There are many paths to college for homeschoolers, but it doesn't hurt to start thinking about it as soon as your child moves into the teen years. My oldest son and I waited until the summer before his "senior year" -- which meant we had to scramble to meet college application deadlines. Luckily, he knew what he wanted to study, and had done a lot of preparation (mostly on his own) to show he was ready for it.
I wouldn't recommend waiting until the last minute, however! Whether you've got a few years or it's coming up fast, here are some simple things you and your child can do right now. They'll give you a good start on preparing a homeschool transcript, and help your teen get ready for this next step along the road to independence.
1. Take a Class at a Community College.
For homeschoolers who have never been in school or taken formal classes, community college is a great way to learn skills they may need to work on, such as:
- taking notes;
- studying for tests;
- organizing their time;
- keeping track of papers due;
- making up missed assignments.
They'll also begin to develop self-reliance as they learn to navigate the college system on their own. And they can earn college credit at the same time!
2. Keep a Reading List.
Homeschooling families each have their own style, but colleges need to figure out what homeschooled kids have really learned. One useful method students can use to demonstrate their interest and self-motivation is to present a list of books read during the high school years.
They don't have to be books off your standard high school required reading list. Titles that reflect the student's interest are a great way to show the college what kind of person you are. As a bonus, a reading list gives kids something to talk about during interviews. My older son wowed the admissions officer with his knowledge of the history of video game development, gleaned from reading every book on the subject.
If your teen is a heavy reader, you can break it down by "subject." Films can be included too, in the same list or separately. I was able to re-construct my son's reading by going through his library records, but not every library offers this option. It's better to encourage your teen to start keeping track now.
3. Show Off Projects Online.
Schools have art shows and talent nights, but homeschoolers have the Internet! There are plenty of ways to display homeschool projects and personal work online. Suggestions include:
- Create a YouTube channel of original songs or videos.
- Post artwork on a site like Deviant Art.
- Start a podcast of movie reviews.
- Submit a short story to an online magazine like Teen Ink.
My family created blogs, one for each year of high school, to document our at-home science labs. The fact that the blogs were featured by The New York Times and science education magazines was a nice plus!
4. Stay in Touch with Teachers and Other Mentors.
No matter how objective you are, a letter of recommendation from a teacher or mentor who knows your child from class, volunteer work or other activity is always going to carry more weight than a recommendation from Mom.
Encourage your teen to keep track of names and contact information for people who might be willing to put in a good word in a few years.
5. Get a Heads-Up on Required Classes.
Are there "gaps" in your teen's education that colleges could frown upon? Not all colleges or all majors demand the same core requirements -- so how can you tell if you've got it covered? One way is to go to college websites and check out the course sequence for the majors that interest your child.
The news could be better than you think. My son was able to drop Calculus (not his favorite) in favor of Discrete Math (helpful for computer programming) after seeing what classes freshman needed to take at his top choice schools.