Helping Homeschoolers Be College-Ready
Advice on essential skills for college from a homeschooled, public school teacher.
By Elijah Ammen
My education background and career choice have a tenuous and somewhat ironic relationship. I was homeschooled K-12 before I went to a four-year liberal arts college, and I am now a teacher at a Title 1 public high school, even though I never attended a high school.
There is no need for me to defend homeschooling as an educational experience. As homeschooling has moved back into the mainstream over the last two decades, the questions of its successfulness have subsided. According to a CBS article, not only are homeschoolers excelling in ACT scores and college credits while in high school, but they have high GPAs in college, and are more likely to be involved in community service (so much for lacking in socialization).
What I want to offer are some areas that would be useful to stress to homeschool students while in middle and high school. I understand that there are infinite variations of homeschooling styles, curriculum, and philosophies. These areas are based on what I found critical to doing well in a liberal arts college, and that are sometimes easy to overlook in a home school setting.
A liberal arts college demands that you are skilled in the art of writing research papers. Even if you go into a more technical content area, the skills learned in research writing—preparation, organization, and documentation—are invaluable to developing critical thinking skills.
Homeschoolers are often excellent free-writers, especially if they come from a homeschooling philosophy that stresses literature; however, my biggest struggle in transitioning to college was how to discipline my writing to fit the assignment.
You should be familiar with thesis statements, topic sentences, and citations (MLA and APA, and if you’re really on top of things, Turabian and Chicago). By being comfortable with the format, you can spend more time on the discussion of the content, instead of spending your freshman year battling technicalities.
Some resources you could use in this area:
- How to write with data
- Using a notecard system for citations and a checklist for self-evaluations
- Another notecard system, but with more of a focus on outlining
- Focusing on thesis statements and introductory paragraphs
- A rubric for evaluating research papers
Homeschoolers are not the awkward, unsocialized nerds that some have claimed. (As a high school teacher, I would also like to point out that we do not have a perfect record on well-adapted, socially capable students). However, homeschoolers (in my experience) prefer to work independently rather than collaboratively, because that is how they are most comfortable. I would always choose to work independently when possible, because I could work faster and more efficiently.
This doesn’t cut it in the college, or in the workplace, where collaborative skills are essential to productivity. All highschoolers need to be prepared on how to deal with group norms, roles, conflict resolution, and equal distribution of work so that they can be effective and efficient in college and post-college. For homeschoolers, this is where co-ops and community organizations are invaluable—they teach professional skills that you can’t learn independently.
While collaborative skills are best done through practice, there are some resources to use as guidelines:
- This is a unit overview, but serves as a good outline for further study of small group communication
- Practice literature circles using group member roles and thinking through the levels of a story
- More specific group roles for literature circles that could easily transition into other groups
The number one fear of people is also the number one distinguisher of students in scholarships, interviews, and class presentations. My incredibly foresighted mother always found ways to make us practice public speaking, even if it was recitations to the wall. My siblings and I were involved in Toastmasters, church groups, mock legislatures, or anything that would get us comfortable with being articulate in front of a crowd.
Being a good conversationalist does not mean you are an excellent public speaker. Being good at presentations requires organized thinking, as well as articulation, appropriate body movements, and improvisation. If you are not writing a research paper or working in a small group in college, you will be presenting—it is a skill that needs to be practiced very early on, before kids can develop a fear of presenting in public.
Try using some of these resources: