Homeschool Without College

A college education does not guarantee success. In fact, it may kill true success altogether. How do I know? I follow what is coming out of colleges and universities all over the nation. The fallout of our liberal, ego-inflating, extremely expensive higher education system is too ugly to look at.

It’s obvious that college and university campuses are hotbeds for idiocy of all types, from radical socialism to radical Islamism. It seems Christian young people, especially, enter with a good idea of who they are and Who made them, and exit with their heads and their hearts all scrambled together like a Denver omelet.

Yes, there are a few professions which require degrees, and a few more for which a degree will open the door. However, we push and push and shove and lecture and beg all children everywhere all the time to go to college even if they may never, ever need to.

All this with a price tag that starts young people out as debtors, with an obligation which cannot be released even with bankruptcy (read here how college debt outstrips consumer debt in the US). According to College Board, a four year degree can cost between $80,360 and $181,480! (College tuition inflation is twice that of  general inflation, according to finaid.org.)

While the sacred mantra is, “Get a degree so you will make more money and land a more meaningful job,” there is evidence to the contrary. Even though the economy has been slowly picking up, college grads still find it hard to find employment that matches their degrees. As of the end of 2016, the rate of unemployment for recent graduates was still over 43%, and over 33% of all graduates were underemployed.

Here’s a real-life scenario for you:

During high school my husband had a friend who started working at a local grocery store where he pushed carts and bagged groceries. All of his classmates took off and went to school, or into the military, or a number of various directions.

15 years later we traveled back to my husband’s home town. The guy who was a “stick-in-the-mud” and stayed at his grocery store job was one of the most successful out of all of his buddies. His start up wages were low, but at least he wasn’t paying someone else for useless indoctrination. In the end, his wage level and benefits were just as high as those who had earned degrees. Hard work and a willingness to learn every aspect of the job was what gave him the edge. Sticking around his home town also meant he was a blessing to his parents and could “give back” to the community that brought him up.

Oh, and he didn’t have a student loan to pay off.

Now that’s a success story.

It is the rare individual who at 18 knows what he will be doing for the rest of his life.

Most of us, degrees or not, sort of feel our way along, and often we end up in with an entirely different scenario than we first dreamed. Most college students do not end up finishing the degrees they start out with. They either constantly adjust their majors or drop out half-way, still owing a mound of debt (according to The Atlantic, only 46% of those Americans who pursue a four-year degree actually go on to complete it).

So, maybe we need to take another look at college.

Yes, if we have children who are passionate about becoming doctors, lawyers, and engineers, we will definitely want to set them down to some serious college preparation courses, or even do a dual-enrollment via a local community college.

But if we have children who don’t have a definite professional bent, or who are not keen on college, or are just “meh” when it comes to having a clear direction, it’s sheer lunacy to force them to into the idea.

Which brings me to my next question:

After experiencing so much success with our more relaxed way of doing things, why do we pin our teens down to the same dreary, lifeless curriculum as their public schooled peers?

Which leads to yet another question:

What if we did something different?

What if we spent those precious years we still have them at home preparing them (or allowing them to prepare themselves) for life, or at least for a vocation instead of a degree? What if our emphasis was not on pursuing money or prestige, but on pursuing God, developing an ear for His leading and calling, and then pursuing that calling?

In order to do this we must homeschool as if college does not exist.

There are no AP requirements, no SAT scores to worry about, no scholarships to vie for. No transcripts to fill out.

Only the important, serious work of deciding what REAL success looks like and how to obtain it.

Doing this will free us to formulate plans that work and whole people will emerge, instead of the fractured, hollow delinquents we have been producing in our education “factories.”

What would this look like?

Well, it would not proffer any guarantees. It would not be, “If you do A, B, and C, then you will automatically receive D.”

It would be more like, “Dear, if you will listen to God, and then work hard at whatever He tells you to do, He will lead you and guide you and you will become a blessing to His Kingdom as you determine to do His will.”

And, “Dear, you need to be thinking that you only have 70 or less years to prove to God that you actually do love Him. How will you go about that?”

What sorts of things would we require of our children, then?

