Caveat here first: Casey has attended every type of school possible. Public. Private. Montessori. Good. Bad. And he’s been homeschooled. It’s ironic that we probably train more school teachers than anyone else in America each year. And we love that. So we have a unique perspective. I do not think homeschooling is inherently better than sending your child off to school. It depends on the child and the family.

A concerned friend approached me recently, worried that homeschooling doesn’t prepare kids well enough for college. How is Casey going to do well when he’s not used to listening to a teacher tell him what to do all day? Obviously, I thanked him as we all like it when others question our decisions, especially when inferring that we are harming our children  :)

But my wife and I wrestled with that question long ago. She had the same concern. But the more I thought about it, the more I think homeschooling has some distinct advantages when it comes to preparation for college. There are many factors that contribute to success in college, but here are my top five:

1. Independent study. In college, a professor may lecture for three hours per week. But it’s the outside reading, research and papers that largely determine whether one is successful. (Casey has listened to hundreds of hours of his pastor and his Dad speaking!). I am a big fan of turning kids loose and asking them to be responsible for their own work, especially when they get to middle school. While I help Casey with specialized courses like algebra and physics, most of his work is done independently. He doesn’t need a teacher to hold his hand. He knows where and when he does his best work–usually at Barnes & Noble or Dunkin Donuts. In many ways, it’s like he’s in college already.

2. Time management. This is what sabotages many kids. For the first 12 school years, an adult told them exactly what to do with every moment of their time. Now they are unleashed with no adult supervision and surrounded by temptations of every kind. Many get sucked into the vaccum of unstructured time. And even though they have 20 hours a day when not in class, somehow they “just don’t have time” to get their papers done.

As your kids get older, put the responsibility for managing their time on them. I don’t hound Casey at all. He knows how and when he works best. It’s his education, not mine.

3. Accessing information/curiosity. The curriculum in regular schools is fairly rigid–this is your textbook. We have encouraged Casey to get involved in a lot of activities/passions apart from academics. He is intensely curious about people and certain subjects. He’s had access to different sources for information. Maybe this isn’t as important in college, but it is critical in the work world. No one is going to assign a textbook–you have to be hungry to ask questions and find answers.

4. Ability to think and reason–wisdom. There are some great schools that teach kids how to think critically. Unfortunately, most teachers have very little flexibility because they have so much information “to get through” so kids can pass a standardized test. The focus is often on memorizing information and recalling it for timed tests. But we don’t use that skill much in real life.

What kids really need is the ability to think critically, to ask questions, to challenge assumptions, to make sound decisions and apply wisdom. That has largely been the focus of his home education. I honestly don’t care if he knows the topography of Africa–he’s not interested and will never use that in real life. But I do want to make sure he can think critically, challenge assumptions and make sound decisions. Helps that he’s a natural little attorney inside to begin with  :)

5. Ability to communicate effectively–verbal and written. We only have so much time so we have to prioritize what we teach our kids. You know how your kids are wired, so play to their strengths and passions. Much of what we ask kids to learn is irrelevant to their lives. But the one thing every person must be able to do is write well and communicate effectively. So we put A LOT of emphasis on his writing skills. He is a very persuasive writer.  Grades in college are heavily dependent on writing term papers and answering essay questions. He speaks at school assemblies and has been exposed to so many different social environments, so he’s going to have no problem participating in class discussions. I feel sorry for his professors–he is going to challenge them all very well!

(By the way, handling social pressure and friendships is another important area. But I’m saving that for a separate post.)

Go through the list again–most of these skills are absolutely critical for success in the real world after college. Perhaps I am missing some qualities. Or maybe you fundamentally disagree with me. I’d love to hear from you. Do you agree or disagree?