As a whole, we homeschoolers have a remarkable ability to tolerate different schooling methods and educational choices within the groups we form. In most things, we work together pretty well, even in spite of our differences. Consider your own support group or co-op, for instance: does every family teach the same way, or grade the same way, or value the same experiences? Probably not, but you still participate together in a lot of the same activities and classes.
But of course, that’s not to say that we agree on everything! In the Christian homeschool world, there are some “hot button” topics that can get us into some pretty hot water if we’re not careful! One of the issues I’ve heard most hotly debated is the big question of college. “Should Christians even go to college?” The biggest concern I’ve heard expressed with this issue is that Christian students who go off to college emerge four years later with a shipwrecked faith.
Step Forward in Faith
But for many families, college is the right choice. For many people, and for many different reasons, college is the most appropriate next step after high school, and the risks that go along with it are not unique to college. I compare the process of letting your student go on to college to the analogy of riding a bicycle. When you first allowed your child to ride without training wheels, it was probably a scary event for both of you. Even with a helmet and good training, it’s possible to get hurt, or even hit by a car. In the same way, even with careful care and selection, it is possible for a student to get hurt by a college experience. But consider this verse: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” (1 Cor. 13:11) When children become adults, it’s time for some things to change.
Put Childhood Behind
If you’re like me, you’ve spent a fair bit of time explaining to people why you keep your children safe at home, instead of sending them out to public or private school. When our children grow up and graduate, those reasons don’t change, but our children do. Our children become adults, who must interact with the fallen world on a rather regular basis, and learn to negotiate the contrasting worldviews they encounter while staying firm in their own faith. At some point, our children become ready to do this, ready to “become a man (or woman) and put the ways of childhood behind” them. You will know when your children are ready, and it’s important to recognize that their moving forward into adulthood may include college.
Prepare Your Student
One of our most important tasks as parents is to prepare our children to become adults. Consider the scripture, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6) Scripture is clear that children should be trained so that when they become adults, they are ready to engage their culture, ready to change their world. Jesus exhorts his disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) He doesn’t tell them “go into all the world” except college, or except some other place. There are no exceptions. It says “all the world.”
Prepare for the Great Commission
If college is a possibility for your child’s future, then it’s important to prepare them to become mature young adults, grounded in their faith, and ready to enter the world. Don’t be afraid of college; prepare for it. Together with your young adult, choose a college carefully, weigh the options, and pray through your decisions. College is not inherently a place that undermines your student’s faith. It can be a place where the training you have carefully instilled in them during their homeschool years starts to bear fruit.
Christian Campus Opportunities
“Despite its hazards, college can be a major positive influence in your life,” says Engineering Professor Don Peter. Christian college is an important consideration as well, as Bryan Jones, Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions explains. “I personally believe strongly in Christian higher education. No Christian university is perfect or can guarantee a student won’t walk away from the Lord, and in fact ‘Christian’ schools can vary greatly in what their requirements are for faculty, staff, and students’ beliefs and involvement. But I have seen it time and time again that a student who attends a public or secular private university stumbles in their faith if they are not able to find the right campus ministry, peer group, mentor etc. These things are much more readily provided at a Christian college, and a student’s faith is allowed to be stretched while not being attacked or torn down, in what is often a hostile and antagonistic environment at a public or secular institution.”
Keeping a child at home, away from a college experience, is not a guarantee that the child will not walk away from the Lord. No matter how “perfectly” we parent, our children must eventually make their own decisions about what they believe. At some point, we must let go and entrust them to the One who loves them infinitely more than we do. Christian author and psychologist Dr. John Townsend notes, “even the perfect parent (God the Father) ended up with children who fell away from Him (mankind), so at some point, parents also have to let go and let a child become their own adult.” College is an ideal time for parents to complete the transition from sheltering their children from harm to letting them develop independence. In college, a student can begin to experience independence, while still having a network of support and care from family and friends. It’s hard; it’s risky; but He is faithful. There is nothing in life that is without risk.
I encourage parents to prepare their child for anything. Even college.
Lee Binz is The HomeScholar. Her mission is “helping parents homeschool high school.” Her free mini-course, “The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make When Homeschooling High School,” is a great introduction to high school essentials. Her free newsletter provides monthly encouragement and support. Her homeschool transcript solution teaches parents how to create high school transcripts for every homeschool style. You can get a daily dose of high school help at her blog, The HomeScholar Helper, recently voted as the “best homeschool business blog.” You can find Lee online at www.TheHomeScholar.com and on Facebook.com/TheHomeScholar