Homeschoolers are often “non-traditional,” aren’t they? Homeschoolers are known for avoiding the government schools’ “factory mentality” and carving their own way, based on what’s best for their lives.
So you probably won’t be surprised to know that I did college the non-traditional way. I have completed a BA in History – and that with never having set foot in a real college classroom. It turned out to be far less expensive than the traditional route, as well as a lot quicker. Non-traditional college options are becoming more and more easily available to college students. If you’re interested in customizing your college experience, here are some thoughts to consider.
College off-site is less expensive. Some degrees can be earned for as little as $5,000-$10,000. This is a far cry from the $50,000-$100,000 (or more) of many traditional college routes.
College off-site allows your still-young 18-19 year-olds to spend another year or two at home. College life is not necessarily known for its maturing effects on young people’s minds and hearts, to say the least. Home is generally a safer environment, especially for young women. Particularly if your young adult is considering a secular university, doing at least the first year or two at home may be the best choice and allow you to continue to personally mentor them as they enter adulthood.
Many colleges will accept CLEP and Dantes tests. College Level Examination Programs (CLEPs) and Dantes tests cover many areas of college study. One test covers an entire semester course and is worth either 3 or 6 credits, depending on the subject. Some colleges will let you use these tests for most or all of your degree. Some colleges only allow certain of these tests to be used, so be sure to check with your college before embarking on this route.
Since I majored in History, I was able to use the CLEPs and Dantes to test out of almost all my BA requirements. Obviously, if your student is interested in a hands-on field like nursing, then some on-site classes will be required. But these tests may still be a good way to get your basic educational requirements (English, History, Humanities, etc.) out of the way, not to mention cover some of your electives as well. Both CLEP and Dantes have websites that you can easily find by Googling.
Many colleges offer classes online. Check to see if the college of your choice offers this option. There are many adults going back for more education these days, and colleges and universities are catering to this crowd. As an example, I graduated from Thomas Edison State College and they offer entire degrees via online classes. An online class will typically include discussion forums as well as regular tests and assignment papers, just like a traditional on-site class. Some classes are “real time,” which means you must be online at set times to participate in the instruction and discussions. Some classes are more flexible and you can log in any time between set dates to complete your assignments.
College off-site allows you to customize your college education – just like you did with the rest of your educational experience. Whether you want to do the first year of college at home, the entire experience at home, or simply get some electives out of the way in a hurry, there are options available for you. You can do your own research to decide which colleges offer the best options for your situation. Or you can use a great resource, CollegePlus, to help you organize your plan and mentor you through the process. CollegePlus is a Christian organization dedicated to helping young people customize their college experience. They work with many homeschoolers and we have found them to be very helpful. My sister and I ended up being too busy with our “real lives” to research our college options, so CollegePlus did the work for us, helping us customize our experience to what we needed. You can contact CollegePlus via their website at www.collegeplus.org or call them at 866-989-5432.
Will you still get a “real” college education? The answer is that, just like the rest of your homeschooling experience, college is what you make of it. If you are simply interested in getting letters after your name as quickly as possible, you can cram for each test, pass the test and wind up just “skimming” the material. On the other hand, if you’re looking for in-depth learning, you can slow down, read all the materials connected with the class or test and really internalize the information. In my case, I had chosen to do college level studies on my own and was mainly interested in getting credit for my home studies as fast as possible. Though I did some “cramming,” I found that my previous personal studies had prepared me very well for most of the tests I took.
The key to college at home is that the student (possibly with help from the parents) takes responsibility for his or her own education. This can be a great way to motivate a student, and it’s also a good way to help a student learn time management skills. It’s quite doable for a student to pay for his own college education this way, thus avoiding the problem of being stuck with years of school loans.
Homeschooling is all about personalization, customization and working with your student’s individual needs. Why stop that wonderful method when they get to college? Rather than following the cookie-cutter mold that of traditional college, help your student do what’s truly best for them!
Copyright 2008 by Heather Sheen. All rights reserved. If you would like to read more articles by the Sheen family, or contact them, please check out www.HomeschoolFamilyForum.com.