Preparing your homeschooler for college will take some time, effort and encouragement.
I recently read several articles arguing that public school students are better prepared for college than homeschooled students. While the authors of the articles seemed quite ignorant about how homeschooling really works, they did bring up a few valid points.
In response to the articles I read, here are four tips to help you prepare your homeschooler for college.
1. Be Your Child's Guidance Counselor
One article mentioned that homeschoolers aren't prepared for college because they don't have access to high school guidance counselors who "help students find and enter the college of their choice by suggesting class loads, extracurricular activities and finding…financial help or scholarships to pay for the next four years."
The author suggests that homeschoolers, who don't have guidance counselors, can't plan their high school coursework to meet college admissions requirements and they don't have access to scholarship information.
Of course, that's nonsense.
Homeschoolers may not have an official public school, tax-funded guidance counselor, but there's no reason a parent — or even the student himself — can't serve as one.
So how do you do that?
Talk about college. Starting early on, talk with your child about college. What they might want to study. Where they might want to attend. Don't allow the college years to creep up on you. If your child plans to attend college, don't wait until the senior year to start planning.
Speak with admissions counselors. Contact some of the admissions counselors at prospective colleges and ask them about course requirements, extra curricular activities, and any other things they look for in incoming freshman for a particular major. Those counselors are much more qualified than high school guidance counselors to give suggestions about class loads, admissions requirements, and extra curricular activities.
Research scholarships. Research scholarship information online. Talk to financial aid advisors at colleges. Read books on college scholarships. There is plenty of information available on the internet and your local library.
Research other college options. A brick and mortar college need not be your child's only option for a degree. Consider other college options, such as distance learning, dual credit, and credit by examination.
2. Lecture Your Child
Now I don't mean lecture your child because he's done something wrong. I mean make sure your child understands how to learn from a lecture-based format.
Most college courses are taught by lecture, so homeschool students unfamiliar with that format may have a hard time transitioning to college-level work. This was the one point that was brought up in the articles that I agreed with. However, it's not an insurmountable hurdle.
As a homeschooling parent, you just need to make sure your child has experience with learning from a lecture format before sending them off to college.
How do you do that?
Have your child take classes outside the home. This might be at a co-op, in a dual-credit course, or at any other outside class that's taught by lecture.
Work on note taking skills. If you attend church services, have your child take notes during sermons, summarizing major points at first, then moving on to more details. It's important that children get used to looking for the main points instead of just a string of details. What Smart Students Know is a superb book about note taking and study skills, especially as they relate to both textbooks and lectures.
Teach your child how to learn from a textbook. While many homeschoolers (myself included) dislike textbooks, the fact of the matter remains that college courses usually use textbooks, so your child needs to know how to learn from a textbook. How to Read a Book is a classic guide on not only learning from textbooks, but also from other types of literature.
3. Prepare Them for the Diversity of a College Campus.
Children who come from a sheltered environment tend to think that everyone else is just like them, and they're uncomfortable when they encounter someone who is not.
It sounds simplistic, but it's important for our children to realize that other people are different. They believe different things. They have different backgrounds. They have different motivations.
To succeed in college, our children need to be able to work with people outside their normal peer group.
How do you teach diversity?
Study other cultures. This can be done from a very young age. Make your children aware of the incredible variety of humanity.
Step outside your comfort zones often. Volunteer at homeless shelters or other types of charities. Visit new families in your church. Get involved in organizations such as Generation Joshua that require lots of interaction with the public. In general, help your child meet as many different types of people as possible.
Read books and watch movies about the different subcultures of America. After reading or watching, have discussions with your children.
4. Teach Them How to Deal with Moral Differences.
As we all know, college campuses abound with drug and alcohol use, promiscuity, academic dishonesty, and any number of other questionable behaviors. A homeschooled child who has not been exposed to that kind of environment in public school may experience a bit of culture shock. And understandably so.
Even though he may have been trained from birth that he should avoid such behaviors himself, he might have a difficult time figuring out how to relate to other students who see nothing wrong with their own behavior. Before college he may have been able to avoid interacting with them, but he can't any longer. They are now his roommates and classmates. And he lives with them day in and day out.
According to one of the articles I read, public schoolers have an advantage here. They are often "so de-sensitized to the issue" that they aren't "even phased in seeing their roommate partake" in drugs on a regular basis.
But I don't think de-sensitizing our children to drug use and immoral behavior is the right thing to do to prepare them for college life.
So what should we do?
Teach our children to be tolerant. Tolerance is a four-letter word among many Christians, but it shouldn't be. Being tolerant doesn't mean you approve of the actions of others around you, especially when you're not in a position of authority over the other person.
Tolerance means allowing people the freedom to make their own decisions based on their own belief systems, just as we have the freedom to make decisions based on our own belief system.
While every Christian should strive to live according to biblical principles, it's not your child's job to make sure every other student at his college follows his own moral code. This doesn't mean he can't offer his own opinions on matters. But it does mean he doesn't have to feel personally responsible for the actions of others.
Your child can learn to be a witness to others by living his life in a worthy manner. But he shouldn't expect others to live the same way. After all, it's as illogical to expect a tiger to act like a horse as it is to expect a non-Christian to behave like a Christian.
Discuss hypothetical situations. Read books or watch movies that might spark discussions about morality with your child. What would he do in certain situations? How might he feel?
Learn from what Jesus did. Jesus didn't avoid people because they followed a different moral code. In fact, he was criticized for having dinner with sinners. In all these circumstances, Jesus showed love and compassion for others, but He didn't adopt their behavior. This is an important point for our children to learn and understand.
I hope these 4 points will help you in preparing your homeschooler for college. We have a ways to go but it is never to early to begin.
As most of you know, my oldest child is only 13, so If you've already sent your homeschooled child to college, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject!