Friday, April 24, 2009

Now That's Parenting

Today's Chicago Tribune has a story about a family with six kids who all got PhDs from prestigious schools -- 5 in neuroscience, one in paleontology. It provided me with encouragement (not that I feel my kids have to get PhDs), because it showed that so many of the things I believe in can really work:
1) Choosing parenting over financial gain.
The dad quit his job as a state (nondegreed) materials engineer to be a letter carrier because, IN THOSE DAYS, that job allowed him to get home early and be with his kids. (My dad was a letter carrier, and while he didn't work short hours -- he often worked overtime) he was in fact usually home in the afternoon, while my kids' dad is never able to get home until shortly before bedtime.
The mom stayed home until the last of the six kids entered kindergarten, but then the second the last one was out of the house, she started on her master's degree.
The family was obviously thrifty. In the newspaper picture, you can see the four girls, who came after the boys, are all wearing boys' shirts.
2) Decent pay and benefits help families build the American dream.
Delivering the mail and teaching school are not glamorous jobs, but because both are union jobs that have historically protected their workers, they allowed these people to sustain their large family and get them all off to college.
3) Good public schools and scholarship funding lift up the population.
All the kids went to public school and then to low-cost Northern Illinois University, with scholarships, and then won scholarships to the more renown schools where they did their graduate work.
4) Good parents encourage exploration, not 24/7 studying.
Just read the piece to hear both parents talk about the way they encouraged their kids and what fun they found in all of it. You'll get the idea.
The only down note in the piece is that the parents for some reason eventually got divorced. Of course it's none of our business why, but as a parent wanting to follow their example, I sure wish I knew what went wrong.
I'm a reporter, so I'm not one of those people who think the news should be full of happy stories. But it IS nice when every day brings another story of child abuse and family decay to see a story of a family that worked, at least long enough.

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