At times, it seemed like it would never end. Week after week, month after month, grade after grade—surely my home education would last forever, I thought. As a child, I wanted to finish my schoolwork as quickly as possible so that I could play. As a teen in homeschool high school, I had writing and filmmaking projects for which I needed to make time. I dreamed of the freedom I’d have one day.
Suddenly, it stopped. There was no more required schooling. I had finished. Graduated. Arrived. Or had I?
Now I can see that those seemingly endless years of homeschooling were just the beginning. Those years prepared me to enter into adulthood. They gave me a great start to my future. That’s a really good thing, because turning 18 and being faced with decision after decision that would affect the rest of my life was scary. It still is. Sometimes I feel as though I’m drowning under a sea of options. I wonder if you feel that way too.
The first thing to do is to seek God’s will through prayer. Talking with your parents is essential as well. Then, what often helps me is to make lists. Making lists of the pros and cons related to different choices can bring clarity to a foggy situation. There may be three good choices, one not-so-good choice, and one excellent choice for your particular circumstances.
I’ll be listing five options that a homeschool graduate may pursue; many of them can be combined. It’s up to you to identify the pros and cons.
- College. This is probably the first one that comes to mind for most families. Should you encourage your children to attend a university? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. If your child’s goal in life is to become a neonatal nurse, college is the obvious choice. If, on the other hand, your child wants to become a writer, college is not necessary but could still be beneficial.
Whether or not to go to college was a decision I really struggled with. Initially, I decided against it due to the time and money that must be invested. However, college opens a lot of doors that I can’t open for myself. For example, most internships are available only to college students. Attending college can give me an opportunity to familiarize myself with expensive equipment that I couldn’t afford to buy, and colleges also happen to hand out that piece of paper that lots of jobs require. While I personally don’t think such emphasis should be placed on having a degree, it’s the reality we live in. In the end, I have chosen to pursue a degree in media production (starting Fall 2013).
Because I desire a very hands-on approach to higher education, online college programs are not a good fit for me. However, if it works for you, online degrees enable you to study from home, save money, and work at your own pace. Make sure you are earning a degree from an accredited college.
- Employment. This option means that you decide to enter the work force right away. Of course, this can be combined with college. As you all know, trying to get a job in the U.S. right now is not easy. If you don’t have much experience, a specialized skill set, or a degree, job opportunities are even more limited. I suggest calling local businesses, food places, and retail stores to ask if they are currently hiring. Then, begin filling out those applications! It’s easy to become discouraged by multiple rejections. Keep trying. I need to remind myself of this. It’s going to take perseverance to find a full-time job.
- Self-Employment. This option has become increasingly popular as a result of the lack of “regular” jobs. Having flexible hours, doing something you enjoy, and not living with the fear of being laid off are benefits accompanying this choice. Yet, to run your own business, you must be self-motivated, work even when it’s tedious and not enjoyable, and be responsible for keeping the business afloat. Moreover, the work often never ends, and trying to keep your personal life and work life separate can be a struggle.
I’ve done part-time freelance writing for more than two years now. During that time, my work has been published in a variety of online and print publications. It has been rewarding to use my writing skills in this way, but a regular part-time, minimum-wage job would have earned me a lot more money. Recently, I began working as a technical writer for a local mechanical engineering firm on a when-needed basis. I am paid to provide a service; I am not, for the time being, an employee of the firm.
- The Military. There are many benefits to joining the military—guaranteed employment is a big one. In return for your service to your country, the government will also help you pay for college. Graduating without college debt is rare these days. Still, I don’t believe people should serve in the military solely for employment and education. You need to be physically, emotionally, and mentally strong, and you should be genuinely patriotic. Enlistment in the military requires a huge commitment, and whether or not to join is a decision that should not be taken lightly.
- Missionary Service. This is the one option that has nothing to do with making money. In fact, you have to raise money from supporters to be able to cover the costs. That’s why, generally, only those who have a burning passion to personally go and reach the unreached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ serve on the mission field. In addition to a desire to pray and to give, some individuals experience a restless longing from God that says go. You know who you are.
We also need senders. We need people who are making a steady income to provide funds to support missionaries and to feed the hungry.
For those who think missionary service is an easy way out (You mean I don’t have to go to college or get a job at McDonald’s?), true missionary service is anything but easy. It’s tough not knowing if your supporters will keep their financial commitments or not. It’s tough being away from your family and friends for months and years at a time. It’s tough facing culture shock and spiritual warfare.
Even the application process to serve with a missions organization can be time-consuming and involve many steps. While it is hard, don’t let that stop you from following God’s will for your life. It is absolutely worth it. I served with Operation Mobilization (OM) on board the Logos Hope for 7½ weeks. I had never worked so hard physically or been so exhausted in my life! It was a very stretching and wonderful experience.
There they are: five options. Each choice represents multiple variables. What kind of job? What branch of the military? What country? Enjoy the journey of discovering what you desire to pursue.
I’m thankful to live in a country where I am given the chance to choose what I want to do with my life. What will you choose?
Alyssa Liljequist is a 19-year-old homeschool graduate of 2011. She is a freelance writer whose work has been published by various online and print publications. Alyssa is passionate about missions. Her other interests include videomaking and working with kids. Her short story E-Book, Deadly Delirium, can be purchased here or on Amazon.com. She blogs at http://www.mylifewithamission.blogspot.com/.
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the December 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.