High school is like driving on auto-pilot. You arrive at the destination, but can't remember driving! When you homeschool high school, sometimes life goes by and your child is a senior before you know what happened.One Tuesday, a panicked parent of a senior in high school called. "I'm in a bind! I just found out that I need a high school transcript to go with my child's college application by Thursday. Can you help?" As much as I would love to help everyone all the time, sometimes it's not possible unless parents plan ahead. Planning ahead allows for the possibility of college.
College preparation is critical for students who plan on going to college. College-bound students need course work that will prepare them. Students need college admission tests, and parents need to learn about grades and credits. College preparation for college bound students is expected.What can college preparation provide for students who will NOT go to college? Why bother getting your kids ready for college when you feel certain they won't go? Consider for a moment how many times your children have changed their mind. When you least expect it, on almost any topic, teenagers will change their minds. Stop laughing! You know it's true! And teenagers may even change their mind about going to college.
College Preparation for the Non-College Bound
Rigorous academics can benefit children even if they are not heading to college. When high school may be their only formal education, you want it to be the best. Focusing on requirements for the college bound will ensure challenging academics, rather than doing the minimum. Excellence boils down to keeping your children challenged, not achieving a certain prescribed level. Calculus does not make the difference between a college-bound and non-college-bound teen. Instead, learning how to learn is what prepares a child for college and for life.Teenagers are moving targets, and it's hard to know exactly where they will end up in their lives. My good friend was convinced that her child was not college bound. Her child experienced some learning challenges, hated math, and loved working with anything mechanical. She was convinced he would become a mechanic, right up until the day he changed his mind. "Mom," he declared, "I've decided to be an engineer!"
Life would be much easier if our children would just make up their minds once and stick to it. Unlike changing dinner plans from enchiladas to spaghetti, changing from "vocational training" to "college preparation" is a little more challenging. By planning a college prep high school, you don't have to worry so much about changing plans. You and your student will be ready for anything.
Engage the Culture Through College Preparation
Sometimes it's not the child that is hesitant about college, it is the parent. Should Christians allow their children to go to college? After all, college is filled with faulty humans – both students and faculty. But without the availability of college education, our modern lifestyle would be impossible. Someone needs to build the airplanes we rely on, and care for us in the hospital. I hope those people are highly skilled Christians with integrity, values, and knowledge. College education is a requirement for some careers. For many people and for many reasons, college is the next step after high school.It's a challenge for homeschooling parents, however. We spend much of our homeschool years explaining to people the reasons we keep our children safe at home. Those reasons don't change when our children grow up. Instead, it's our children that change. In fact, they become adults. The Bible says:
"Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation."
The Great Commission comes directly from the Lord. That verse just screams for our attention. It doesn't say, "Go into all the world, but not college." It doesn't say "Preach the good news to everyone EXCEPT to those on college campuses." If college is in your child's future, prepare them to face challenges as a mature adult. Don't be afraid of college. If that is the Lord's calling, they can proceed with faith.
Our History and Their Future
College plans can materialize out of nowhere. As parents, we know what we know, and we know the plans God made for our own lives. Sometimes we forget that our children may have their own plan and mission for the future. If college didn't make sense for us, it's natural to think it won't be a fit for our child. But if college suddenly becomes the next step, you'll be thankful their high school years prepared them. Instead of focusing on your academic history, focus on providing flexibility for your student's academic future. Preparing our high school students for college will help them to be prepared for anything.For reluctant students, consider this strategy I learned over the years. At some point along the way, teenagers will usually stumble on some career idea that might require some college. When they mention an idea like that, try to grab on to it. "You want to work in Finance? That's a great idea!" Then explain how their goal might require some college. Even if they change their mind, you can still encourage them, "Honey, just in case you decide to work in Finance again, let's get prepared for that." Encouraging teenagers to focus on their loftiest career goals can keep them focused on college planning. If they use that preparation to go to college, that's great! If they don't go to college, they are still well prepared for any career in their future.
Always Be Prepared
College preparation can help your student if they go to college, but it can also help them if they don't. Some children waffle back and forth before deciding about future plans, and rigorous academics can help you be prepared. You can prepare your children for college as part of your homeschool, taking to heart the Boy Scout motto, "Always be prepared."Providing a college prep education is not terribly complicated. You can continue to homeschool the same way you always have, learning with reckless abandon. You don't have to change your curriculum, or give tests in every subject, or chain your student to a desk. Homeschoolers of every stripe have been successful with college admission. Don't change what has always worked for you, just set your eyes on colleges, so you have the ultimate flexibility when your student graduates.
College Preparation is Harmless
Plan for college and provide rigorous high school academics. If they use it to go to college – great! If they don't use it for college, does the hard work go to waste? Not at all. College preparation can help your child be a better employee or entrepreneur, a wiser citizen, and a more confident homeschool parent. Preparing for college can't hurt your child, and it can provide flexibility for the future.Each year in the spring I get phone calls and emails from panicky senior-year parents. "Help!" the cry, "I haven't prepared, and my daughter needs to go to college!" It's a difficult situation that can catch parents unprepared. Instead, consider the other parents that contact me for help. Parents with students in seventh, eighth, or ninth grade nervously reach out for information, and find out it's not as difficult to prepare their children for college as they may have expected. When I talk with nervous parents in middle school and early high school, I can almost guarantee they will be successful. Starting college preparation early can allow time for mistakes and restarts. Gaps can be filled, and dilemmas solved easily when you have the luxury of time. College preparation can only help. It will do no harm.
Live without regrets. Be prepared for anything, because with teenagers, "anything" can happen.
This article is a brief excerpt of my Coffee Break Book, Options After High School: Steps to Success for College or Career. Regular price is $2.99 on Kindle. Once you've read it, I would be so grateful if you left a quick review to let me know what you think. Thanks so much!