Preparing Our Sons for College


In this message we learn how one couple prepared three sons for life after high school.

Ken and Stacey live in Northern California. They’ve been married for 22 years. Ken is a tax accountant, and Stacey is a homeschooling mother of three boys. Two of their sons are now in college (Michael and Andrew), and a third (Brandon) is a junior in high school.

Did you assume your kids would go to college?

Starting their freshman year of high school, we had them spend five minutes of their daily quiet times in silence. Especially during their junior and senior years, we encouraged them to listen for God to give direction regarding their future. We prayed with each of them explicitly in this area.

If they were unsure of their direction, then going to a four-year school wouldn’t be an option for them. Alternatives could be joining the military, going on an extended mission trip, or going to junior college (perhaps while working a part-time job). But honestly, our first choice was a college degree—preferably in a field with promising employment opportunities.

How did you talk to your sons about what to expect at college?

We told them their faith would be challenged—even at a Christian college—and we encouraged them to be a light wherever they ended up (Matt. 5:14–16). From their earliest days, we taught them “Wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it, and right is right even if no one is doing it.” We warned them they’d have to be disciplined, manage their time well, and be self-motivated because nobody would be looking over their shoulder.

How did your sons display ambition in high school?

We encouraged them to have a well-rounded life in high school—to include service to God and others, as well as personal development, in the midst of their academic work. We wanted the Lord to be the top priority in their lives. We trained them enthusiastically in “life skills”—finances, home maintenance, tithing, and being lifelong learners. We trusted that God would open the doors for them in college and beyond.

We had them each take an SAT prep course. We gave them career tests to discover their aptitude for various disciplines. There are a few engineers in our family, and math was always easy for Michael. So after we arranged several job-shadowing experiences for him, as a high school senior he narrowed down his chosen field to engineering. During his first year at college, he narrowed it further to electrical engineering. Now a junior in college, he recently enjoyed a six-month internship in his field.

Andrew is more introverted and likes a quieter environment that allows him to work individually. After long talks with his dad about accounting, he chose to follow in his father’s footsteps. He’s been enjoying his first semester at college.

How did you seek to shape their character?

We tried to motivate them with Scripture so they’d see that our requirements made sense and were rooted in God’s will to bless them. We didn’t want them to do things just because we said so.

The boys attended youth group in junior high and high school, and Ken was one of their leaders. We also required them to serve in a ministry. Each of our sons has worked with younger children, visited Alzheimer’s patients, built homes in Mexico, and served as a counselor at summer camp. These opportunities stretched their faith and allowed them to be a blessing to others.

We’ve been intentional about training our boys and giving them opportunities to rely on God in a personal way. It is our prayer that when the world comes at them with all its temptations and ugliness, they will know the righteous path because they’ve not only seen it before, but they’ve been living it.

As they grew up, how did you seek to cultivate diligence and time-management skills?

God speaks in his Word of doing all things in a good and orderly way. Stacey used a variety of checklists to keep the boys on task. A morning-routine checklist tracked what needed to be accomplished before the day’s academic activities commenced. And the homeschool day had its own checklist. The boys had to keep their own calendars in high school. No more solely relying on Mom to know where they had to be at a certain time! These tools were used to instill responsibility, self-reliance, and independence.

During the school week, no video games were allowed unless they’d earned a “good job” coupon worth 20 minutes of video game time. Stacey would give these to the boys when warranted, and then they could play video games during the week—after the school day was done and their homework was complete. Normally, video games were permitted only during the weekend (which began Friday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. and ended Sunday evening at 5:30 p.m.).

And as they departed for college?

We gave them some general tips, such as:

  • Get up every day at a reasonable hour—even if you don’t have a class—and redeem the time.
  • Don’t wait until after dinner to begin doing your homework.
  • Use small blocks of time during the day and go to the library to peck away at your homework.
  • Strive for excellence in all that you do. Your work represents who you are and can be a witness for Christ.
  • Don’t sit around wondering why you’re not getting better grades, not doing well on the team, or not getting a particular job. In most instances, good things happen to those who work hard, are prepared, and are ready for opportunities whenever they arise.
Self-confidence and humility are sometimes viewed as competing character qualities. Do you agree that both are important?

We tried to create a balance in our boys’ understanding between who they are in Jesus—which instills confidence—and who they are as sinners interacting with the Omnipotent God Almighty—which keeps them humble. From a young age, we impressed upon them the need to not let the actions of others determine their responses. Kids can be cruel, and we asked our boys to have compassion for those who may hurl insults and unkind words at them (or even use physical violence). We stressed their accountability to God for all of their actions.

Along with humility, we tried to teach them contentment and the importance of gratitude to God for all he gives us. We have a blessed life. We live humbly, but our wealth is immense when compared to many in the world. This is probably the area we feel least “successful” in. It seems our boys sometimes take material blessings for granted. So we pray and constantly examine what we can do differently as parents, even when they’re no longer under our roof.

Written by Alex Chediak

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