elite has, if only we work hard enough. Of course, it’s a consummate lie, but as long as people continue to believe everything they’re told and order their lives by the “reality” they are shown on TV and movies, the lie will continue to deceive.

      Keep loving those kids of yours. The true reality lies in our family and friends — the people we have been given in our lives.

  7. nittygrittyhomeschooling says:

    Hi Carolyn! Lindsey here from Nitty Gritty Homeschooling & the Laugh and Learn Linkup. Just wanted to say that this is my chosen post to feature this week. You had me at the title. Though most likely my children will end up (at the very least) taking classes at our community college, or possibly getting a certificate or degree for a trade, it is not my focus at all. Because… though a degree can be a tool, it is the principles and (for us as bible students) spiritual qualities that will matter most. The most intelligent Harvard graduate can end up with the least amount of contentment in life without the right qualities and mentality, while the most humble individual can experience the most joy in life due to living by certain principles and godly training (I believe). So I have to say that I understand very much what your point was, details aside. Thank you for joining our linkup. Hope to see you around soon!

    • Thank you, Lindsey — I am honored.

      And I agree with you about what is important in life. As a Christian, I constantly look at what I think, what I strive for, what I consider important, and ask — “Is it? Is it really? Or is it something that our culture says is important?” The two don’t always — actually they frequently don’t — mix, but dang if we don’t convince ourselves that those who have a lot, have a lot because God has blessed them.

      But then we eclipse the importance of the blessings He does give us — humility, a sense of our need for Him, a strong desire to fulfill that need — and these are not things that you get, or want, within a life of complacence and entitlement.

      I could go on and on. I probably will, as I write in the future — because that misconception that we must, and can, have it all, is a weakening one.

  8. Sadia says:

    Different people measure success differently. But I have to argue with a very minor one of your points – there ARE financial aid packages out there that entirely cover a college education. My merit-based scholarship covered it all, including room and board.

    • I am glad, Sadia, that your packages covered everything! That must have been a huge relief. I do not argue with you at all that it is possible to secure a good package, based upon merit, need, or both — but for those who don’t, why put on more pressure? In not mentioning finances, AT ALL, the articles take away a very important piece of information that tends to be the primary one in most people’s minds. Ten articles, about ten different people, should be able to give ten different options, providing a sense of encouragement to the general populace that there isn’t just one way of doing things.

      Our own daughter received a substantial amount of financial aid — which did not come in the form of loans — but to finish the whole thing she worked three jobs. Her roommates, who took on the loans, opted to not work, and made fun of her for “not being fun.” In a debt-controlled, corporate society, incurring loans isn’t considered a problem; and worse, not paying them back isn’t considered a problem either. It’s so “normal,” it’s how most people plan on paying for a college education.

      The problem with “success,” and its many definitions, is that a primary definition of it is that a person makes a lot of money. Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with making a lot of money, and indeed, not worrying about the many costs of living (not the least of which are taxes, fees, surcharges, and mandatory insurance payments) is wonderful indeed — but making a lot of money does not necessarily mean that a person does so because he is 1) honest, 2) hardworking, 3) compassionate, and 4) godly. He may be these things, but within the corporate-influenced Christianity that many American believers follow, points 1,2,3,and 4 are intrinsically tied with one’s wealth, and indeed, that is why a person is wealthy.

      We get confused, and in worshiping wealth as a sign of God’s pleasure (and the lack of it as a sign of 1) His displeasure and 2) our laziness), we don’t see the value and worth of the unseen treasures that Christ talks about: God’s love, our freedom to rest in His strength, our not having to be Wonder People. Quite uncomfortably, finding the true treasures requires a difficult, extremely narrow path — one that many Christians loudly aver that they are taking, but whose very complacence in their material comforts shows that aren’t really looking for it.

  9. Allison says:

    Harvard and other Ivy League universities are well-endowed. All students receive aid depending on circumstances. Most pay very little to attend especially compared to state universities and less-endowed private colleges.

    I haven’t seen that many articles discussing homeschooling students attending Harvard. I remember one that you referenced but am not seeing it as a big push in the homeschool community. Those homeschooling students are clearly the minority–especially considering Harvard admission statistics. There are many more homeschoolers that attend other universities or don’t attend at all. I applaud all successful homeschoolers. Don’t be quick to judge others harshly for choosing differently than you.

    I have a friend who attended Harvard herself as did her husband. She homeschools their children, but her goal is for them not to attend Harvard. She doesn’t want her children to go Ivy League. However, she is equipping them to be successful. I feel the same. My desire is for my children to not go that route; however, I do want to set them up for success and help them reach their full potential–whatever that may be. If they want to start college early, that’s wonderful. Most high schools (public and private) offer dual-enrollment now. Many high-schoolers with goals for higher education now graduate with some college credits. Homeschoolers can do the same. I’m thankful for the many options my children will have and for all of the successful homeschoolers who have forged the way.

    • Hi, Allison: I, too, applaud successful homeschoolers — and that definition of success includes kids who think for themselves, recognize that success is so much more than money or name, and understand the value and worth of the people in their lives.

      This may or may not include attending college, Harvard or not. We have a very narrow, constricting view of success in our society, and I wanted to encourage homeschoolers, and people in general, to not pressure themselves into being something our highly corporate society insists that they be, in order to reach that nebulous definition of “success.”

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