by Lee Binz
Why bother with getting your kids ready for college when you feel certain they won’t go?
Because sometimes, when you least expect it, teenagers will change their minds. Stop laughing! You know it’s true!
College preparation makes a lot of sense for students who plan on going to college. College- bound students need course work that will prepare them for their college studies. Students need to take college admission tests, and parents need to learn about grades and credits. College-bound students need a homeschool diploma and a homeschool transcript. College preparation for college-bound students is expected.
But have you ever considered what a college preparatory home education could provide for students who will not go to college?
College Preparation for the Non-College-Bound
Rigorous academics can benefit children even if they are not heading to college. Without college, a homeschool education may be the only formal education a student will receive, and you should try to make it the best education possible. By focusing on requirements for the college bound, you will ensure your children aren’t doing the minimum, but are instead striving for excellence. They don’t have to achieve a certain prescribed level of excellence, because excellence boils down to keeping your children challenged, and giving them a wide body of knowledge and experience. Calculus does not make the difference between a college-bound and non college-bound teen. Instead, it is striving to learn that will ultimately prepare a child for college and for life.
Teenagers can be 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 thought it was a slam dunk that he would become a mechanic. That is, 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 for all. 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.
Provide Maximum Flexibility
Preparing your students for college can help them 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 simple. Four credits of English, four credits of math (at their level each year) four credits of social studies, three credits of science (with at least one science lab), two or three credits of a foreign language, two credits of PE, one credit of fine arts, and enough other coursework to add up to 22 credits or more.
Christians Attend College
What about Christians? Can Christian parents send their children to college in good conscience? After all, college is filled with faulty humans. Then again, somebody will need to build the airplanes we rely on, and care for us in the hospital. I hope those people are 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.
As homeschoolers, we have spent years explaining to people the reasons we keep our children safe at home. Those reasons don’t change when our children grow up – it’s our children that change. In fact, they become adults.
The Bible says:
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”
~1 Corinthians 13: 11
Adults must interact with a fallen world on a regular basis. Firm in their faith, adult Christians are able to negotiate the contrasting world views with their own beliefs intact. At some point, your child will be ready to “become a man” (or woman) and move on into adult life – and that may include college.
Train up your children in the way they should go, and when they become adults, encourage them to engage the culture and change the world.
“Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”
This is a command, directly from the Lord. That verse just screams for our attention. He doesn’t say, “Go into all the world, but not college.” If college is in your child’s future, prepare them to face it as a mature adult. Of course, you don’t have to throw your children into the lion’s den either. Responsible Christians don’t generally choose to hang out in bars or clubs for fun. So work with your students to choose their college carefully, weighing the options.
Our Academic History vs. Their Academic Future
College plans can materialize out of nowhere. As parents, we know what we know, and sometimes we forget that our children may have their own plans 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.
There is one trick 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.
Academic Preparation Can’t Hurt!
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.
Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, specializes in helping parents homeschool high school. Get Lee's Free Resource Guide, "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School." You can find her at www.HomeHighSchoolHelp.com.
I have a group where we meet once a quarter for dinner and discuss college-prep plans as it relates to home educated students. Your book was at the top of my "must-haves" list!
You've been a tremendous help in getting my husband and me organized to tackle the whole college prep scenario, and your book was THE best I bought at the Midwest Convention (and I purchased quite a few!) Thanks for all you do, and I'm looking forward to using the materials I purchased last night. You're awesome!
Thank you for your help to the homeschooling community!
~ Michele in Mt. Juliet, TN