Is college right for your child? When I was growing up, this was not the question. The question was where will you go to college and what will you study there?

Parents who homeschool have learned to turn conventional wisdom inside out. People ask, why don't you send your children to school? We answer, why should I send my children to school? They ask, why do you homeschool? We answer, why not homeschool?

Dare we do the same when asked about children going to college? We do dare in our family, but only after a year-long debate over questions on our daughter's behalf like, Do you want to go to college? What would you want to study? Where would be the best place? How should you prepare for college? How will we afford it?

Then, one day, my wife and I sat down with our 17-year-old to come to grips with the question that was always "out there," but never resolved--is college what this child needs in order to prepare her to fulfill her purpose in life? We really did not know what the answer would be at the end of this meeting, but we were determined to find out.

After prayer that God would guide us, I turned to the whiteboard hung on the wall for this special occasion. I began by listing what we have discovered over the years are Bethany's spiritual gifts--the one's that motivate her. For her, they are mercy and service.

Then we made a list of Bethany's interests and abilities, and we identified which of these can be employed in mercy and service (most, if not all, in her case). We then honed the list down further to those interests and abilities that Bethany really wants to develop so they can be employed in acts of mercy and service. At the same time, we factored in a strong desire to rise to the high calling of wife and mother, should God so choose, and to have the option to use her abilities to supplement family income from home (believing home is the ideal workplace for a mother).

We went down the list. Is college what will prepare Bethany in textile arts? A degree in a specialized school might be of value, but a few select classes and training opportunities, along with long hours of practice and self-learning are really what Bethany needs. We asked the same "college" question of the other interests on the list. The conclusion: College was not the logical answer to prepare Bethany in any of her interests.

We were somewhat amazed at how clear it seemed when we finished our discussion. Bethany could go to college, and she would surely gain some things, but at what cost? Shouldn't a young woman be about fulfilling her purpose--not just opting for college with the hope she might gain something along the way?

Could college open Bethany's eyes to a whole new world of opportunity? It might, but Bethany is not floundering at the moment to discover her interests and purpose. She knows who she is and what she wants to do. Shouldn't we go boldly forward with the abundance of light God shines on our path today?

Now, what if at the end of our family powwow it seemed clear that college is the right path for Bethany? Going to college is no small step. It consumes a fortune in time, energy and money, which might be spent otherwise. If we had concluded from our deliberations that college is the right path for Bethany's giftings, interests and God-given purpose, then we would have attained for ourselves a surety about the decision that would propel us over hurdles. We would have greater clarity about what to study, where to enroll and how to seek and pray for financial provision.

Perhaps you have never questioned whether your children should go to college. Maybe you have clarity on the subject. Some are certain college is not for their children. Most are certain of the opposite--that going to college is the standard until proven otherwise. Well, sending children off to elementary school was the 20th century standard for Americans until the revival of home education. Why should college be the default any longer for us?

Is college right for your child? You have the right and responsibility to find out. In so doing, you gain confidence for the journey.

[Editor's Note: Next week Bill's daughter, Bethany, will explain from her point of view. Don't miss The College Decision - A Daughter's Perspective.]

DISCUSSION
Is college a non-negotiable requirement for your children? Why or why not?


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Bill Smith is father to two home educated girls and husband to one extraordinary homeschool mom. He began his career as a newspaper reporter, was a communication coordinator for a Christian mission, and now he writes grant proposals for his local food bank in Nashville, TN. Bill and his family operate Sweet Home Press, offering curriculum to home educators (www.SweetHomePress.com)

This article was originally published in the Jul/Aug '05 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. For more information, visit http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com. To request a free sample copy, visit http://homeschoolenrichment.com/magazine/request-sample-issue.html