Did you know that nine out of ten Christian high school students will leave the church by the time they are sophomores in college? (McNeal, Reggie. The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church. Jossey-Bass, 2003, p. 4.)
If that statistic surprises you, you're not alone. Homeschool parents devote years to developing the spiritual, moral, and academic integrity of their children. They made the choice to homeschool due to plummeting academic standards and harmful social influences in public schools. Yet after graduation, many parents automatically commit their students to a four-year college where everything they worked so hard to instill is threatened and even destroyed.
Considering our culture's emphasis on having a college degree, homeschool families might see no other choice than to send their child to college. After all, a college education is the best way to ensure financial and vocational success, right? Thanks to recent technological advances and changes in the way we view education, the answer is quickly becoming no. Many homeschool students are finding that earning a college degree through distance education is a comparable, and even better, way of achieving their academic goals.
So what is distance education, anyway? It is the process of earning an accredited college degree by self-study through the mail or over the Internet instead of attending classes at a traditional institution. Earning a degree in this way offers a number of benefits, including a more positive spiritual and moral atmosphere, more vocational opportunities during school, and a chance to graduate without the burden of student loans.
Take a Step Back
Before considering distance education, take a step back and decide whether a college degree is right for you. Cafi Cohen, author of The Homeschoolers' College Admissions Handbook, once observed, "College has been the default button on our child-raising menu for too long. It is almost a mantra in our society … We have reached the point where most families routinely push their children to attend college regardless of their sons' and daughters' interests, talents, and occupational goals."(Novak, Claire. "Transcripts, CLEPs, and other ways to get into college." The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Online at www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com/How_To_Homeschool/articles/276.php)
Don't be fooled: A college degree is not required for vocational and financial bliss. A degree can help your career, but it's no golden ticket to a dream job. Many people swallow the college recruiters' pitch that a degree will guarantee you a Ferrari and early retirement on a sundrenched beach in Bermuda. It does not. Hard work, determination, and a willingness to think outside the box are what count in the long run.
If a college degree is necessary to achieve your goals, go for it, but many careers do not require a diploma. Some of the world's wealthiest individuals—including Bill Gates and Michael Dell—dropped out of college to pursue their dreams. In some cases, earning a college degree may actually be a hindrance to vocational and spiritual development. If God is leading you in a direction other than college, obey His voice.
What's Better About Distance Education?
For those who choose to attend college, the next question is whether distance education is better than tried-and-true alternatives. After all, why should students forfeit the chance to get "the college experience"? Why should parents shelter their children and prevent them from wetting their feet in the real-world atmosphere of the college campus? Why should families forfeit the opportunity to be salt and light on a secular campus?
There are a number of reasons, but we will touch on three main areas of benefit: vocational, financial, and spiritual.
Homeschoolers recognize the importance of self-motivation. While teachers in a classroom setting often baby-step students through the learning process, homeschool students, especially those in high school, must cultivate discipline and perseverance in order to learn. That's one of the many benefits home education offers.