Should Homeschoolers Play the College Game?
I sometimes feel a bit of hesitation when I say that I am a homeschool college consultant. I have long held the belief that education should be self-directed, creative, and empowering. Clearly, that’s why homeschooling appeals to me. I believe that when families carve their own path and kids own their education, the results can be liberating and inspiring — creating woven tapestries of engaged families and life long learners.
Learning for learning’s sake. That is the gift I gave my children and that is what I often witness in the homeschool families I have the pleasure to know. And yet I have this nagging feeling about whether or not the college path is authentic to our original intentions. How do I — and other fearless homeschoolers — reconcile the fact that we are raising our kids in crazy- awesome, non-conventional ways, only to succumb to the constraints of traditional higher education?
One thing is certain — and this is where my mind eventually settles — there is not one reason to homeschool, not one kind of homeschool family, not one type of homeschool learner. We are a fragmented group, joined by the common thread of nonconformity. So of course our paths do not have the same destination. Not all homeschoolers aspire to attend college, but when they do, they should do so authentically.
Consider the reasons you homeschooled in the first place. Was it for the academic freedom? Was it to pursue an extracurricular? Was it to cultivate a love of learning? Now consider all of the experiences that made your homeschooler who they are today. Of those experiences, which do they wish to continue? Which do they need to thrive? Which are they willing to replace with new experiences and opportunities?
There are thousands of colleges in this country alone.There are colleges for the self-directed, colleges for the hyper-competitive, colleges for the broad-minded, colleges for the socially conscious, colleges for the artistically talented. The list goes on and on. So no matter your educational philosophy or your educational goals, your homeschooler can find a four year stop-over at a place they call home while continuing their learning venture.
I ask you to first consider what education means to your homeschooler and your family. What does it look like and what is its purpose? Is it to develop character and intellect? Is it to prepare for a financially stable future? Is it to cultivate open-mindedness or to focus on a single passion? If you haven’t yet explored these ideas, doing so is a great way to begin the college search. Invite your homeschooler into these conversations, for that allows them the opportunity to own the process of becoming an adult.
And isn’t that the purpose of the college years? To provide a gentle, yet challenging transition from childhood to adulthood. To equip our kids with minds and hearts that are capable of making informed and critical decisions in the future — not only for their lives, but for the lives of others. As parents, we know that high schoolers aren’t yet sure how the world works or what their place is in it. But college is that time to explore and challenge and discover who they are and who they aren’t, what the world is and what the world isn’t.
If your high schooler has always taken the reigns of their schooling, then it is only natural that they should own this, too. If it makes sense for them to attend college, then it makes sense that who they are — as a person and a learner and a community member — guides them through the process. My oldest son, now 24, explained it to me well.“The college search and the college experience was shaped to me; I wasn’t shaped to it.”By embracing the process and all that he is, he found the college that was perfectly suited to his character and to his intellect.
Attending college and enjoying four or more years of traditional higher education does not mean that you need to compromise your values. On the contrary, it is an opportunity to enrich the learning journey with more inquiry, more diversity, more challenge. And it arrives at a crucial time in our children’s lives when they are ready for more.