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How to Prepare Your Student for College and Life, According to Veteran Homeschool Moms

Abigail Endsley
Abigail Endsley

January 15, 2015

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homeschool high school student Working as a Student Counselor here at Unbound, I’ve talked to many fear-stricken homeschool moms. Just last month, one such mom called me in a panic.

“I’ve done everything wrong! My child will never make it to college and it will be all my fault!”

Ever felt that way? You’re not alone!

Meet Bonnie, Cindy, Kelly, Nickie, and Tonya: five successful homeschool moms who have graciously shared their stories about the ups and downs of homeschooling and what they considered to be most important when preparing their children for college.

So, what does your child need to succeed after high school?

1. Direction

How can a student prepare for the future if they have no idea what the future holds?

So much focus is placed on getting students into college, why they should go in the first place gets forgotten. College isn’t for everyone.

“We have this whole group of incredibly talented craftsmen who are going off to college for 4 years and are in $40,000 in debt,” said Kelly, one of our former staff members. “Some of them could skip all that because they don’t need it! There are definite careers that need a college degree, but there are definite careers that do not and we should stop pushing everyone down the college route.”

Sometimes a certification, licensing, or tech school is the best option for students, especially if the career they’re pursuing is very specialized.

High school is a great time to allow your student to explore their options, find their “niche,” and learn what they’re passionate about. Allow your student to explore their options and, more importantly, allow them to fail while they’re still at home.

By trying, failing, and answering these tough questions in high school, your student can avoid making the same mistakes later in college, when the stakes are higher.

2. Self-Directed Learning

A natural planner, Cindy directed her efforts toward organizing the entire homeschooling process before beginning. She found the perfect curriculums and made fool-proof plans.

“I tried to do ‘school at home,’ and ‘school at home’ did not work for us. It was horrible. I felt like a giant failure, like I couldn’t teach [my sons]. We wanted them to really think about things and not just do things because everybody else is doing them. I wanted them to be self-learners and know how to find the information, be able to be resourceful, and not be dependent on teachers.”

With that thought in mind, Cindy allowed her sons to pursue what interested them while keeping careful record of everything they did, softly facilitating their studies while they took charge of their own education. With some help, she turned their self-assigned projects into credits equal, if not superior, to those they would have earned following a traditional path.

This practice encouraged a habit of self-directed learning in her kids. It later paid off ten fold when both of her boys both began and graduated college early.

But not every family works the same way!

While Bonnie followed a more “strict” homeschool route, her children benefitted by the same atmosphere of learning: “We did a traditional school day… however, we used a variety of materials and programs throughout the years. When we worked on a classical approach toward middle school and high school, the girls began to make good academic connections.”

Bonnie found this structured routine worked well with her girls’ personalities and even utilized it herself when she went back to finish her bachelor’s degree as an adult learner in 2009.

Encourage self-directed discovery and learning, whether this comes from self-assigned projects or mom-assigned ones. Kids are naturally curious. Hone in on your student’s learning style and run with it. The ability to self-direct is invaluable in college and beyond.

3. Thinking and Study Skills

When I asked Nickie which skills have been most important to her son post high school, she answered without hesitation:

“Critical thinking! We found classes for Biology, Chemistry, Logic, Latin, and Critical Thinking and they were a major part in developing great study habits.”

Teaching your students to break down every problem into digestible chunks can be one of the best gifts you can give them. Applicable to both higher education studies and ordinary life management, no student can be successful without this crucial skill.

Because he internalized foundational study skills, like in-depth note-taking and critical reasoning, Nickie’s son excelled in both high school and college.

“Through his high school years, he maintained a straight A average and was therefore exempt from final exams. He maintained a 4.0 GPA for several years and has a 3.97 GPA currently.”

Though study skills courses are often not for credit, learning how to reason well, increase memory skills, and take excellent notes will pay off in the long run, even if your student isn’t college-bound.

The Bottom Line

Lay a foundation of self-discovery. Help your child map out where they’re headed as well as their own learning style. The more they learn to work within the parameters of how God created them, the better equipped they will be.

Secondly, teach your student to think critically about everything. Help them reason through complicated information and confidently make their own decisions. Not only does this help in the academic world, but this skill will bleed over into the rest of their adult life.

Without these basic building blocks, college is simply a waste of time.

Additional Thoughts

Even when focusing on the basics, there are still many things to think about. Here’s some parting advice from these homeschool moms.

  • “Don’t let anyone else tell you what’s best for your kids.” The Lord will show your child what they are meant to do and who He has made them to be.

  • “Open the door for communication.” Take each of your children out by themselves to catch up and discuss whatever they’re interested in. The more you value and respect them for who they are, the more they’ll value and respect you.

  • “Be methodical.” Track what your kids do. Keep detailed journals. Whether their work is “self-assigned” or “mom-assigned,” keep your kids accountable by requiring weekly progress reports.

  • “Seek outside help if needed.” Co-ops, tutoring, social groups, and outside mentorship are great resources, especially as students grow older and more independant.

  • “Keep learning yourself.” Model appropriate behavior and use your wisdom and experience to guide your students, helping them find their passions.

  • “Prepare high school students with college prep courses as if they are going to college.” Also, do college testing (SAT and ACT). That way whatever the student decides, they have taken the required courses, and exams.

  • “Pursue community college after high school.” Consider community college when your student isn’t sure what to do post high school. Working toward a degree through a preparatory program can encourage direction for future jobs or ministries.

  • “Develop a strong foundation of loving God first.” Even Christian colleges are not as spiritually focused as they claim, and a strong group of Christian friends and church involvement is crucial.

Homeschooling is not always easy, but it is definitely worth it. By helping your students build these foundational skills, you can rest easy, knowing they’re guaranteed to excel in college and beyond.

Is there anything you would add to this list? Join the discussion in the comments below!

Abigail Endsley
Abigail Endsley

A former student counselor and Unbound student, Abigail is passionate about empowering others to achieve their goals. When she’s not dreaming with her friends, you can find her reading or singing Broadway songs. Loudly.

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