From Unschooling to University


My 17-year-old daughter, Charlotte, is now a university student. It’s hard to believe. When did she grow up?

Charlotte is studying her first unit through Open Universities. It’s part of a Bachelor of Arts degree in Digital Design. She may go on to complete the whole degree. Or she may not. She’ll see. There’s no hurry. One unit at a time.

“So how was your first week as a uni student?” I asked her last Friday.

“Okay,” she replied. “I had a lot to learn. But I think I did alright.”

“Was it a satisfying week?”

“Oh, yes!”

At the moment, I have three university students. Duncan has almost finished his Masters of Teaching (Primary). Imogen will finish her Bachelor of Arts degree in Professional Writing and Publishing in November. And Charlotte is just setting out. (I also have two other children who have studied at tertiary level.)

So as you can see, it’s quite possible for unschooling children to go on to university.

In this week’s podcast, I share some of what I’ve learnt over the years, as my children have transitioned from unschooling to university. In particular, I discuss the following questions:

  • Can homeschooling children earn a ‘score’ or qualification, equivalent to the HSC, the school leavers’ certificate?
  • How can unschooling children get into university?
  • Are unschoolers at a disadvantage when they attend on-campus universities?
  • Are unschoolers prepared for university learning?
  • What about essay writing skills?
  • What are the advantages of studying for a degree online?

I also talk about other things I’ve been doing recently:

  • Making unschooling videos
  • Creating a new blog
  • Facebook pages
  • And Imogen’s and my podcast plans

Podcast Notes:

A Better Way to Get into University

Three years ago Callum applied to go to university. He didn’t have an HSC. Instead he’d spent his last homeschooling year studying three university units at home, through Open Universities. He used the results of these units to compete with school leavers (who had an HSC) to get into the degree course of his choice. And he was successful.

From Unschooling to Successful University Learning

Now Imogen is all set to continue university work. She wants to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in Professional Writing and Publishing. But she doesn’t want to give up her music. So in her spare time, she’ll also continue her piano and singing lessons and exams. Writing and music… Imogen’s two big passions. What could be better than studying what you enjoy most? It looks like being a very good year.

Does unschooling prepare a child for university learning? It sure does.

Imogen’s Unschooling Plan to Get into University

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.”

Imogen Talks about Unschooling and University

So Imogen began talking. She spoke about unschooling, what she enjoyed about it, the benefits of unschooling, family life, her passions including writing and music, how she got into university, how unschooling prepared her for tertiary study, and finally what she’d like to do in the future.

From Unschooling to University and Work (Part 1): an Interview

Do you think unschooling prepared you for life as an adult?
What skills did it give you?
Tell me about your university experience.
Did you have any trouble getting onto the course of your choice?
How did your interests and passions help you with your application?
How did you cope with uni work?…


Open Universities Australia

Bachelor of Arts (Digital Design)

Bachelor of Arts (Professional Writing and Publishing)

Podcast: Unschool Writing, Essays and a Few Panicky Moments

Videos Bite-Sized Unschooling

My new blog: Out of My Catholic Mind

Music: 60’s Quiz Show by Podington Bear, (CC BY-NC 3.0)

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  1. Reply

    Well, this was very timely! I listened just after helping my two oldest sign up for classes at our local community college!

    Community colleges are two year colleges (associates degree) that are open to anyone 16 and over. Like Open University, they are much cheaper than the state schools. If you get your associates degree, you are automatically accepted at the state university of your choice as a junior (2 years into a bachelors degree).

    Like you, we use them to establish credentials that are commonly understood. We also use them to teach how to manage college (transitioning from home school) and as a way to find out what you are really interested in studying.

    Mxyl is about to graduate from (our family) high school, and he has taken 6 classes, and he has decided he loves computer animation. He's wants to get a professional certificate, then an overlapping two year degree, and then transfer for a 4 year degree.

    Klenda is just starting her first class, and she arranged it so that she will be classmates with Mxyl. This means he will be able to drive them both (fortunately, our school is only 20 minutes away!). We've taken a mix of online and on campus classes.

    When Mxyl first started, we were not sure whether we should suggest he take the required courses first, so that he would have them out of the way when he graduated high school. Instead, we encouraged him to try any class he was interested in. That turned out very well because now he really is sure of what he enjoys, and he's ready to focus on a degree.

