This is the first post in a series of three (for now) homeschool-education ponderings. I've promised to write these for a long time but I was inspired by a friend to put "thoughts to mouse" now. Tomorrow I plan to write more about homeschooling the ADHD child and then on Friday some general ponderings about education.
I found the recent "Chinese mom vs. American mom" controversy interesting and loved reading various comments.* However, after reading many of the responses, my own was just a littler different than other American moms. Most likely because I have known many Asian families and I live in the shadow of a world class university... literally!
My original thoughts were that most American parents didn't take the Asian families seriously enough.. For my friends, if Johnny wants to be an engineer or Susie a scientist... it is not the kids around the corner they will compete with for college space. It is the boy and girl growing up in China, Japan, Indonesia, India, South Korea... to name a few. Have you checked the stats lately in science and engineering colleges? What percentage of undergrads and graduate students are Asian?
Now, I must admit I don't think college is for everyone but if our kids want to get accepted to a major University, it has become increasingly difficult. My son knew a student with a perfect 4.0 average who didn't get accepted to an Ivy League school! College admissions are now proof "the world is flat".**
The Asian young people we have known all come from families who remind me a lot of the American parents who came out of the Great Depression... receiving an education is the most important goal they have for their children. These kids study for hours and hours and high grades are expected... for better or worse.
So what does this have to do with homeschooling? Please don't hate me but there was one statement I used to hear from fellow homeschoolers all the time that just drove me crazy (albeit it was a short trip). This was before the era of homeschooling blogs... we had mostly forums. So many times a mom would write that they didn't get to any of their bookwork but the kids did some character studies that day and everyone applauded. AAACK!
Now this response is coming from a Charlotte Mason meets Unschooling Mom so why did it upset me? Because it should never be character or learning! Putting nose to the grindstone and doing our schoolwork when we don't feel like it teaches lots of character... that which will be needed if our children ever hope to compete with the rest of the world.
Now, there are times when we need to set aside a certain part of home education if it is hindering the general goal of learning and raising a learner. Like the year we didn't "do math"... no, really... we skipped math for an entire year because it was interfering with our learning as well as our relationship. Proof you don't know how your student is going to turn out... Christopher gets A's and B's in advanced math now (well, except that Statistics course).
I'm talking about the general day-to-day work involved in homeschooling (and it is work). I remember the only real advice I gave Stephanie when she started homeschooling... "There will be lots of days you can't do everything but try to do something each school day". Believe me, there were many days (in fact, most days) we did not get everything I wanted to done. But I digress...
Personally, I believe our kids are just as smart as anyone else in the world. I also believe homeschooling offers an amazing option to provide a complete education in the way public and private schools can never compete. How do I know? I've mentioned before that when Christopher was in first grade in the public school, I was told he was stupid... he was a troublemaker... he was severely ADHD... and he would never amount to anything. So hubby and I said adios to the school system and taught him ourselves, thus beginning one of the most difficult but wonderful experiences of our lives!
I can tell you the school was correct on only one aspect, my son was and is still severely ADHD (although he has outgrown the hyperactive stage, as predicted by the specialist he saw as a child). He deals with it everyday but has learned various ways to compensate. If he had stayed in the public school system, he would have been left behind long ago.
I suppose homeschoolers are much like the mothers spoken about in the famous (now infamous) book about Chinese mothers... except I
In many ways it was his friends and associates who motivated him toward excellence, especially as he participated in sports (fencing and tennis) and Debate. A little peer pressure in the form of friendly competition can be a good thing.
Do I have any advice for homeschoolers who are wanting to attend college? Well, there are entire books written on the subject but here are a few things we learned...
Read widely about lots of subjects and read books which will cause the student to learn thinking skills. Knowing how to research and having great study skills will be invaluable. Read and discuss opinions about cross species evolution (and know the differences in evolution), what other religions believe, what Christians believe and why, etc.
You have to add a little heated sauce to the egg mixture before creating the final product or the egg mixture will curdle. That's what I told Stephanie's 7th grade counselor was my opinion as a Christian mother about discussing controversial topics as children grow older. But I'm the one who wants to add the heat at just the right time and not throw my child to the wolves... which is what will happen if you don't discuss the big subjects at home (Stephanie was not homeschooled).***
Yes, the big colleges are sand traps for the Christian youth and many young people have been drawn away from their faith during those four years but the young men and women who have been prepared ahead of time for the persecution they face (which is more or less according to where they go to college) will be lights in the darkness.
While I don't think kids in elementary school should be sent in as little missionaries to the culture, by the time they arrive at college age (and they have been prepared at home for what they will face)... they are the Josephs and Esthers of today.
