High School Attainments

I was just over at the Well-Trained-Mind board where I posted this bit about what a high school student should have attained by graduation. Perhaps you’ll find it valuable too:

As a father with three children in college and one a senior in high school who is also home schooling his ninth graders I’ve thought a lot about this. If you don’t mind, I’ll think about it some more right now…0

The first thought is about college. Not much creates more anxiety, but not much is more toothless.

What I do and what I encourage schools and home scholars to do is to determine 10 or 12 colleges you would like your children to attend and then call the admissions officer at those colleges.

Tell them what you are doing and ask them if they want that sort of student. Don’t let them dictate what you are teaching the eternal soul you are raising.

Then you can start to develop your “profile of a graduate” with a clear head and this vague thing called “college” won’t matter to you anymore. Instead, you’ll have concrete, specific colleges for which to prepare.

When I think about what I want my children to achieve by the time they graduate, I try to throw out the assumptions of the age.

For example, Andrew Pudewa has taught me not to think high school matters. Therefore, with my ninth grade son, I have told him I have two goals for him: 1. to be running a profitable business of his own by the time he is 19 and 2. to receive his college undergraduate degree by the time he is 19.

Maybe it’s a boy thing, but that seems to have motivated him.0

With those goals in mind, I then think in terms of three columns that Mortimer Adler developed:

1. Skills to master

2. content to know

3. ideas to understand and appreciate

For example, under 1, it is imperative that a human being in any age master language and reasoning skills to a high degree. Everything else follows, especially in the professions and management.

So I emphasize Latin, Greek, and the language arts of listening, speaking, reading, and writing (more Pudewa influence), along with the reasoning arts of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.

Under 2, I want my children to vote, so I’d hate to think anybody would ever do that without knowing the contents of our consitution and the job description of those to whom we delegate our authority. I also want them to know our history as a people so they can understand why we are the way we are and what is possible.

Under 3, I want my children to understand freedom, justice, and order; truth, goodness, and beauty; glory, honor, and immortality; being, mode, and change; wisdom, virtue, and personhood – because these 15 ideas contain everything.

If I were bold enough to make a suggestion, then, I would recommend:

  1. that you contact the colleges you are interested in
  2. that you would not be cowed by the way things are done in our failing culture (after all, you home school!)
  3. that you identify the knowledge, skills, and ideas that YOU want your children to master before completing high school
  4. that you not fall into despair when you only make it part way there! One step on the path of life is better than a thousand miles on any other.

I hope this has some value for you. It has helped me clarify my own thoughts, so thank you for asking such a great question!

10 Responses

  1. Andrew,
    Why is it so important for your son to own his own business? I do know why owning a business is important, but I can’t think of a better way to ask the question. What I guess I mean is that I think there are many professions that require one to work for someone else. Is his owning a business just something for him to have on the side for an income, or is it the beginning of his lifelong career of “business owner.” Is this something just unique to your son because he has expressed an interest in owning a business someday, or is this something you meant for all of us to consider for our children?

    • A free society require a lot of private business owners – it’s the old “yeoman” ideal.

      He is also uniquely talented in entrepreneurial activities. He’s actually already got a fledgling business.

      And if he can learn how to do that now, the skills will last him a lifetime. If he succeeds early, then he can fund his other visions without being a burden on other producers.

      So I want him to have a business as a citizen, a producer, and a visionary.

      And if he can use these years to learn it, the risks are much more manageable and I can mentor him. I could have used that building CiRCE!

  2. Andrew,

    What do you mean by “these 15 ideas contain everything”? Where’s love and grace? Forgiveness? I’m sure you have a great answer, but I’m not seeing them.

    My eldest daughter is a senior at a conservative private liberal arts college in the north. After homeschooling her all the way through, I’ve had quite a learning experience watching her as she grows and learns at the college level. I’m so glad that I concentrated on the profile of my graduate vs. creating a resume that X College will be impressed by.

    Here’s the thing though…you do pay a price – a small one , in my opinion, but a price nonetheless. She didn’t get as much scholarship money as some of her classmates so we’ve had to tighten our belt. The school, you see, as good as it is, does not value what we, her parents, value. But she has excelled in college (she’s been given awards for excellence, more scholarship money as time has gone on, and she’s in the top 10 of her class) AND she is a virtuous, honest, loving young lady. While quite a few of her classmates (Christian kids!) have admitted to lying on their transcript (esp. concerning volunteer hours) to make themselves look better and get more scholarship money, our daughter sleeps peacefully at night.

