There is a myriad of reasons why parents choose to homeschool their children. The top five reasons for homeschooling include:
- avoiding a negative environment,
- declining quality in public education,
- improving social interactions,
- supporting disabled children,
- and frequent moves either to different states or internationally.
These are not the only reasons, but they do substantiate a good portion of the motivations behind a parent’s choice to homeschool. If any of these reasons have worked their way into your mind recently, and you’re considering bringing your child home for an education, it’s essential to make sure they can succeed academically. This may be intimidating to parents who lack an educational background. There are so many different homeschooling programs, and it’s hard to know even how to start homeschooling your child. Personally preparing your child to succeed in this world goes far beyond simply choosing a homeschool curriculum, so let’s discuss how to help your child get prepared for college without a traditional public school format.
Choosing a Homeschool Curriculum
Choosing a curriculum is going to be one of the first steps towards transitioning your student home. There are a ton of resources to check out, and there’s no end to options available on Pinterest. It’s easy to get over-excited or overwhelmed by everything you want your child to achieve while at home, but remember they don’t have to do everything to be successful.
My first tip has to do with Common Core
A lot of people struggle with the idea of Common Core. If you’re not familiar with Common Core, it’s a set of standards set up by the government about what they want students to achieve by certain grades. People find themselves incredibly passionate about this topic. Please make sure to educate yourself in as many ways as possible. It may help to start directly at the source (http://www.corestandards.org) before looking into too many disgruntled YouTube videos.
I’ll try to keep my direct opinions about the standards in this particular essay, but I bring them up for a specific purpose. The Common Core standards are going to be what your child’s counterparts are learning. They can be one simple measure to gauge whether your child is falling too far behind. You may choose to teach those standards in a different order or in different ways, and you don’t have to follow them to directly in order to know how to homeschool your child.
Factors to Consider When Weighing Homeschooling Options
Because you’ve chosen to bring your child home, you suddenly have a lot more flexibility in teaching your child. While it’s important to be aware of what’s educationally expected of other students at your child’s level, you get more options. When choosing a program, it’s important to look at a couple different things.
First, you should consider your child’s learning style.
Do they learn better with their hands-on projects? Do they learn better in a social setting or do they learn better with general rules and systems? As soon as you know, it can be easier to filter through homeschooling programs that offer these different kinds of learning styles.
Second, you should look into what the program requires of you.
What’s your teaching style? What depth of knowledge will you need to have to help your child through the program and how much are they going to need to rely on you to make it through? This can also be crucial when looking at your third consideration: how much time you have realistically. How many kids do you have at home? How much will the program require you to actively teach? How much can you effectively outsource to other teachers?
Consider your budget
Your last consideration is an easy one that goes without mentioning. Consider your budget. It’s nearly impossible to look through homeschool programs without looking at whether you can afford it, but hey, I thought I’d throw it out there.
Tips for When You’re in the Middle of Homeschooling
There a lot of really good tips for homeschooling out there. Looking at the reasons why parents choose to homeschool can give you an idea of some of the tips parents use to get it done and get it done right. Let’s go over some tips, but let’s stick to college specific tips.
1) Consider your child’s academic readiness.
Now that your student no longer gets streamlined in with other groups of students, you can consider their own strengths and weaknesses. Is you fifteen-year-old a proficient writer? Don’t stop at a normal writing course. Have them look into more advanced options like programs that prepare students to take AP tests or simply look at taking college credit at your local community college. Which leads to a couple more points.
2) Prepare for AP tests. AP tests are AWESOME.
They can get your student credit for college without actually attending college classes or doing extra work. These classes are often offered at school, but just because your student is going to public school doesn’t mean they have to miss out on these opportunities. These AP tests are available to anyone and there are so many resources outside of public school available to prepare your students for these tests.
3) Learn about your state’s requirements for dual enrollment.
Dual enrollment is when you take a class that counts towards high school AND college credit. It’s very worth looking into considering the fact that your student can graduate with a high school degree as well as an Associates Degree at the same time. This one can be tricky because states have different requirements. It can also be tricky because some colleges require you to take a certain number of credits from their specific university in order to graduate with a degree. Make sure to look up the rules for both the state and the college your student will be attending.
4) Running into problems with dual enrollment?
I already mentioned this previously and briefly, but consider taking online courses at the community college in general. I have a sixteen-year-old brother-in-law taking classes from a university right down the street from us. If your student is ready, there’s no reason why they should have to wait in order to get that all-powerful college degree.
5) Practice taking standardized tests.
Because your student is going to have a more comfortable environment for learning, the sterile environments used for SAT or ACT testing or even just college testing centers can be intimidating and overwhelming. My roommate in college went to public school and still struggled with the testing center at our university despite being a valedictorian. She took special steps to learn about testing anxiety and ended up being very successful despite her original fears. Take your students to practice these kinds of tests in that sterile environment so they can either get used to it or take the necessary steps to get used to it.
6) Listen to the results of your standardized testing!
This is also an extremely easy way to find holes in your student’s curriculum. Homeschooling can offer creative options for classes, but the basic standards for writing or math are going to be there even if your student only wants to take botany classes. It’s important to learn to do things you don’t like even in the homeschooling environment.
7) Keep track of transcripts for college as you go along!
Writing homeschool transcripts for college can be intimidating so here’s a helpful link if you’re looking for advice on that (https://hslda.org/content/highschool/academics.asp#transcripts). For real. Work on the transcripts now. It’s not worth trying to look at later. And while you’re at it, consider the degrees your student might be interested in when it comes to college. Write your curriculum and transcripts with those degrees in mind. Steer your student in that direction. It’s impressive to look prepared and intentional when applying for college.
8) SAT and ACT prep.
There are a billion options for this one. Online preparation materials, thrift books for books if your student learns well that way. These scores are crucial to being accepted to the college of your dreams, not to mention, they can help you get scholarships. Use the preparation materials available. Take the tests more than once if necessary.
9) Look up college scholarships for homeschoolers.
People like to offer all sorts of scholarships for specific populations. Check out what’s available to your student simply because they came home to learn instead of attending public school.
10) Prepare your student emotionally and socially for the college environment.
It may be wonderful to be able to protect your student from a negative environment in high school, but avoiding unpleasant experiences can come at a cost as well. Only you are going to know what’s best for your child when it comes to emotional and social development and when to let them learn to take the reins on their own, but these students need to learn how to do it on their own.
For some specific ideas on what to teach, consider teaching them how to advocate for themselves with an unfamiliar professor (considering you’ll be their main teacher and you’re anything but unfamiliar). Enroll them in local high school sports teams even if they’re not attending the public school (or in some areas, you can find homeschool or club leagues to participate in!). Have them join clubs at the local high school to introduce them to cultures outside of the home.
There are many things to consider when you’re looking at how homeschool prepares you for college. Most of the readiness your student is going to find will be dependent on you, and being ready for it ahead of time is going to only streamline the process for you later. Get familiar with your student’s strengths and weaknesses, find out their desires and plans beyond the homeschooling experience, and move in that specific direction.