Early Graduation and Young College Students

I’ve been homeschooling for a very, very long time.

It’s been 15 years. (Wow. It seems impossible that it’s been that long!)

When I first started homeschooling, I was fascinated with the idea that my teens could graduate early from high school and get on with college, work and normal adult life. See, as a high schooler, I loved school. I would have loved taking classes all summer and graduating a year or two earlier so I could go onto college and take more classes. So this was kind of the picture that I had in my head for my kids’ high school.

Then we began using the county virtual school and they didn’t allow that kind of thing, so I shrugged and graduated my oldest on what was a typical time frame.

Now that I’ve been through the teen years and graduated on myself, and having met many other homeschooling families, I can see some of the pitfalls of graduating a student early.

Of course, let me say what I mention so often on my blogs–there is no one size fits all solution to anybody’s life. Everyone’s homeschooling journey will be different. I think that early graduation could be appropriate for certain situations–students who have babies themselves might benefit from this type of arrangement, as could students who are extremely advanced academically. But by and large, I’m not a fan of early graduation for homeschoolers.

Often I see a pair of siblings close in age…both are slated for graduating in the same year. The younger sibling was sort of folded into his sibling’s high school material, and before the parent knew it, had completed most of the credits needed for graduation. So parents think…hmmm. Why not do it? Younger student can get on with life, and (perhaps they don’t always verbalize this) parents can focus on the younger siblings and their education with the high schoolers otherwise occupied.

Striving for Excellence, Rather Than Box-Checking

There’s a couple things that are hard for me to swallow in the above scenario. First, the younger sibling may have gotten the work done, but did they really do stellar work, demonstrating a mastery of the material? In our homeschool, checking off the boxes isn’t only what I want to accomplish. Particularly if I can move a little slower, at a more age-appropriate pace, an average student can become an excellent student. Giving a middle schooler more time to mature before he starts trying to keep up with his older sibling’s high school lessons is okay. I’d rather move more slowly for my younger child and allow him to expect to accomplish mastery rather than moving on for the sake of keeping up with an older sibling.

Sibling Rivalry

My kids constantly compete with one another for attention, for time with mom, for time in the bathroom. I don’t want to add another layer of competition to their relationship. Do I want the older student to feel constantly threatened by his younger but possibly academically brighter sibling? Do I want my younger student to feel that her sister is always going to out-do her (because with an extra year of brain maturity the playing field is not level) so why should she even try? Combining students in high school can yield these types of dynamics, so homeschooling parents should be extra aware of the relational challenges that combining can present. If either student starts to seem demoralized or doesn’t give good effort, parents may want to figure out a way to do levels separately, even if it seems inefficient.

Scholarships

Our state has excellent college scholarship opportunities. The very best scholarships, however, go to students who perform well academically and can test well. If my student has checked all the boxes for high school graduation and I feel good about their academic accomplishments, but they still aren’t scoring well on the ACT or SAT, I’d rather they waited a semester or a year, and prepared completely for these important tests. Taking that extra year to beef up on test skills can be worth thousands of dollars in scholarship money.

Maturity

Students mature differently. And they also mature in different areas of their brains at different rates. As a parent considering early graduation, be sure that you take into account emotional maturity, academic maturity, and social maturity. Additionally, many young people, girls in particular, are really good at presenting a mature face to adults. However, these young people may not have the social maturity to handle some of the demands of the adult world. Don’t forget, either, that having a sense of responsibility in some situations doesn’t necessarily mean that a young person is fully mature. One of my kids was very responsible with younger siblings and our family’s pets at very young ages. I would have trusted her to care for these things at the age of 14, 15, and 16. However, she was slower to develop emotional and social maturity. Had I graduated her early, she would have struggled to relate to the other students at college.

Friends

“If your friends all jumped off a cliff…” Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know we shouldn’t make decisions based solely on friends. But full time college changes things socially. The friends who are still able to clown around doing high school things are going to struggle to relate to a serious college student. A college schedule is demanding, leaving less time for the friend group at co-op. Sometimes, friendships can be left behind as life shuffles kids in different directions. For the teen who is younger than the college aged peers in all their classes, it can be difficult to find new friends in the first year or two.

Grades Are on the Record

Are you 100 percent certain that your student is academically ready for college? For sure? Are you sure they have the time management and organizational skills to keep up with all that college will ask of them? Because once they start college, those grades will become a permanent part of their academic record. You don’t want an unprepared student to permanently lose a scholarship or jeopardize his academic future because he wasn’t ready.

What’s Your Hurry?

Kids grow up all too fast. There’s no rush to reach milestones before anyone else. Enjoy your teens, and don’t push them to adult places until your completely sure this is for them. With all of the options for dual enrollment and online school you can take your time with the step of college. They can take a few classes while still being classified as a high school student and you can see how they do, easing their way into the world of college.

Of course, I don’t know you and your kids. I won’t be presumptuous enough to tell you it’s always a bad idea to graduate a student early, but please consider these points before you graduate your child early. Take your time with these decisions, pray about them, talk to your kid about it, and talk to other parents about these decisions.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Camie
    Jun 04, 2018 @ 21:49:46

    I think you make some really good points!

    Reply

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