    We have two more daughters and a son coming up and we’ll take the same less-traveled path with them.

    • Gail,

      I appear to have overstated my position on college. I would never allow “the profile of my graduate” to be in a versus relationship with “a resume that X college will be impressed by.”

      The first refers to me fulfilling my duty as a parent. The second is entirely subordinate and refers to me fulfilling my duty as a parent in a specific area. The conflict I’m trying to avoid isn’t between me and my child’s development but between my child’s development and the college he attends.

      As to your wonderful question about love, grace, and forgiveness, let me reply with a few questions just to annoy you: ; )

      When God forgives, is He unjust?
      Is love glorious?
      Can we attain glory or honor or immortality without forgiveness?
      Is love a virtue?
      What could be more beautiful than grace? (may I refer you to the Youtube of Mahalia Jackson or recommend a Youtube search for panis angelicus or Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Mans Desiring?)

      Does that help?


      • Hi Andrew,

        I didn’t think I sounded like I was disagreeing with you – only adding a peripheral thought. I’m in complete agreement with this: “Don’t let them dictate what you are teaching the eternal soul you are raising.” Again, you may pay a price (though it’s worth it).

        Your questions don’t annoy me. 😉 They’re great questions. I just know that for me, pathetic soul that I am, love, forgiveness, grace need to be included specifically on the list or I forget them!! 🙂

        Thanks for some great thoughts,

        • Gail,

          I understand the need for reminders. I need them too. The context of my list of 15 ideas is 13 years of contemplation about these ideas. So while you and I need these reminders because we’re running out of time, our children will come across them in their studies.

          For example, I’m leading my son through the Iliad. I will ask him tomorrow whether he thinks Achilles should have forgiven Agamemnon. That could be fun.

  3. Thought: it seems that your goals for your children have to do with having the “degree” from college, not necessarily the education provided in a particular institution. As an academic family (husband a professor), we have seen over the years that it can be a real disservice to a teen to put him in college too soon (before 17, say). With dual enrollment in high school, the classes are likely to be in a local community college, not in the kind of institution we’d want our children to have, to take them beyond what we can teach them ourselves and with our world view.

    What kind of college plan are you thinking of for late teens? CLEP and AP credit? Dual enrollment? Online education?

    • Cindy,

      I can see why it would look that way, but it’s more the idea of not being willing to get scammed for college. If my son can get a real education at a real college, I’ll be very happy.

      But colleges in America serve one primary function and it has little to do with education. It’s about preparing people to function in the military/industrial economy created by our modern management theorists.

      So I want my son to get a real education at home and to get college credit for it from valid institutions. We’ll see how it works out. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.

      The crucial thing to me is his high school years. If we use them well, his college years won’t matter as much (which doesn’t mean they won’t matter at all, unless he doesn’t go to college).

      So I’m going to teach him everything I can and I’m going to help him set up a business of his own.

      A free and independent person can seek an education. A person in bondage can’t.

      I thank you for another perspective on this matter. I’ll keep your thoughts in mind with gratitude.

  4. I was just talking to a friend about her daughter having trouble with basic courses as she nears the end of high school, and I said that with our older children (two now in college, one about to graduate high school) there has come a time that we have laid before them both what WE envision for their education (including our minimum standards) and our ideas of what we see that they want to do with themselves. One son is an engineering major, for example, and even if I am not by nature math-oriented, I knew that he needed a certain level of math expertise before embarking with his classmates on that course of study in college. We got him partway there, but his grades have suffered in part because of his lack of preparation, and there have been consequences (some of his own earning, some of our contribution).

    So if a particular child is oriented toward a particular field of study, even if it’s not my interest and expertise, I want to do what I can to help prepare him for it. I am dismayed at the small number of my classically homeschooling Christian friends who have any interest in preparing their children for medicine, for instance. When I’m a gerontology patient, I’d sure like a classically-educated Christian doctor!

    I’ve still got a sixth grader–maybe he’ll be the doctor in our family! 😉

    • Cindy,
      I am interested in my son becoming a doctor, if he should so desire. He is only 9, but I have made to sure buy children’s books on anatomy and physiology and put them where he can read them. I took him to the doctor with me when I had my stitches taken out of my foot, but he did not want to watch. I’m not pushing him toward it, but I do want to open all the doors I can. 🙂

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