Is Homeschool the Best Preparation for College? Experts Say It Strengthens Students Independence
A homeschool girl, now studying at a state college, says that instead of stunting her social and intellectual growth, homeschooling actually toughened her up for the real challenges of college life. Christian homeschooling advocates argue that studying at home frees kids up to thrive and is a better option than public and even private school for grades K-12.
Homeschooling "did not prepare me to get smashed every weekend, engage in casual sex, or try every drug known to man," Katie England, a student at Colorado State University in Pueblo, wrote in a Wednesday blog post. Instead, this teaching style strengthened her independence, she said. "It did prepare me to counter culture, a skill with which very few kids come out of high school equipped."
Christian homeschooling pioneer Gregg Harris, who serves as director, event developer, and instructor at the Noble Institute, told The Christian Post on Wednesday that homeschoolers "tend to be good at organizing their time and attacking a project, studying for the sheer delight in the learning process." Learning in the home allows kids to pursue what they love, so "education becomes a feast rather than something they have to get over with."
Harris praised the spirit of Steve Jobs' famous commercial – "here's to the crazy ones!" – as an illustration of where breakthroughs happen – in small groups where people pursue deeper understanding for its own sake. He mentioned the Beatles, Thomas Edison, and Christopher Columbus as examples of men who achieved remarkable success thanks to such close-knit camaraderie.
The classroom setting, where boys and girls spend time with people their own age, severely limits their social perspective, Harris argued. Rather than pursue academic excellence, these kids push to become the most popular. Instead, he recommends a school with "a system of academic clubs" involving reading, writing and speaking, where students get together to pursue a common interest.
"Homeschooling, if you have the vision as parents, is an ideal environment in which to organize these kinds of clubs and programs," Harris argued. As an example, he mentioned his most famous son, Josh, who wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye before graduating from high school.
David Halbrook, director of communications at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Va., said that homeschooling, if done well, offers a broad foundation of knowledge, security in the faith, and greater self-assurance. He told CP that "67 percent of this year's incoming freshmen" at Patrick Henry were homeschooled – a low from five years ago, when it reached "75 to 80 percent."
The large homeschooling population did not force the school to lower its standards, however. Halbrook listed rigorous high school academics, SAT and ACT scores as prerequisites for admission. All students take a core curriculum in the classics, founding principles, and economics, in what the director called "the format of a lot of the founding fathers."
Patrick Henry students scored highest on the Inter-Collegiate Studies Institute's American Civic Literacy Test, surpassing Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, Halbrook noted.. Also, on the national Educational Testing Service Proficiency Profile, this school's students ranked first out of 261 schools. Halbrook said that Patrick Henry students who went from homeschooling to public school – for sports or extracurricular activities – often became bored and required extra studies at home to keep them interested.
"If you plant a seed in the ground, and you put a can over it for a season, until it grows strong enough to have its own structure, it can survive on its own," he explained. By decreasing the influence of peers at an early age, parents can strengthen their children at home, so when they leave "they can be game changers rather than just getting sucked in" to the culture around them.
"More homeschoolers are going to college than ever before and colleges are actively recruiting them," noted Yvonee Bunn, director of homeschool support and director of government affairs at the Home Educators Association of Virginia. On the SAT and ACT, homeschoolers do better than private school students, and finally those from public schools, she said.
Bunn estimated that America has about 2.5 million homeschoolers. The National Home Education Research Institute reported 2.04 million home-educated students in the U.S., growing at around 2% to 8% each year, with a high estimate around 2.35 million.
But Harris warned Christian parents not to put all their faith in homeschooling. He said there is a great danger of thinking "you can do by homeschooling what God intended to accomplish through the Gospel," the homeschooling pioneer warned. He stressed that while homeschooling may be effective, it is no substitute for the Holy Spirit.