Have the student interview people who do the work they are interested in studying. If possible, see if there are ways they can work in the job ahead of time, which is not possible for everything but it is with some professions (a summer job in a daycare if they are thinking of working with kids, volunteering at the animal shelter or a vet's office if interested in animals, a short term missions trip, or attending a summer camp about engineering or science or technology or political science, etc.).
It is amazing what is available if you search and college is too expensive to spend a year or two studying only to decide that is not what you want to do.
Keep good records, at least starting in 9th grade... if you have not given grades before then, you must do it now. Prepare and assemble all information at the end of each high school year, this will make putting everything together for college applications much easier when the time comes!
Keep a list of all books used for subjects (textbooks, "whole books", research books, etc), co-op classes taken (if applicable), any other classes like a music class taken through a local high school, sports the student has participated in, activities such as involvement in community projects and "extra curricular activities (such as Debate, community symphony, 4-H... to name a few), all volunteer activities, etc.
If you keep this information on your computer, make hard copies as well as backing up your computer or you will lose it all and have to rewrite it from memory... ask me how I know.
Consider signing your child up for an SAT training class at a community college, high school (if that option is available), or online. Also, many public school students I know who wanted to get into high level universities took the SATs more than once for practice and submitted their highest scores (you can take the SAT before your Junior year).
Start learning about FAFSA (financial aid) forms the year before you have to fill them out. Find a nice high school guidance counselor, community college counselor (who usually really knows about FAFSA), or even a college financial aid counselor if they are available. FAFSA can be a pain the first time you fill the form out online but it is your friend. Keep telling yourself that as you are tempted to throw something at your computer when you fill it out (unless you have an easier time than we did the first year!).
Consider taking community college classes (more about that in a later post). Also, think out of the box when it comes to post-high school education. Colleges are now very, very expensive so I would rethink sending a child who doesn't know what they want to do with their life directly to college unless you have thousands of dollars to throw away. Few major universities these days have a general Freshmen curriculum, specialization begins the first semester and a change in major requires additional expensive years of college.
(Have you seen the statistics which were just announced? Only 53% of college graduates from the past four years are employed full time. Yes... just 53% at an average salary of $30,000 a year... and I wonder how many of those are in low paying jobs just to be working... having nothing to do with their studies.)
If the college your student wants to attend does not accept them, ask (very nicely, of course) why they were not accepted and if there is anything they can do to be considered at another time. Christopher was not accepted at the University's School of Science even though he had been an honors student at the community college. He kept going back and talking to people in their admissions department and was finally admitted on a trial basis... he went from being on trial to being in their honors program within months. :)
With today's college expenses and social pitfalls (our university looks like Sodom and Gomorrah on weekends), I'd highly advise against sending my child there just to to "experience college" life or because that is where their friends are attending. Unless one is studying science, engineering, medicine, etc... there are other options. Even law students can take pre-law in a smaller college.
Do your homework about colleges and universities... even some Christian colleges have become party schools... and if the university your child wants to attend is rated in the Top Ten Party Schools of the country, you may want to do a lot of praying before sending them there.
Don't assume the "Christian" fraternity or sorority really is... my husband is on the Alumni Board of his former "Christian" fraternity and it has the reputation of being one of the worst party frats on campus these days.
Once your child has been accepted, find out about churches and ministries in that area and make contact ahead of time when you pay the school a visit. I was quite impressed while working as a secretary to the senior pastor of a church when I received such a call from a parent, asking for information (which I was happy to give her).
Also, once your child has been accepted in the college or university where you know God wants them... buy some t-shirts and a poster, perhaps a bumper sticker... and celebrate! Stay a part of their life, don't drop them off (hopefully the college is close enough for weekend visits now and then). This is such an important time in their life when they are making life's major decisions... they still need mom and dad whether they know it or not.
Whatever God is really calling our children to become... He will provide all that is necessary for them to follow that path. If He continues to close a door about a specific college, keep searching until you find where He wants the student to attend. He knows a lot more of what they need then we do (even if we think we know what is best).
I believe that God is calling young people to be scientists and engineers and teachers and lawyers and political scientists and nurses and other professions which require advanced degrees. But I also can already see where the person who is good at building things and fixing things will have WORK even in hard times (especially if they don't have to charge very high prices to cover college debt).
So, how did we go from public school failure to University success? Next time I will write about how we homeschooled an ADHD child and not only survived but enjoyed most days... :)
* Washington Post article about "Tiger Mothers ""... here. The famous Wall Street Journal article... here.
** Thomas L. Friedman wrote a book called The World is Flat, in which he talks about how our children will be competing for education and jobs in a global market.
*** My two children are twelve years apart in age... God's idea... not mine. Although it turned out just fine.
Note: I have no idea why some typos are appearing... they don't in the original post writing. For instance, 6ine is still fine when I check and there are others showing up. Weird...