Within the realm of institutional K-12 schooling, college tends to be an assumed destination and the decisions typically revolve around where you should go, rather than if you should go. In home schooling circles, however, the questions seem to center more on whether college is a necessary or even desirable option for the home-educated student. A recent discussion on the HSA boards called, "College, should you go?" caused me to reflect on a time in my life when I was wrestling with the same question. While I can’t offer any definitive one-size-fits-all answers, I want to share my experience with you, share a few things I learned along the way and make some general commentary that may be helpful to you. I was educated within the public school system, back when home schooling existed but was not nearly as prolific as it is today. I also am not a college graduate, having only two years of graphic arts school majoring in photography, a few credits short of my degree. It's a safe bet that most of you reading this article are from a home schooled background. A number of you may either be currently in college or else contemplating it for the near future. As the father of two home schooled children this subject is of interest to me. Despite the diversity of our experience I suspect we will find some common ground in considering college. I will utilize the term “college” in the context of any secular or religious institution of learning beyond high school, including certificate/associate degree programs, a four-year undergraduate programs or a graduate/specialty schools (i.e. divinity, law, medical).
Those who attended a public or private school share one common denominator with those who were home educated. You reach a point in life where you begin the transition from your primary educational phase to your vocation. This transition involves several rather daunting decisions, not the least of which is, "What am I supposed to be doing with my life?" Your choice of occupation is a large part of that equation, and that choice is a principle factor in contemplating post-high school education. Most reasonably well paying careers require some level of training to enter. There are an awful lot of occupations out there so the nature of that training will depend on what you intend to do. Navigating these waters can be challenging, especially if you have a wide range of interests as I do. You can't run 80 directions at once and you can’t do everything for a living so at some point you must begin to bring your interests into focus as these decisions approach. There are too many variables involved to try and forecast your entire life. Realistically, you’ll probably be thinking more in terms of the next 10 to 15 years. Even so, these decisions are not easy.
I come from an extended family that holds education and position in high esteem. Recent conversations with my great aunt gave me insight as to why it was so important to them. My paternal grandparents emigrated to start a new life anew in America and they worked hard to get to where they were. It somewhat explains their tendency to evaluate people in terms of where they are and what they've achieved as opposed to who they are and what they've become (the latter being a more biblical outlook, in my opinion). My socially conscious grandmother, bless her heart, was forever recounting the accomplishments of her children and grandchildren. We were expected to succeed and succeed big. Naturally it was assumed of my sister and me that we would attend a classy school, excel in whatever we chose to pursue and become wealthy, prestigious additions to the family trophy shelf. I might have more readily followed that yellow brick road had I not also come from a church that encompassed our lives on many levels, led by one man who exercised a good deal of influence in our personal lives and affecting some of my major life decisions. Despite some good biblical teaching regarding humility, loving the unlovely, not showing preferential treatment to those of stature and wealth, honoring the Lord in our accomplishments and emphasizing a God-made life over a self-made life, the church also had some unhealthy, unbalanced views. One of them had to do with post-high school education.
Unlike my family who revered and encouraged higher education, the church viewed it as more of a liability than an asset. College was seen as a potential threat to our faith because of the secular environment and humanistic emphasis. It was also regarded as a source of pride (Paul’s words, “knowledge puffeth up” were co-opted into “college puffeth up”), a source of debt (financed purchases were strongly frowned upon) and something that wasn’t necessarily “God's best" for us. College wasn’t “forbidden” but it was definitely discouraged. In retrospect, I think that the opposition to college was twofold. First, outside involvement and outside education was likely a threat to our complete devotion to this man and his teachings. Secondly, the return of Jesus was considered sufficiently imminent that we would be better off taking whatever work we could find in the meantime. Life in this church was very much a matter of survival in the present rather than preparation for the future.
Against this backdrop, I would be making that transition from education to vocation and I had a rough time ascertaining what that vocation might be. Between my wide array of interests, seemingly endless possibilities, the pressure I felt from my extended family to excel at a "real school" and the anti-college mindset of the church, I was trying to discern the will of God in the matter. Life felt like a big tug of war and I was the rope. I didn’t want to flip burgers, I didn’t have the grand vision of Yale or Princeton (sorry Grandma) and didn’t want to sit and do nothing. I knew that some sort of career preparation was necessary and after investigating several options, the best balance I could strike was the local state university. After graduating high school I spent the summer working full time and as August approached, made preparations to go to UW-Milwaukee to major in I-didn't-know-what. I had to go down to the school to experience the zoo that was “in-person registration”. So began the journey toward my career.
“Considering College” - Copyright 2006 James A. Karpowitz <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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