The Journey’s End: Reflections of a Homeschool Mom

Jun 12, 2020 | Posted by Jennifer


This year has been quite a remarkable one for our family. In the midst of the chaos of COVID-19, we have graduated two students: one from high school and the other from college. True, we have yet to actually hear “Pomp and Circumstance,” but I’m playing it in my heart, you can bet! At some point this year, our family will find a way to mark each one’s accomplishment—they are huge accomplishments, after all—but for right now we are simply enjoying having reached these milestones.

It makes me reflect back. I would imagine the rest of you who are in a similar position are doing the same. My oldest has graduated; he started his first official post-college “career” job June 1. My middle child is more than halfway through his undergraduate program, and my youngest is beginning her bachelor program in the fall. But ten years ago I was wondering how I would prepare my children to succeed in college. You may be wondering the same thing. How do we lead them from kindergarten to turning that tassel? What skills do they need?

Within this and the next blog post, I will share a few ideas with you that will hopefully help you feel more confident as you teach your own children. One of the most important skills every student needs in order to be prepared for college is to know how to write. Because it is so critical, I am dedicating a separate post that focuses entirely on that subject. For this post, though, I plan to reflect more generally about some of the choices our family made along the way. What skills and experiences does a student need in order to succeed in college? Here are just a few suggestions:

  • College students need to be well read. College campuses are places of diverse cultures, opinions, biases, and experiences. Being well read helps students wrestle with and formulate their own worldviews before they step on campus. Not many of us have the opportunity to actually travel around the world, but students who travel beyond their own limited world through the pages of a book or audiobook are exposed not only to sophisticated vocabulary and syntax, but they also have the opportunity to experience life through another character’s perspective. Between the pages of a book, a student can float down the Mississippi on a rough-hewn raft, experience the uncertainty of survival in the frozen Yukon territory, or feel the fear and frustration of having to hide away from the Nazis. Reading and experiencing large amounts of great literature builds empathy, discernment, and knowledge. On days when nothing else seemed to go right (and believe me, we had them!) I read to my children. They read to themselves. And when we couldn’t read, we listened to audiobooks.
  • College students need to know how to write. I will address high school curriculum options in the next post. For now just know that college students are expected to be able to write across all of the disciplines, not just for English classes. Professors in science, business, math, language, and humanities will expect your students to be able to express themselves in writing, so make certain you begin teaching them this vital skill while they are young. That way they will have ample opportunity to build a firm foundation in their communication skills through the years until they are ultimately prepared for the rigors of writing in higher education.
  • College students need life skills. In my first week of college, I was in the basement of my dorm where the laundry room was located, and I saw a fellow student stick a bar of soap along with his dirty clothes of all colors in the washer and turn it on. I couldn’t believe he had never learned how to wash his own clothes. As important as it is to teach our students their academic subjects, it is perhaps even more important that they be able to navigate life and all that it will throw at them. So be sure you teach them basic life skills such as how to wash laundry, cook a simple meal, sew on a button, clean their space, and change a tire.
  • College students need strong study skills. They need to be able to understand how to arrange their study time to gain the maximum benefit. I found the Victus Study Skills program helped my kids cultivate these essential skills.
  • College students need to manage their time well. Be sure that you help your student learn how to do that. There are plenty of programs you can invest in to teach this skill, or you can structure the content yourself. I showed my children how I keep checklists and appointments and modeled that by setting aside time every Sunday to plan for the next week. Establishing a positive example for my children helped them to learn and integrate those skills into their own lives.
  • College students need to create and stick to a budget. The earlier students learn this skill, the better. Help your children manage their allowance money by setting parameters for them. Do they save a bit each month? If you embrace a faith, are you having your children contribute to your place of worship? Teach your children to do these things before they spend their money on possessions and pleasures, and you will set them on the path to financial freedom.
  • College students need to look beyond the classroom to the community at large. Cultivate in your students the practice of volunteerism. Model the practice by volunteering yourself. Volunteer as a family. When my boys were very young, my husband took them with him to our church to be a part of the chair ministry. Regularly they would set up chairs in our general meeting space so that our members would have a place to sit for weekly worship. When our kids got older, they each found areas of service that they personally enjoyed. My oldest volunteered at our local library. My middle child enjoyed playing with the animals at our local animal shelter. And my youngest relished taking care of wolves at a local wolf sanctuary. Not only does volunteerism benefit the community, your child’s commitment also demonstrates to colleges that your student understands that he is a vital part of the community and that his help is important. As an aside, when my daughter and I toured a large, selective university this past fall, the admissions counselor said that the school’s decision process was guided evenly: One-third was based on test scores, one-third was based on the college application essay, and the remaining one-third was based on community service. That tells you how high this particular school, and I suspect many schools, value volunteerism.

Looking at my list, I am struck by the things I didn’t include. I don’t say anything about instructional approaches: classical, Charlotte Mason, eclectic, or unit studies, for example. And I also don’t say anything about whether or not you need to participate in a co-op. Once upon a time I would have worried about all of this. I don’t believe there’s a perfect foreign language to study; my children each picked a different one! If I could distill everything down to one point, I would say this: Model for your children your own delight in learning day in and day out. Our children are always watching us, and if they see you embrace reading, writing, planning, budgeting, and volunteering in your own life, they will be much more likely to include those worthy things in their lives as well. It’s a valuable legacy to pass on to your children.


Here is a photo of my own 2020 graduates. My mama’s heart is happy.


Jennifer Mauser has always loved reading and writing and received a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 1991. Once she and her husband had children, they decided to homeschool, and she put all her training to use in the home. In addition to homeschooling her children, Jennifer teaches IEW classes out of her home, coaches budding writers via email, and tutors students who struggle with dyslexia.

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