Graduation is not an end, it's a beginning. A starting point. A fork in the road. Which way will your children go? There are many options available! While in the midst of homeschooling high school, it's a good idea to take a step back once in a while. Consider what is more important than the four years of high school. Consider what's next. There are decisions to be made, and many options available. Discuss these options as a family, and talk about what will be best for your teen and your family.
Part one of this series addresses the first four options.
- Attend a Public University
- Attend Christian College
- Community College in High School
- Community College After High School
Part two, which will be in our February 1 newsletter, will address four less traditional options.
Attend a Public University
It’s not like you can just one day say that you’re going to university and then the next day you show up. It’s actually a long process and not a moment. The process is something that requires so much time and so much effort that it’s almost impossible to get it all done during senior year.
When the university is your goal, the first thing you to know is that you really need to apply on the first day of senior year. I know that can surprise people because it’s a year in advance, but by applying early you can get the very best scholarships available.
If the very first day of senior year is the day that you apply, that means that you want to know what college you are going to apply to. That’s why junior year is so pivotal. I have an article called “The 9 Keys to a Successful Junior Year.” Use that as a checklist for the path toward college.
In general, children need to take college admission tests during junior year (PSAT, SAT or ACT, and Subject Tests.) You need to find colleges where they will want to apply, so you need to attend college fairs and visit college campuses. During senior year, students need to complete long and complicated admission forms, and complete application essays that are technically perfect. In general, students will generally apply to four to six colleges so it’s a really good idea to have more colleges to choose from rather than fewer.
Attend Christian College
Some people wonder if Christians should go to college. After all, college is filled with faulty humans. While some homeschool leaders vociferously disapprove of homeschoolers attending college of any kind, I disagree. For many people and for many reasons, college is the next step after high school. There are risks inherent in every life choice, and attending college a Christian College is not uniquely risky. Consider 1 Corinthians 13:11, which 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.” Letting your child go to college is like letting your child ride their bike without training wheels for the first time. For both parent and child it can be very scary. Even with a helmet, a child could get seriously hurt, or hit by a car. Even with careful care and college selection, it is still possible for a child to get hurt by a college experience. Still, it’s not necessarily MORE scary or hazardous than riding a bike without training wheels.
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 – it’s our children that change. In fact, they become adults. Adults must interact with a fallen world on a regular basis. Firm in their faith, adult Christians need to negotiate the contrasting world views with their own beliefs intact. At some point, and you will know when it happens to you, your child will be ready to “become a man” (or woman) and move on into life – and that “life” may include college. So train up your child in the way they should go, and when they become adult, allow them to engage the culture and change the world. Jesus did say, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” in Mark 16:15. It’s a command. Jesus said it. That verse just screams for our attention. He doesn’t say, “Go into all the world, but not college.” So if college is in your child’s future, prepare them to face it as a mature adult.
But 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 with your students, choose your college carefully, weighing the options – just don’t be afraid of college in general. If college is the next natural step after high school, then prepare your students to step boldly into adulthood. Allow them to engage the culture so that they may change the world.
"Despite its hazards, college can be a major positive influence in your life" says Engineering Professor Don Peter. Christian College is an important consideration as well, as Bryan Jones Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions explains. “I personally believe strongly in Christian Higher Education. No Christian University is perfect or can guarantee a student won’t walk away from the Lord, and in fact “Christian” schools can vary greatly in what their requirements are for faculty, staff, student’s beliefs and involvements are. But I have seen it time and time again that a student that attends a public or secular private university stumbles in their faith if they are not able to find the right campus ministry, peer group, mentor etc. These things are much more readily provided at a Christian college and a student’s faith is allowed to be stretched while not being attacked or torn down in what is often a hostile and antagonistic environment at a public or secular institution."
Most important to remember is that no matter how “perfect” parents may raise a child a student may still walk away from the Lord. To quote noted Christian author and psychologist Dr. John Townsend, "even the perfect parent (God the Father) ended up with children who fell away from Him (mankind) so at some point parents also have to let go and let a child become their own adult." I believe College is the ideal time for parents to complete the transition from sheltering their children from harm to letting them develop independence. In college a student can experience independence while still having a network of support and care around of professionals, peers and such.
Community College in High School
Due to the expense of college in general, it's important to consider alternatives, particularly alternatives that can save money on the cost of college. One such option is community college. It is vital for parents to consider more than simply the cost in terms of dollars, however. Imagine what it would feel like to have your precious children watching an R-rated movie. There may or may not ever be a time when this would be OK with you. Remember that community college can truly be an R-rated environment. It is a very popular fad right now and I want to give you a rule of thumb that’s going to help you quickly and easily decide whether community college might be something that would work for your family.
If you had ever said public university is not an option for your family because it does not conform to your family values, then you may not be happy with community college. As much as many public universities are very out there, liberal, radical, and sometimes offensive, a community college can be even more so.
One thing to keep in mind about community college is the grades are permanent and that failure is an option. When you look at community college as perhaps a way of getting outside documentation of your homeschool grades, you need to be very confident about your student’s ability to succeed. If you get a failing or a poor grade at community college, they are permanent and they will be reported to the university when you apply, so community college may not be a benefit for you.
Community College After High School
Say that you’ve graduated your child from homeschooling and they are 18 years old. Should you send them to community college after that? When you attend community college as an adult, it can be a little different. Classes are open to all abilities; if your child has graduated from homeschooling and they still are struggling with basic reading, basic writing, or basic math, community college can be a way for them to get a class at their ability level.
It’s also relatively inexpensive; if you’ve got the financial aid package to the university and you just can’t make the numbers add up, sometimes community college is a more affordable option. However, even as an adult, it remains a rated-R environment. It’s an adult environment and meant for adults that are learning specific things but it can be useful in certain situations.
Even when you’re homeschooling, community college can be helpful if you’re really behind and have to catch up quickly. I’ve known homeschoolers that have been able to catch up in their math or foreign language in order to go to their first choice university later on.
It can be particularly helpful for a student, who perhaps had to be dragged kicking and screaming through their homeschool graduation, who suddenly becomes an adult and is willing to learn. An adult learner that is motivated to learn can easily transition into community college and get the information that they need. They may also attain and AA degree.
Freedom and Responsibility
All of these four choices are valid and you should avoid looking as some as "bad" or "wrong." Each family is different and each child will have different needs. We have tremendous freedom when homeschooling high school, but at the same time, there is tremendous responsibility to make wise decisions with our children. 20-20 hindsight is great, but what we're going for here is some foresight. It may not be perfect and we may take some missteps, but there is real advantages about carefully considering and praying about your options.
The options we discussed above are considered traditional options. Next month, we will explore some of the less traditional options that are available for homeschooling families.
This is part 1 of a 2 part article. Read What's Next? 8 Options After High School Part 2.
© Lee Binz, 2011
Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, specializes in helping parents homeschool high school. Get Lee's 5 part mini-course, "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School." You can find her at http://www.TheHomeScholar.com.