Everybody is Post-Secondary Bound: A Practical Guide to Home Education – Post-Secondary Options (Part 1)

Bringing things to a conclusion usually results in having to repeat oneself. Arriving at the post-secondary level in a series entitled “A Practical Guide to Home Education” is especially so.

When you consider that this is the final stage of the formal academic learning, and that it is not only the culmination of all that has transpired since “being born,” but also the point of springing into the adult world, you will understand my having to repeat things that have been brought up in the past.

After all, the points we discussed in preparation for this stage are now “coming home to roost,” so to speak.

Now, let’s get started with the end of our home education journey, so we can get on with life.

Those of you who know me will find this a bit hard to believe, but every once in a while, I will stop being busy and just relax a bit! It was during one of these “relaxing” moments that I experienced an epiphany. Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, so let’s just say I had an interesting observation and subsequent thought.

I had been working on reporting my findings from a cross-Canada investigation of post-secondary admission practices for non-accredited home educated students, so the term post-secondary was front and centre in my mind. When I gave this serious thought, I realized that something was wrong with our way of describing the steps one takes in his or her learning journey.

The status quo educational system describes them this way. A child “starts learning” in play school, moves on to pre-kindergarten, followed by kindergarten, eventually “graduating” to the elementary level, then on to junior high and finally high school before advancing to the post-secondary level.

I found these steps a bit non-descriptive and confusing! I questioned how one could have a post-secondary level without having a secondary to “post” from, and if there were a secondary, it could only mean it came after a primary!

I then deduced that there are only three levels of formal learning before one embarks on his or her adult journey in life: a primary level where basic skills are learned, a secondary level, where these skills are applied, and a post-secondary level where skills are specialized for, and/or in, a particular field.

This means that “everybody goes through two main levels of formal learning to arrive at the post-secondary level.” Put another way, everybody is post-secondary bound in life. We all reach the post-secondary level where we will learn what we need to know, to do what we need to do, when we need to do it.

Nonetheless, the education industry has confused most of us into believing that something is only post-secondary if it involves institutions of higher learning. This is not necessarily true.

Photography and physical labour require specialized skills. Taxi driving is a specialized skill. Landscaping is a specialized skill. Mothering is a specialized skill. All of these things are just as much “post-secondary” as those careers requiring higher levels of education and training.

Now some careers do involve higher education, but whether a student goes through an apprenticeship to become a journeyman, goes to college for a diploma or certificate, gets a university degree, goes directly to work, starts a business, invents a widget, or starts a family, all involve specialized skills at a post-secondary level. Everybody eventually reaches the post-secondary level.

Understand that the world has a top-down manner of describing the importance of careers, thinking that the more education a student gets, the more successful he or she will be. This may be true, but only in a limited sense.

The world may see a PhD recipient as more advanced than a graduate student, who is seen as better than the undergraduate, who “towers” over the student who has been to a community college, who trumps the apprentice or the tradesman, who is smarter than the labourer, and that person, of course, is better than those at the bottom of the pile, which would be the “unsophisticated,” housewife and mother.

God simply does not see things in this vertical, top down fashion. To Him, everybody is important. There is no job or career that is more important than the other or that does not have merit. He only requires greater levels of responsibility in keeping with one’s attributes.

Think about this: Where would the doctor be if there was nobody to fix his malfunctioning toilet, or to deliver the goods that he needs to do his job, or to take out his garbage?

Nearly everybody will learn the basic skills. Most will learn to apply these skills and all will eventually learn a specialized skill set, to be employed at the post-secondary level, excepting, of course, those whose physical and/or mental handicaps prevent them from doing so. Even then, there are very few who are incapable of at least some task requiring at least some level of post-secondary skills.

God recognizes that every legitimate task is necessary and valuable. He knows that everybody will specialize in their knowledge and skills. He is the one who gave us this ability. He is the one who provides us with opportunity to incrementally advance our skills and knowledge from beginning to end.

Even if the world insists on controlling how this will be accomplished, by breaking this natural, continual process into increments, the “post-secondary level” of learning will still be a part of most every person’s learning journey. Every student is post-secondary bound.

