I would like parents to think about what it means to you to send your child to a selective college and what that means to your child (yes, even those of you with little ones; we all dream about the future). I would also like to suggest that attitudes about "appropriate" college choices are bound in family and peer culture. Bucking that culture requires a lot of work from infancy on and the college application process is a little late to try and go against the tide. Is an ivy-league destination your goal for your child? How will you feel if they either don't want that or can't achieve it? How will you handle your child's disappointment if they don't get into the school of their dreams? It wasn't long ago that homeschoolers miraculously got scholarships to elite schools because they brought "diversity" to the student body, but those days are over. Elite schools want our kids, but only after we've proven that they fit the school's mold. In an age that values standardization our square pegs must be shoved into round holes.
Perhaps if your child's peer group and/or family culture points to disappointment with anything less than a selective school, then testing and preparation appropriate to that track from an early age is called for. At my house we don't have that worry: Maggie and Elsa come from a long line of state unversity alumni who have done quite well without ivy league pedigrees, we didn't start homeschooling with an ivy league dream, and their peers haven't been ivy-bound (although a handful have gone to ivy league schools). I'm hoping that we can find the schools that will want them so that the girls are being pursued instead of being the pursuer. I'm looking forward to interviews because the openness and excitement for opportunity that comes from our kids isn't communicated in paperwork. Everyone is amazed at the level of conversation my kids engage in, but they don't have anything resembling a transcript. It would be fraud for me to try and pigeon hole what we've been doing into arbitrary classes and grades. Their MCC work will have to demonstrate their performance potential. If this means that the pool of colleges that are interested is limited, Kurt and I are OK with that. It has been worth the trade for our family, and ultimately I think my kids will agree.
Although some kids may be great test takers, I feel that in the current environment SATs and SAT IIs require lots of preparation. Maggie is taking the SAT because prior homeschoolers have found that it is required at schools she may apply to, and a lot of scholarship aid is tied to the SAT. So we are paying a tutor to help level the playing field for her. (I didn't know there were strategies for the SAT. I took two practice tests and showed up on the test day with a hangover. This was back when our farmtown teachers told us the tests were designed so that studying wouldn't give you an advantage!) I will strongly discourage Maggie from taking SAT IIs, especially if they are only required of homeschoolers.
Every college has its list of homeschooler horror stories. There is some prejudice out there that our kids are over-protected, hyper-achieving, socially delayed ultra nerds with overprotective, hovercraft, meddling, pathologically-attached moms. Let's keep those diplomat hats on and give them a different picture. Unschooling means that college choices are just one part of a long life of learning, don't let the anyone (including US News & World Report) tell you otherwise. It would be a shame to let those relatives win in the end after all those years of standing tough ("Yes, I'm certain she will use the potty/ wean/ read/ do some algebra someday.") Where our kids go to college is not our final grade as parents. Our relationship with our kids, their ability to realistically determine and satisfy their own needs, and our ability to grow beyond being homeschooling parents is my measure of success.