“Am I preparing my child for college adequately? Are they going to be ready for life “out there”? What do I do about the cost of college? Do they really NEED college? And how do I prepare them for the moral atmosphere they will be faced with?” If these are questions your have as a parent, may I offer my advice as a teacher and mother of five who has now launched four into their adult lives.
Raised in a nominally Christian home, I performed well in public school, earning straight A’s. Though I became a Christian at age 13, I was influenced by the school atmosphere and was romantically involved with a young man who, I concluded eventually, was not a Christian. But I was determined to marry a Christian, so I broke up with him and attended Seattle Pacific University, a somewhat-Christian college; there I thought I would meet a nice Christian young man. Unfortunately, a lot of girls had the same idea; there was a 3:1 female-to-male ratio on campus.
Nevertheless, I loved the academics and the social atmosphere of college. However, I compromised morally. I didn’t drink or party hardy, but I got involved romantically–again–with another young man who, as time went on, turned out wasn’t a genuine Christian. After attaining a teaching degree in music education, I taught for two years in Alaska, returning to college for my master’s degree at a state university in Washington. That’s when I met John. We got married, started a family, and I taught music parttime. After the birth of our first child, we first learned about homeschooling through a radio interview of Dr. Raymond Moore, a proponent who some would call the father of the modern American homeschool movement. I decided I could teach my own children as well or better than the public school teachers could. I started when Firstborn was four, Second-born was two and Third-born was new. Just a few months into it I became very ill, and have been chronically so for the last 21 years. Except for a 4-year hiatus when my health was at its worst, we have home-schooled all five of our children through high school.
At some point we listened to a two-CD lecture on How to Prepare your Son or Daughter for College from Vision Forum. That lecture radically changed our plans for our children’s future.
We looked at the scriptures together and observed what appeared to be the model for launching our young into world: “A man shall leave his mother and father, and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”. There is no mention of the man leaving to go to college; there is no mention of the woman leaving at all before she marries. In Proverbs it does say, a man prepares his field before he builds a house. This means, he develops his means of providing for his bride before he builds a house to live in. And Jesus, when describing himself as the Bridegroom, said, “I go to prepare a place for you, that there you (the Bride, his church) may be also.” This was how we decided God had designed families to transition their young people into the world. We realized that sending our daughters, particularly, into the college setting was to leave them unprotected and vulnerable without their father’s covering.
So we decided to make some radical changes regarding college. It has turned that so far only one has attended two classes at a junior college, and one child has earned some credits via CLEP testing before changing direction. None have earned degrees. Here is how our children are doing today.
Firstborn, 26, was married to another homeschool graduate at age 19; she has four children, and is homeschooling them. She is a talented singer and musician. Her husband works for Second-born, as his warehouse manager.
Second-born is 24. At age 15 he started his own business selling ziplines out of our garage and now has ten employees with an office and warehouse. He is married with three children and owns three residences, two of which are rentals. He was awarded Oregon’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year by Gov. Kitzhaber.
Third-born, 22, excelled in regional speech competition; he became a pianist, guitarist and drummer and recorded a CD. As a senior, he interned with a computer programmer, learning code. Third-born is now a partner with his mentor in a programming business and is very well paid. He is now married with a child on the way.
Fourth-born, 20, is living at home. She has won many speech contests, including the Oregon Right to Life Oratory Contest for two years and second and third place at the National Right to Life contests. She has become a professional photographer, actress, artist and graphic designer. Fourth-born initially started earning college credit by taking CLEP and DSST tests, and had a College Plus counselor helping her. She had earned 21 credits when she went to the Chicago Family Economics conference in 2012 and came home with a new vision. She worked as an intern for a marketing company until Second-born hired her this year as his Marketing Director. She is welcome to live with us until she marries.
Fifth-born, 17, is finishing his junior year in high school, and is considering computer programming or engineering as a career. With that in mind, his homeschool studies have been top-heavy in math and science, and next year he will also apprentice with Third-born and his partner in programming. He is inclined to go the traditional route through college at this time, which would make him the only child to do so. Time will tell.
