Let’s just say we have some poor relations. The parents are about our age, but started having a large number of kids in high school. They’re really not good with finances, though a lot better than they were a decade and a half ago. There’s a long way to go. They are GREAT parents and have great kids. But in terms of money and career it hasn’t turned out so well (better than a lot of our other relatives, but they’re still below median family income for the US and struggle most months to pay their bills on time). They live in a small rural town with few opportunities… even minimum wage jobs are scarce.
We especially like their oldest daughter (age 17). She’s a reader, creative, artistic, and fantastic with her little sibs. She’s also got good taste in anime. Unfortunately she’s very math-phobic and it shows up in her grades.
She wants to work with kids when she grows up; her biggest ambition is to be a teacher. The kind of special subject certification she wants only allows one year at a community college before transferring to a state school. We printed out the info on college she isn’t getting from her guidance counselors or parents, what classes she needs to take before she can even apply to a state school, got her books to study for the ACT and SAT if she wants (explaining that better grades and scores mean more money). DH sat her down and answered a lot of questions that she had about college itself and college-going. (Questions that from my position of privilege I’d known the answer to since I was 4 and sitting in on my mom’s classes when the baby sitter didn’t show up.) We printed out BLS occupational information on unemployment in her discipline and salaries and so on so she could make an informed decision about her specific subject.
Last summer we paid for her to go to a subject specific week-long camp… She was so excited the half year leading up to it. She went though an application application process similar to that for college. She worked really hard on her application package and did a great job and got in. She also got financial aid so we were only out $250 instead of $500.
On day 2 of the camp she begged to go home because she was homesick.
She also didn’t get into the main class she wanted. She did get into two other classes she wanted but didn’t enjoy her third class enough to even remember what it was.
We asked if she wanted to go again this summer, the last summer before she graduates. She said no.
We’re saving for the two oldest to go to college (just tuition– they’d still need to fund their own living expenses). Should we be doing that? Their aunt majored in education at the expensive flagship and ended up with 5 kids and working 3 part-time jobs with no benes that she could have done without the degree. My MIL thinks it is foolish for us to spend this kind of money, and is worried about them dropping out like another cousin and wasting the degree.
Are we making a big mistake? Would the oldest be better off without us doing this? We’re trying hard not to push her into a specific image, but we are pushing her in the direction she would need to go to do what she wants to do… is it too much?
The second, two years younger, doesn’t have anything specific in mind, so we were thinking we’d be able to hack 2 years community followed by 2 years in a state school if she wants to do that. But maybe she’d be better off if she had to work for a while before getting any education. She keeps getting into trouble about boys (nothing serious so far, but enough to get her grounded) and doesn’t pay much attention to her school work at all. But both their grades go up whenever we let them know we’ve contributed to their 529s.
I don’t want to mold them into any specific form– but I do want them to have the kind of advantages their parents didn’t have… I don’t want them to be broke and pregnant in high school, or broke and working 80 hour weeks (or not able to find any job) still unable to pay the bills in their 30s.
How much influence do we have over kids that aren’t our own? Should we?
Update: Any of our academic readers want to weigh in on this one?