The Case for Christian College - Part 1
- 2009 30 Apr
Like many homeschooling parents, my goal for my children has always been to provide them with a strong Christian foundation, to educate and enlighten their minds, and to prepare them for a life of service that will most likely extend beyond the fours walls of our home. I have homeschooled five children for over eighteen years and this year watched the third child cross the threshold of high school graduation and go out into the world of adulthood where homeschooled students are inevitably faced with the question, "What now?"
For our family, so far, each of the children has chosen the course of Christian college education. Both my husband and I received a superior education at good Christian liberal arts college and strongly urged our children to consider that option, though we were supportive of other options as well.
Our primary goal was for them to prepare for their inevitable collision with the outside world yet still retain the faith of their fathers. We wanted their college experience to teach them independence of thought, but we also wanted them still to have a nurturing, supportive moral environment with clear rules and boundaries that limited the temptations they would encounter. We wanted them to examine the world they would be destined to face through the lens of a Christian worldview. We wanted, in short, to have them learn the skills that they would need to have to survive in the secular world, yet to gain this knowledge in an environment that would closely mimic the education they received at home.
Clearly they would not get all that at a secular college. My husband, who is a pastor, had attended a state college for a while before attending a Christian college. He knew firsthand that Christians were often mocked, ridiculed, and even threatened because of their faith. I had also heard that many secular professors consider it a personal challenge to break down the faith of young Christians and to impose a humanistic worldview in its stead. My suspicions of this were confirmed when I interviewed Professor Mike Adams for an article for TOS a couple of years ago. In his book Welcome to the Ivory Towers of Babel: Confessions of a Conservative College Professor, Adams, a professor of criminology at a state college in North Carolina, reveals the seamy underbelly of a system designed to lead young people to support a liberal, immoral, and antigodly vision of the world. (The article can be found in the archives of the TOS website.)
It surprises me to see how many Christian homeschooled families choose secular colleges when the risks are so great. Why do so many parents carefully nurture and protect their children throughout their childhood only to throw them into Vanity Fair when the ink is barely dry on the diploma? Secular colleges offer more temptations and dilemmas, both physical and spiritual, than most Christians will face in a lifetime after the college days have ended. Sex, pornography, and drug and alcohol use are considered rites of passage by many college-aged students in our culture.
However, a good Christian college can be an excellent transition for the important journey a child takes into adulthood. All this effort can be rewarding, for Christian college attendance has several advantages.
Some students find that they benefit from the competition and deadlines that college attendance offers: these pressures keep them more focused and on track with their studies. Also, though distance learning is available for a number of college degrees now, many majors still require group settings, hands-on participation, or direct teacher instruction. In addition, few students actually are set in their career choices when they begin their college career. Often students find that the college experience broadens their horizons and leads them to career possibilities that they never even knew existed until they encountered them in their college studies.
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."
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."
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."
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