Monday, October 4, 2010

If All the Other Kids Go to College....

September was busy. And crazy. After all the busy we encountered last year, I was really hoping for something better. This is probably unrealistic of me. As they age, my children have gotten more busy, not less. This September saw a new chapter of growing pains: college.

For those of you with younger children, let me explain. Somewhere around 8th grade, the questions that swirl around your homeschooling begin to change. Instead of "what about socialization?" you hear "is she going to high school?" Once you say you are continuing homeschooling, the question becomes, "What about college?" We live in an age when college preparation can begin with the right daycare center, so I suppose we have been a bit more insulated from this issue than the average parent, but once the question started coming, it was relentless.

The problem was that Marina is highly intelligent and well read. She easily conversed with the adults she met. Everyone she spoke to was impressed by her ability to talk on various subjects. When I first heard the question, I was extremely laid back about the issue--She's only 14! What's the rush? I didn't start college until I was almost 19! She doesn't know what direction she wants to take yet. We wouldn't have the money for it anyway.--It soon became clear that this was only the beginning.

By the time she was 15, the high schoolers we knew had taken up the chant. Marina fielded various questions about whether she was going to college, which colleges she was considering, had she taken the SAT, and "what do you want to study?" I think that last question is what broke her. When you are multi-talented, it is hard to pick one area of focus. She started having moments of anxiety and depression that she hid very well from others, but not from me. Part of the reason I stopped reporting her at 16 was to allow her room to explore. She wasn't going to do this as long as I was filling out quarterlies and having my own little panic attacks every three months. It also didn't help that her two best friends had opted to go to high school. We were running out of homeschooled teens for her to connect with.

Long story short, when we were given the opportunity to attend a homeschooling information meeting at the local college, we took it. Which led to us going through the application process and placement tests. That led to her enrollment this September in an English 101 class. Which, in turn, has led to many tears this September as she worried about finding the class and as she tries to understand the professor's instructions, hyper-focuses on assignments, and worries about the teacher falling behind in her own schedule. Meanwhile, I am kicking myself for allowing us to get swept up in the college craziness. I'm not quite sure how we got here so fast.

Some lessons I've learned along the way...

~I really wish I had encouraged her to start with something she was more interested in, like Italian. Frankly, I should have insisted on this. The English teacher she has is known to be tough. Several students had dropped her class by the third week.
~I am glad we decided to start with only one class. We're in no rush here. She's only 17.
~It would have been better to have her face the placements with less fear. If she could have spent a year--even six months--reviewing algebra and practicing essay writing, I think she would have been much more relaxed for the testing situation.
~I don't regret skipping the SAT.
~The majority of her peers right now are kids right out of high school, so she really isn't the youngest person there.

Some lessons she is learning...

~She needs to learn to write faster for class activities.
~She likes that people she meets on campus don't automatically ask what grade she's in or what school does she go to.
~She isn't the only one to panic over assignments. Just today, the professor had to push a deadline back another week because students were anxious about completing it in time. (In their defense, they would only have had one day to finish this particular assignment.)
~Being a student with a part-time job means she needs to improve her time management.
~Saying no is easier when you blame college assignments.
~The professor's schedule is not written in stone. It's more like guidelines.

I know things will settle down eventually. I simply wish I had not allowed the wave of outsiders' opinions to push us here before we were ready. I want my kids to make decisions in a calm and well thought out way, not to please me or anyone else. Apparently, I'm still fighting that urge to please others!


me said...

Oh my goodness. We are in Canada and have people asking us this already - and my son is only in fourth grade! I always hear from public schooled parents "How is he ever going to attend university if he doesn't have high school grades?" The same way any other kid attends university if they have dropped out at some point during high school - they write an entrance exam. Besides, many colleges and universities now realize the rise of homeschoolers across North America and are set up for testing in a manner most homeschooled students are used to. Yeah, often they have to adjust to a different schedule but you know what? Having taught in public school for a lot of years, most of the high school students who are entering university or college are so used to teachers and parents planning everything for them they also have a big adjustment to make towards their own time management so I am sure homeschooled children will not be alone. In fact, considering my son is the "clock watcher" in our family, I am pretty sure he is going to have that one cased by the time he's ready for university.

