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One of the most satisfying moments for a homeschool parent is watching a child easily gain acceptance to a college or a university. Even more gratifying is the realization that successfully preparing that student for adult life was just part of the larger homeschool journey all along.
Not all children are college-bound, and attending college certainly isn’t for everyone. But, even when kids have other plans, it’s certainly nice to know they can decide to go to college later on, and that they’re well prepared for the demands of college, career and adult life.
College readiness goes far beyond academics, includes other life skills that should be taught throughout the childhood years. The good news is, a homeschooling lifestyle makes it easy to cover it all, so these additional skills are nothing more than most families would be teaching anyway. There is absolutely no reason for homeschool grads not to enter the college world with skill and confidence (and for their parents to rest easier, too)!
I have personally graduated students on to college and I meet regularly with families of high schoolers applying to colleges, too. In this article, I’ll talk about the academic preparation plus all of the other skills needed to best prepare students for this very important transition.
In terms of academics, requirements for college and university are relatively straight-forward — most American schools look for pretty much the same things. Making sure high schoolers complete a solid and rigorous college-prep curriculum is what gets them past the first cut, thus it’s very important to include all of these experiences during the high school years:
4 years of mathematics (at the level of Algebra or higher)
4 years of English (including literature, emphasizing writing)
2 years of foreign language
3 years of science (including 2 years of lab experience)
3 years of history or social science (including government and economics)
1 year of fine arts
1 year of physical education (including health and nutrition)
Note although these requirements may be fulfilled using any method of homeschooling and any academic coursework you desire, since most areas will be tested during SAT/ACT sittings, academic rigor should never be ignored. It is also worth noting, while there are colleges that don’t require so much math, assigning 4 years of math in high school will cover students for any college they ultimately choose. (An alternative is to research in advance the colleges a student may attend, assigning only as much math as is required for those specific programs/schools. A caution, however, as this may backfire if plans are changed.)
In addition to high school courses, there are other important skills for parents to teach and nurture, as these will help prepare children for college life ahead. They include:
Home Economics — specifically in the areas of cooking, cleaning, and laundry
Personal Finance — specifically using credit, debit, and checking accounts; sticking to a budget; and fully understanding the “student loan trap”
Self Care — both personal hygiene and basic first aid
Personal Communication — successfully interacting with others via email, telephone and in person; daily living with (and strategies for tolerating the habits of) others
Wellness — importance of sleep, exercise, nutrition, solutions for stress and conflict resolution, and where to find help
Organization — strategies and benefits of filing, storage, organization and proper space utilization
Driving — including basic auto maintenance for those needing to drive; cycling/skateboard safety may be a practical substitute
Technology and Internet Privacy — critically important for wireless phone and computer users
Honesty and Integrity — living true to oneself, avoiding peer pressure, maintaining self-confidence, and the dangers of plagiarism
Finally, capitalizing on the strengths and flexibility of homeschooling, parent must encourage students to distinguish themselves in other ways, too. Homeschoolers are well known for entering college with talents and abilities not always represented in general school population, therefore letting kids develop in the following areas will also set them apart:
Writing Fluency — every homeschooler should endeavor to develop this skill (colleges notice)
Standardize Test Prep — unless student applies only to test-optional schools
Special Talents — should be encouraged and documented (physically or digitally)
Community Involvement or Leadership — homeschooled youth often shine in these areas
No doubt parents miss their teens while away at college and as adults, but it is reassuring to know they have been well-prepared prior to leaving home. Parental effort continues to pay off throughout the years, as well, as homeschool grads use their skills to graduate on time (often early), attend with much less debt overall (common to homeschoolers), and lead healthy adult lives (backed by research).
It really can’t get much better than that!
Marie-Claire Moreau, Ed.D.
Author, Speaker, Teacher, Mom