Running Start (explanation for those unfamiliar) has so far been great for my son, and he’s expressed to me several times how glad he’s part of it instead of in high school. He’s almost eighteen now, officially in his junior year of high school, due to an early birthday and a year’s delay to catch up on courses missed during for our time overseas. He likes the way the responsibility for success is assumed to be solely his (though there is plenty of support also), the intellectual challenge of more advanced assignments and classroom discussions, the freedom from high school silliness, and being able to take fewer, more intensive classes. In his college English composition class he’s really learning the process of writing in a way he wasn’t in high school–getting feedback, being allowed to draft and redraft rather than just pull papers together on his own (with me as last minute proofreader). He’s still stays up late doing homework, is tired all the time, and looks forward to sleeping in on weekends, but it’s worth it, we agree, even without the bonus of being able to earn college credits for free as well as high school, saving a bundle on college tuition.
All this thinking about college prep came on suddenly for me, for us. This son was twelve years old when we took him and his three siblings off to the Middle East, and he was already sixteen when we returned, and a few months later he started school–his first time in public school ever. I had had my own challenges and had lost track of my fellow homeschool moms’ progress on all the PSAT, SAT, GPA, career fair, transcript recording game, which had anyway not been a part of my own college prep in Canada. I wondered if I’d failed my son because I hadn’t had him tested for anything, researched any colleges, formalized any records, nothing. And how would he do in high school? Were there too many gaps in his homeschool education, and due to his year and a half attending school in another language? Had we instilled in him the importance of a college education, a good GPA, resume, IRA? Would he have sufficient drive, feel sufficient pressure, be able to get an edge in the global economy? He’d always been a good learner, but, well, he is a calm, collected person, and he had not grown up with any sort of academic peer competition.
I’d known about Running Start through the homeschool community, but knew it isn’t for everyone. But my son was all for getting out of the high school atmosphere and mentality, so off he went, biking and bussing across town five days a week. Now he’s planning his next two years so he can complete high school requirements (which is optional, however–just a preference) and an Associate’s Degree in Arts and Sciences. He’ll get to take classes in numerous disciplines, be able to get a good grounding in liberal arts as well as math and computer science, as well as take classes in ceramics, guitar, and we’ll see what else. Our CC also has a lovely campus and facilities, and is known for the quality of its programs.
My daughter, next oldest, said at first that she thought she’d want to do all four years of high school. I said there’s time, we’ll see. She loves her swim team and the high school social scene, I think partly because it was so much better than her middle school year (fresh from the Middle East into middle school, where she hardly knew anyone, was tough). Now daughter is moving more toward the idea of Running Start, says even though she might think high school would be fun, Running Start would be better for her in the long run. She knows some people from her classes who are going the community college route, which makes it more attractive. And she’s mindful of the financial savings, too, which we appreciate. Plus she can still swim with her high school team after class.
I’m also reading up on and bringing up with my high schoolers the idea of a year or semester abroad studying or working while learning another language. They’re interested–comfortable with the idea, thanks to their international experience. My son wants to learn Arabic, and my daughter improve her Spanish. From what I’m reading (The New Global Student by Maya Frost), sounds like there are substantial savings to be had on college tuition there, too. With Running Start, they’ll gain a year or two to play with and still be able to enter college with their age-mates.
It’s all pretty exciting. I’ve lost the anxiety (the Maya Frost book helped a lot with that too) and now can just encourage, help with research and planning, add to their education IRAs, and see how things unfold for each child. Even my second daughter, now only thirteen, is thinking ahead–along independent lines, as usual. She’s considering some combination of culinary arts and veterinary school. Plus, she says, she plans to marry rich, have two children, and not homeschool them. Meanwhile, I work with my ten-year old, and by the time he’s thinking about college, we’ll both be a whole lot smarter..