Training Kids for College

This commentary about David Albert’s book brings up interesting insight on preparedness for college.

It suddenly clicked. The home-schooled child is ready for college. They’ve (parents) spent a life-time preparing them for it. We (homeschoolers) start now, instead of throwing them in same-aged groups force feeding curriculum down their throats. After a decade of school, we expect them (schooled kids) to arrive in college, excited, self-initiated, wildly excited to learn, passionate, innovative, creative and broad thinkers when we’ve spent their lifetime beating out every ounce of self-initiated learning out of them.

We, as a culture, value college preparedness in our teens. We speak of the importance of being able to take tests, and finish assignments and know how to write a college essay. But when do we speak of instilling a love of learning in our kids? In allowing them to know themselves and know how to create their own learning? When do we talk of how important it is that teens to enter college are still curious about their world?

Schools spend so much time (13+ years even) focussing on numbers, and assessment and meeting standards (that, by the way, are created without any input from the children who are expected to meet them), and when kids complain about how boring or uninspiring the work is, the most common response is, “Get used to it, that’s how life is.”

Life doesn’t have to be that way. College doesn’t have to be that way. And school doesn’t have to be that way. But the true esteem we give children is how well they are able to “get through” school despite all the intellectual pain and boredom they face. When, in the real world of college and work and life, that’s not what we want our kids to learn. Do we really want to teach our kids that the most important thing in life, the most valuable thing in life, is to just grin and bear it, and wait for the good stuff to happen later?

Or is it more important to teach our kids how to be passionate and curious about the world? And that college is not where the “good stuff” is, but an extension of what’s already good?

There are good things about school. And there are kids who really do enjoy the vast majority of what school offers, and then fly into college gracefully, ready to learn. But how many kids do this? Let’s be generous and say 10% of all high school students fly into college ready to go and are excited about learning. Considering that school is *supposed* to *specifically* train kids to go to college and be successful there, that’s not a very good success rate.

Homeschooling is NOT a specific strategy, in and of itself, to get kids prepared for college. What homeschooling is, however, is a very flexible learning tool to allow kids to live a life of curiosity, and which, if college is the goal, provide an excellent opportunity to prepare kids for the collegiate experience.

Another advantage for homeschooled kids in preparing for college is that there is no rush. A kid can start college at 15 or at 20, whenever he is ready. He can take community college classes while in high school and while having lots of time to pursue other interests at the same time, hence keeping a love of life alive while learning to cope with the demands of college classes.

If, however, homeschooled teens take the school-approach to preparing for college, and they spend all their time focussing on book study, whether or not they even care about the material – basically going through the motions to wait for the good stuff – how is that any different than sending a child to school to prepare them for college?

My kids, they are ready for college. Because, they are ready for anything. Every new experience, is a chance for exploration. Every new challenge is met with enthusiasm (well, unless it’s trying something green on their dinner plate, *sigh*). Basically, our kids don’t have to “grin and bear it” in order to finally get to a point in their lives where they can work on what is meaningful and useful for them. Isn’t that what being free and happy is all about? Isn’t that what we ultimately want for our offspring – a good, meaningful, purposeful, happy life experience?


3 Responses to “Training Kids for College”

  1. Anna Says:

    Much of this also depends on your definition of what college is ‘supposed’ to be about. Is it prep for a vocation? Is it a chance to be offered exposure to an unfathomable number of ideas and perspectives and facts and words and numbers and on and on? I think it is the business school vs. liberal arts way of looking at higher education.

  2. tania choi Says:

    Wow, thanks for quoting me. i spent a lifetime forced-feed to get to college. i went to the liberals arts college Anna talks about. it was intellectual heaven and a true playground! It’s interesting though to ask the question what exactly a college education offers, and if homeschoolers “skip” school their whole lives, why not skip “college”? Playing the devil’s advocate : ) At the end of the day, a community of learners was what college was for me. But don’t homeschoolers have that right from the start anyway? or is college simply a convenient congregation of great profs, libraries and opportunities. Sometime we have to submit to a recognizable denomination for measurable competency and i am assuming for now, college is one of them.

  3. Flo Says:

    There seems to be a cultural perspective that school, and ultimately college, are a means to an end. But what about all of the LIFE that could be happening instead? Learning along the path of life is more liberating than preparing for a “some day” and hoping that it all turns out just right. College is a tool and should be regarded as such. The distinction to recognize is the purpose that college is serving in your life, not that your life is serving the college.

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