Monday, March 11, 2013

Should You Send Your Child to College?

"Am I preparing my child for college adequately? Are they going to be ready for life "out there"? What do I do about the cost of college? Do they really NEED college? If not, what else is there for them to do? And how do I prepare them for the moral atmosphere they will be faced with?" Are these questions hovering over you as you make decisions for your homeschool curriculum? Arden Sleadd, homeschool mother of five and grandmother of five, will address these questions and share her own foibles and mistakes as she launched her grown children into the world. She will present arguments both for and against college and offer other alternatives for equipping your high school graduate for life.

My Story
Raised in a nominally Christian home, I attended church regularly. I performed well academically in public school, earning straight A's. Though I became a Christian at age 13, I was influenced by the worldly atmosphere and was romantically involved with a young man who, I concluded eventually, was not a Christian. But I was determined to marry a Christian, so I broke up with him and attended Seattle Pacific University, a Christian college; there I thought I would meet a nice Christian young man.  Unfortunately, there were a lot of other girls with the same idea; the ratio of girls to guys on campus was 3:1!  Nevertheless, I loved college, both the academics and the social atmosphere. However, I still compromised morally. I didn't drink or party hardy, but I got involved romantically--again--with another young man who, it turned out, wasn't walking the Christian walk. I attained a teaching degree in music education, secondary. I taught music for two years in Alaska, then returned to college, this time to a state university in Washington, for their master's program in music education. I met John there. We married and started a family, soon learning about homeschooling through a radio interview of Dr. Raymond Moore. I decided I could teach my own children better than the public schools. I started when Naomi my oldest was four, Nathan was two and Aaron was new. Just a few months into it I became very ill, and have been chronically so, through two more births, for the last  21 years. 

I continued to homeschool even as my health spiraled downward, until in 2000 John placed them in the public schools. However, we weren't pleased with the spiritual fruit we were seeing in our children, so John brought them back home in 2004, telling them that if their mother couldn't teach them, he would when he got home from work. At that time we were influenced further by Vision Forum and the teachings of Doug Phillips and Phil Lancaster, from which we caught a multigenerational vision. Doug Phillips has a two-CD lecture on How to Prepare your Son or Daughter for College. That lecture radically changed our plans for our children's future. 

We looked at the scripture together and observed what appeared to be the model for launching our young into world: "A man shall leave his mother and father, and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh". There is no mention of the man leaving to go to college; there is no mention of the woman leaving at all before she marries.  In Proverbs it does say, a man prepares his field before he builds a house. This means, he develops his means of providing for his bride before he builds a house to live in. And Jesus, when describing himself as the Bridegroom, said, "I go to prepare a place for you, that there you (the Bride, his church) may be also." This was how God had designed for families to transition their young people into the world. We realized that sending our daughters, particularly, into the college setting was to leave them unprotected and vulnerable without their father's covering. 

So we decided to make some radical changes regarding college. Here is how our children are doing today.

Naomi, 25, was married to a fellow homeschool grad) at age 19. She has always had a gift with children since she was little herself; she loves to cook and be a mother. She has three boys and a baby girl, and is homeschooling them with  a co-op. Naomi has a lovely alto voice; she recorded with our family when we made an a cappella Christmas carol CD; she also played piano and electric bass with our family band, Homemade Jam. When she married, it rather broke up the band, but John and the younger kids still lead worship in church. Nathan Phillips, my son-in-law works for Nathan Sleadd, my son, as his warehouse manager for Ziplinegear.com.

Nathan is 23. At age 15 he went to a resort in Cave Junction where he rode a zipline for the first time; he came home and built a few ziplines to connect with his treehouses on our acre, and decided he could build them for other people. Before he could legally drive he was marketing them on eBay, and I had to drive him to the p.o. to ship out his kits. He was involved in competitive speech his sophomore and junior years, and went to nationals twice. Then as a senior he attended the community college to take Calculus and Gen. Chemistry, spending the rest of his time running his business out of our garage. He married his duo interpretive partner and has two children. He has developed the Sleadd Adventure Gear brand with a half-dozen employees, and is grossing a million or so each year. He was named Oregon's Young Entrepreneur of the Year, shaking Gov. Kitzhaber's hand to receive the award. They are walking with the Lord, as are all my children thus far.

Aaron, 21, became a true speech beast by earning the Iron Man title at regional competition; he became a pianist and drum player and recorded his own CD on piano with compositions of his own. When Aaron was a senior, we approached a Christian computer programmer named Stephen to ask him if he would train and apprentice Aaron in his field. Stephen  agreed to do so, and after about 18 months Aaron was ready to enter the workforce. He then worked for Nathan for about a year as his marketing director until Stephen offered to hire him as a partner in his business. He is now very well paid as a computer programmer, ready to embark on being a provider. He is currently engaged to Emily, another homeschool graduate and speech beast. They will be married June 8th.

