Autumn is a season of deadlines for the parents of high school students. If your student is preparing for college, career, or other forms of continuing education, you are probably swimming in standardized tests, personal statements, and transcripts. I well remember that feeling.
The college admissions scene is significantly different now than it was when I graduated from K–12 homeschooling. When I applied to college a decade ago, most colleges still insisted that my family fill out the “class rank” information on the application. My dad had to write a letter to explain why I was ranked 1/1.
Then, I still had to take additional tests, submit portfolios of my work, and participate in interviews to prove that I was capable of socializing with “normal” people. Today, most college websites have a separate section explaining their requirements for homeschooled applicants. If homeschoolers have a generic reputation, it is for academic excellence. Many colleges actively recruit homeschool graduates.
Despite these encouraging changes, many parents remain nervous about the prospect of homeschooling through high school. Therefore, four years ago, the first survey of Classical Conversations alumni was conducted. We asked about test scores, GPA, college admittances, and college preparedness. At that time, only ninety alumni filled out the survey. Nonetheless, the statistics were encouraging. Students were matching their peers point-for-point on standardized tests, college admissions, and extracurricular activities. It was working!
In 2013, Classical Conversations conducted another survey of its alumni. We asked almost all the same questions, but this time, there were more than 400 responses.
Again, CC alumni matched and exceeded their peers on standardized tests, college admissions, and extracurricular participation.
Graduates had been admitted to more than 200 unique colleges and universities in forty of the fifty states. No one reported being unable to attend college because his or her grades or test scores were prohibitively low. In fact, 66% of those who applied to college had been accepted by every school to which they had applied.
Whew! Yes, you can homeschool and get into college. No, homeschooling will not doom your prospects for a job. Good work, everyone.
Then we came to a sudden realization. In essence, the questions we had asked were the same ones that public and private schools were using to assess success: test scores, grades, and college admittances. It was as if the homeschool community were singing with Calamity Jane in the 1953 musical, “Anything you can do, I can do better; I can do anything better than you!”
Yet, in 2012, over half of recent college graduates were underemployed or jobless.2 Do we want our students to measure their individual worth by those quantitative metrics? Whether your children attend public school or are homeschooled, imagine how you would squirm if they introduced themselves, “I am 4.0” or “I am 2400” or “I am Harvard” or “I am $75,000.” Far more persuasive are the comments like this one from a Classical Conversations graduate:
“CC produces young men and women who can think critically, understand the effect of worldview, and are aware and connected to global issues.”
Maybe we need to ask a new set of questions when we consider academic success and choices after high school graduation.
- “What is the last excellent conversation you had and what triggered it?”
- “What is the most important lesson you will take from high school to your next job?”
- “Who do you want to be your mentor for the next two to seven years?”
- “How can you study under someone whose message persuades you and whose personal ethic inspires you?”
- “How can you acquire skills that will equip you for the rest of your life?”
These are much more human questions than the ones that assess test scores, number of college acceptances, and GPA. Assessing these questions is more difficult than comparing numerical averages, but few homeschoolers would say that they do what they do because it is easier, right?
Over the next four years, I hope we will find the courage to assess our progress not in terms of someone else’s standard of success, but in terms of the goals that this movement has set for itself: to know God and to make Him known, to educate the whole child (body, mind, and soul), and to honor the nature of the learner in the ways we teach and assess.
Now all I have to do is figure out how to develop that survey…