General Post-Secondary Issues: A Practical Guide to Home Education – Post-Secondary Options (Part 2)

The most common educational hang ups are a result of the unquestioned authority of government over parents in education. This seemingly universal acceptance leads us to believe that unless the government has approved of our education, we have no education, no passport to the post-secondary level, and no hope for the future.

Somehow not getting a high school diploma has been equated with educational “suicide”! This is an urban legend. Please understand that a high school diploma is simply NOT necessary to advance in life.

The one and only thing that can be said of this diploma is that it took at least twelve years to get. No other guarantee given or implied!

If and when a diploma is requested by either an employer or a post-secondary institution, simply assure them that you have been well educated at home, that you are able to meet challenges head-on and that you complete what you have started. These three assurances are what is being sought for by those who request it.

Now that we have dealt with the myth of having to have a diploma to advance in life, let me repeat myself again by emphasizing the importance of not going to any institution of higher learning unless it is absolutely necessary. Many of these places are bastions of Godless, unbiblical, anti-Christian philosophies and political beliefs. Proceed with caution, if you have to.

Should you desire or need to go to a post-secondary institution, be sure that you are properly equipped with a defensible Christian worldview. You will need to be able to stand on your own spiritual two feet or you could be sucked into a godless vortex.

When you have understood that you do not require a diploma and have determined that you need or want to go to an institute of higher learning, and you are spiritually prepared for what will come your way, you will need to proceed with applying for admission. Before doing this, there a few things that you should know.

Several years ago, when we were just starting to advance the acceptance of unaccredited home educators into the post-secondary arena, I became involved with the admission process of a 25 year old student. He had been home educated, completing a program of high academic rigour and had been in the work force for several years when he decided to apply for admission to a two year technical program.

Unsurprisingly, the institution rejected him for not having standard high school credits. He then asked to see the registrar to ascertain what could be done to fix the problem.

I had a good relationship with the registrar at that time so he contacted me for advice.

It turned out that he was not nearly as concerned about the student’s academic qualifications as he was about his having been accompanied to the interview by his mother, who had dominated the conversation. He wondered if the student was mature enough to handle what was needed for success.

Really? Was Mom needed to defend her twenty-five year old son or was she defending her decision to home educate? Neither was or is necessary.

There is a moral to this story. Unless you are prepared to do the entire admission process by yourself, without the need to have your parents back you up or defend you, don’t even start.

Speaking of interviews, let me make a few suggestions for success, aside from advising you to go to it alone. A well dressed, self-confident person who knows what he or she wants, is bound to make a good impression. Be firm, yet considerate.

Insist on speaking to someone who understands home education and be prepared to back your claims to being qualified with a transcript, a portfolio or some other proof of proficiency.

Now what should you do if you are not accepted? For starters, don’t take it as a personal rejection. Failing to gain admission can be for any number of reasons, most of which can be fixed.

If the problem is not having prerequisite courses, get them. If it is because they don’t understand home education, help them. If it is because the program is already full, plan to remind them enough times to make sure you are part of the program next year. In the meantime, go get some work and earn some money towards the education you want, without amassing debt!

Accept rejection as a challenge to try harder next time. However, let’s not omit the possibility that rejection is the hand of God protecting you from doing something that is not in keeping with who you are or what you can do.

We have seen many an example of broken hearted students later being thankful for having not been accepted in a career in which they would have been miserable.

The most common mistake home educated students make is failing to make their home education known when they are applying. The second one is just giving up if initially rejected.

If you really believe that this is what you want and that it is in keeping with who you are, don’t take no for an answer. Persistence will eventually win. Just don’t quit.

Work, Business or Apprenticeships: A Practical Guide to Home Education – Post-Secondary Options (Part 3)

Now that we have established that everybody is post-secondary bound and that all careers, jobs and placements are important, let’s discuss the matter of what has to happen to get beyond the post-secondary level to the world of adulthood.

Simply put, what is needed is training. No matter which way or where you go in life, if everybody is post-secondary bound, then everyone will need to specialize in some skills, somehow.

There are two possibilities for obtaining these needed skills: with or without further institutional training.