Take the time to simply be proud of your daughter AND the work you have done in raising her! THAT is what is important! Not whether she completes a bachelor's degree in 4 years or 3 or 5...But that she is there, loving the process of learning. And having a tough prof as her first prof? That is a good thing in my opinion because it will prepare her for the rest of the learning experience simply by knowing that college is not a place where they get spoon fed their education but a place where they are considered adults and as adults have to take responsibility for their education. That is something sorely lacking in the public system I think.

jugglingpaynes said...

me: Thanks! It's sounds like your son will do fine too...when he reaches it! The adjustment is the hardest part, and I know she is doing fine. I suppose it would have been an adjustment no matter what I did to prepare her, and I am pretty proud of her. :o)

Inner Elder said...

Your willingness to share ought to be a help to others facing this challenge. Like so many in her family, Marina has high expectations, esp. of herself. I applaud her for the courage to take a new step. New ventures are always difficult but she has a great support network. Love, Mom

Vicki said...

LOL! I wrote you out a long comment (amazed that this computer was finally letting my respond again) and POOF! GONE!!

I'm going to take it God didn't think I wrote a very well written comment.. ;-)

College is college. There's very little point to it unless you:
A) Need the degree to pursue a particular career
B) Love learning and love lectures
C) Have nothing better to do with your time
D) Are working on your M.R.S. Degree

Just kidding!

My only interest in talking my kids into Early College was Florida High Schools' Junior and Senior year at the 'gifted' or 'Advanced' levels are basically the same thing as the Freshmen and Sophmore years of college. As we can't get financial aid, nor do we have the money for college, Early College lends itself to affordablity and keeps my kids from total boredom.

My oldest is paying her own tuition as she works her way through. The middle child took avantage of the "no GPA required from high school homeschoolers early college entrance' to get in and received her AA degree for free for finishing before she graduated high school. If she finishes her AA with above a 3.5 GPA, then her next two years are also free but she doesn't want to continue. =(

The youngest? He's been advised of the options so time will tell which way he will choose. We are hoping he will go for the 'free college' option, but who knows?

Whatever Marina decides, she will do well. You have a smart, beautiful, talented, young woman for a daughter and she will have a very blessed life.

Anonymous said...

I thought Marina was taking these college courses instead of the GED test? Everyone who attends college stresses out because each professor teaches differently, has their own requirements/grading methods, and there is no consistency! Better to go to college now than to take courses at night while you work all day - which is what I did. Talk about stress!! I'm sure that Marina will be an excellent student and once she gets the first course under her belt will enjoy the experience. Love, Aunt Linda

Vicki said...

I'm totally confused to the 'College courses vs GED test' question. And the "take courses at night while you work all day". (I worked all night so I could take classes all day! ^_^) Anyone with common sense knows it's easier not to have too many things pulling on you but some people need the extra stress to see what's valuable for their life.

I have a friend that didn't value an education till she was twenty-five and going to have her first child. That's what it took for her to decide to learn to read, go to college and become a school teacher which she now is! Granted, it took her six years to earn her AA year degree, and another two years to earn her BA, but that's due to the fact she needed to gain a complete education! (More proof it doesn't take twelve years to gain a high school education!)

English 101 is a Freshman level college course so why should it need to be anything else? Marina has a great head on her shoulders so I think everyone should just leave her alone and let her decide where and how she would like to procede. Point her to her many options, give her a hug, and let her be free!!

Cristina and Reed have done well on the parenting front so Marina will do well in life.

SmallWorld at Home said...

Great post! Thanks for submitting it to the Carnival of Homeschooling.

Barbara Frank said...

What an interesting and honest post! The pressure that homeschooled kids (and their parents) are under to go to college to prove themselves is ridiculous but, as you point out, very real. I wish every homeschooling parent could read your post because it's so true.

You know, as the costs have escalated and pay has stagnated, college makes sense for fewer people in general. People need to take college off the pedestal.

BTW my eldest (27) chose not to go to college, has been self-supporting since age 20 and is doing fine. #2 graduated with honors and a boatload of student loan debt (both his and his wife's)but fortunately has a job. #3 is attending tech school right now.

Every homeschooled kid is different: what they have in common is that none should be forced by outsiders to prove they were "successfully homeschooled" by making it to college.

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