Are transcripts and portfolios and credit hours and entrance tests needed for college? Can unschooling continue as our children prepare for higher education? Unschooling parent Karen M. Gibson writes about higher education and the blurred boundaries between high school and college.

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We are students of words; we are shut up in schools, and colleges, and recitation rooms, for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bag of wind, a memory of words, and do not know a thing.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Homeschooling High School and Beyond to College - Higher Education
    Karen M. Gibson

    High School. College. The very words can raise doubts and fears in even the most intrepid of home educators. We think of transcripts, portfolios, credit hours, college entrance tests, and those subjects we dread – calculus, chemistry, composition. Surely home schooling must now become more difficult and less fun. Obviously it’s time to buckle down and get serious! Or is it?

    One thing seems quite clear upon reading through the articles in this issue (See note below) – there is no single way that high school and college need to be accomplished. Rather, each child’s journey is likely to be dissimilar from another child’s. And the streams of that journey quite likely will overlap, blurring the boundaries between high school and college.

    Years ago, when our eldest was just a toddler, the subject of college came up at a family gathering. I remember how controversial and upsetting my views on college were to one of my siblings. I stated that my children might decide to not go to college and, if so, that would be fine with me. Not everyone could or even should be a lawyer, doctor, or some other highly educated professional. Simple observation had shown me that certain professions, particularly those of skilled hand labor (i.e. plumbers, electricians, etc.) were going to be in high demand. And by being in demand, they would be able to charge accordingly. Certainly a full life could be had through these professions, if that was where the child’s proclivities led them.

    Perhaps even more radical was my idea that if my child wanted to get a college education, I thought it could be done without spending four years on campus, if that was desired. Not everyone enjoys the college/campus atmosphere and, by the time Kat was ready for college, she would probably be able to do college from home, if she wanted. See . . . I had some radical ideas even before I knew about home education!

    Jump forward thirteen years or so and see where we are now. Articles in this issue mention just a few of the possibilities for college – AP courses, dual enrollment, CLEP, online classes. Most of these options are available to students much younger than the traditional college freshman. Many high school graduates can begin college as a first or even second semester sophomore, due to the college credits they have accumulated during their high school years. Other articles mention options available to those who elect not to attend college or to those who delay entry for a few years.

    Not only do our college-bound home-schooled children have a wide assortment of options available to them, but they also realize that there is no need to be “tied” to one course of study or even one college. Through their experience as homeschoolers, they have discovered the advantages of flexibility and “out-of-the-box” thinking. They are aware that choices exist, and they will doggedly pursue those choices as they discover what certain institutions and/or programs can or cannot offer them and as they become more aware of their future focus.

    This fall our daughter, Kat, who is sixteen, dual-enrolled at a local community college to take Spanish 101. Already, just a bit more than half way through the semester, she has realized several things. First, languages are fun and come relatively easy for her, which has led to considering a career in languages. Second, this particular college offers only Spanish; therefore, it will be necessary to enroll in a different college soon. And third, boring teachers, and those who are unable to present their subject clearly, exist at the college level too!

    As you and your child prepare for those college years – whether in a traditional four year setting, a trade school, an apprenticeship, or perhaps even determining that no college is the avenue of choice – reflect upon the reasons home education has served you well this far.

    • Flexibility, both in courses of study and schedules.

    • Considering the needs and abilities of your child; your child may be one who wants to get out there and get dirty rather than spending more years in a classroom situation.

    • Considering the needs and welfare of the rest of the family; plunging your family into years of debt to pay for a college education never seemed like a sound fiscal plan to me.

    Most importantly, remember that a college education does not begin and end in four years. Most adults today find they need to continually re-educate themselves to stay in the forefront of the chosen profession.

    Our family is just beginning the journey through higher education. Or should I say “journeys,” since with three children I am certain each will navigate a different course, just as they have up until now. I am hoping for smooth sailing.

    Until our next issue — unfurl your sails and ride the wind!

    ~ Karen

    Copyright October 2001

    Note: Originally published in November/December 2001 issue of HELM (Home Education Learning Magazine) in the regular column entitled "Reflections."

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