I have Brooke Reynolds to thank for causing me to write this article. She and I got into a discussion about what homeschool girls should be doing between the age of 16 and the time they enter marriage. Brooke is 18 years old and is currently pursuing a music education on scholarship at the University of Utah. She enjoys it and finds it challenging, but she wonders if college is exactly the right thing for her.
I know lots of young women who have been tenderly taught in homeschool yet “graduate” from their family homeschool wondering what to do next. Working doesn’t seem to be what they want to do full-time. Entering college seems to automatically lead to following the coursework to attain a degree, which seems to automatically lead to becoming career-ready. Society seems to dictate that college is the next step in a young person’s life, but once involved in college, many homeschoolers realize that what they didn’t want in a public school setting is ever present in a college environment. Truth is not the standard taught in every class. Most students are involved in the “credit game” (credit, then forget it). The desire to gain true and useful knowledge is not the first priority of most college students.
I have older sons, and for men in this society, a college degree is a necessity. College has proved frustrating to them. Even if they begin a course with high interest, most of the classes have managed to deaden that desire to learn very quickly with a lengthy syllabus, huge list of terms, class attendance requirements, test schedule, etc. What started as a tremendous motivation to learn accounting ended up as dreaded drudgery. I marvel that in nearly every educational area, delightful learning has been regulated and expanded into so many nonsensical terms and extrapolations. The accounting in Accounting 101 is not the same accounting that you would find stimulating and useful in the business world. Somehow, a college course can turn a chocolate eclair into a dried out pancake.
Obviously, some courses are more directed and interesting than others due to the competency of the teachers. Some schools are probably better than others, too. Two of my sons have been extremely motivated and stimulated to greater learning by one excellent Spanish teacher. I learned to write because of a demanding high school English teacher that pushed me beyond my normal performance and taught me to appreciate Shakespeare. But I can also clearly remember my days at college some 20 years ago. There were some wonderful teachers and a few courses that taught me home nursing of the sick and nutritious food preparation, which has been practical knowledge. But, of all the classes I attended to earn my bachelor’s degree, only a few stand out in my mind as feeding my hungry interest for truth in the subject, and even fewer have been useful in my adult life.
Being involved in a college program means you end up taking classes in which you have no interest and that hold no practical application for your life. It’s “credit and forget it,” again. One young woman told me she’d just taken Botany at a good university. In spite of my zeal and enthusiasm for discussing Botany with her, she could recall very little. I questioned why she took the class, since her disinterest was apparent, and she replied that she had heard it was the easiest course to take to fulfill the Science requirement in her major.
What should a young woman be doing, if not college? I have pondered this question long and hard as my daughters are growing up, and I have friends whose daughters are already college-aged. As I look back from a more experienced perspective, I am shocked at how unprepared I was personally to give birth, to nurture and raise my large family and deal with all the challenges that a wife/mother/homemaker career holds. Had I been able to see the future (or had a wise and experienced advisor), I could have done things quite differently. Those precious preparation years between approximately 16 years of age and marriage could have been spent in rigorous, exciting learning for the work that lay before me.
Over many years, I have learned mostly through the school of hard knocks how to do the things necessary to pleasant home life. Had I been prepared with these skills before marriage, it would have proven very practical and would have greatly improved the quality of my life and my family’s well-being. I see young mothers overwhelmed with the demands of housekeeping, child care and pregnancy. Few are prepared to handle the high intensity of these callings. Many are unhappy, just as unhappy as a man who majored in Physical Education would be in a desk job. If a young wife has career training, it is natural for her to long to go back to doing what she is good at and turn from this challenging and unfamiliar new job. Some choose to escape through a part-time job, mall shopping, hobbies or unwillingness to have more children. Lack of preparation doesn’t make for a content young wife and mother. It is tough on marriage, too. I heard a respected man tell about a young woman whose mother passed away suddenly when she was just 17 years old. This young woman took over the household and tried to do her mother’s duties, such as cooking and laundry; she burned dinner and turned her father’s shirts pink, learning in the process. When she married, her adjustment was easy and stress free. Her newly married friends complained about how difficult it was to adjust to married life, but she had made an easy transition because of her preparation.
I have been a mother for 22 years now, and I am certain that with my big family I have washed three times the amount of laundry in my homemaking career than my mother washed in hers. And yet, I still don’t feel very confident. Why didn’t I learn from my mother, whose clothes always look so bright and clean and stain-free? I suppose I wasn’t paying attention or didn’t see the need to learn how to do laundry properly, or maybe I was too busy with college classes! Since doing laundry is a daily affair and creates the first image that others see for all your family members, I think it is an important skill to learn. There is no better time than when a young woman is living under your roof to tutor her in the details of laundry and every other homemaking skill that will be required of her in her lifetime. Many of us don’t learn the important lessons of a homemaking/mothering career until we are up to our ears and screaming for help. What a happier world it would be if we came to our marriage/family life prepared!
If I could have the perfect college coursework for future wife/mothers, it would be thoroughly saturated with the word of God, and other sources of truth. I would pick and choose ways to learn the skills: studying good books on my own; tutoring under a grandmother, mother, neighbor or friend; taking correspondence or on-campus college courses, community classes—wherever I could find knowledge. Learning would retain its joy and interest. My education might look something like this:
Basics of Good Nutrition (I do not recommend using the government structured diet, RDAs, etc.)
Planning Nutritious Meals
Sewing (with emphasis on mending, remodeling clothes, children’s clothing)
Manners, Social Skills, Etiquette
Family Relationships (using The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families by Stephen Covey as the basic textbook)
Happy Marriage (how a man ticks)
Natural Health Care (using good foods, vitamins, herbs and natural remedies)
Making Your Own Herbal Remedies (herb identification and preparation)
Pregnancy (how to take care of yourself, remedies for morning sickness, pre-conception foods, vitamins, herbs to reduce chance of birth defects, etc.)
Drawing (useful for teaching children, etc.)
Preparing Nutritious Meals
Parables of Jesus
Childbirth (options, natural remedies to help in labor, etc.)
Piano or musical instrument
Money Skills (shopping savvy, yard sales, making do)
Handling an Infant
Choosing and Care of Major Appliances
Postpartum Care (building your strength back, proper recovery care)
Voice (with emphasis on family fun songs, patriotic songs, songs to teach children)
Quantity Cooking (Once-a-Month cooking, cooking in bulk, etc.)
Care of Furniture and Carpets
Breastfeeding (how-to, problems and solutions, herbs to help)
Toilet Training a Toddler
Cooking from Scratch (how to make canned soups, mixes, prepared foods from scratch)
Common Childhood Illnesses
Sermon on the Mount
Preparing Your Body for Subsequent Pregnancy (building up strength, using natural helps to prepare, etc.)
Teaching Skills (how-to, best resources, etc.)
Fast Meal Preparation (nutritious meals in under 30 minutes)
Art for Children
Simple Home Repairs
Books of Revelations
Making Special Foods (green drink, sprouts, healthy candy, healthy holiday foods)
Keeping Fit and Energetic