I am constantly impressed by the homeschool families that I meet. Whether it is at speech and debate competitions where they blow the socks off of my own experience doing the same in high school or it is reviewing applications for Praxis of people who were homeschooled, they go above and beyond. By and large, homeschooled youth are impressive, high-caliber young people who have a better idea of what they want out of their educations than their peers and have an intrinsic motivation to learn more and do more.
Which raises the question:
Why do so many homeschoolers focus so much on getting into college?
One of the biggest reasons that families choose to homeschool is because they believe the education received at home is higher quality than the education received at their local schools. Often, they are right. But they define “better” in terms of how likely it will be that they get into a top college instead of how useful that education is in helping the student figure out what they want to do and become a mature and knowledgeable young person.
Most of the arguments given for sending your average student to college lay flat with the homeschoolers I’ve met and with whom I continue to work.
“College is a great place to spend time while maturing!”
This is probably one of the better arguments I’ve heard for sending most average-to-above-average young people to college for four years. Upon graduating high school, a lot of young people are not mentally or personally prepared for going into the real world. Isolating them from the rest of the world for four years gives some time (in theory, at least) for them to mature and, upon turning 22 or 23, they can be released back into the wild, now less likely to make silly decisions and harm other people in the process.
But most 18-year old homeschoolers are leaps and bounds more mature than their peers. They’ve spent years around people older and younger than them (instead of just people their age) and can actually speak to adults. Many more have held jobs and know how to show up to work on time and get work done. They’ve often pursued passions and academic interests (another argument for school-as-isolation-from-work) and can speak intelligently about them without having to take time off from the real world.
So, I am caught off-guard when I meet high-caliber homeschoolers who are just as focused on getting into college as their peers. All of the potential arguments given for sending young people off nowadays with the resources unleashed by transportation and information are less strong in the case of young people coming out of homeschool.
In other words, homeschoolers have succeeded for years escaping the race that other young people and their families find themselves captured by, so why would they want to undo that process?
Instead, homeschoolers are better served by jumping head-first into the real world.
Young people coming out of 16 years of academia have to make an adjustment, even the high-caliber, impressive ones who are otherwise great hires and great colleagues. They have to get used to the ways in which the real world is different from school. There are no finals, there is no homework, exams are professionally-relevant, not just for a grade, and, most importantly, they need to figure out how to interact with other people and how to figure out what they want for themselves. I call this process deschooling.
Deschooling is a long process that takes focus every single day. Some people put off doing it after graduating from school and are forced to do it upon retirement when they no longer have anybody telling them what to do. And they struggle. The time and energy this process takes can be reduced by doing things like immersing oneself in the world outside of school, but it’s a process that requires time that may be spent on other things.
For homeschoolers going to college, they have to be schooled and then deschooled. The practical skills they have the opportunity to pick up while teenagers may stagnate while they could be spending that time jumping into the real world.
“Okay, it’s nice to say this, but how do we do it?”
The advantage an 18-year-old homeschooler has over a student stuck in school is that she can jump into this immediately. She can take up a job at 17 or 18 while her peers are sitting in classrooms waiting for the opportunity to start their lives. We’ve seen this already with Praxis participants like Diana Zitting, who applied to Praxis at 17 and is already running a sales team at her business partner, MailLift, and Charles Porges, who applied at 17 and received a full-time job offer quickly after starting at his business partner, GuildQuality.
If Diana and Charles were focused on college instead of getting started in the real world, they would have gone at least another year before taking an opportunity like leading up real initiatives creating real value.
They would have taken detours by focusing on getting into college. Instead, they focused on creating real value and jumping headfirst into the real world. If they wanted to go to college eventually, they still could, but they’ve created more value at 18 than most people have by 23 or 24. That’s pretty impressive.
I can understand the appeal of wanting to be around more people your age if you are coming out of years of working around other people who are older or younger than you, but that doesn’t need to default to going to college. In today’s age, we have new and exciting ways to build community, meet people of similar caliber and interests, and accomplish things with them. We’ve done this with Praxis — how will you do it?