Alexa, 19, is living at home. Alexa has multiple interests and talents. She has been a speech and debate beast, winning many medals, and won the Oregon Right to Life Oratory Contest for two years, the maximum allowed. She then won second and third place at the National Right to Life contests. She has become a professional photographer, actress, artist and graphic designer. Alexa initially started earning college credit by taking CLEP and DSST tests, and had a College Plus counselor helping her. She had earned 21 credits when she went to the Chicago Family Economics conference in 2012 and came home with a new vision, yet needing direction. Her father helped her launch a company called Gabrielle Imagery, through which she marketed her graphic-arts and drawing skills. I helped her by putting up a Facebook page, and she got a client right away. Now she is working as an intern for a marketing company called Define Your Edge where they are training AND paying her, in Grants Pass. She also babysits at the homeschool coop and tutors three homeschool children who are neighbors. She has been doing pro life activism on college campuses and at public rallies--she prefers to call herself an abortion abolitionist now--and has started the Abolitionist Society of Southern Oregon. She is welcome to stay living with us under her father's covering until she marries.

Caleb, 16, is a sophomore in high school. He is taking Chemistry online through Apologia Academy. He is competing for his third year in speech in apologetics. He is in Algebra II this year in Saxon Math, and he is considering computer programming or engineering as a career. With that in mind, I anticipate that his high school years will include math all the way through calculus, just as Nathan and Alexa have done, and some sort of apprenticeship and project during his senior year that will earn him dual credit for both high school and college. We are considering funding his building a solar power system for our house. Eventually I hope to have several panels in place to reduce our power bill. I have purchased some tutorial videos for building solar panels so he could learn how and do it at home.

If I seem to be opposed to attending the traditional brick and mortar college, it is not because I devalue academic rigor. On the contrary, I believe in holding to a very high standard of both academic mastery and moral integrity. It is not good enough to merely score 10-20 percentile points above most public schools. We have no room to be smug about a relative measurement against an abysmally low standard. Our standards should be more objective, which align with God's.

Why should we pursue high academic standards? 
1. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:8) Knowledge is a highly-held value in scripture. 

2. Our children, especially our sons, need the "intellectual capital" to give them an edge in the economy. By intellectual capital, I mean a specialized skill or high level of knowledge that a majority of people do not have, for which they are willing to pay a goodly sum to receive benefit. If your sons are to compete well enough and earn a high enough income to support a family and let their wives stay home to homeschool your grandchildren, they need to keep high academic standards their goal. Only 9% of American high school grads are pursuing science in college. This represents an opportunity; if your children pursue the sciences, they will be in high demand. This is another way we can take dominion for the Lord.

It does not necessarily follow that one must go to college to attain high academic proficiency. A good high school education should be the equivalent to the first two years of college. Colleges have had to dumb-down their programs for the sake of their low-achieving entering-freshmen classes to such a degree that the first two years is largely a waste of time for those who got a good high school education. (My college allowed me to be exempted from general requirements for my degree because of my high GPA and test scores--and my high school education was unremarkable.)

What should high school look like for our children to be prepared for life?  There are a lot of options, but academically I believe these are the priorities:
  a. 4 years of English 
      i. speech   ii. logic/debate  iii. Latin/Greek roots  iv. writing/grammar
  b. 4 years of science 
      i. biology ii. chemistry  iii. physics iv. applied science/computer science/graphic arts
  c. 4 years of math--as high as they can go and at whatever speed they can go
  d. Electives of your choice: music/art/pe
  e. mentorship/apprenticeship of 3-6 months (girls: can be homemaking or tutoring; boys: career/business)

I strenuously advocate mathematics as essential for training the young brain to think. It also is the language through which we can explain and understand science--it is the language with which God speaks to us regarding the laws of nature. If your child is unable to make it all the way through calculus, at least keep him going through math at the speed he can handle, while gaining mastery and confidence.

(Caveat: Bible should be first and last the most important source of all study at all ages, incorporated into all disciplines and discussions. I am focusing for the purpose of this article on the academics.)

REASONS TO ATTEND A BRICK-AND-MORTAR COLLEGE

Why go to college? 
For one thing, it is NOT for the purpose of finding a spouse--yet how many of us went there for that unspoken reason? 

Is it for high academic pursuits? Well, I would hope so--yet (according to the newest stats) the average college student today spends more time partying and playing sports than studying. But maybe your child will be different. 

