College Preparation in the Homeschool Setting
ST. EMMELIA WEST CONFERENCE, APRIL 2018
MARRIED 27 YEARS, MOTHER OF 11 CHILDREN
3 COLLEGE GRADS (ALL TEXAS A&M)
HOMESCHOOLED 18 YEARS; STILL HOMESCHOOLING
Interviewer: So, you’re from Texas and the Texas laws are a little bit different than California laws, but did you homeschool through some kind of government program or just independently?
J: We homeschooled independently of government programs. But we did participate in some outside activities, for example, we did Classical Conversations for a year or two, and we also participated in speech and debate for highschoolers.
Interviewer: What was your main thinking about preparing for college? When did you start that process?
J: I think my husband and I wanted our kids to acquire some kind of skill, but it didn’t matter to us if they were going to a 4-year university or college or if they were going to beauty school. We just wanted them to acquire some kind of skill to be able to pursue.
Interviewer: And what was your thinking behind that?
J: I don’t think everybody’s cut out for college. I know, for sure, my 14-year-old isn't – no way! When he’s at home, he can’t see himself in a big classroom. He fixes things and tinkers and stuff so I think he would be better off going to mechanic school or something like that. I think they need to figure out where their gifts and their talents are and then develop them accordingly. My oldest son is a writer, so he graduated college with a journalism degree because his thinking was, “I’m not going to school for English.” So, the funny thing is that his degree is in journalism but he works in IT. [Information Technology]. So even if they do go to school for one thing it may not pan out.
Interviewer: So did you have some kind of formal college preparation plan for them?
Interviewer: So what did it look like in the jump from high school to college?
J: It was stressful at first because we didn’t know what the requirements were. My two oldest are two years apart so they competed against each other. She went to junior college while he went straight into university at 17. That wasn’t my idea. When we were registering my daughter for junior college, I asked, "What are the requirements for enrollment?" The registrar said, "Whatever your high school requires for her to graduate." I said, "So, if underwater basket-weaving and Greek were requirements for her to finish high school, she would need to have taken those to apply here?!" And they said “yeah.” So, I said “Okay, that’s what she had then!”
My husband and I are last-minute-fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type individuals so we didn't develop a 4-year high school plan for our kids. By the time they were 14 or 15-years-old they mostly developed their own interests. So, when it was time for them to go to college, we sat down with them, and we said to my son, “Alright, what did you do in the last 4 years?” He said, “Well, I read several Dostoevsky books” – okay, Russian literature. And my kids were studying Greek – okay, foreign language, 4 years. And we just made up their transcript at the end of their high school career. For the grades, we’d ask them, "How do you think you did?" “Ehh, I think I got a B.” “Okay - B”
But then, when they went into college, my daughter – who’s graduating next month – has averaged a 4.0 or 3.89 depending on her semester. My son graduated— he’s more of a student like I am, but he still got 3.0. And I have another daughter that’s going to graduate in December with two degrees. One of her degrees is in Spanish and she never took Spanish before college. At home we studied Greek because we were in a Greek parish, but she liked Spanish because my husband’s Hispanic, so after she got into college she decided to get a degree in Spanish, without prior preparation. So, for my kids, if they wanted to go to college, they would go. I have one daughter who’s not in college, but she still took the PSAT because that’s what she wanted to do. The other kids took the SAT and they got accepted into Texas A&M University, which is a pretty prestigious university within the state of Texas. My son, when he first started at Texas A&M, found it very difficult, and it kind of broadened his horizons a bit, but he got in because of his SAT scores. And we didn't even know how to study for that.
Interviewer: So, your children let you know what they want to do, and then you help them to accomplish that? Did your kids do junior college and university?
J: Some did junior college. One went straight to university. We had some do dual-credit during high school [taking courses at the junior college during high school, for both high school and college credit.] I have a daughter right now who’s taking dual credit. Her older sisters in college made her do it, and she’s fighting it, but they tell her, "You have to do this."
Interviewer: So they didn’t have any problem with your homemade transcripts?
Interviewer: That’s great. A lot of people worry about that.
J: No they didn’t, but we're in Texas. Maybe California’s different.
[Other Panelist]: Regarding California, I’ll just say that Berkeley accepted our home-made transcript (though she had not done junior college), and when classes were almost starting, they said, "Oh, you also need to show us a diploma." So, we went home, made a diploma, and they accepted that too.
J: That’s the shocking thing is you’re thinking – “oh my God!” – are they going to accept my home-made transcript? But you get there, and they ask, “Oh…do you have a diploma or transcript?" and you say, "Sure, here you go." And you realize it's all pretty simple.