As you can see, our children have fared fairly well without college.
If I seem to be opposed to attending college, it is not because I devalue academic rigor. On the contrary, I believe in holding to very high standards of both academic mastery and moral integrity.
WHY PURSUE HIGH STANDARDS?
1. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:8) Knowledge is a highly-held value in our home.
2. Our children, especially our sons, need the “intellectual capital” to give them an edge in the economy. By intellectual capital, I mean a specialized skill or high level of knowledge that a majority of people do not have, for which they are willing to pay a goodly sum. If your sons are to compete well enough and earn a high enough income to support a family, they need to attain high academic standards. Only 9% of American high school grads are pursuing science in college. This represents an opportunity; if your children pursue the sciences, they will be in high demand.
It does not necessarily follow that one must go to college to attain high academic proficiency. A good high school education should be the equivalent to the first two years of college. Colleges have dumbed down their programs for the sake of filling up their low-achieving entering-freshmen classes to such a degree that the first two years is largely a waste of time for those with a good high school education. (My college allowed me to be exempted from general requirements for my degree because of my GPA and test scores–even though my high school education was unremarkable.)
REASONS TO ATTEND A BRICK-AND-MORTAR COLLEGE
Why go to college? For one thing, it is NOT for the purpose of finding a spouse–yet how many of us went there for that unspoken reason?
Is it for high academic pursuits? Well, I would hope so–yet (according to the newest stats) the average college student today spends more time partying and playing sports than studying. But maybe your child will be different. (Don’t count on it.)
There are indeed a few highly specialized fields where you need to pursue a college degree: medical doctors, nurses, nuclear physicists, veterinarians, science researchers, post-graduate degrees, etc. Those who pursue what Dr. Art Robinson calls the hard-science fields (physics and chemistry) may find they need the on-campus experience with access to the laboratories and expensive equipment.
HOW YOU CAN BEAT THE SYSTEM
However, it is getting increasingly easier to gain that knowledge from your own home, or out in the “real world” with a laptop and internet access. MIT now has all of its course content available for free online, and many colleges are following suit. It only requires that you be motivated enough to read and work your way through it without a professor to hold you accountable. You can teach yourself most of what you need to know, and then take the requisite tests necessary to get college credit or certification in your field.
There is a very good company that has systematized this approach, called College Plus. This program provides your student with a personal counselor who will coach him biweekly through the process. They utilize the CLEP and other standardized tests that are accepted by most colleges for credit. There really is no reason you can’t earn at least a Bachelor’s degree for a fraction of the cost of a brick-and-mortar college.
You can beat the system even further and save thousands more dollars without using C+ and doing it on your own. Keep your own schedule, figure out your own course of study, etc. You have to be highly motivated. Just buy the book Accelerated Long-Distance Learning by Brad Voeller. Buy other books from the C+ Bookstore and go at it on your own.
Another resource was founded by a former engineering professor, Dr. James Bartlett, who offers a course of home study for science, business, agriculture, medical and many other majors and minors that will coach you through a college education without taking standardized tests or needing a degree from an accredited organization. The organization is called Biblical Concourse of Home Universities and offers web-based coaching with teachers who share a biblical worldview. It has a great bookstore with college textbooks and hands-on project-oriented materials for at-home study.
REASONS NOT TO DO COLLEGE
Why not go to a traditional brick-and-mortar college?
1. No such Biblical model
Jesus was homeschooled. He learned at home, and perhaps under the tutelage of rabbis in His local synagogue in Galilee. His home study was sufficient to cause the learned temple teachers in Jerusalem to be amazed at his abilities at age twelve. He remained subject to his parents until age 30. His father Joseph taught him his trade as a carpenter, and Jesus worked for him until he was ready to start his ministry. That was the Jewish way, and Jesus implicitly endorsed that way by following it himself.
