As a child, I always thought that one day I'd go to college. Not that my family had tons of money and could easily pay for college tuition; I didn't even really know how I'd make it to college, but I just knew that I wanted to go. In fact, I believed I needed to go if I wanted to be successful, to make something of myself, and pursue any kind of career.
So after high school, I went college. My chosen field of study was missions; I had aspirations of going to the deepest, darkest parts of Africa and ministering to the people there. I paid for my college tuition that first year by playing piano for one of the college's traveling groups, and my parents paid for my room and board, which still added up to a staggering sum.
After my freshman year I met my husband, Jeff, and we were married after my sophomore year. I left school after my junior year, before completing my degree, and traveled with my husband to Alaska where I taught piano in a private school.
Since I left college after only three years, I was frustrated with not having finished my degree, even though I wasn't necessarily going to be using the degree in my current occupation. I just wanted to finish, to have that magical piece of paper that said I had finished college. At the time, I mistakenly believed that my self-worth was inextricably tied to that piece of paper. And working next to college-educated teachers all day long, I continually felt like a second-class citizen.
But the years went on, Jeff and I had our first two kids, and we had moved from Alaska to South Carolina. After we moved, I became a stay at home mom, teaching piano lessons from my home instead of at a private school. We were living in a rented apartment since we couldn't come up with a down payment for a home. Yet like many young couples with children, we really wanted a house of our own — a place we could call home. So we concocted a plan that entailed me getting a nursing degree so that I could get a job and make enough money that we could afford a house and start paying off debts.
So I went back to school. And I actually did very well in nursing school, making good grades, and learning a lot. And even though we were able to buy a house after I had been in nursing school for a year, I still stayed in school, hoping to be able to finish and get a full-time job that would help us pay off debts and get more financially stable.
But nearing the end of the nursing program, the stress of being a college student, working nights two days a week at a local hospital, as well as trying to be a mom to two toddlers, started to wear on me. I found myself crying on the way to clinicals, stressing out over the smallest things, and I was a complete wreck at home. A complete wreck.
And so I quit. I dropped out of nursing school with only three classes left before graduation.
I had finally come to the point where I couldn't envision myself — with any sense of peace — putting my kids in daycare while I worked a full-time job, and being able to see them only a few hours a day. And although I really wanted to finish my degree, to get that piece of paper and say officially that I'm a college graduate, I wanted to be a mom to my children even more. I wanted to be there to raise them.
Shortly after I dropped out of nursing school, I gave birth to my third child. I focused even harder at making my piano teaching business successful, and I worked especially hard at being a mom. There were still times when I felt guilty about quitting nursing school, and I even considered finishing my degree through an extension program so that I could at least say I had finished. But my common sense won out.
I was where I wanted to be. I was being a full-time mother to my children.
There have been times when someone has heard my story — how I've completed over five years of college, but don't have a degree to show for it — and they have accused me of being a quitter, of not being able to finish anything. Those comments hurt, of course, but then I remember that completing a college degree isn't what makes me successful. It's being in God's will, and making sure that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing.
My college experience may not have led to a college degree, but going to college, and specifically to nursing school, has definitely helped me homeschool my children better, especially in the areas of science. So I look back on all those years in college and I don't see them as a waste. Those years of college helped prepare me to be an even better homeschool mom.
And a homeschool mom is exactly what I want to be. And that's not something I'd trade for any college degree.