Henry finished his first semester at the local community college last week. Because he has unschooled his whole life, I asked him to start slow. He enrolled in freshman English, Spanish, Spanish lab, and some class required of all freshmen. I haven't seen his grades. He says he made A s. He also chose this semester to find a job. So while beginning college, he started work at Noodles and Company. He's been a very busy kid and seems quite happy---progressively happier all semester, actually. On the last day of class I asked him if college was difficult and he replied, "No." So I asked if it was easy and he said, "Almost worryingly so." When he was selecting classes for next semester I asked him, again, to please consider another semester less than full time. He is only 17 and there is no reason to rush. He laughed. And enrolled for a full course load. He plans to finish his general requirements in community college and transfer to the local university where he plans to major in Philosophy.
Riley is 15 and working her way through 60 hours of driving time so she can get her license next spring. She has the same restless slightly bored demeanor Henry had when he was 15 and the same tendency to grump around the house. I think these feelings are normal. She isn't ready for college yet and says she's not sure she wants to go at all. But I think she will be ready soon. She is craving a larger social life and...more. She just isn't sure exactly what kind of more. I've asked her to please consider finishing an associates degree to fulfill the first two years of general college at community college. Two years will pass so quickly. If you knock these out while you are still living at home, I told her, you'll have the tiniest possible credential to keep. And should you decide you want a university degree, it will cost you half the price and take half the time to accomplish, later. She sees the logic. And as she sits in her fug of easy frustration wanting an undefined kind of more, community college looks increasingly worthy.
Like her brother, Riley will probably begin college at age 16. Having unschooled her whole life, she is intellectually ready and well set to succeed. How is this possible? At a checkup last week her doctor asked her, with astonishment, "You are on track to graduate high school and begin college?!" She said, "Yes." But says she felt funny saying so. After all, none of "the track" nor being on it means to unschoolers what the doctor thinks it means. And Riley understands this. She has never been on the same track, yet she is arriving at the same destination, and early.
This is the educational paradox society needs to understand. Unschoolers are intellectually on par with their schooled peers, emotionally ahead of their peers, and generally ready for college by age 16. On average. I don't think this is unique to Henry and Riley. I think its typical of homeschooled kids. They accomplish intellectual and emotional readiness ahead of their peers without the rote coursework of institutional school. Reading this, we should feel scandalized and angry. I do, and not because unschoolers are cheating the system or getting away with---well, their selves, so far. We should feel scandalized and angry that industrialized education robs children of their lives and retards their development.