    Congratulations on having another in uni!

    1. Reply


      I'd heard about community colleges but didn't really know what they were. Thank you so much for explaining how they work. It sounds like a wonderful way to move from homeschooling into tertiary learning, and ideal if the classes enable you to move on to a degree course if that's what you end up wanting to do.

      I might have given the wrong impression about the cost of the Open University courses. The preparation modules are very cheap, but the degree units are much more expensive. The cost of studying for a degree online through Open Universities is comparable to the cost of attending an on-campus university. The attraction is that you can enrol for as many or few units as you like, take it at your own pace, spread the cost… Both systems are eligible for government student loans which is good until the money has to be paid back!

      I really enjoyed hearing about Myxl's and Klenda's experiences. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Reply

    Sue, all of the children I have known who have done homeschooling have excelled and most have gone to Uni with no problems. Also he did go to school my son also did his degree online and did very well and received the Dean's prize.

    1. Reply


      Universities are much more open to accepting homeschooling students than they were a few years ago. Yes, most students have no problem at all getting into uni. Thank you for sharing your son's experience with online learning. It's a great way to learn. The Dean's prize? How wonderful! What a great achievement!

  3. Reply

    Love the blog redesign! I've just started trying Evernote, so I linked up to your posts – thanks so much for doing them, even if it took me a while to get around to trying it!

    1. Reply


      Thank you for the links to my posts! I hope you enjoy exploring Evernote even if you don't decide to use it.

      I'm glad you like the new blog look. It's very different to the old one!

  4. Reply

    A bit of sad news, I'm afraid: Baby Grace passed gently to eternal life. She lived nearly six weeks when they thought she would live less than 5 minutes. She was able to come home from the hospital and her family just held her and loved her for those precious weeks. Thank you so much for your prayers! This blessing of extra time meant so much to her family!

    1. Reply


      Thank you for telling us about Grace. Her parents will be suffering a great deal with their grief. Oh yes, the extra time was a blessing. I'm so glad they were able to spend those weeks with their baby. However much we are grateful, the time to love and hold is never long enough. I imagine the feeling of loss is enormous. May God comfort Mary and her family. We will continue to pray for them.

  5. Reply

    Thank you so much! We are heading out to the funeral today.

    1. Reply


      I imagine the funeral was a difficult day for Grace's family as they said goodbye to her. I remember how supported I felt by the presence of all our friends at Thomas' funeral. The church was overflowing with people who wanted to be with us and pray for us. Perhaps Mary and her family appreciated your presence in a similar way. May God bless you and Mary and family.

  6. Reply

    Brilliant! You just about covered all my questions – this was just what I needed to hear. Thanks 🙂

    1. Reply


      I'm glad this post was helpful. Thank you for letting me know!

  7. Reply

    Thank you Sue, that was all very interesting. Open Universities may be an option for us in the future so I'm always keen to hear from those already experienced with it. Another thing I would love to hear about in a podcast (if you haven't addressed the topic already) – Do we need to go to university?
    I'd be interested to hear your views 🙂

    1. Reply


      I don't think all of us do need to go to university. Charlotte and I were discussing the various alternatives and she still has the choice to follow a different pathway from her other siblings. At the moment, she wants to complete a couple of Open Uni units so she has a 'score' or HSC equivalent. She thinks that will be useful. But after completing these units she may continue on and do a whole degree. We'll see! Charlotte has seen a Bachelor of Arts degree she likes the sound of. It's called Digital Design

      Maybe a legitimate reason to go to university is to further one's knowledge of a subject one is passionate about. Imogen loves her degree course because she is learning so much about writing and she's already using that knowledge. Charlotte's eyes lit up when she read the details of the Digital Design course because it would teach her more about the things she really enjoys: 2 and 3D animation, digital drawing, game and website design…

      I went to uni for the wrong reason: Because it was expected and I had no better ideas. I didn't even study a subject I was particularly interested in. My children's experience is turning out to be very different to mine. I'm glad about that!

      Thank you so much for listening to my podcast!

  8. Reply

    Interesting to know, thank you for the lengthy reply 🙂

    1. Reply


      You're welcome! I always enjoy chatting with you!

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