Interviewer: It’s a different way of thinking because for those of us who went through the public school system it was all about your transcript, right? You have to pass this test and your GPA has to stay at this level, and there's so much pressure about what's on the transcript. So it’s very refreshing to hear that.
J: Yeah, honestly my kids made up their own GPA at the end of their high school career.
[Another panelist]: I’ve gotta see that.
J: They were honest. We were all in the same house when they were doing their school work, so we know what they got accomplished.
Interviewer: Did you help your kids with the college application process or with searching for grants or scholarships? Or they had to do it all?
J: No, I didn't help them with that. They had to do it. I have eleven children and I was nursing babies when my oldest went to college, and so I didn’t have time for that. Especially when my son – at 17 years old – wanted to go to Texas A&M. I did nothing to help him because I was dead set against it.
Interviewer: How did you get your son to be so self-motivated?
J: He and his sister are very competitive; it came naturally in our home. We’re talking about my top five oldest; they are all very competitive. Not so much the next ones, the littler ones. With some of them it’s going to be a different story.
Interviewer: So do you feel like your own education helped form them into where they were going?
J: No, no no! I was very poorly educated in the Arizona public school system. I learned along with my children, as I homeschooled them. I now know the 50 states of the United States of America, because I homeschooled my children. I was never taught that in the public school system.
[Another Panelist]: That’s the great thing about homeschooling. Learn all the things you never learned the first time.
J: Yeah, exactly. And it’s great, because you can choose whatever you want to learn, too. "I want to learn about this"; "I want to learn about that."
Interviewer: What do you think helped them the most in their high school years to help prepare them academically for being successful in college?
J: Having the freedom to choose what they study.
Interviewer: And why do you think that is?
J: Because they would be more interested, if they chose what they would study, and would voluntarily study it more. And they realize they are able to learn whatever they want to learn. My son wanted to study Russian literature and read a lot of Dostoyevsky. My daughter wanted learn Greek and she studied Greek heavily because she wanted it; the rest of them I had to kind of push along to learn Greek.
Interviewer: So, going through the whole college process with a couple of kids – how many finished?
J: Two, and the third will graduate in one more semester.
Interviewer: Okay, so having two, almost three through the college process, have your opinions about college changed? And what you would do differently?
J: I definitely would want them to do dual-credit, earning college credit from the junior college while in high school. I feel like that’s a wise thing to do. It just prepares them a little bit ahead of time because in our homeschool environment we aren't rigid, we don't do tests. So, my daughter that’s now doing dual-credit, she has to take these tests and she has assignments due at a certain time, and it’s been good for her. So, I’d definitely encourage that. And I would push a little harder on making sure they get an education – even if it's a trade like mechanic or welding training – because I have two right now that are kind of floating through space so to speak.
Interviewer: So, either college education or some kind of trade?
J: Yes. My 20 year old fudged through that a bit. She’s married now – but we really wanted them to get some kind of trade or college education before they got married. So, I think we would be more insistent on making sure that happens, because I know my husband is very adamant about making sure they have something that they can fall back on.
Interviewer: Besides the academics, do you feel like they all adjusted well to life outside the home?
J: Yes. They all lived at home while attending college, but my two daughters are "Aggies" [Texas A&M fans] – they are very involved socially at school. My daughter is president of a club on campus, and my son was the president of his writing club. So yes, they moved right in and had no problem interacting on campus and in the world. One thing that did frustrate them was their classmates' lack of ability to learn, and they were thinking, “What is wrong with you?” My kids were extremely frustrated because the students would go to class without having studied. My daughter would get the highest grade in the class simply because she went home and read the text; whereas the other students would say “Well, the teacher didn’t talk about that in class.” So other students didn't like her because she made the curve higher because of that. That was the big frustration for them, that their compadres didn’t care to learn.
[Other Panelist]: My kids have the same problem. They were so frustrated in college because the other students were just there physically, but not mentally. They weren’t interested in what was being taught at all.
J: The thing that frustrated my kids, too, is they would say, “You are spending THOUSANDS of dollars to be here!” They felt that the other students were so wasteful with their time and their money.
Interviewer: Anything you would share to people entering the process?
J: Yes – It’s a lot easier than you think! It’s just getting those first couple of kids into college, and now I’m like “Hm! - no problem!” They still have to do it themselves. I don’t help my kids fill out paperwork. I don’t tell them what college they’re going to attend; they have to do it all themselves. Because I’m not going to be there when it’s time for them to apply for a loan, or buy a house, or any of those other things.
Interviewer: And you can’t go on a job interview with them…
J: Right! I can’t go on a job interview with them! So they start learning these things when they apply for college.
Interviewer: Alright, thank you.