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Is College a Must?

We have always homeschooled.  We have eight children ages 9-23. Our oldest two are married, and our 19-year-old is a senior in college. One of the questions we were asked a lot over the years is, “How will you pay for all of their college educations?”

There was an assumption that we would front all higher education costs AND that all our kids would go to college.  Neither of these were true.


So is college is a must?  I am going to share our approach which has worked really well for us so far.  If you feel differently, that’s absolutely OK.  But if you are feeling the pressures of higher education for your children, I want to assure you that there are many ways to accomplish the same goal.

So what is the primary goal?  For us, especially for our boys, we want them to be able to provide for their families.  We want them to love what they are doing and have a passion for it so that their work is enjoyable. (We all know that a person content in his/her work is a happy person!)  That’s basically it.

What will the work world look like when your kids are grown?  WHO KNOWS??  When our oldest kids were little, the idea of making money on the internet (the internet didn’t exist then) was not even a thought in our minds.  Our world is so fast paced and is changing so quickly that there is NO way to know right now what the best jobs will be by the time our kids are employable.

It has also become evident that a degree does NOT guarantee you a good paying job.  There are tons of people out there right now working retail and other non-degree jobs because they cannot find one in the field they are educated in.   And many of them are drowning in school debt.  This is NO way to start out life.  The bottom line is that there are NO guarantees…degree or no degree.

We have felt from the beginning that the most important thing we can do is help our children find their passions.  If they find that, and are hard working and resourceful (character counts), opportunities will open up.  That requires trust.  For us, that is trusting God to make a way for them and looking for open doors.

If a particular child’s passion requires a college education, then we will do everything we can to help him or her.  If we are in a position to help with tuition and he/she is struggling, we will do that, but so far that has not been the case.  Our kids know if they want to go to college, they have to work for it.  They place so much more value on things when they have to work for them.  It’s true for all of us.

Our two oldest are girls and have hearts to be wives and moms and to homeschool their kids.  They had NO desire to go to college, but both of them had jobs before they got married. They are now both expecting babies.  If one of them had had a passion for something that required college, we would have helped to make that happen, but they didn’t.

Our oldest son is 19.  He has had a desire to work in the computer industry.  He is currently a senior getting his degree in Computer Science, Game Development (this is creating the games, not playing them), and possibly a minor in Math .  He did Running Start his last two years of high school.  It’s a state program where he attended all college classes that also counted as credits for high school.  So when he graduated from high school, he also had earned his AA degree.  He did all this at a community college and now attends a local university.

He also applied for financial aid and scholarships, so between all of those, his education is more than paid for.  He works a part time job as well, for extra income.

We are very proud of him, but we are also very proud of our kids who are choosing NOT to go to college.

So unless our kids KNOW what they want to do or at least the area they are passionate about, we don’t encourage them to start college.  If one of our children has not found her passion by the time she is out of high school, our counsel would be to take some time off of school, get a job, and try some things first.

Every child is different.  Our second son has no desire to go to college. He’s a completely different person, and  I’ll share his story in my next post!

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  1. Yes. We completely agree that college is not a definite. We know several people who “crashed and burned” in college because what they really wanted was to work in a trade. There’s an interesting article on trade careers in this month’s Christianity Today.

    I do want to add one thought about girls. My husband and I strongly believe that all girls should have an education that allows them to work a more comfortable, better paying job in case something happened to their husband. It could be death or injury… Or it could be what happened to both our moms. Our moms are both good Christian women who knew their fiances for a long time before they got married. My mother in law married the pastor’s kid. My dad was an Air Force officer.

    My dad had girlfriends all over the world (bringing home infections to my mom) and beat my mom and sister and I. Mom tried to get help from pastors, counselors, doctors, and the Air Force. Eventually she left. I wish she’d left sooner, especially for my sister’s sake because my sister was very badly abused from the time she was an infant and now bears huge emotional scars and is terrified of most men. One reason my mom didn’t leave was she had no way to support us. (She was also given a lot of pressure from churches that it was her fault and if she was the right kind of wife he’d be the right kind of husband.) She then jumped right into another unfortunate (though not physically abusive) marriage because she couldn’t envision herself as a single mom.

    My husband’s mom came home from running errands with him one day when he was one year old to discover her husband had left and taken everything… All the furniture, kitchenware, even the baby stuff! She moved home to her parents and went to college while her mom watched the baby (my husband). Going to school before she got married would have been much easier!

    We don’t know yet what our only daughter will want… If she wants to be a stay at home wife and mama that will be wonderful. At the same time, before she leaves our care we will expect her to have training to do something that will give her predictable or even flexible hours and pay a little better than an unskilled job. This could be a teacher’s license, computer science, nursing, dental hygiene, phlebotomy, whatever. Just a BA in anything means she can get a job in a lab washing beakers and doing scut work (there are a lot of universities in our area… Not sure this would work out if she moved elsewhere). It might not be a career but it will give her time to get on her feet if she needs it. And any training she has can enhance her career as a homeschool mom as well. We are going to encourage her towards a career that’s easy to opt out of to stay home if that’s what she wants (as opposed to something like the military or being a doctor where you’re kind of stuck.)

