I was a nervous wreck when we first started homeschooling high school. Even though we had been homeschoolers since Sir Talks A Lot was 4 years old, somehow, the idea that it was HIGH SCHOOL made it different. It was as though all of a sudden we were playing for keeps. Applying for college led to a very similar panic, only this time, there was certainty that we would be judged. On top of that, we're not exactly known for jumping through random hoops or even an adherence to deadlines, so even before we started, I was filled with dread. So, the purpose of this page is to take that great big looming mountain and squish it back down to the size of a molehill.
Course Selection and College Standards
Recently a parent with a rising 9th grader expressed her frustration with the pressure placed on parents, even those who homeschool, to teach as though every child should want to attend Ivy League universities. She felt as though her curriculum choices were being curtailed by these kids of silent expectations, and that there was an unspoken competitive quality to the dialogue surrounding making choices about IB, AP and DE courses. Her question was: Given the degree to which educational choice is the foundation of homeschooling, why do parents choose to impose cookie cutter standards on their high school kids?
Our homeschooling has been anything but high-pressure or traditional. We started off as complete unschoolers and are still on the unschooling spectrum. I run a homeschool group and a lot of my interaction with the homeschool high school parents involves helping them to relax. I tell them that he same educational choices that were available to them before high school are still there during high school. The kid’s needs should be front and center because there is always a way to make a document, build a transcript, or present a case that emphasizes the value of your choices. Nonetheless, if your kid wants to go to college (and not all do), then you need to understand that college entrance is essentially a competition. Does that mean you have to take AP, IB or CC classes? Absolutely not. But the reality is that you do have to do a bit of packaging in order for your kid to accomplish his/her goals if college education is part of those goals. My kid is a delightfully weird, artistically flamboyant, science-obsessed creative dude. That is what we emphasized during the application process because he was applying to colleges who were looking for that kind of person. If he had decided that he wanted to apply to more traditional or Ivy League colleges, we would have emphasized something different. In other words, the education would be the same, we would have just emphasized different aspects.
Sometimes there’s just no getting around the fact that homeschooling is still viewed suspiciously by outsiders. This became abundantly clear to us as we researched different types of colleges and universities. Some educational institutions adopt a “prove it” attitude where homeschoolers have to do additional testing, provide more documentation, or have their work verified by outsiders. In these cases, requests for information often feels punitive because the underlying assumption is that your school will not measure up. Other institutions have a “provide it” attitude where the goal is to help them understand how your unique square peg can be evaluated fairly according to their round hole standards. In these instances, the underlying assumption seems to be that they think you must have accomplished amazing things in your school, and they want you to help them understand what you did.
Dual enrollment classes have served several purposes for my son. First, they helped him to prepare for future brick and mortar classes in a very supportive, nurturing environment. Second, for those schools who might question the academic rigor of a homeschool curriculum which is on the unschooling spectrum, the DE classes provided verification that our methods provided a healthy academic foundation for college. Third, DE courses have allowed my son to confirm that he wants to major in psych. Fourth, we were running out of subjects to study at home since my son had started high school level work when he was around 10 or 11. Finally, the classes are transferrable and this means that he already has made an inroad in getting his degree.
Sometimes the concern about testing is situational. For example, most of the homeschoolers in the university town in which I live automatically go to the university once they graduate from homeschool. The primary criterium by which they are judged is via their ACT scores. The university has a generous scholarship that is offered to each applicant, but homeschoolers are required to score higher on the ACT than other applicants in order to qualify for it. When my son thought he might want to attend here, we spent a lot of time trying to help him raise his ACT scores. From the outside it might have appears as though we were only interested in being competitive, but actually there was a very practical reason for our concern.
I suppose my point is that people make educational choices for all kinds of reasons regardless of whether or not they homeschool.