It’s easy to tell our kids that things don’t always work out. And maybe because our kiddos get so much real-world experience through the homeschooling years, we all say we know that things don’t always go as planned.

But, now let’s be honest, it’s only easy for us to say that and feel that way when the disappointment happens to other people, right? Or is that just me?

This didn’t go as we’d expected

I was livid. OK, that may be a tad too strong a word, but I was sorely disappointed. Our son had decided to go the alternative-to-college route, after giving the traditional route a shot, and we were behind him a thousand percent.

But we knew he had challenges to overcome, the biggest one being time management. OK, more specifically, getting up in the morning. (Side note: it is NOT a good idea to do the homeschool-in-your-pajamas thing. We didn’t, per se, but we were pretty flexible with our schedules… Although it gets a good laugh on Instagram and Facebook, it doesn’t set your teen up for the real world. As in: your boss wants you to be on time and dress well when you come to work. At the very least, you shouldn’t come in at noon looking like you’re one of the “people of Walmart”, know what I mean? But I digress…)

Anyway, he was still hanging on to the sleeping late thing, and it reared its ugly head when he got into the real world. There were many other factors that came into play, but let me summarize by saying that effective, two-way communication between all parties was lacking. Despite the good face he was putting on with us, things were not going well at the office.

We just didn’t know how “not well” they were…

…until they came to a head a month before the program was to have ended, and he was let go.

Yeah, there was that. And it left us all a bit dazed and confused. And angry. And disappointed. And frustrated. And…well, as I said before: livid. (I guess that wasn’t too strong a word.)

So after a few months passed by, our son settled into a j-o-b, tho’ not exactly a career track, and I cooled my jets off enough to speak to the folks at Praxis.

How Praxis handled our disappointment

Let me preface this by saying “the fault…is not in our stars…” but was owned by both parties. And Praxis, in their defense, took the time to listen to my laundry list of issues. I spoke on a conference call to the new CEO and their Education Director. They were very open and transparent, asked questions, inquired as to how I thought they could have better-handled things, and took responsibility where appropriate. Obviously they were taking notes, too, because, towards the end of our call, the CEO repeated back to me what we had talked about, including some productive takeaways they could implement.

Additionally, they offered to reach out to our son and, if he was open to the idea, coach him and provide some networking opportunities in order for him to make some solid next steps. The ball’s in his court now, but the folks at Praxis are clearly doing their best to make things right.

While I, of course, wish things had ended better for our son, I, too, learned a great deal from this experience. Let me share some of those valuable life lessons with you…

Our takeaways from the alternative-to-college experience

1 – Remember that maturity doesn’t just “happen”

Just because your kiddo wants to do something out-of-the-box… something that might land him or her in a situation that is pretty adult… something that he or she will swear up and down “I got this!”…don’t just drop them off at the curb. Sure, they may be mature. And they might even BE able to handle it, but for the love of everything you’ve poured into them over the years, don’t assume it! Remember, they are still college-aged (and we know what THAT looks like on campus, right?). Even though they may not be living in the party-dorm, they still are in that age group…and there is still a bucket-load of maturity that needs to develop. And perhaps hard-won lessons in being a responsible adult.

2 – Work with the program he or she is in

In my experience, homeschooling parents (heck, I guess all parents) sometimes fall in one of two camps: the helicopter parent or the let-em-go-ready-or-not type. I admit that I hesitated to contact my son’s mentor or program higher-ups because I didn’t want to be seen as the former. I also didn’t want him to get the “momma’s boy” label. But the latter approach was clearly just as dysfunctional. There were things going on in our family’s life that were impacting his experience, things that our son wasn’t sharing for fear of looking unprofessional or weak. Looking back, just a little communication from us would have gone a long way… So if you’re not happy with what you think is going on, say so. Just keep a cool, level head when you speak to both parties: your teen and the program’s representatives. Nothing closes the doors to communication faster than rudeness, sarcasm, or unchecked irritation; nobody likes to be berated.

What to do when things don't go as planned3 – Ask the hard questions

We know our kids best, no doubt about that. But when they’re struggling, they sometimes do a stellar job of holding their cards (a little too) close. Ask them for specifics: what projects are they working on, what goals do they have, what is their next step in the plan, who are they working with… They may scoff at you ’cause they think you don’t know the terminology, or the process, or the people, or the expectations. But any parent worth his or her salt knows when their kid is shoveling it out. When their answers are vague, or worse yet, when they avoid answering or change the subject, well, that’s a yellow-bordering-on-red flag. Time to get real – and have them get real with you!

4 – Don’t overemphasize the negativity

Ya’ know, this won’t be the last time that a situation may not turn out as planned. We can almost guarantee that there will be other misunderstandings, failures, miscommunications, and misrepresentations in life. I have to admit that it was hard for me to tame the “mama bear” in me…hard to calm down and be encouraging rather than bring the hammer down (on both my son and the program!)…hard to remember to make this a teaching moment rather than a moment of finding justice. Learning to “pivot” in another direction is such a crucial and valuable skill in life – and what a gift it is for them to learn it early!

Given the crazily-rising cost of college tuition these days and the wild amount of possibilities available to our teens, college may not be the obvious next-step for your son or daughter. Even with the initial disappointment we felt in this experience, we all came away with important takeaways. It’s important to remember that college, too, may not exactly be a good fit, and college-bound or not, these lessons are all vital to learning.

In need of encouragement?

If your teen is going through a disappointing situation right now, they may be in need of some encouragement. I mean, life lessons aside, who really enjoys a struggle, right? Grab this set of printables and plain-text quotes to share with them. The pdf will automatically download, so you can give them a fresh perspective right away!

So that’s my experience. I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have. Have you tried an alternative-to-college experience, or are you considering one? Start a conversation in the comments!

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