    1. I am so sorry for your experience growing up. I can’t imagine how hard that would be! Certainly our experience plays into how we think about these things and it influences our decisions. My experience has been very different. I have many non-college graduate family members who have very successful businesses, including women, and very few have divorced. All of them are hard working, honest, intelligent people who never have trouble finding work. We all need to weigh these things out, as you have, and make the best decisions we can. It’s wonderful that you care so much and have processed this together. I have found that our kids usually have a definite bent by the time they are college age and often before, that is a pretty big clue whether or not they will want/need to go to college. I wouldn’t have the heart to make them go to school if it wasn’t in them to do. We ultimately leave that decision up to them by that age. I can also say, we aren’t finished yet! We have 3 graduated and 5 coming up, so I’m sure there will be more to the story later on! Thanks so much for sharing.

      1. It sounds like in the center of it all we agree… That both girls and boys should use their gifts, whether that’s college or a trade. I think my perspective is just a little more working class perhaps, where a lot of untrained work out there is physically hard with irregular schedules that make it difficult to raise a family. From this perspective, an education provides regular hours, benefits, and paid vacation. But that doesn’t necessarily mean college. It sounds like you come from a wonderful family that can provide your children with examples of many good opportunities. 🙂

  2. I also agree that college isn’t a MUST. However, I expect my boys as well as my girls to be viably able to pull an income to maintain their families. As it’s nice to have a husband to provide for them, husbands are human and can take ill, leave the marriage or other circumstances could deem it necessary for my daughters to be able to help in the support of the family. Therefore, each of my kids had to have a plan. College isn’t a must but I have given my kids a focus (1) College (2) Military (3) or a Trade (4) a Job. So when high school is finished they have to have a way or plan to support themselves -whether or not God has a plan for them to marry because they still have to be who He created them to be, whether they are a mom, a wife or a husband.

    As in the example of the comment above, I think it truly is a cultural divide when the concept that a female will be completely dependent upon her husband for support. Some women, like myself and others are blessed to have a good husband. I chose not to stay home with my kids – my husband was able to run a business from home while working part-time outside the home 2 days a week so our youngest kids could stay home. My income sustained us. However, I grew up with all the women in my family working – all of them. Some were divorced, never married, single moms but able to sustain themselves and families no matter what. It wasn’t until I started working with people outside of my culture that I found that women weren’t working and expected their husbands to do so – even when their kids were school aged.

    Because of all the things that could go wrong in those situations, I encouraged my daughters to pursue careers that allowed them great flexibility, viability and made it easy for them to pick up and do if they desired to stay home with their kids. My oldest daughter is pursuing a BS in BioInformatics and Masters as a Physician Assistant. She initially wanted to be a Dermatologist but realized she wanted ‘a life’ outside her studies while she was young.

    So I end to say, NO – college isn’t a must – BUT having a plan is.

    1. I agree, Nita, that a plan is a good idea! Everyone’s circumstances are very different, including our experience, which plays heavily into the counsel we give our kids. It’s so great that you have thought these things through and talked with your kids about them! You have a lot of valid points. I think in the end, the decision is up to our kids. Whatever they decide to do, I think it’s important that they do not burden themselves with heavy debt to do it. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Great perspective! I definitely agree that it’s different for everyone and depends entirely on what the child wants to do.
    As a college senior now (homeschool grad), I rushed through college to graduate 1.5 years early to avoid debt. I dislike my major now (which is English) but realized it once it was too late. I’ve been told that the important thing is that I have a degree, and I will be able to use it for a variety of jobs. I know most people don’t even get a job related to their degree, and I’m looking into a career that does not involve grad school or teaching. Like you said, the most important thing is to trust God because, with or without a college degree, He is the source of provision.

  4. Durenda, glad to read this today. I appreciate all the wisdom, and the discussion of different ideas in the comments. My daughter just graduated. All her friends are going to college. She was accepted and considered going, but doesn’t want to after all. For one, she doesn’t want to accrue debt. I am surprised how little support she gets for that choice, but mostly we feel (as her parents) like the only ones telling her God has a plan for her. We would like to get a college education, to be clear, but that isn’t what SHE wants. I wish it was easier to find a trade. She just got a job and is planning to do some volunteering and maybe a class or two at the community college in her interests, to see what kind of work she might actually enjoy. It is hard to let her make her own choices, but we did our best to raise her and now we just want to encourage her to become the woman she is meant to be

    1. Christa, I’m glad you were encouraged and I really believe your perspective in all things concerning your daughter are spot on. AND your daughter sounds like she has a great head on her shoulders. I am sure that God will work everything out in her life. You are right to let her spread her wings and fly by encouraging her to make her own decisions. What a blessing to have a daughter like you do. She is blessed ot have you as well. You have done an excellent job. 🙂

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