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College Preparation in the Homeschool

By Dr. Arthur Robinson
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #15, 1997.

Dr. Arthur Robinson tells about a basic skill that will prepare your homeschoolers for college.

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Dr. Arthur Robinson

A good homeschool provides college preparation far superior to that offered in private or public schools, especially if the student is self-taught. Academically, the homeschooled student escapes being reduced to the lowest common denominator in classroom schools, and he escapes the examples and peer pressures that are exerted both academically and socially by fellow students and teachers whose preparation for college is generally poor. By self-teaching, he also avoids the limits of academic knowledge and study habits that may exist with his parents and siblings in his own homeschool.

One caution: some homeschool programs are academically keyed to public school "grade levels." Do not fall into the trap of believing that completion of these programs necessarily gives good college preparation. "Grades 1 to 12" are, in many cases, merely normalizing concepts whereby all students are lowered to the levels of the poorest students.

The Big Tests

A homeschooled student should be prepared for high performance on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and on the College Board Advanced Placement (AP) Tests. With excellent performance on these tests, acceptance by a prestigious college or university is assured. Moreover, high performance on the AP Tests can markedly reduce the time that the student must spend at a university. Both of the oldest students in our homeschool, Zachary and Noah, scored so highly on the SAT and AP Exams that they are skipping the first two years at the university. Zachary graduates this year with a BS in chemistry after only two years in college. Noah's AP scores permit him to do the same. The other four students are not yet old enough to take these examinations.

During the year preceding the SAT exam, the student should take about 10 practice SAT exams at home in order to familiarize himself with the form and timing of these exams. During the two months prior to the AP Exams, the student should take one practice exam in each subject. He should plan to take 12 or more of these exams in different subjects, so that he will have an opportunity for maximum advanced placement.

All of these exams are given at local high schools. Typically, only two or three AP exams are given, since public school students are so poorly prepared. Arrangements for a greater number can be made with school administrators for a modest fee. The examination cost for proctors and tests for Zachary and Noah was about $700 each - a very inexpensive substitute for two years at college. Practice SATs can be obtained at local book stores, while practice AP Exams are available from the College Board organization. Ask the local high school for the College Board's address and phone number when you register several months early for the exams. AP exams are given only once per year. Check this time with the high school.

These exams are the formality, and taking practice exams can improve performance by making the student familiar with the testing method. But the essential college preparatory work must be carried out during the 11 years preceding these tests, preferably beginning when the student is five or six years old. The tests are just ways of demonstrating that the student has learned good study habits in an excellent study environment and has applied himself with diligence to the acquisition of superior academic knowledge during those 11 years.

Early Preparation

If the student is taught good study habits in a proper study environment at an early age, he is likely to be very well prepared for college. He needs to be provided with an ordered framework of high quality, very well-selected books; this is an endless road that stretches out in front of him down which he may travel at his own pace in accordance with his own abilities. The average student should be so well prepared that he can skip at least one college year, while above average students can skip two years.

Remember, however, that American schools have degraded severely. The first two years of college today are approximately equivalent to the last two years of high school in earlier times before socialism destroyed American education. The academic achievement of skipping two years of college is approximately the same as having been well educated at the ordinary academic levels that prevailed earlier in American history. We are asking no more of our children in good homeschools than their native abilities permit.

A Negative Influence?

Moreover, when our children are raised in a home environment, they can be exposed to good examples of correct social, moral, and religious standards. In group schools, their examples become randomly chosen teachers and large numbers of immature children. Children learn by example! Why have children - the most precious blessing that any home and family can possess - and then farm them out to someone else to raise in an away-from-home school?

Children are inherently modest, quiet, honest, hard-working, and well-behaved when raised in a home where discipline is quickly applied on the occasions when they go astray. When they lose these characteristics, it is almost always a result of following bad examples. Last year a friend remarked to me, "Do you realize that you have five teenagers at home?" I had not noticed because the usual problems associated with teenagers were just not present in our home. No one had taught these children to misbehave.

Healthy social, moral, and religious standards are also a very important part of college preparation. This is especially true of students in science and engineering, since Christian colleges are lacking in these subjects. This forces the student to attend a secular college. A young man or woman must be very well prepared in order to resist the temptations and pressures of these places. Everyone, no matter how well prepared, is susceptible to peer pressure, so this exposure should be limited. Advanced placement can minimize this exposure. Strong links with family are a great help, too, so I advocate the choice of a college as geographically near home as possible.

I strongly believe that entry into college should not be a time when the child is kicked out into the world, never to be seen again except during holidays and funerals. I believe in extended families; having two, three, and four generations living near each other and working together when possible during their entire lives.

College is an opportunity to gain knowledge and credentials - especially in science, engineering, and other specialties. At present, it is also a dangerous time which can threaten an extended family. Eventually, this threat will be removed by homeschool universities. There is reason to hope that such universities, accredited and of good quality, may be only a few years away.

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