College Alternatives for Homeschoolers

college alternatives for homeschoolers

As I shared last week, our homeschool has been evolving in order to keep focused on our key goals.

College is only necessary for certain specialties.

Though I have been inspired by reading Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning, one thing I disagree with is the authors’ heavy focus on college as the best way to obtain what they call a Scholar level of education. While they do call for changes to the current university model, in my thinking, any traditional university education is still part of the “conveyor belt” the authors encourage us to move away from. Yes, college may be just the thing for some who want to specialize, like doctors. But for the rest of us, I’ve come to feel it’s unnecessary.

Alternatives to a traditional college degree:

Kathryn currently has no desire to go to college and I am completely okay with that. I want to leave the option open for her just in case, but I’m absolutely not pushing it. There are just so many other options out there, and I’m encouraged by what I’m finding so far.

Take online courses (for free!)

Ken is currently taking a guitar class online from Berklee University; all 600+ courses on Coursera are FREE, and offered by a variety of universities and specialty schools. It’s a great option for kids who want to sample college classes but don’t need or desire to complete a college degree.

online college guitar class

I plan to sign up for an online Cherokee language course; it’s offered for free by the Cherokee Nation in hopes of preventing the language from dying out. There are SO many options out there for continuing education.

Consider mission work.

Ever read Kisses from Katie? Talk about jumping way off the conveyor belt! Katie was class president and homecoming queen at her high school, but left her cushy life in Tennessee to live in a poor village in Uganda and adopt a whole bunch of orphaned little girls. Her life looks nothing like she or her parents envisioned, but she is fulfilling her calling in a remarkable way. {Confession: if any of my kids announce they want to do something like this, it’s going to take a lot of prayer to let them go!}

One of my photography clients did something similar but more short-term. After getting her teaching degree, she and her husband decided to move to Ecuador and spend their newlywed year(s) teaching at an orphanage. So yes, she got a traditional degree, but she’s using it in a non-traditional way.

Learn a trade.

I really don’t understand why we think a four-year degree and a corner office define success. My dad was a blue-collar auto mechanic with grease under his fingernails, but he was also a well-respected business owner who provided very well for his family. He was successful without a college degree or a fancy office.

Although apprenticeship opportunities are less common these days, they’re still out there for trades ranging from baker (wedding cakes and such) to brick masonry and just about everything in-between. Cosmetology, for instance, can be learned through a vocational school but some stylists are willing to take on an apprenticeship. Many careers can get started this way. A young man who apprenticed with my dad as a mechanic later ended up teaching classes himself at a vocational college. As a bonus, the two became lifelong friends despite their age difference.

Get training as an entrepreneur.

Disclosure: this post is sponsored by Praxis but all opinions are my own.


Praxis is a totally new concept in continuing education for students between the age of 18-25 years. Participants do a ten-month program that combines apprenticeship in an entrepreneurial-minded company with rigorous online classes. Additionally, each participant will have help creating a project portfolio and will receive training in writing, public speaking and other professional skills.

Praxis curriculum covers a wide variety of topics:

  • philosophy
  • history
  • economics
  • business
  • technology and digital skills
  • entrepreneurship and life skills

At the end of each 40-hour module, students take an oral exam via video conference with a professor in each field.

When participants complete the Praxis program, they have a work portfolio and on-the-job experience. This is a more economical option than college, too: the hourly rate students are paid on the job essentially pays for the program. Get more info on that on the FAQ page.

If you have a student who might be interested in Praxis, the first step would be to apply for the next session, running from September though June. You can follow Praxis on facebook or twitter, and find more info by following Praxis on YouTube. And if you’re going to GHC this year, they’ll be at all three locations so you could speak to them in person.

Have you thought about college alternatives for your own kids?