For many years, my husband and I waffled between encouraging our son to go to college and discouraging him from going to college. We both had college degrees, but we could see where college had many pitfalls, both academically and morally, and we just weren’t sure we wanted him there.
While I don’t want this post to turn into a discussion of the merits (or lack thereof) of higher education, I do want to say that even if our son had chosen not to go to college, we still would have given him a college-prep education. And now that he is entering his junior year at a local private university with a 4.0 GPA, I am happy that we decided to prepare him for college no matter what path he chose. In fact, we are making the same choices for our other children as well because it is our belief that a college prep type education is a life prep education – at least the way we go about it!
Here’s what your homeschooled kids need to be ready for college (and life!)…
Teach your children to love learning
I cannot stress this enough! The thing I hear the most from adults who never went to college is that they hated school. In fact, it seems only public schooled children who are self-motivated end up liking school, and often even their enjoyment of school is squashed at some point.
School shouldn’t be drudgery. It is a place to explore passions, search out new information, and boldly go where God leads (forgive the nod to Star Trek there)! And it all starts with learning to LOVE learning! If your child has a love of learning, the world is wide open to them – college or not! Any information they need, they know how to get it, and they don’t need someone telling them how to do it. They are self-motivated because they enjoy the process of learning something new and mastering it!
How do you teach this love of learning? By letting them explore their passions. By letting them infuse themselves into the curriculum. By respecting their individuality (the total opposite of a government education!), and allowing them room to figure things out.
Which leads me to the next point…
Teach them to do things on their own
No matter what curriculum you choose, always leave room for independent study. Don’t micromanage their assignments and their schedule. Give them the tools they need and let them fly!
One of the biggest things my son noticed during the early months of his Freshman year in college was that most of his classmates needed to be told how to do everything. They couldn’t choose what color of pen to use, where to sit, how to do an assignment, or how to find the answers for the test. They wanted EVERYTHING lined out for them, rather than trying anything on their own.
I’m not a helicopter parent. I don’t micromanage my children’s time. Yes, we have rules and yes, I help them if they need it, but I want them to know how to do things on their own. And when one of my children needs a little pushing in that direction, I do it…no matter how hard it is (can anyone say 11th grade Biology fish dissection?). Very few public schools allow for trial and error. They don’t have time for that, and so they hand-hold everything from what color pen to use to where to sit and beyond.
Not every subject has to be easy
Some homeschoolers are under the assumption that if their child does not enjoy a certain subject or lesson, it is our job to change curriculum, homeschooling tactics, or drop it altogether. However, that isn’t how life is, now is it?
Some parts of life are just hard and you just have to walk through that hard part. School is the same. (ahem…Algebra) My daughter begged and pleaded with me to let her skip dissecting. But, I knew she needed to overcome this obstacle. She sat at the table FOREVER trying to psyche herself up to even remove the fish from the bag it was in! But, I wasn’t giving in. I wasn’t going to make her path easy just for the sake of making it easy. And so, we sat there…for way longer than it should have taken anyone to dissect a fish! But when she was finished, she was proud of what she had accomplished! And so was I!
That one little life lesson there was difficult for all of us, but it proved she could overcome and win the battle. She may have learned nothing else from that fish, but that one lesson was well worth it!
Set graduation requirements and stay focused
This one has a lot of room for interpretation because graduation requirements vary greatly from state to state. My preference has always been to follow our particular state’s guidelines with a few tweaks of my own that work toward a focus on each child’s individual passions and giftings. Another good method is to find a middle-ground guideline (one that easily encompasses the subjects most colleges look for) and go with that as your guideline. From there, stay focused and plan your homeschool years accordingly.
It’s all about the test (sadly)
Unfortunately, many colleges look solely to the ACT or SAT for scholarships, class placements, etc. For a college-bound student, the test is important, but eventually, it can be overcome with hard work and good grades in college itself. And there will come a day when NO ONE will care what your test score was. Which leads me to…
Know how to work hard
No one likes a slacker. And while my son sometimes laments the fact that he could skip class and still get a decent grade, yet his work ethic keeps him from doing so, he knows he’s the better for it. Professors have come to rely on him, confide in him, and give him special projects because they trust him. This hard work transfers over to the workforce where your son or daughter becomes the “go-to guy.” And yes, sometimes no one notices, but not everything is about the here and now. Integrity doesn’t just show up one day, it is hard fought in the trenches of obscurity.