Some folks simply go to work, like their jobs and stay there. Training will likely be required to learn how to do the job. It may be “on-the-job-training,” but training nonetheless, even if it does not involve attending an institution of higher learning.

A job may require taking a few courses in order to safely do the required tasks, such as special licenses, safety training or first aid. These courses are available to everyone, regardless of the academic level attained in their learning program.

There are other placements that require little, if any additional institutional training, including taking over the family farm or fishing business, or other family enterprise. It is not that you won’t be learning in this case, just that you will not need to go to school.

It is important to understand that even though we can and do learn on our own, it almost always involves other people. Some are paid professionals delivering courses, while others are simply those who are more experienced, teaching the less experienced.

This can be “unofficial” as in a parent teaching and training a child, or a co-worker teaching you the skills required for the job, or more “official,” such as going through an apprenticeship.

Either way, to be mentored is likely the best way to be trained as it is always directly related to the task at hand. There is no specific academic level required to be mentored.

Apprenticeships are a great way to use the power of mentorship to gain skills and knowledge in a specific field.

Some apprenticeships can be conducted outside of official government programs, such as an experienced artist teaching a novice. The most common and well known apprenticeships are administered through a provincial or national board directing students through a process that results in a license to do the job.

Some trades such as electricians, plumbers and mechanics are required to be trained in this way, while others such as carpentry, millwright and bakers are not required, although encouraged to do so.

Any trade that requires a license in order to practice will likely require some combination of on-the-job and school based learning.

Although there are different requirements for different trades, it is pretty safe to say that if a student has a school grade equivalent of level ten, he or she is likely ready to do an apprenticeship.

Keep in mind that a school grade level ten is not a very high standard and that most home educated students are easily beyond that level by the time they are old enough to start working at age sixteen.

The process for engaging in an apprenticeship is simple. Get a job working within a trade. If you like it, work hard and show yourself capable and dependable. Then ask your employer to sponsor you in an apprenticeship.

Once the paper work is done, you will need to collect enough hours on the job before applying to attend school.

Depending on the trade, you may have to do an entrance exam to be able to proceed. This is done in order to ascertain that you have the potential to succeed at trade school and should not cause you any anxiety.

I understand that many of you who are good with your hands don’t usually like the “book learning” approach, but take confidence in the fact that any test required for an apprenticeship, indeed the entire process, was likely created by people who don’t like tests, for people like you, who may even hate them!

Also keep in mind that the reason you likely did not like tests was that a lot of the tests you have written actually had nothing to do with “life” as you saw it! Shakespeare is not really connected to plumbing, if you know what I mean.

Tests associated with the apprenticeship processes are meaningful as they are testing what is needed to practice the trade. In other words, there is a practical application of what is being tested, to what you are learning and doing.

I suggest you go to our web site under Resources and click on Apprenticeships for a more detailed description of what is involved.

Understanding College Admissions: A Practical Guide to Home Education – Post-Secondary Options (Part 4)

Once it is determined that you need to attend some institution of higher learning as part of your career plans, you will have to investigate what it will take to gain admission. I need to remind you that I addressed this issue earlier in this series and suggest you go back and review this information before proceeding.

Institutes of higher learning have rules for entry which vary from program to program. These are known as prerequisites which usually include specific courses you will need, to show you have sufficient knowledge to succeed in the program of choice.

Diplomas may be mentioned as needed, but they are not necessary, as it is not so much a requirement, as a measure of your ability to finish what you have started. Having completed a home education program is certainly proof that you can finish what you started.

No institution in Canada, that I am aware of, will refuse a student who does not have a diploma.

Every student in this province is given an Alberta Student Number (ASN) to which are attached records including a provincial transcript and whether or not a diploma has been awarded.

Home educated students who have avoided provincial programming (credits) at the secondary or high school level have an ASN like most every other student, but will not have this transcript or diploma, which is actually a good thing.

All students who have earned at least some credits will have a transcript created in their name associated with their ASN.

It is very important to understand that any transcript containing some but not all the required credits for a diploma may actually be a hindrance to post-secondary admission as it could come with the stigma of being a dropout or of not being able to finish what you started.

For this reason, we very highly recommend that home educated students stay away from public programming.

