Last year, at the beginning of her final year of homeschooling, Imogen thought carefully about what she wanted to do in the future. Having so many passions, it was a tough decision choosing one area she really wanted to focus on. But eventually, Imogen said, “I think I’d like to write,” and I replied, “Words can change the world.” She agreed. “I’d like to go to university and complete a writing degree.”
But how was Imogen going to get onto the course of her choice? Together we formulated a plan, the first plan of Imogen’s unschooling career. The plan, not only had to result in a place at university, it also had to take into account her desire to continue indulging her other passions.
Imogen was certainly not doing the same things as most students of her age. School students were busy learning and memorising all the information they were likely to be tested on in the final exam of their schooling: the Higher School Certificate (HSC). Homeschooled students are not eligible to sit for all the subjects that make up the HSC, the qualification most commonly used to compete for university places. As Imogen wanted to go onto tertiary studies, she had to achieve an equivalent qualification, an HSC alternative. So she decided to complete 3 Open Universities units, the results of which would give her a ‘score’ that can be used to compete for a university place. And while she did this external formal study, she also hoped she’d have plenty of free time to continue to learn and play music, write novels, run kilometres, watch Shakespeare…
So this is what Imogen did last year, her year 12…
- Completed 3 Open Universities units, one unit per semester: Introduction to University Learning, Critical Thinking and Introduction to Writing.
- Continued singing and piano lessons and prepared for piano
- Sang with church choir as soloist and choir member, and practised and performed with a second choir.
- Increased her musicianship knowledge.
- Listened to music.
- Taught piano to her siblings.
- Taught singing to her siblings.
- Wrote 3 draft novels during 3 separate NaNoWriMo months.
- Edited her writings.
- Wrote posts for her own blog, Dancing with Dragonflies.
- Participated in online writing forums.
- Read numerous writing books to learn more about planning a novel and editing.
- Read, watched and discussed all the Shakespeare plays the rest of the family were studying.
- Watched and discussed all the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas the rest of the family were enjoying. Sang songs from the operettas.
- Enjoyed other musical DVDs.
- Joined in with family prayers and other devotions, Bible readings and
meditations, spiritual readings and talks.
- Enjoyed her drawing and doodling, improving her skills and filling numerous journals.
- Sewed her own clothes.
- Cooked the majority of the family meals.
- Became a 5 km runner and ran with the family a few times a
- Participated in indoor soccer competitions.
- Watched many documentaries with the rest of the family.
- Watched lots of movies worthy of discussion.
- Participated in all the outings and excursions the rest of us went on, including museums and galleries, the beach and the bush.
- Read classics such as Dickens, Austen, Bronte, Gaskell… and watched mini-series and movie versions.
- Read so many books, I could never list them all.
- Took an interest in everything her siblings were learning.
- Discussed anything and everything.
- She might have done maths and Latin but she finished the courses earlier than expected.
So Imogen had a great year 12. Her ‘plan’ allowed her to continue following her passions, in an unschooling way, while at the same time she was able to work towards an HSC alternative qualification
With her ‘score’, I don’t think Imogen will have any difficulty getting into an on-campus university course of her choice… if that’s what she wants to do. At the moment, she is very reluctant to drop everything and focus all her time on only one of her interests. So she has decided to study her degree (Professional Writing and Publishing) online because it’s a flexible way of learning. She should still be able to find time for her other passions, like music.
Can homeschooled students get into university? Yes. Can unschooled students get into university? Yes. All it takes is a plan.
A plan? Normally, we don’t plan. We usually work quite well without any sort of plan at all. But maybe when it comes to university learning, a plan for the final year is something to consider. It needn’t be a very structured one with no room for manoeuvre. It can be a very unschooly type plan like Imogen’s. It just might make all the difference between success and failure.
So this year, I will have one less unschooling child, and one more university student. But Imogen will still be at home with Charlotte, Sophie, Gemma-Rose and me as she studies. She will still be around to share and chat and play and watch and read and discuss. I will probably not notice any difference between this year and last. I think I am going to like this arrangement very much.
PS There are other ways and means of satisfying a university’s educational requirement than with an Open Universities score. This is only one way of achieving a rating. But having no experience with anything else, I can’t tell you more.