“My kid loves hands-on learning but hates to read.”

“My son can’t sit still to save his life.”

“My daughter spends more time day-dreaming than working on school.”

College is not the only option for your homeschool teen Pam Barnhill Homeschool Solutions

If you have thought or said any one of these statements about any of your children, it might be a sign that college is not a good fit for them.

“But wait!” you say, “I WANT my kid to go to college! That’s the only way to get a decent job!”

Listen, y’all. Your wants are not always what is best for your kid. And that whole college-is-a-must-for-a-good-job thing is not as true these days as it used to be.

Let me speak from my experience for a minute.

We sent our oldest to college. She did great. She graduated in four years with a 3-point-something-high and got a full ride to grad school.

We sent our second one to college. She did not do great. She missed deadlines. She misunderstood directions. She began having anxiety attacks within a semester. She did get B’s — but she was not thriving.

Thinking it was an issue with picking the wrong major and/or being at the wrong school, we had her transfer the next year to a different college, where we were sending #3 that year.

They could be together, we reasoned. Anxiety and other issues would be a thing of the past, we thought.

Not so. Yes, she enjoyed the classes in her new major. But the Gen Ed courses? “Why should I have to take courses about stuff I am NOT interested in?? What a waste of time!” she exclaimed bitterly.

She still misunderstood directions and missed deadlines. The anxiety attacks were less frequent, but she was, again, not thriving.

The next year, which would have been her junior year in college, we kept her home. She went to work full-time at the place where she had been earning money during the summers.

And guess what? SHE IS THRIVING. “Best decision I ever made,” she says.

And even better (for all of you my-child-must-go-to-college moms) — after getting enough time to think things through without the stress of being at college, she has decided on a goal that includes going back to school.

But this time, it will be because she is truly motivated to do so and it will be at a place she has picked that suits her style of learning.

And already, she shows so much more initiative to make this happen than she ever did at college. She decided to take on a second job (now she is working 60+ hours a week!) to speed up the process of saving the necessary funds. She is excited and happy to work towards her goal.

Meanwhile, back to child #3 — she is thriving at college. She is now a junior studying for the entire year in France.

Then there is #4. He graduated at age 17 due to being a September baby. We knew by junior year of high school that he was NOT going to be mature enough for us to invest any money in college for him right after graduation.

College is not the only option for your homeschool teen Pam Barnhill Homeschool Solutions

So he is also working full-time right now, completing training towards being a supervisor at a local fast-food restaurant.

Is this where we want him to be long-term? We are still thinking that through. But in the meantime, he is earning money and paying his way.

He is completely in charge of his own schedule; I don’t even know when he has to be at work most of the time. He bought his own car with cash. He treats his siblings to meals out and gifts on a regular basis. He chauffeurs his younger sister. He’s handy to have around!

And to chase a small rabbit trail, can I just say that it is SO FUN to have adult children in the house? I don’t have to nag them. If issues come up, we deal with them like adults. Occasionally, I borrow money from them, lol.

And they provide such sunshine and laughter and fun times! The house is not the quiet tomb it would be if they were not still living with us.

YES, of course, we all (parents and kids) share the idea that they are working on moving out and living on their own. Staying with us is NOT a permanent solution. But right now, this mom LOVES having her children nearby. Just sayin’. 🙂

OK, back to the topic at hand.

College costs a LOT of money, in case you didn’t already know that, hello. And scholarships are great — but they don’t usually pay everything. Mom and Dad still often have to cough up a fair amount of dough.

And while student loans and parent loans make it more possible, then everyone is paying back debt for years to come. This is not to be considered lightly!! (She said, who is now paying back those two years from #2… Can you say, “ouch”???)

There are a lot of other options out there besides going straight to college.

I polled my Facebook group, and they came up with SO MANY IDEAS:

Business entrepreneurship, real estate, HVAC, electrical lineman, military, first responders, mail/UPS people, massage, the mission field, CNC machinist, beauty/barber school, plumber, carpenter, construction, electrician, welding, medical assistant, police academy, teach English as a second language, reserves, photographer, crafter, sales, personal shopper, personal assistant, secretary, substitute teacher, makeup artist, electronics repair, writer, musician, artist, wastewater treatment, insurance, culinary school, truck driving, CNA, phlebotomist, pharmacy tech, radiology, dental assistant, EKG tech, a gap year, music teacher, farming, animal husbandry, tool & die, auto mechanics, seamstress, woodworking, marine repair, landscaping, grain drying/storage, horse ferrier, flight attendant…

Need I go on? 🙂

Let me also say this: working at a “menial” job is not to be sneezed at, y’all. My kids have learned so much from dealing with the public.

Because my daughter has had to deal with public-school-educated teens both as customers and as co-workers, she actually THANKED ME for homeschooling her all the way through high school! (Is this not the moment every homeschool mom dreams about?? It happened to me, y’all. 🙂 )

She said she is glad she learned to be considerate of others through our homeschooling lifestyle, which is NOT what she is seeing from the children and teens she comes into contact with elsewhere.

For the family who just plain can’t afford college, even for a student who would thrive there, an apprenticeship can be a wonderful way to go. Your teen can be challenged by learning valuable skills in a real-world environment, and perhaps getting paid to do it.

Read my post about Praxis, an opportunity (with guaranteed job placement afterward) which could be perfect for your self-starter teen: The Amazing College Alternative You’ll Want to Know About (a detailed look at the Praxis apprenticeship program).

If you insist they go to some kind of school, trade school could be your best investment. One of my friend’s sons went to welding school. A fraction of the cost of college and 10 months later, he was out in the world making GOOD money.College is not the only option for your homeschool teen Pam Barnhill Homeschool Solutions

I remember the days of being idealistic about my young kids, how they were going to get super-high test scores and full scholarships and be famous. And then they became teens, lol.

It’s easy to think you’re the best homeschool mom in the world and your kids will “go places” when they are flying through elementary school math. Just wait until they hit Algebra or Chemistry or have to write a paper with a deadline. Then you begin to think more realistically about who your children are and what they should really be aiming for in life. LOL.

Please understand, I truly believe college is a great fit for many kids, even some who might not be super academically-oriented. Especially if you choose the right college. More on that here: The Truth about How to Look Good on College Applications.

But college is not so great for many others. And that needs to be completely and totally OK, imho.

The beauty of homeschooling is they don’t have to be shoved into a funnel that only ends in one place. They can explore many options, and you can decide together what is best for them.

But be open to the idea that their passion might not involve four years of higher education. Trust me, you will LOVE watching them take on the world, however they choose to make that happen! HUGS!!

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Ann Karako

Ann is the (very) middle-aged mom of five who writes at Annie & Everything about calming the chaos of homeschool life. She says, "I don't do complicated!" and is known for her down-to-earth common sense about all things homeschool and the homeschool lifestyle. Having graduated four children (with one more to go), she has a heart for helping families choose to homeschool all the way through high school. To that end, she has written the ebook Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School: How to Be Sure You're Not Missing Anything, and she admins the popular FB group called It's Not that Hard to Homeschool High School to give encouragement and support to moms of homeschooled teens. She and her family, including two dogs and three cats, live in rural Missouri.
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