2. Moral debauchery and compromise
Nathan Harden is a 2009 graduate of Yale and author of the recently published book, Sex and God at Yale: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad . His book documents the events of Sex Week at his alma mater, including the screening in classrooms of hard-core pornography. The details of what occurs, not in the dorms, but in the classrooms with the consent and endorsement of professors, are too sordid for me to print here.
Harden says, “Unfortunately, what’s happening at Yale is indicative of what is occurring at colleges and universities across the country. Sex Week, for example, is being replicated at Harvard, Brown, Duke, Northwestern, the University of Illinois, and the University of Wisconsin. Nor would it suffice to demand an end to Sex Weeks on America’s college campuses. Those events are, after all, only symptoms of a deeper emptiness in modern academia. Our universities have lost touch with the purpose of liberal arts education, the pursuit of truth. In abandoning that mission-indeed, by denying its possibility- our institutions of higher learning are afflicted to the core.”
This is the case on secular campuses, but don’t think you’re going to avoid compromise on the Christian campuses. They may not have Sex Week, but there is nonetheless plenty of romance and couplings going on. At SPU even 3 decades ago, there were drug and drinking parties, and hetero- and homosexual sex among students, in student residences very close to campus as well as on-campus. The reason is that even among the most devoted Christian young people, when they are placed into a 24/7 environment without the protection of the father, the daughters are unprotected from the advances of young men, and foolishness and sin abounds.
Now, I have friends whose son is attending Patrick Henry College, a Christian college started by Michael Farris of Home School Legal Defense Association, for homeschool graduates in particular. I have great respect for my friends, but they will admit to you that there is moral compromise occurring there as well. If you take seriously the biblical requirement of fathers to protect the virginity of their daughters, you have an uphill battle to do it long distance. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it will take great effort.
To attend a brick-and-mortar college you have to either save the equivalent of what you would pay for a house, ($22,000/yr for a state college and $29,000/yr for a private school) or go into debt, or get a very generous scholarship. Most scholarships will only get you through the first year or two, and then once the college has your child hooked, the scholarships dry up. I think it is a huge mistake for a young person to start out life as a college grad with tens of thousands of dollars in debt. The data shows that the wages they can earn in most fields no longer adequately compensate them for the debt they incur to prepare for those fields. It is fiscal insanity.
MORE ALTERNATIVES TO THE TRADITIONAL ROUTE
1. Take certifying exams, get work experience in your field of interest/expertise and skip the degree. Example: biblicalconcourse.com
2. Internships, apprenticeships. Example: Third-born
3. Teach yourself online; tutorials abound.
4. Start a business of your own. Example: Second-born
5. Vocational training at local junior college. Just take the classes you want to.
6. Find a friend to mentor. Use Skype or similar social networks.
7. Be a servant; offer to help in the office of a ministry or business or political candidate. Make yourself useful as a volunteer and show yourself worthy of compensation.
8. Buy the software program that is considered required for the field you are interested in, and learn how to use it. Go on Craigslist and see what computer skills employers want you to have, and teach yourself.
9. Read. Read. Read. And then read some more. I have always told my kids, “Everything you ever want to know can be found in a book.” Now I tell them if it’s not in a book, it’s on the internet.
If you must go to a brick-and-mortar college, consider these alternatives:
1. Live at home while going to college. This helps avoid the morally-compromising bachelor-pad lifestyle, and saves mucho buckos.
2. Live with a godly family who will agree to help you develop a healthy social life.
3. Get married while going to college. (This has its financial and marital drawbacks too.)
4. Keep in touch daily with parents. Some parents I know have daily contact with their children away to college. This requires a good relationship, and after all, that is what’s most important.
Let us be very clear: we are not preparing our children for college; we are preparing them for life. College is only a means to an end. We should, in fact, be raising life-long learners. They should have a love for learning that extends throughout their lives, regardless of age and stage.
Brad Voeller, Accelerated Distance Learning, Global Learning Strategies