There are indeed a few highly specialized fields where you really need to pursue a college degree: medical doctors, nurses, nuclear physicists, veterinarians, science researchers, post-graduate study, etc. Those in what Dr. Art Robinson calls the hard-science fields may find they need the on-campus experience with access to the laboratories and expensive equipment. 

HOW YOU CAN BEAT THE SYSTEM

However, it is getting easier all the time to gain that knowledge from your own home, or out in  the "real world" with a laptop and internet access. MIT now has all of its course content available for free online, and many colleges are following suit. It only requires that you be motivated enough to read and work your way through it without a professor to hold you accountable. You can teach yourself most of what you need to know, and then take the requisite tests necessary to get college credit or certification in your field. 

There is a very good company started by a homeschool graduate named Brad Voeller that has systematized this approach, called College Plus. This program provides your student with a personal counselor who will coach him biweekly through the process. They utilize the CLEP and other standardized tests that are accepted by most colleges for credit. There really is no reason you can't earn at least a Bachelor's degree for a fraction of the cost of a brick-and-mortar college.

Help is also available through the CollegePrep program now offered by CollegePlus, wherein your high school student will learn how to earn dual credit for both high school and college while still at home. They will be assisted in attaining study skills necessary to become a good college-level student, critical thinking skills, memory and speed-reading skills, etc. It is a half-year to one-year program depending on what pace you choose to go through it. You also get biweekly coaching from a homeschool mother through this process.

You can beat the system even further and save $1000s more without using C+ and doing it on your own. Keep your own schedule, figure out your own course of study, etc. You have to be highly motivated. Just buy the book Accelerated Long-Distance Learning by Brad Voeller. Buy other books from the C+ Bookstore and go at it on your own.  

If engineering is your field of interest, there is a former engineering prof that offers a course of study for engineer majors that will charge $1000/yr to coach you through becoming an engineer without needing a degree. He knows which tests you have to take, he has the books you need, and you can save even more going that way. His website is called biblicalconcourse.com. It has a great bookstore with college textbooks and hands-on project-oriented materials for at-home study.

REASONS NOT TO DO COLLEGE

Why not go to a traditional brick-and-mortar college?

1. There is no such Biblical model.
Jesus was homeschooled. He learned at home, and perhaps under the tutelage of rabbis in His local synagogue in Galilee, though it is not mentioned in scripture. His home study was sufficient to cause the learned men of Jerusalem to be amazed at his abilities at age 12. He stayed subject to his parents until age 30. His father Joseph taught him his trade as a carpenter, and Jesus worked for him until he was ready to start his ministry. That was the Jewish way, and Jesus implicitly endorsed that way by following it himself.

2. Moral debauchery and compromise

Nathan Harden is a 2009 graduate of Yale and author of the recently published book, Sex and God at Yale: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad His book documents the events of Sex Week at his alma mater, including the screening in classrooms of hard-core pornography. The details of what occurs, not in the dorms, but in the classrooms with the consent and endorsement of professors, are too sordid for me to print here.


Harden says, "Unfortunately, what’s happening at Yale is indicative of what is occurring at colleges and universities across the country. Sex Week, for example, is being replicated at Harvard, Brown, Duke, Northwestern, the University of Illinois, and the University of Wisconsin. Nor would it suffice to demand an end to Sex Weeks on America’s college campuses. Those events are, after all, only symptoms of a deeper emptiness in modern academia. Our universities have lost touch with the purpose of liberal arts education, the pursuit of truth. In abandoning that mission—indeed, by denying its possibility—our institutions of higher learning are afflicted to the core."

This is the case on secular campuses, but don't think you're going to avoid compromise on the Christian campuses. They may not have Sex Week, but there is nonetheless plenty of romance and couplings going on. At SPU even 3 decades ago, there were drug parties, drinking parties, and hetero- and homosexual sex among students, very close to campus if not on campus. The reason is that even among the most devoted Christian young people, when they are placed into a 24/7 environment without the biblically-instituted covering of the father, the daughters are unprotected from the advances of young men, and foolishness and sin abounds.

Now I have friends whose son is attending Patrick Henry College, a Christian college started by Michael Farris of Home School Legal Defense Association, for homeschool graduates in particular. I have great respect for my friends, but they will admit to you that there is moral compromise going on there as well. If you take seriously the biblical requirement of fathers to protect the virginity of their daughters, you have an uphill battle to do it long distance. I'm not saying it's impossible, but it will take great effort, constant communication, etc. I have seen how the girls dress at the Patrick Henry dances, and in my estimation it's not only slightly more modest than the rest of the world.