How about:

  • A great work ethic
  • A polite and gracious demeanor
  • A willingness to love others and keep to our word no matter how that costs
  • Willingness to go or to stay, whatever it takes to follow His specific will for one’s life
  • Learning to control one’s passions instead of being controlled by them
  • Saying yes to hours of study, even if it isn’t fun as long as it helps us achieve His goals
  • Acquiring a large overview of the world, its history and the way it works, in order to become “wise as a serpent, yet harmless as a dove”
  • Becoming good communicators, both in the oral and written word
  • Learning how to handle personal finances and navigate through the business (boring) parts of life

We could do this by: 

  • Making sure our children can read and write fluently.

Not just for research papers and essays. They need to be able to formulate a coherent email or business proposal or make a compelling speech (preach) or presentation.

  • Giving our young people hard work and challenges.

If they live at home, they must participate in the welfare of the family. No free devices or cars, or even clothes and food. They are required to pitch in and earn their own way, whether it be doing odd jobs, babysitting, pushing carts or flipping burgers.

  • Including our young people in the doings of real life.

Painting the house, changing the oil, deciding what to do when there is a crisis and the bills must be paid, helping with the younger children, helping care for elderly relatives, etc.

  • Allowing our young people time to pursue their interests.

This was brought home to me when I met one of my eldest son’s coworkers. She had worked alongside two of our children and watched them excel in comparison to their peers. She told me it was because they had their teen years to purposely focus on their areas of interest instead of being distracted by all of the “socialization” going on in public schooling (you know, things like all the clubs and sports and dances that everyone accuses us of keeping our kids from enjoying).

  • Exploring possible vocations which do not require college degrees.

“My goal here is to challenge the absurd belief that an expensive four-year education is the best path for the most people, and confront the outdated stereotypes that continue to drive kids and parents away from a whole list of worthwhile careers,” Rowe said. “Many of the best opportunities that exist today require a skill, not a diploma.”

Mike Rowe

The average starting salary for a college graduate is $45,000, while the average salary of someone who went through trade school is $42,000.

The Art of Manliness

Turns out there are a plethora of jobs, good jobs that pay well, that are not being filled because there are not enough skilled tradesmen. Among them are:

Electrical-power-line installers and repairers

Projected openings: 49,900

Transportation inspectors

Projected openings: 11,700

Power-plant operators

Projected openings:  12,900

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers

Projected openings:  150,200

Commercial pilots

Projected openings:  14,400

Detectives and criminal investigators

Projected openings:  27,700

Transportation, storage, and distribution managers

Projected openings:  29,100

  • Fill their minds with out-of-the-box possibilities. 

Know someone who owns their own start-up or went another unconventional path? Why not set up a meeting with your young person to ask questions, etc. You could also continue the family tradition of read-aloud time and include stories of people who were called by God to different parts of the world, or who were entrepreneurs who dedicated their wealth to the furthering of God’s Kingdom (such as J. C. Penny).

  • Get involved in missions and outreach. 

The books and websites I found which dealt with college alternatives all mentioned public service as a possible way to gain education and adult development naturally. Their usual suggestions were America Corps and Youth Corps. As believers we have a kazillion more choices! For one thing, almost every church as short-term missions opportunities. Then there are the national organizations, such as Youth With a Mission, with headquarters all over the world and a host of trips planned in the near future.

There are a number of books and websites available to help young people think and rethink their career choices.

A few of them I was able to check out at our local library. The ones I found were not geared towards believers, but they still offered some interesting advice. One of the things I agreed with was that young people are in charge of their futures, that there are no instant formulas or guarantees.

I also agreed that self-motivation and hard work are essential ingredients for success in any realm.

However, there were a few missing elements, even some red flags where morality is concerned that you need to be aware of before you turn such tomes over to your impressionable young person. (It might be better if you read such books aloud together so you can discuss the life-choices of the authors.)

That being said, there are some titles I suggest you read for further study. If nothing else, they will help you examine old assumptions and present real-life success stories from people who chucked college and ended up loving their decision.

Better Than College, Blake Boles

Hacking Your Education, Dale Stephens

The New Global Student: Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition, and Get a Truly International Education, Maya Frost (have this one on hold, so I am not 100% about it, although it sounds interesting)

Just for good measure, here is a site that might lend you a little more freedom in your thinking: 

Christian Unschooling

And so, I hope I have stirred the pot sufficiently!

