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Preparing Your Homeschooler for College

When our first child graduated and left for college, I wondered how he’d do. I’d always been confident about our decision to homeschool, he’d done well on his college boards and even won a scholarship, but…on some level, I still worried that I hadn’t done everything I possibly could to prepare him. (I now realize this is a common fear for first-generation homeschoolers with their first child.)

A few weeks into the semester, I asked him over the phone if there was anything he hadn’t been prepared for at school. “Well….” he said.

I flinched, waiting for him to tell me how sorry his education had been in comparison to the other students at his private, Christian college or that he’d been socially unprepared or some other awful thing. My mind raced.

“Yes?” I squawked.

“It’s just that…sometimes I’m not sure what format the professors want their papers in, so I’m still learning their preferred styles.”

And that was it. What? That’s it?! I had the same issue my first year in college, so I know it wasn’t a homeschooler thing. It was a professor thing. Whew!

With our last child about to graduate in a couple of years, the fears have lessened, but I’m still mindful of helping her be prepared. Whatever your child’s goals after high school, I think it’s important to have them college ready, whether they’ve expressed a desire to attend college or not. After all, you just never know what life will bring.

When I’m asked how to prepare a homeschooled high schooler for the college environment, the following are some quick tips I give.

There’s loads of info out there about preparing transcripts and counting credits, so I’m not going to get into that right now.

Donna Young’s site will forever and ever be my favorite source for that sort of help and all her forms are free. Her site has been a lifesaver for me! While I can’t possibly cover every aspect of college admissions, this is what I’d tell you if you and I were sitting over coffee:

Have your children take as much math as they can.

It will only help on ACT/SATs and bulk up your transcript. For some kids, like a couple of mine, math is not their strong suit, so take them as far as their ability allows.

For all students, I highly recommend regular work with test prep materials, and the math portions of these take a lot of the fear out of college board testing. We’ve had good experiences with the Princeton Review series.

They have materials for the PSAT, ACT, SATs, AP exams and more. Don’t wait till just before test dates. Spread it out over several months or even school year.

Build vocabulary.

Other than high school required reading and memorizing lists of vocabulary, my recommendation is to read widely from a variety of genres.

My kids have naturally learned vocabulary and explored topics I would have never thought to cover, simply from free reading. I like Chris Davis’ lists of books, and we also use some of the Sonlight materials. We also enjoyed Visual Latin, and any foreign language your child takes will only help with understanding roots of words, which are the building blocks of vocabulary.

Start to tailor curriculum to your child’s interests.

This is one of the beauties of homeschooling. When a person is really interested in a topic, they’ll learn more than you’d ever have imagined possible!

Among my four kids, they’ve fulfilled graduation requirements with courses specific to their interests: photography, Irish Dance, marine biology, calculus, Spanish, German, and 20th century history, to name a few.

Assign subjects and topics they don’t love, too. 

One of the pitfalls of homeschooling can be avoiding subjects you don’t like. But college, and life, doesn’t work that way. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and read the book or do the math lesson. And on that note…

Assign deadlines.

Another temptation is to move deadlines for your child because you can, and the sun is out, and you were up late watching movies anyway…I’m not saying never do that (well, because it’s fun and because you can), but sometimes you have to be the heavy and make them see it through and get their assignment in when you said it was due.

Apparently, I’ve gotten a bit relaxed about this, because my most recent graduate remarked to me this week that it’s been a challenge for her to remember deadlines for her college classes. I’m working on this with my last high schooler!

Above all, have fun and enjoy this journey with your high schooler. It will be over before you know it!

Have you graduated homeschooled high schoolers? What advice would you give? 


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Hi, I'm Jen!

As a military spouse of three decades and now the mom of an active duty son, my hope is to support you in your own military life. You’ll find help for your military marriage, deployments, PCS moves, and more!