By Janice Campbell
Now that homeschoolers have proven to be high achievers in both academic and social realms, they are being actively courted by many colleges. However, just as many homeschool parents paused before placing their young children on the big yellow school bus, they are now considering whether the traditional model of sending young people to live on a college campus for four years is an ideal way to meet the goal of higher education. Homeschoolers have blazed trails in elementary and secondary education, and they are now earning early college credit through exams or dual-credit classes, completing college at home, or simply choosing to attend a local college while living at home.
Why Not Live on Campus During College?
According to Dr. Jeff Myers of Inspired Leadership, spending four impressionable years of life living closely with the world is similar to the immersion method of learning a foreign language. If parents are willing to have their child absorb the good, the bad, and the ugly along with academics, four years in a dorm is the way to go. Most parents feel that older teens still need daily mentoring, stabilizing family relationships, and spiritual answers to the questions that inevitably arise when studying academics presented through a secular filter. According to Anne Miller of the Home Educators Association of Virginia, whose four oldest children were attending college at the time of this writing, living at home keeps young people from developing a self-centered attitude as they continue to serve the family through helping with home chores and interacting with younger siblings.
Earning College Credit in High School
Students who are capable of undertaking challenging work can accumulate a year or more of college credit while still in high school. Traditional-school students take Advanced Placement (AP) classes, followed by an AP test, in order to place out of entry level courses in college, but homeschoolers can go a step farther and earn actual credit by taking a CLEP (College-Level Examination Program) test, rather than the AP exam.
Students can prepare for exams by doing extra study on their own, taking an AP or honors class (online or traditionally), or by participating in an advanced co-op. Advantages of earning college credit while still in high school include:
Time – One 90-minute CLEP exam covers one or two semesters of a subject, and by taking several carefully selected exams, it is possible to shorten the time it takes to earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree by a year or more.
Money – The cost of earning 3-6 credits is about $75.
Advanced placement – Instead of sitting through a basic class that covers material learned in high school, students can skip directly into more advanced and interesting classes.
Students who plan to use CLEP exams to get a jump start on college need to create a high school curriculum plan that includes advanced-level course material for subjects in which tests will be taken. These subjects will be recorded on the high school transcript as AP or honors courses, and students receive weighted grades (one extra grade point) for each class. College credit is awarded by the college the student attends in the future, and it is based upon a passing score on the CLEP exam. Not all colleges award credit for exams, so it is important to select a school that does.
Dual-credit classes are another way to get a jump start on college. To earn dual-credit, a student studies a subject in a community college class instead of a high school class, and earns both high school and college credit. Mature teens may be ready for the challenge of the classroom atmosphere, and taking dual-credit classes can provide a gradual transition into a more structured learning environment.
College From Home
If you have heard of the Swann family, you know the idea of college from home is not new. Each of the Swann’s many children was homeschooled, not only through college, but also through graduate school, receiving their master’s degrees at an age when most other teens are graduating from high school. This family used traditional correspondence courses for each level of schooling, and this is still possible, but the Internet has dramatically increased the number of options available. Students at home can participate in classes which include a variety of online elements, including virtual labs and real-time discussions. The degree earned at home is just as marketable as a degree earned on-campus, and it often comes with less spiritual risk.
Attending College While Living at Home
This final option is probably the most familiar – students attend a traditional college, but live at home, rather than on-campus. While this option limits the choice of a college to one within reasonable driving distance, it provides several advantages. In addition to being more economical than on-campus living, this option provides students with the familiar, supportive environment of home and family in which to process all the new information they are receiving. Second, they have instant access to spiritual, academic, or personal counseling from someone who knows and loves them, and who shares their spiritual worldview. Third, the presence of other family members of various ages with various needs helps to remind young people that they are not the center of the universe – self-centeredness can be a problem for students whose primary consideration is “my schedule, my classes, my choices.” And finally, this option enables students who are academically ready for college, but younger than traditional college age, to benefit from the home atmosphere while they mature.
Just because our teens are growing up, it isn’t necessary to follow the path of the world in their education. If we don’t want the results we see in the culture around us, we can change the input. The purpose of college is an education, resulting in a degree, and each family has many options for achieving that goal.
Janice Campbell, author of Get a Jump Start on College! A Practical Guide for Teens, Transcripts Made Easy: The Homeschooler’s Guide to High School Paperwork, and the Excellence in Literature series, has been writing and speaking in central Virginia since the late 1980’s. She homeschooled her four sons from kindergarten into college, using the principles she now shares in her books, her blog, workshops, and e-newsletter. To order Janice Campbell’s high school materials, click here.