Know how to communicate
We are not all orators or writers, but everyone needs to know how to get their point across. Give your children opportunities to speak in front of people, formulate thoughts, and listen well (a HUGE part of communicating!) The family table is one of the best places for this to be taught! Give everyone a chance to speak, everyone a chance to listen, and everyone a chance to think deep thoughts.
Have patience when your children struggle to explain something to you. Ask them to stop, think, then speak. Allow the children who communicate better on paper the opportunity to formulate their thoughts there and then practice delivering them verbally. Teach the children who communicate better verbally to bullet point their thoughts on paper rather than always speaking first. Have children read aloud, give a synopsis of a movie or book, and write essays and stories. It is fine to allow them to focus more on their natural communicative bent, but don’t let them get too comfortable there. It is good to know how to communicate in a variety of ways, whether you end up in college or not.
Know when to ask for help
Some homeschoolers are TOO independent. They refuse to ask for help, and would rather go down with the ship than ask for a life raft. When my son got a B as a final grade in a class that he had made all A’s in, rather than saying, “Oh well,” we encouraged him to talk to the professor. It was something my parents had encouraged me to do…even though I HATED the thought of it. In both instances, something was learned and respect was gained.
If your child needs a tutor, get one. If you can’t figure out how to fill out the scholarship forms, ask someone. When you don’t know how to do a transcript, look for someone who does know how. (My favorite site for transcript information is The HomeScholar.) Teach your children that there is no shame in asking for help, asking why they got a certain grade, or asking what they can do better.
Know how to make a decision
Because of all the hand-holding parents and schools do these days, few kids even know how to make a decisions for themselves. When Blake and I went to his college orientation, I left midway through because I was pregnant and tired and knew he could handle it on his own. When he came back he had a handful of humorous stories of parents who wanted to know if there was a laundry service or a maid service, what might happen if there was a tornado or a freak accident, and would anyone take their child to the doctor if they caught cold. We had a good laugh about how his own mother didn’t care enough about him to even sit in on the session about inclement weather and where the nurse’s station was located. I trusted him to be able to sit in that session alone, take notes as needed, and share them with me (if needed). I sent him to buy his books alone (with a few tips and pointers on getting a good deal). I let him choose whether he joined an elite business club or not (he chose not to). And when he decided to take a summer class and asked for my input on which one, I didn’t make the decision for him. I asked him a few questions and let him decide.
Not everything has a right or wrong answer. Decisions aren’t often set in stone. We don’t have time to sit around and kick ourselves. Make a decision. Move on.
Give them a foundation. Expect them to falter.
I could have put this at the top of the list, but it might have scared you away. We all know our kids need a firm foundation in God’s Word, but the thing we don’t often acknowledge is the fact that they will question, falter, and sometimes even fall flat on their faces when it comes to their faith.
Let James 1:2-4 and Proverbs 22:6 be your comfort as your children navigate their early adult years. Be available and open to their questions – even the hard ones. And remember, God doesn’t have “grandchildren.” Their faith needs to be their faith. My guess is your own walk doesn’t mirror your parents’, so don’t expect it of your children either.
Remember that college is not all there is
I know in this day and age when we have what seem to be “professional students,” it can be difficult to remember that college is NOT the be all, end all of your child’s life. Don’t get so focused on college, you don’t allow your children to explore other opportunities and consider other paths. If another path gets your child where he or she wants to be, let them head that direction.
Many kids in college are scared to graduate because they are unsure of how they will manage “real life.” Sometimes they are scared to not to go to college because they don’t know what they want to be when they grow up, and they hope college will help them figure that out. Sometimes they are so busy looking for the perfect job and the perfect life they totally miss the journey.
Teach your children to enjoy the journey. For some of us, that means learning to enjoy the journey ourselves! Education is a process, and when you home educate, you get the joy of leading your child down that path and the pain of letting them go their own way when it’s time.
Give them direction, discernment, and a foundation to stand on when everything else feels unsteady. And then launch your “arrows” and let them fly!
Get more in-depth training from the brand new College Launch Solution!