Elisabeth Marlowe, a homeschooled student who recently graduated with an undergraduate degree in creative writing (with a minor in dramatic productions) from Bob Jones University and with a master's degree in secondary education from Pensacola Christian College, took classes both with distance learning and at Christian colleges. From her perspective, the college experience did a better job preparing her for her chosen field.

"Distance learning just isn't always practical for every major," Marlowe said. "I could not receive the education I desired from distance learning classes. One on one with teachers and peers is essential to crafting your desired field of expertise … I couldn't have done that from home."

Direct Teacher Contact
Marlowe also noted that direct teacher contact made a big difference in the two college experiences. "I did take a few distance learning courses to help me complete my degrees at a level I could handle, but these were basic classes," Marlowe explained. "I took all of my core classes on campus. Having experienced a little of each, I definitely prefer speaking with the teachers face to face. You can knock down the door, call up, or e-mail anytime to get help. If you're taking a class through distance learning, you can only receive help 9 to 5, and sometimes it's hard to explain your problems over the phone."

Extracurricular Advantages
Christian colleges also allow students to explore extracurricular activities and learn skills that are hard to learn at home. Through the college experience, my sons have taken music lessons, ministered in New York as part of a team, learned set design and lighting, played organized sports, served in leadership positions, worked in an art gallery, worked behind the scenes in operatic productions, and participated in a film project—all with Christian oversight. It would be impossible to duplicate this wide range of experiences in our small town.

Exchange of Ideas
College attendance allows students to have more freedom of discussion with others who agree—or disagree—with their opinions about a variety of subjects. As Jennifer Brown, a homeschool graduate who currently attends Liberty University explained, "College has prepared me for the real world in ways I didn't expect, such as learning to defend (as necessary) my status as a homeschool graduate. It has also stretched me intellectually as I learn to defend my viewpoint against many others."

Social Development
Christian college attendance allows students to make contacts with others who may become future colleagues in business or ministry. Also, for many homeschooled students who live in areas where there is limited contact with other young Christian adults, college may provide one the best ways to meet a future husband or wife. In any case, they are likely to form lifelong friendships with other like-minded students. As Marlowe said, "To me one of the biggest advantages would be meeting Christians. When you're at a Christian college, you have the opportunity to meet, fellowship, and interact on a daily basis with thousands of Christians. I've made my best friends at college and friends that I plan to work with in the future."

Increase in Independence
Elisabeth Marlowe also noted how the independence she experienced in college helped prepare her for adulthood. "I also feel attending a Christian college helps especially homeschooled adolescents mature into godly Christian adults," Marlowe said. "When I was in college, I was on my own to a great degree. I was responsible for my homework and classes, curfew, laundry, finances, and deadlines. College is kind of the prerequisite for living on your own. It weans you away from Mom and Dad's constant care yet allows you to keep in contact with them. For me, college really helped me not to be afraid to take the first step toward being an adult."

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Originally published December 7, 2007.

Amelia Harper is a homeschooling mother of five and pastor's wife. She is the author of Literary Lessons from the Lord of the Rings, a complete one-year literature curriculum for secondary level students. She is also a freelance writer for newspapers and magazines. www.HomeScholarBooks.com :: www.HomeSchoolBlogger.com/MiddleEarthMom

Copyright 2007. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Fall 2007. Used with permission. www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com