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A Homeschooled Preteen in College

By Teresa Schultz-Jones
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #45, 2002.

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Teresa Schultz-Jones


What do you do when you run out of things for your child to study? Maybe it's time to consider college - at least for part of your child's schooling.

For us, that time came when my middle child was eleven. She was an early reader who excelled in everything related to English, literature and writing. We already tried a high school correspondence course through the University of Missouri's Distance Learning Program, with which she had no trouble. Finally, we realized that she needed more. When your interest is in writing, there comes a time when being in a classroom where you can discuss your writing and your ideas has its advantages.

A neighbor suggested community college where "she can get the classroom experience and college credit!" Spurred on by stories of other area homeschoolers taking classes at a nearby college, we decided to look into it.

Signing Up for College

Since my daughter would only be taking one class, it wasn't necessary to go through a lengthy application process. At the community college, all that was needed was for her to take their placement test. We went down one evening and along with ninety other prospective students, she took the writing, reading, and math placement tests. She easily placed in the Freshman English Composition class. (While she didn't need to take the math placement test, it was nice to see that she placed at exactly the level we were studying.)

We had the results by noon the next day. Now, it was time for her to sign up for a class. I went with her to help her sort through the paperwork and to pay the tuition. There was so much confusion for everyone at registration, I don't think that any of the students realized that there was an eleven-year old signing up, too. The registrar noticed - she looked at the application and then at Kira, smiled and signed her up. Although she said nothing, I noticed that she helped expedite the rest of the process for us.

Kira was assigned the very last one opening in the English Comp I class and was handed an admission slip into Section 31, which met on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 3-3:50 p.m.

The next hurdle was getting her student identification card. The sign at the door asked students to show their driver's license as proof of ID. Kira was afraid that she would not be given a student ID because she wasn't old enough for a license, but the admission slip proved to be sufficient.

She was nervous on the first day of class, but I was probably more nervous! We arrived several hours early, checked the classroom out early, and discussed where the best seat would be: front row, but way over to one side, so she could see everything without being right in the teacher's direct line of fire.

Finally, it was time. She went stoically into the classroom while I paced the halls outside. Would she like it? Would the teacher comment on her age? What would the other students think? How could my child, who had a hard time sitting at home for an hour, manage to sit still during an entire class?

Her smile when she came out of that room erased my misgivings. She chatted excitedly about the class and how impressed she was with the teacher. After each lesson, she would chatter away about all that she had learned or share some anecdote that the teacher had told them. At home, she suddenly became very organized when it came to getting her assignments for college done, and her textbooks soon became dog-eared from reading and rereading them. She didn't try to negotiate getting out of an assignment, because she knew college professors are not like Mom. Every week, she wrote at least two essays and answered questions on writing styles of various authors. For her final paper, she wrote "The History of the Bagel."

Looking Back

The semester is now over and my daughter received a B+. It's fair to say that she learned more from the experience than from the class itself. Aside from the obvious lessons in learning to organize and prepare, Kira recommends the following:

  • Memorize your student ID number, since you may find you need to write it on every test and every form you fill out.

  • Practice writing with a pen, because college teachers don't seem to like pencil. Gel pens are easiest to write with, but if you tend to make mistakes, one of those erasable pens might be better

I learned that:

  • I had to adjust from being a teacher to being a parent. I no longer had to correct my daughter's work, but had to learn to have faith in my daughter.

  • College courses may expose your child to ideas that she has not heard before. We had some very interesting discussions on the ride home. While I would have preferred that my daughter be older when she first heard about some of these things, I am glad that her reactions and opinions reflect her upbringing.

We learned to adjust our schedule to accommodate her college workload. At first, she overprepared for her class. As she grew more comfortable with what she needed to do for English Comp I, we could increase her other work.

The class cost $265, including books, which may sound expensive for a three-month class, but a one-semester college course is generally equal to a full year high school class. Even better, this class will count as three classes for Kira, since it fulfills the seventh-grade English requirement (her age level), a high school course, and college credit. When you look at it this way, it suddenly seems far more reasonable!

The final story? Kara decided she is not quite ready for full-time college, but the community college now provides us with a new option in planning her classes.


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