Friday, November 25, 2011

Homeschool to College Research and Worry - Enough is Enough!

When my oldest began eighth grade I started opening my ears and tuning in to the chatter about college admissions and what colleges really want. I thought that was "the right time" to really start researching but I was wrong. Since my son stated he wanted to be an engineer I researched what most colleges want. It was a good thing I started in the fall, as I found out that my information base and my son's academic work really should have begun in grade seven (especially for that major) but we were digging in to get the math done in grade eight (which felt like a rush as we already felt behind).

At the same time, my local homeschool friends, most of them, were working up to a panic state and it affected me and got me nervous.

It has been about 15 months that I've been reading, chatting, talking, and listening and enough is enough. For me, that information has turned to noise and is a distractor to getting the actual work done. It was also stressing me out. Now the more I read the more duplication I hear and I'm no longer learning anything new. It is time for me to focus more on teaching my son and having systems in place so he can get his work done.

If you are a homeschooler I feel that it is harder for the parent to figure out the path to college. First you need to know there are sometimes different guidelines and requirements made of homeschoolers than kids who use traditional schools. Your child may have to take more standardized tests to prove they really did learn something. Depending on your style of homeschooling in order to fulfill these requirements you may have to switch gears from a more alternative education style to a more traditional one. If you were a relaxed homeschooler you may have to switch gears and get more serious about deadlines (even just to finish science topic X by June to take the SAT II test in that month when before you were more loosey goosey about finishing up science in a certain month or letting it spill into the summer or the following fall). How much you have to do and what you need to change will vary depending on the major you seek.

What you should know first is that your research about college, I think, should begin in grade seven and be complete before grade eight starts. Second, you need to know what colleges want of schooled kids and then what they want from homeschoolers, which can be two different things.

I've read only one book but have heard perhaps a half dozen lectures from reputable people about the process. I've read some websites and blogs from college admissions coaches. I have read the college websites themselves to get the information directly from the horse's mouth. Regarding homeschoolers and college I have found a lot (too much) information on two YahooGroup! chat lists: homeschool2college and hs2coll.

After hearing five excellent lectures at the parent program ran by Learning U at MIT ESP Splash last weekend I feel the intense need to shut off the external voices and to focus inward on just my family. I am hearing the same information over and over and I'm not learning much that is new so why should I invest my time into hearing yet another lecture or to read another book?

I understand the need over time to keep my finger in the pot so I can know if there are changes but I think I could do that mostly by a quick check with the colleges and by skimming the chat lists.

Right now I think I'm almost ready to put my YahooGroups! on web only reading so that the emails are not delivered all day long putting the information and opinions right in front of my face all day long. I need to stop spending time trying to dig up new information when nothing new is being found when my energy needs to go into actually educating my kids at home. To reduce stress and to prevent it from developing into a true anxiety.

I need to filter out the noise and trust the process and dig deep into the living and learning rather than worrying that I don't know enough to guide my kids to get an acceptable (in the eyes of the college admissions officers) education. Really in the end what's important is the education they get, not just how it looks on paper on some application, so I'll focus on that now.

P.S. I plan to blog in the near future about some of the things I have learned about homeschooling high school and the path to college. To see what I've blogged in the past look for the "label" below this post with keywords and click on one to link to my past blog posts.


Tina Hollenbeck said...

I can totally relate! It reminds of when I was pregnant with my first and read "everything" out there, took classes, sought advice, etc. - and then got so overwhelmed after she was born that I almost felt paralyzed. There comes a point where just living trumps information - and, when I shut the books and turned off the phone (and computer) to just focus on my girl (and, later, her sister), learning what SHE needed as an individual, instead of all the advice, things went so much better. Yes, we need to be duly diligent about college prep, but I firmly believe there is a balance between the info and just trusting that working hard in the high school years will yield a fruitful path in the college years (whether or not that matches a specific plan we might have had in mind at first). Hang in there! :^)

Jennie said...

No question that strategizing for the transition from homeschool to traditional school is a process. It's a project that takes time and planning. Unfortunately, standardized testing is critical for home schooled kids because it's the easiest way to compare kids to their peers who are coming from schools that colleges are already familiar with. I home schooled my daughter for 7th and 8th grade and had to prepare her for the SSAT, the test she needed to take for admission to traditional high school in 9th grade. We integrated her passion for cooking with her need to improve her vocabulary, reading comprehension and writing, skills that would be measured in the verbal section of her test. The 2 year project significantly improved her score and led to publication of her work as book: "Cook Your Way Through The S.A.T." (available online at Amazon, etc). One of the many benefits of home school is the ability to use creativity and innovation while maintaining a standards-based curriculum. If your child enjoys cooking, this book can be incorporated as a long term project to improve verbal performance on all standardized tests given in middle school and high school.
Having been through the process successfully, I recommend you: plan, plan, plan!
Good luck!