The College Question - Part 1
- 2006 23 Jun
I grew up in the era when practically everyone went to college. It was the thing to do. It wasn't so much about academics or preparing for a career as about figuring out what to do with yourself now that you finally finished twelve-plus years of schooling. Most high school graduates, me included, had only a hazy notion of what we wanted to do "when we grew up," and college seemed to offer a way to discover what that might be while doing something we'd become familiar with--going to school.
Well, things haven't changed that much, and here is the dilemma many homeschool families are facing: They've nurtured their son or daughter through twelve years of homeschool for moral, religious, and/or character-related reasons. Now graduation is imminent and what about next fall? Should they "send" their graduate to college, help them find a job, or what?
As an added pressure, shadows of grandparents whisper phrases like "they ought to go" and "you should send them," implying that our children will be successful only if they graduate from college (as if success is measured in dollar signs or titles), and to do anything less is, well, definitely less.
To further complicate the matter, even back when I was in college, not all was well on campus, and things haven't improved. There are an awful lot of lost kids in our universities, and an awful lot of bad stuff can happen there as well. Ruling out bodily harm, which you can't, basic beliefs can be systematically undermined by the humanistic philosophies taught in those ivied halls. Worldly influence is rife.
Not every high school graduate can stand up to that. We've all heard the horror stories--homeschooled kids turned away from belief in God by the worldly counsels of professors and peers. Because of the inherent risks, there are whole sectors of Christianity who categorically condemn college as a hotbed of sin and iniquity, and completely a non-option for any serious believer.
However, there are others, equally sincere in God, who look at it from a different perspective. The world desperately needs Christians in strategic places--doctors, lawyers, professors, accountants, etc. If we create a vacuum, it will be filled by those who "know not God," and our nation will slip even further down the heathen slope than it already has. If all Christians boycott college, we forfeit the opportunity to influence a huge sector of lost humanity for the Kingdom of God. Therefore, some believers advocate "not hiding your light under a basket," and view their children as ambassadors to a campus full of lost people, as they prepare to impact the world for Jesus.
Some dedicated parents consider Christian colleges as the perfect alternative--further education without the worldly influence, while others have no confidence in this pooling of young people away from home, Christian or not. They turn to correspondence courses or apprenticeships, which suffices for many fields, though not all.
Then there are a whole set of parents who see no value in further education at all. So would somebody just tell us which option is right?
But wait! Perhaps we're asking the wrong question . . .
OUTSIDE THE BOX
Pretty much everyone believes that each person is a unique creation, with gifts and abilities. We manage to remain aware of this in most areas as we homeschool, bearing in mind the different learning styles (visual, kinesthetic, or oral), and we watch for personal interests, areas of giftedness, and so on, trying to help our children tap into their God-given talents. We understand that not everyone is called to foreign missions or to be president.
After all, when has the Lord ever done things exactly the same way with every person? In fact, it seems He delights in variety, whether it is the thousands of bugs, flowers, or grasses that He created, or the paths He leads us on in our individual journeys. But somehow this central concept of God being the One who authors our past, present, and future can be forgotten as we struggle with the college question. What we need to know is what the Lord wants for this particular person.
We're all familiar with the concept of thinking outside the box. Now if it were only as easy to do as to say! We could take a mental eraser and get rid of the lines we've drawn, ending up with a clean sheet that the Lord could write His directions on.
That's basically what we need to do about college. Laying aside pre-conceived ideas, expectations, and fears, we seek the Lord's guidance and wisdom. Ideally, we've been doing this all along. But if not, we can start now, being vitally involved as our graduate asks, "Lord, what do you want for me?" and the equally important companion question, "What avenue of preparation do You want to take me in?"
A word to the wise, here. As we interact with our young adults, we parents need to find that beautiful spot where control melds into guidance. We're trying to help them find God's will for their lives. We can't make it happen, but we can assist them in every way possible. It was easier when they were small--we could discern God's will and just tell them what to do. But the season for doing is drawing to a close. If our young adults are not integrally involved in the process of learning what the Lord has made them for and how He wants to prepare them for that future, it is inevitable that at some point, they will begin to question the validity of what they're involved in. It is vital that they know God's will for themselves, and we should resist the temptation to decide for them. Not only can it drive a wedge in our relationship with them, it denies them the equipping we should be giving them. Sooner or later, each of us must stand before God on our own. Even our kids.
Yes, it does complicate matters if they don't know the Lord in the way that they should. The less they are interested in pleasing Jesus, the more chance there is for costly mistakes. Be that as it may, the solution is not to keep a death grip on them. Share your thoughts and what you feel the Lord may be saying. Pray for and with them, giving love and support, and communicating that you're with them. Even if they can't seem to discern the voice of God, let them know you're in the process together. You may not be able to give your blessing to, or be part of, a decision they make if you don't believe it is from God, but you still need to be emotionally available to them.
In these and many other ways, you can be a beacon for your son or daughter. If you rightly represent our Father, you can be a key player in your child-turned-adult's journey to know Him, rather than a stumbling block for them to overcome.
Leslie Wyatt has been married to her husband, Dave, for 23 years. They have six children ranging in age from 6-20, and have been homeschooling for 16 years.