The homeschool movement is growing up! For the first time in this century an entire generation of homeschooled children is preparing to graduate from high school. God is dealing with homeschooling parents and young people alike, and they are discovering that He has prepared a way for them to take the best that the educational system has to offer without being forced to attend universities where the very foundations of their faith will be under daily attack. Yes, this generation of homeschooled students is college bound, but they now have the option of attending college at home.
Ideally, parents should start planning for college before they enroll their children in the first grade. For example, shortly after our first child was born, my husband and I made a commitment to give our children the opportunity to earn both undergraduate and graduate degrees. That resolve came long before we made the decision to home school, and it was that commitment which influenced all our future decisions pertaining to their educations.
That is the reason why, after I began working with Alexandra and realized that I could teach her, we immediately began looking for an accredited correspondence school in which to enroll her for the elementary grades. We believed that a paper trail would be an important factor in getting our children enrolled in good universities, and that desire to create a paper trail was a major factor in our choosing the Calvert program.
Even at the elementary level we had a list of criteria that must be met: 1. legitimate accreditation 2. excellent curriculum 3. stable history. Today, of course, both high schools and universities are much more open to homeschooled students, and it may not be necessary to insist upon accreditation in an elementary program. Regardless of what curriculum a homeschooling parent chooses, however, it is just as important to keep a paper trail now as it was eighteen years ago when I first began teaching my children. For parents who do not opt for an accredited course of study, scrupulous record keeping which includes a list of texts used for each grade level along with copies of lesson plans and tests is a must. Finally, it is advisable to choose a course of study from an institution with a stable history. After all, no parents want to discover mid-way through the child's elementary education that the school is going out of business!
After the homeschooling parents narrow the field of potential curricula for grades one through eight, they should spend some time examining those curricula in terms of how well each is going to prepare their children for college. Remember that an elementary education should do more than develop good basic skills, teach proper study habits, and help a child to love learning. An elementary education should prepare a child for higher learning in several specific areas.
For instance, we always put a good deal of emphasis on both American and world history. I worked with the children to insure that they knew many dates in order to provide them with a time frame in which to fit historical events. I am sure that there were times when my children felt that it was a great "waste of time" to commit so many dates to memory, but during one of her on-campus university seminars Alexandra had an occasion to discover the value of hours spent during the early years memorizing dates.
A certain professor was lecturing on the Battle of Hastings. Try as she might, Alexandra could not identify the event. A few minutes into the lecture, however, the professor mentioned the date 1066. Immediately, Alexandra remembered a list of dates which included the entry "1066 -- William the Conqueror." She then easily recalled the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings and was able to follow the remainder of the lecture without difficulty.
Our American and English literature classes also laid a solid foundation for higher education. When my children were working in the university literature programs, they were already familiar with most of the literary terms and many of the authors they studied in those courses. Obviously, literature courses on a university level are much more complex than are those on an elementary level, but when one enters those courses having previously read works by many of the authors and having memorized passages from a number of the poetry selections, much of the uncertainty that comes from dealing with the unknown vanishes.
Since any university degree earned through home study will depend largely upon a student's ability to write clearly and concisely, it is also imperative that parents who are considering university extension programs for their children insure that their students learn early on to express themselves in an intelligent manner both orally and on paper. The grammar and composition work which my children completed in the elementary grades served them well when they entered the university. From the first through the eighth grade a combination of oral and written composition was assigned two or three times a week to develop communication skills. Those exercises proved to be well worth the effort when they were required to write in excess of 120 papers to earn their undergraduate degrees in addition to a 50 to 75 page bachelor's thesis which was written under the same guidelines as a master's thesis and, after being accepted in written form, was presented orally on campus before an assembly of students and professors.
Yes, it is important that your child's elementary education provide a solid foundation in reading, writing, and arithmetic, but it can and should do much more. The lessons learned in those early grades must build a bridge to higher education so that when the time comes for your child to enroll in a university degree program he will find that he is truly prepared to meet the challenge.