Please listen carefully! Colleges, technical institutes, universities, etc., have two sets of admission criteria: one for students who have attended government sponsored schools where students work towards credits and diplomas, (known as standard admission criteria), and one for those students who have not.

Alternate admission criteria is used when assessing any student who has not followed provincial programming, including inter-provincial, international and home educated students.

If you have followed standard government programming and earned the correct combination of credits to earn your Alberta High School Diploma, you will be assessed for admission using standard admission criteria.

If you have earned credits, but not enough to earn the diploma, you will also be assessed using standard admission criteria, but you may encounter some challenges, which are not insurmountable, as long as you have good marks in the requisite courses.

Unaccredited home educated students are not any more disadvantaged than their public school counterparts, but usually have to help admission personnel understand the need to assess them using their alternate admission criteria. This is often simply done by informing the admission person of the fact that you have been home educated.

If the institution you are applying to is a large one, it may be necessary to ask for a more senior person to assess your qualifications for enrolment. Alternate admissions are often handled by those who have more experience with registrations.

Diplomas aside, whether using standard or alternate admission criteria, every post-secondary institution will have prerequisites for entry into all their programs. Prerequisite courses are non-negotiable and they should not be treated as unnecessary.

Usually these are communicated in the language of school, such as English, Math or Biology at the 30 level, but once again, this is a standard measure of subject proficiency. It is not that they require 30 level courses, but rather a certain level of understanding of a particular subject.

Home educated students need not concern themselves with these specific 30 level requirements as you should be assessed using alternate admission criteria. However, you will have to demonstrate that you have an equivalent or better level of training.

Keep in mind that home education programs usually have a much higher level of academic rigour than school programs, so it should not be difficult to prove that you have the equivalent to school-based 30 level programs.

Once you clearly understand how post-secondary institutions of higher learning work, you need only ascertain that you have what it takes to be accepted and to succeed at the program being taken.

Registrars are looking for the best candidates to fill the limited seats in their institution. Your job is to convince them that you are one of those candidates.

Gaining College Admission: A Practical Guide to Home Education – Post-Secondary Options (Part 5)

Everybody is an expert in something. Some feel they are experts in most things.

I say this because we once had a great way of preparing unaccredited home educated students for post-secondary admission, but the idea was stolen, sabotaged and made useless. I am talking about the portfolio.

We taught parents and students how to make a simple portfolio of accomplishments within a home education program. We developed it on a KISS principle which was to keep it straight and simple.

It started with a résumé, expanded to a transcript and ended with specifics on pertinent subjects. It was simple, easy to use and mostly accepted by registrars and admissions personnel.

This happened a long time ago, when most everybody was sending their children to school to be completed with credits to meet the standard admission criteria of colleges, etc. Wanting to help the home education community, I naively presented my secrets at the provincial conference.

A mom who was not a part of our organization, but rather an integral part of another that did not have experience with moving unaccredited students to college found the idea fascinating.

By carefully following my directives, she managed to create portfolios for her two children who were then accepted into college on their strengths.

Unfortunately, this success got to her head and she presented her board with her finding as though it was uniquely her idea. Normally we would call this theft, but the portfolio idea was shared with the objective of helping others.

What should have been a good thing for the home education community became a problem. It was not that the portfolio idea did not work in gaining admission. The problem was that this wannabe leader thought that a good thing would become better with more.

What began as a simple little half inch portfolio most admission people found helpful, grew and evolved to became a four inch scrapbook that represented every detail of everything the student had done or even hoped to do.

There was not an admissions person anywhere who had the time, nor the inclination to review a giant tome of useless material. My great idea was destroyed and portfolios were no longer accepted by most institutions which had come to equate portfolios with a lot of work, time and energy.

Is there a moral to this story? Yes. First, one always has to be wary of self-appointed experts, as their focus is usually more a matter of self-aggrandizement than the welfare of others.

More related to our topic, the lesson is that most solutions are not complicated. Most of the time, very little needs to be done to meet the admission criteria of college programs.

Admission to college is accomplished by presenting what the college needs to properly evaluate your potential for success in the program. This is especially so with prescribed one, two and three year programs usually offered in colleges and technical institutions.

