Welcome to the month-long series “Homeschool HIGH SCHOOL Made Easy,” a follow-up to the popular “Homeschool Made Easy” series (now published on kindle). I’m sharing tips from my experience as a homeschool graduate and homeschool mother, showing YOU how easy and enjoyable these high school years can be for you and your teen. Be sure to sign up for the entire series so you don’t miss a thing!
We are nearing the end of Homeschool High School Made Easy, bringing our final week to a close with a look at life after homeschool and how to get your student ready: college, career, transcripts, the whole nine yards.
After several years of bucking the educational system, many homeschool families find traditional college education difficult to imagine. Why go back into the classroom? Do students truly need another four years or more of education and tens of thousands of dollars of debt before beginning real life?
My own teens ask the same question. Actually, my older two briefly considered it but quickly came to the conclusion that college is right for them. My oldest son is pursuing a mathematics degree at Liberty University; he hopes to become a math professor or statistician. My high school daughter is considering a degree in history; she is dreaming of managing collections or running educational programs in a large museum one day.
But our middle son disagrees with the entire idea of college. He only aspires to the simple pleasures of life — a low-stress job, simple house, and beautiful wife who is a great cook and can drive (as a preschooler, he used to ask me privately which pretty teen girls at church had driver’s licenses). He often says he’ll work at a bank every day like his father and come home for dinner.
But here’s the problem: he could not support a family on a teller’s salary, and that’s the only banking position he can get without a degree.
My husband and I have strong feelings about college, mostly due to the fact that we are both college dropouts. Our twenties were extremely difficult for that reason. We quickly found ourselves hungry, broke, desperate, and in debt with young mouths to feed and few prospects. For over a decade, my husband worked two jobs to keep groceries on the table, and even while homeschooling little ones, I worked in and out of the home to keep the kids in shoes. Life was very difficult.
Thanks to hard work, persistence, and the grace of God, my husband David now has a great job and a strong resume. But if he were starting now, he could not get the job he has; all the upper-level jobs in banking are now closed to young people with no business degree.
And many other fields are similar: medicine, business, finance, education, arts, even sports fields require education and training in addition to experience. There are some notable careers that do not require a four-year degree; the majority of those would still require some training or certification. And there is still a wage issue; if a young adult is planning to support a growing family, the wages for many of these careers would place a family of four in the low-income bracket.
On the other hand, many of us have made a nice life for ourselves without a degree. I’ve enjoyed great opportunities in publishing and music. My husband has started a soccer club in his spare time. We have friends who are entrepreneurs, business owners, and even executives . . . all without higher education.
How Homeschool High School Students Can Decide on College
I asked my friends on facebook what they thought about this issue, and I got a variety of responses. Most of those were great reminders to let the teen take the lead, keep the conversation positive, and encourage long-term thinking. A few of my friends are against college outright, but most parents seem to desire more education for their homeschool graduates. Whatever your own personal opinions, there are several principles we can all agree on.
Young adults do not need to accumulate debt.
Student debt is the number one reason homeschoolers object to a college education. I’ve never heard anyone say, “Young people don’t need more larnin’.” Usually, the argument is that the cost outweighs the benefit. The high cost of college need not prohibit our students from learning.
Avoiding college debt is a major part of our college conversation at home. We know from experience how debt cripples young families, and we emphasize this to our own teens. They need to prepare themselves to get through college without jeopardizing their future plans by accumulating debt.
Young homeschool graduates do not need to be thrown into paganism.
This is the second greatest objection to college after homeschooling: on campuses across the country, the faith and worldview of our young people are under attack. After years of carefully sheltering and training our children, we don’t need them to be disillusioned and confused by every class and friend they come in contact with.
Community college and even state schools are so tempting — there are several within driving distance of our home. And as soon as his ACT scores were released, universities across the country were sending swag and large envelopes to our son to entice him into enrolling.
But here’s the thing: going away to college is our young adult’s first steps toward living on his own. He’s out of the house and on his own, away from the watchful eye of mom and the patient reminders of dad. We quickly realized that our son needed some training wheels, a crutch to help him learn how to provide for himself, make his own choices, live up to his own character, and try adulting on for size . . . but with that support to make sure he couldn’t fall too far.
So we made it really easy to choose that safety net. We told our teens that, though they are personally responsible for their own college tuition wherever they attend, if they attend a Christian university, we will pay room and board.
We aren’t too choosy beyond that. Our oldest chose Liberty University, which is more liberal in many ways than our own home and church. But after visiting with him, we agree that it is a good intermediary step toward living on his own. He has the freedom to choose what is right and the restrictions to keep him from getting into too much trouble. And, as he reminds me often, “I’m in church services or Bible classes all the time!”
Young adults need to be taught how to provide for themselves.
Many of my friends on facebook mentioned a gap year — a period of time in which their teen stayed home to work and to investigate options for college and career. This is becoming increasingly common.
I agree these experiences are valuable and necessary, which is why we built gap year into the senior year of high school. By that time, the student must be working at least part time (our oldest worked full time through his entire senior year). And he should be planning specifically for his future:
what he will be doing for the next five years (or at least goals)
- how he will provide for his own food, clothing, and shelter
- how he will provide for his future spouse and family
- if he attends college, what possible careers his degree supports, and if he doesn’t land his first-choice career, what other options he has
Remember, the core high school classes are completed early in the high school years; by the end of his junior year, most homeschool students have completed the minimum requirements for graduation. This allows the senior year to be lighter academically. And that’s an important component of gap year: students need some experience working and going to classes simultaneously, too. This is what the next stage of their life will look like.
If our young men aren’t going to school full time, they need to either find their own place to live or pay us serious rent until they do. They are growing up and moving on now — it’s time to spread those wings, chickies!
Young people need to think through these issues themselves.
Taking these first steps into adulthood is scary, no matter how ready our young people are to graduate. Actually, I think the more mature and level-headed they are, the scarier this seems because they realize the tremendous responsibility they are taking on.
But it is their own life. We can’t force them to go to college, and we can’t choose what career they will take. It’s time for them to make their own life choices and forge their own path. Here are some more principles to make this decision easier, at least for you:
- Have short, casual conversations often, instead of a few highly-charged lectures.
- Ask questions, like “what do you imagine your life like when you are my age?” or “what do you do (other than play video games) that excites you?” or even “what high school course do you hate the least?”
- Keep them working and paying bills. Teens think their first job makes them rich . . . until they see how fast the paycheck is used up.
- Encourage them to ask other adults about their career and education.
- Be honest about your own college experience, the good and the bad, and what you wish you had done differently..
- Remember that their life will radically change between 21 and 31 and 41. Look at how different yours is now, and allow God to graciously lead them into their own unique path.
Is your teen considering college? How do you help him decide?
This article contains affiliate links to help support this site, but all recommendations are products I actually use and love. I am not a legal expert on graduation requirements in any state; please do your own research and plan accordingly.