If you have a child who definitely needs, wants, must go to college, please don’t feel badly. This was only meant to jog us free from the assumption that in order to be successful homeschoolers our children have to go to college. 

Of course, if you have any real-life experience in this area, please share it with the rest of us!

13 thoughts on “Homeschool Without College

  1. My husband and I met in college. I ended up quitting, becoming his wife and mother to our children. He finished his elementary education degree and then has been in ministry since then. Right now he is a substitute teacher while we wait for what God has next for us. So yeah, we have not used our degrees (although he couldn’t be a sub without at least some college). We meet people all the time who either have a ton of college debt they are paying off (and HAVE to work in order to pay it off…even if they want to stay home with their precious baby) OR they are not using their degree. I totally see your points. Question: Have you had any of your children go to college? And if so, how did you navigate that route? Super curious!

    • Yes, we actually have six children who have attended college. Three received an associates without any debt, two of those used their degrees right away and were able to make quite a good living in their chosen fields at young ages. Two are currently in school, one for art, the other for becoming a surgery technician. Truth: I only created one transcript for the entire lot, and they never did SAT’s. We printed their diplomas out at home, but I don’t think they have ever been asked for them. Four attended college while they lived at home, two as adults on their own.

  2. I am a homeschooling mom of 5 young children. I just wanted to let you know, of all the blogs I read, yours is my favorite. Every time I get something in my inbox from you, I get excited. I enjoy everything that you write!! I have read everything on your blog, and your book. Thank you for all your wisdom.

    • That’s so great to know, Nicole! It’s such a privilege to know you take time out of your busy day to read what I write–I pray the Lord blesses you and all my readers continually 🙂

  3. I was a gifted academic student who by the grace of God didn’t go to college! Looking back it would have been my undoing. Instead God brought my precious husband into my life to lead me to a path of servant hood! I was always told I could do anything and honestly in my own strength I believe I could have. However God’s plans are so much higher than our own. In order to serve my family and my growing love for my then boyfriend I chose to become a hairdresser/esthetician. This fully used my creative side and my people skills. I upset many people by this choice but 14 years later I have no regrets. Just because we are capable of something doesn’t mean it’s what’s best for us!!!! I was able to work, get married and grow spiritually. I found out that having children would be a bit tricky for me due to PCOS, which I may have delayed far too long had I completed my doctorate as I’d planned! Instead I have 3 going on 4children because I went against the flow and started young! I’ve been blessed by going against the flow. I am a very educated person thanks to my love for reading. My husband’s story is also different. He too was a very bright student but very rebellious and after being told he could never study music (that was for other people) he really lost his way. He tried a year of community college but God needed to bring him to Himself. After a few years of life without the Lord he turned to Him and his life really began to change. He started working for a glass company building commercial windows. Today, 17 years later he is the head draftsman of the same company. He showed initiative and quickly learned a job many spend years in school for. He earns a great income and is able to work from home. No everything is not always sunshine and roses but we are a good example that with God anything is possible! My husband’s work ethic is what has consistently put him ahead of other people. I only pray our son’s are absorbing and learning from this! Our oldest son is already showing a bend towards design and engineering. With Daddy I have full confidence that he will have the opportunity to explore this well before other children his age. I still struggle with a desire for conformity but God is slowly but surely stripping that away for greater confidence in His ways! Thanks for the encouragement! I have seen the effects that college debt has on my family first hand and we truly do a disservice to others by not at least showing a different way!

  4. I should add that both my husband and I went on to further develop our musical gifts and use them regularly to glorify God! School counselors can have a very negative effect on a hopeful child.

    • What an amazing story, Jesse! Thank you for sharing it. This theme is being repeated over and over as people respond to this post. I hope that other homeschooling families will listen so they can become more efficient with the time they have with their children.

  5. Wow! I’m going to save this for later. It lines up almost perfectly with our family’s educational philosophy. I feel like you did all the work for me! Thanks so much. My oldest is 9 now, so we have time before post-high school is in the picture, but I know time goes by quickly.

  6. Great article! I’m a big fan of trade schools. My husband went to one (he’s a machinist), I did (I was a LPN before marriage/children) and my siblings did as well (hairdresser, airplane mechanic). Lots of skills and training without the high cost or indoctrination. Good family wages, and my sister can even work from home if she needs to (now that she’s a stay at home mom).

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