Since English proficiency is always required, make sure your English skills are good. Need math, biology or chemistry? Again – no problem. It does not have to be 30 level courses. Prove that you have the required skills by having followed a different program.

There are a number of ways to meet those requirements and if you have not done that within your home education program, do it some other way. Remember that going to school to get those missing courses is a silly way of going backwards in order to advance.

If biology is a requirement that you don’t have, take an online course from a reputable university or college. Make sure that it can be transferred to the college you want to attend.

The good thing about doing it this way is that, not only do you demonstrate proficiency, but you are likely to be able to apply the course to your program, eliminating the need to take that first year course.

Alternatively, you could always challenge the institution’s first year biology program, and if successful, establish your proficiency while already having completed a course required within the program.

Understanding that colleges are businesses looking for people who will pay tuition for the entire program is critical to understanding why they are so fussy about who they accept for the prescribed programs.

Students who fail or quit the first year of a two year program will not be paying tuition for the second year of the program. This creates opportunity for a resourceful student to go directly into the second year of a two year program.

Why go through the pain of creating a four inch solution for a half inch problem?

Gaining University Admission: A Practical Guide to Home Education – Post-Secondary Options (Part 6)

Universities are generally more arrogant than colleges and technical institutions, thinking that they have all the “high end” programs. We have all heard horror stories about how these institutions have wreaked havoc with students and parents over their perceived need for properly accredited students.

One has to keep in mind that, just like arrogant people, arrogant universities want you to believe they know more than they do. Generally speaking, they have no idea of the power of home education.

Home educated students know how to read! This may seem like a silly statement, but there are students who complete high school without being fully literate. This doesn’t happen at home because mom won’t let it happen.

Ivy League institutions in the United States realized this early and started recruiting the home educated, years ago.

Unlike colleges and technical institutions which often have limited space in prescribed programs, universities are generally institutes of higher learning where students collect courses towards a degree.

There are certain obligatory courses that must be obtained, along with optional courses to arrive at the right combination for a specific degree. Understanding how this works makes university admission much easier, especially when desiring to go to one of those big “arrogant” ones.

Since degrees are granted on the basis of the collection of courses, if those courses can be taken in another institution, you are wise to go to a friendlier university to start and then transfer these courses into the arrogant one later on.

Last week, I mentioned how the portfolio was initially invented and advanced by me and how it was robbed and sabotaged. Although we were initially discouraged by this event, we quickly found a much better solution to facilitate the post-secondary admission of non-accredited home educated students.

Insisting on being evaluated using the alternate admission criteria of an institution of higher learning, then presenting a well-documented transcript, proved to be a much simpler and more effective way to gain admission.

I must admit that I am very proud of the cumulative, online transcript we invented for students using Education Unlimited for their home education program.

These transcripts have been very well received. In fact, I am not personally aware of these transcripts having ever been rejected, when they have been delivered to the institution of choice using our sophisticated encrypted digital delivery method.

Making sure that you have the appropriate courses that meet the prerequisites of the institution and program of choice, and then to properly document it in our transcript, has been a successful formula for our students, but there is one other thing that needs to be in place.

Every new adventure usually causes anxiety. Anxiety is largely caused by things we think we have no control over. Putting yourself under the “authority” of an admission person can encourage him or her to get a false sense of self-importance, which may result in an unpleasant admission process.

If the university was paying you to attend, then they would have a greater claim to what you have to do. The truth is you are the one paying them. You are the client. They are providing you a service.

This is not to say that you can negotiate admission criteria, but if you talk to them with a “golly-gee, cap-in-hand, please-feel-sorry-for-me-approach,” you empower them to be more miserable or demanding.

You are the customer. If you were buying a car, you would not be going to a single dealership and allowing the salesman to tell you what you want and how you will get it, now would you?

If you know what you want, have a positive attitude and the confidence that you will succeed in getting it, you are much more likely to do so. I certainly discourage students from shopping for a career, but I do encourage shopping for an institution that will give you value for your money.

Far too many people have put universities in an almost god-like position and allowed them to dictate what students will do. Perhaps, it is time for confident, self-assured, unaccredited home educated students who understand the “university” game to play as the winners that they are.