Our eldest child recently celebrated her eighth birthday, and already Ive had questions about her high school and possible university education. We have chosen not to outsource our childrens education, instead we take full responsibility for their learning ourselves, focussing on (in our view) the important areas of achievement in life.? Unfortunately there often appears to be the expectation that once children reach their teenage years they need to go to school, or they will not be able to get a job or a university place.

It can be hard to think outside the educational box when most of us are used to hearing get your high school certificate then go to university. Usually, school leavers only have school-related achievements or records to show a prospective employer, so the absence of these could be viewed as making it impossible to get a job. Another concern is the perceived ability of the parent to teach their child in the more advanced areas within mathematics, history, geography and so on, so it seems preferable to hand the child over to the school once this stage is reached.

As I have said, our eldest is eight, so we are currently only dealing with learning at a level which most parents would be comfortable at, regardless of their own school history. We do not however plan on sending our children to school once they reach a magical, pre-determined age, simply because we might have to deal with subjects on which we are not experts. There are a lot of good resource materials available which can help parents teach their children in areas beyond the parents level of knowledge, and what better example can a parent set than learning right along with the child? Individual tutors or classes on specific subjects are available in a lot of areas, and even if none are advertised, teachers from local schools are often happy to tutor in their specialised areas if they have an interested student. For the child with a passion in one area, a mentor would do more than any similar high school subject could ever do.

Children who attend school often dont have the time or ability to follow up on individual pursuits, and are not easily able to gain valuable experience prior to actually seeking a job or career. Home educated children are at an advantage in this regard ” families often participate in community work, giving children practical experience as well as networking contacts, which can lead to more voluntary work, part-time jobs and possibly full-time employment. By the time a home educated student is in the full-time job market, they can easily have an impressive portfolio of work experience, certificates from relevant TAFE or correspondence courses, and references from respected people in their chosen field. The lack of a high school certificate is then not as much of a problem.

This leads me to a question that people often ask of home educators: “and what if your child wants to go to Uni.?” My short answer to this at the moment is “as long as they can afford to pay for it they can go!” My husband and I each have a Bachelor degree and he is continuing his studies, so we are no strangers to university life. Unfortunately, those studies have not been relevant in the most important areas of our lives – child bearing or rearing, home care and maintenance, home education, or how to have a wonderful marriage. Nor has my husband been able to obtain a position where his degree would actually be useful. And we are still paying those expensive pieces of paper off!

Certainly there are instances where university study is absolutely necessary ” being a doctor, lawyer, or academic for example is impossible unless one has the appropriate initials. In quite a lot of employment positions however, academic knowledge is not as important as practical skill, which can only be gained by actually doing the work. Employment interviews focus on your ability to do the job for which you are applying, presentation at the interview, and performance at any aptitude tests ” matters that are not decided by the possession of any university degrees.

Where university study is necessary then one option is attending senior years at a high school (or matriculation college depending on your state). Part-time or night-school studies are available in some areas, and are often used by students whose high school scores were too low to gain them entry into their desired university courses. Depending on the university course, even a student entering from school may have to submit a portfolio or undergo other assessment, to show commitment and ability in the area (such as with dance, art and so on).

Study at a TAFE or other college can be used to gain entry into university courses, showing that the student is able to apply themselves to higher level study, and to give them a nominal score which is used to determine their eligibility. TAFE may often be restricted to students of at least a certain age, so contact not only the TAFE office, but also the heads of that particular department or the lecturers themselves to try the personal approach. This can work particularly well for those students who have a great deal of work experience in the area already, and are able to demonstrate their commitment and ability to undertake the work involved. If all else fails, parents can always enrol in the course and have their children attend with them, even though this wont gain the child any formal qualification in the short term. Some TAFE courses are also available on-line, so could be less strict on age requirements due to insurance reasons.

Universities often have mature age entry quotas (normally aged 21 and over), for which prospective students can apply based on past experience and studies, and performance in the universitys aptitude test (such as SAT). And simply because your local university wont accept the application, doesnt mean that one in the next state wont.

Most universities will also have fee-paying students, who can either complete a whole degree, or simply pay for certain subjects and gain individual certificates for these. This is an option for those who can afford to pay the high prices charged, but are unable to gain entrance under other ways. Similarly, there are private correspondence course colleges (such as ICS) who offer certificate courses. Also try on-line universities, or even universities in America who are often more than happy to take homeschooled students.

For those who are interested in more information, the article at http://www.home-ed.vic.edu.au/Otherways/further-ed.htm
offers good information on further study in Victoria.

Another of the positives of home education is that you can avoid the box mentality when it comes to earning a living. Self-employment and business ownership, or royalty-based incomes are all options which are not usually focussed on in schools. By teaching your child yourself you can encourage their entrepreneurial spirit, help them in their initial money-making endeavours and give them options as to how they would like to spend the rest of their lives. Many homeschooled youngsters have developed an interest or passion into their own business, learning more from that at the age of 18 than a lot of employees do at later ages. Personally, we dont ask our children what they would like to be when they grow up. Instead we focus on what they enjoy doing and how they can be of service to others, and encourage them to earn a living from that.