Sometimes college and self-directed learning go hand-in-hand, but sometimes it’s the polar opposite. Often, when we’ve had self-directed learning happening for the beginning years of a child’s education, college courses can be quite a shock to the system! Suddenly there are textbooks to be read, papers to be written and discussions to be had. Sometimes it can at first seem overwhelming in the quantity of work or just way too boring, but I want to argue that it is indeed possible to use the system in your favor and still foster self-directed learning.
I have 4 children and all of them have been using the community college system to earn dual credit courses and now we offer companion courses at Learn Beyond The Book to help students achieve those credits. The beauty of these classes is that, in most cases, they are free to high school students. Secondly, they are taught by experts in their field of study. Then, we also have the benefit that, to fulfill IGETC transfer requirements or AA General Education requirements (if university is in your student’s future), many different options are available, for example, to fulfill the Arts and Humanities area on the IGETC, not everyone has to take the same course! There are options available in Art or if your student isn’t an artist, there is Art History, Dance history, Film history or Theater History and a few other courses in those subject areas. If that is not enough, there are even courses in Spanish, Anthropology, Philosophy, English, Linguistics, Chicano Studies etc. So much to choose from to fulfill that one subject area. It is the same for most of the other areas of study. They have options and can tailor make their own experience by choosing the classes that most closely resemble their interests! Instead of Biology, one could possibly take Biological Anthropology or Biological Psychology, etc.
In the case where a student isn’t planning to go to university, there are tons of options of classes that they can pick from and they can take any random college course. There are even courses in very practical skills, such as welding, plumbing, and construction! If they start a class, they have 2 weeks to drop it, if it’s not a good fit, and with the help of RateMyProfessor.com, even the teachers can be vetted before enrolling. It is really a beautiful system that can advance a student in very specific knowledge that a parent might not normally have.
If a student decides that university is where they want to go, it is also such a cheaper and less painful way to get done with high school and college credits that they might not be that interested in before going to university. A semester class at a college counts for a year of high school credit and also increases the student’s GPA. Often, if a student has taken a lot of college courses, done well in them, and decides to apply to colleges, they do not have to do any SAT or ACT testing either. If they completed the right courses, they can transfer into a university as a junior or sometimes they can even sign a TAG agreement or TAP and be guaranteed a spot in a university or a much higher chance of being admitted.
There are a few skills that students will need before they can successfully do most of these courses and it involves reading well and writing a good 5-paragraph essay. These skills can be obtained rather painlessly with a good teacher or some curriculum to help them and the beauty of self-directed learners is that they are intrinsically motivated, so once they know that they need something, they just take care of learning it! One of my sons had done Algebra 1 and was busy with Algebra 2, but not very enthusiastically and inconsistently and when he realized he was interested in studying Aerospace Engineering, he took 6 months and used the free Khanacademy website and taught himself the rest of Algebra 2, Trigonometry, Geometry, and Pre-Calculus and tested into the college Calculus 1 class where he then completed all the different levels of Calculus and fell in love with Math. That is a supreme example of intrinsic motivation, self-directed learning and taking care of what he had to learn to advance towards his goal.
The thing to remember with college courses are that those grades are pretty permanent, so make sure a student is ready before enrolling, but with our new program at Learn Beyond The Book where we have a companion course for each college course that the students are enrolled in, there is very little chance of failure, unless they just aren’t trying at all. We vet the teachers, we discuss assignments, students enjoy having their peers around while learning the material, we remind them of deadlines and we have had great success with many students. Let us know if you have questions about this program. Here is a link to what will be offered in the 2019-20 school year.