Why Not Home College?

After a few decades of advocacy, US home-schoolers now get respect.  Kids who learned high school material at home, under learning plans managed by their parents, can now apply to college on a nearly level playing field with kids who went to ordinary schools.  But imagine a home-schooled college student applying for a job or grad school – he’d be treated almost as if he had spent those years on a job or goofing off.   What is the difference?

The difference I think is parental control.  Because high school kids are legally under the control of their parents, their home schooling is thought to mostly signal parent features, not kid features.  In contrast, since college kids control their own lives more, their home schooling would mostly signal their personal features.  A kid who taught himself college topics at home would be expected to lack discipline and consciousness enough to follow someone else’s plans.  (I avoided this by staying in college while I home-schooled myself.)

Interestingly, this suggests that parental control over kids lives can give kids a signaling advantage.  Kids who do weird things maybe be ostracized less because we assume it was probably their parents who made them do such things.  Being in control of your own life comes at the cost of being more penalized for your weird choices.   What does this say about the best age to let kids run their own lives?

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