Sunday, April 6, 2014

Advantages of Homeschooling - Part One: Academic Opportunity

A friend recently asked me for advice about how to get started in homeschooling.  Her daughter is just 2, so she's at a perfect spot to begin thinking about this.  

"2 years old?" --  I can hear cries of dismay from readers all over the world, but hear me out.  Two or even earlier is NOT too early because I think the earlier a homeschool parent realizes that the vast majority of homeschooling is simply interacting with your child in a responsive, encouraging and very verbal way, the better.  By the time a child is two years old, a parent has taught her to walk, talk, and a zillion other small, but impressive bits of cultural knowledge. Did they do it consciously?  Maybe... maybe not.  It would be almost impossible to prevent a child from learning these things. 15 years of homeschooling has taught me that much of what we learn is similar.  I am not an "unschooler;" I have followed a primarily classical approach to the formal schooling I have done with my children, but I do think the best part about homeschooling is that kids retain that spark of curiosity that drives learning, compels it.  Two years old is not too soon to start to consciously recognize how your child learns and how much you teach.  I'm a planner though, so when my kids were very young, I wanted an idea of how to do it all.  I will be addressing that too, though in another post here:  Amazing Homeschool Curriculum... or How I Homeschooled my Kids   First though, I thought I'd write down some of my insights into homeschooling, looking back from this end...  you might want to sit back and grab a cup of tea... I could talk for hours about this, and have :)

First of all -- I worried way too much and did far too much that was unnecessary.  My plan had always been to homeschool through 8th grade and then unleash my little prodigies onto the community college system.  I had taken this route successfully and so had my little sister.  We both attended UCLA as juniors before we were 18 and went on to earn masters' degrees in our chosen fields (English for me; Math for her).  As of right now, my oldest daughter (who is technically in 9th grade) has taken classes all year at a California Community College and is well on her way to getting all of her general ed coursework requirements done within the next 3 years.  At that point, she will have some choices.  She will be able to transfer to a 4 year university as a junior, or if she'd rather do a full 4 years in college, she can apply as a freshman and get in practically anywhere -- so far, at least, she has a 4.0.  She will be a very attractive candidate as a freshman.  Her current plans are to transfer as a junior to a 4 year university, but lately she has been thinking more about music schools, like Colburn in downtown Los Angeles.  The main thing is:  she has options and lots of time to consider them.  Her chances of getting into UCLA as a junior transfer student (harder to get into now as a freshman than even Berkeley) are excellent.  UCLA and other UCs take CA community college junior transfer students as a priority.  Even with a 4.0 from a high school, her chance of admission would be very slim. So, Advantage #1. (I feel like I'm channeling Rudyard Kipling's "The Elephant Child" from the Just So Stories, so "...'vantage number one" -- I think I'll go with it :)  It works:  Just as the elephant's truck was stretched to great advantage, so a child's imagination and capacity to learn and be independent are stretched by homeschooling). Homeschoolers who go the Community College route have a far easier time getting into college.  It's also far less expensive, if transferring is what they decide to do.  It's nice not to be locked in though, because scholarships may come along.

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