3. Money

To attend a brick-and-mortar college you have to either save the equivalent of what you would pay for a house, ($22,000/yr for a state college and $29,000 for a private school), go into debt, or get a very generous scholarship. Most scholarships will only get you through the first year or two, and then once the college has you committed, the scholarships dry up. I think it is a huge mistake for a young person to start out life as a college grad with tens of thousands of dollars in debt. The data shows that the wages they will be making in most fields no longer adequately compensate them for the debt they incur to prepare for those fields.  It is fiscal insanity. 

MORE ALTERNATIVES TO THE TRADITIONAL ROUTE

1. Take certifying exams, get work experience in your field of interest/expertise. Example given: biblicalconcourse.com
2. Internships, apprenticeships. Example: Aaron 
3. Teach yourself online; tutorials abound.
4. Start a business of your own. Example: Nathan
5. Vocational training at local junior college. 
6. Find a friend who can help you learn. Use Skype or similar social networks. Alexa did this with a friend she met at the Family Economics conference from out of state who helped her with learning to use PhotoShop, via Skype.
7. Be a servant; offer to help in the office of a ministry or business or political candidate. Make yourself useful as a volunteer and show yourself worthy of compensation.
8. Buy the software program that is considered required for the field you are interested in, and learn how to use it. Go on Craigslist and see what computer skills employers want you to have, and teach yourself. 
9. Read. Read. Read. And then read some more. I have always told my kids, "Everything you ever want to know you can find in a book." Now I tell them if it's not in a book, it's on the internet.

If you must go to a brick-and-mortar college, consider these alternatives:
1. Live at home while going to college. This helps avoid the morally-compromising 24/7 coed or bachelor-pad lifestyle. 
2. Live with a godly family who will help maintain accountability while going to college. 
3. Get married while going to college. (This has its financial and marital drawbacks too.)
4. Keep in touch daily with parents. My mother-friend mentioned above texts her son daily, and he tells her everything. They are in a good relationship, and that after all is the most important part.

Let us be very clear: we are not preparing our children for college; we are preparing them for life. College is only a means to an end.  We should, in fact, be raising up "life-long learners" and kingdom-builders. They should have a love for learning that extends throughout their whole lives, regardless of age and stage.

7 comments:

Allison Scott said...

Thanks very much for posting this, Arden. I was taking notes Thursday but they were sorely inadequate. Your advice is so practical, especially in a time when college has become so impractical!

Arden Sleadd said...

Thank you Allison for the encouragement. I do hope it is helpful.

Kris Mays said...

Yes, thank you again for speaking last Thursday. It is nice to have your presentation online to review again and see what I missed writing down. Blessings on you as you mentor those of us coming up behind you!

Anonymous said...

College has become the new normal, which is unfortunate, considering that the majority of jobs require a piece of paper. As an engineer, I can tell you that the odds of getting hired as an engineer are slim to none. However, the majority of college degrees, with the exception of nursing, engineering, computer science, and accounting, do not teach you anything other than finishing what you started.

After your first job, nobody cares where you went to school or what grades you received during your four year stint.

Instead of college, trade school teaches actual skills that are necessary for the job force, and the average salary from a trade school is much higher than what the average college graduate will receive.

Arden Sleadd said...

College is quickly becoming the OLD normal, thankfully! If we don't start thinking outside the box and pursuing new paradigms, there isn't much hope for our future generation's chances of staying afloat financially through adulthood. If the college system doesn't start changing quickly to adapt to the new internet paradigm, they will go by the wayside eventually. (That is, if the government gets out of the system and lets market forces do their job. What are the chances of that happening??) Thanks for your comments, Anonymous.

Portland Conservative said...

When I said that college is becoming the new normal, I was referring to the fact that it is becoming the new benchmark for employment. For example, we just hired a new front desk lady, and one of the per-requisites was that they have a college degree. A college degree is not needed for the job.

This goes back to the great recession after the roaring twenties. Parents of the baby boomers went through the great depression, and as the job market was changing, they wanted the best for their kids, so they told them to go to college. As the baby boomers aged, they also saw the change in the market, thus wanting their kids to receive a college degree.
Now that people have degrees in psychology, business, anthropology, etc, they are burdened with tens of thousands of dollars of student loans and a job that might give them $35k per year.

Arden Sleadd said...

Portland Conservative, I get your drift. I just happened to be talking with a mom friend from Ptld this weekend who told of another friend, a father in her church, who was facing a roadblock from his employer, and who had to go back to college for that degree, even though he was doing well and had the knowledge and skills to do his job. It took a major toll on the whole family. She said, "It seems like businesses are in conspiracy with the colleges!"
So the other option: start your own business. Eventually the larger corporations may find themselves out of step with the competition and short on workers if they continue to insist on outmoded requirements.