Recently my good friend, Lindsay, shared with me about her experience sending her first child off to college this year.  I was so amazed and encouraged to learn about the intentional ways she has prepared her daughter to be spiritually grounded to leave home.  I was also impressed with the process she went through to help her daughter determine which school was the best fit for her.  Because our conversation was so insightful, I asked her to share with us about her experience sending her daughter off to college for the first time, and how she prepared her daughter spiritually to do so.

Lindsay, tell us a little about you and your family. 

I grew up in the public school system and vowed that I would NEVER homeschool my own children.  Then I married a man who was homeschooled all the way through, along with his two siblings as well. Even after we were married and he was a proponent of homeschooling, I still stuck to my vow that I would not do it. 

My college degree and background is in secondary education.  I soon discovered that I disliked children, teaching, and the classroom setting, and so I never actually used my degree.  God has a wonderful sense of humor, and He knew how He would use my education long before I could ever imagine it. 

We ended up having three children and started out sending the first older two kids to a conservative, Christian private school.  It was incredibly expensive.  And even though it was a Christian academy, they were not teaching the Biblical foundation that I wanted my children to grow up having.  And there were all kinds of social issues with the other students.  My husband and I looked at each other and said, “We can do better than this.”  

So began our journey with homeschooling. I was totally overwhelmed and out of my depth.  I did a ton of research on co-op groups, extra curricular activities, and curriculums.  But honestly, the only thing that carried us through each year was our faithful God and lots and lots of prayer.  He was and is the One who educates our children every day, and I am the one along for the ride.  I have learned more than my children these past eight years, and God is probably smiling in heaven. 

Eight years later, which included my daughter taking dual credit courses during high school, she started her junior year of college.  And that’s where we find ourselves today.

Do you think that the secondary educational culture has changed from when we were that age?  If so, what do you think has changed? 

I think that the public school system, at least here in the Pacific Northwest, has completely changed since I attended 20+ years ago.  The public high school that I attended offered a classical education from a conservative perspective.  I now hear stories from my friends here in this area who have their children in the school system of the  “woke” agenda and “revised” history.  But even more discouraging and alarming to me is the way that the school system has so completely removed anything about God, the Bible, and our children’s identity as individuals created with worth and value and for a purpose and plan. The system has removed all hope and meaning from the lives of these children, and they are growing up lost and confused.  To put it simply, I feel like the academic culture has turned into a brainwashing tool to push the new liberal agenda of this nation onto our kids, their thinking, and their beliefs.  

What do you think has changed in our current culture and/or academic sphere to contribute to so many Christian kids leaving their faith in college? 

I think that this one stems from many different areas that have changed – and some of these are not necessarily in the school system.  The public school system has been a tool of political agenda for decades, but it has now become much more prominent and progressive.   But as Christian parents, we can still counterbalance the propaganda taught in our schools.  I think that the reason we are losing our children comes from the lack of teaching at home and in our churches.  

As parents at home, and in our Sunday school and youth programs at church, we are not adequately preparing our kids to face the onslaught of attacks on their Christian faith that they will face in the political climate of our nation today.

The faith of our children will be attacked and tested more than any of us had to face when we were growing up.  Even so-called “Christian” colleges are promoting a watered-down faith that is mixed with the new political agenda.  And that is perhaps the most scary of all.  Teaching 95% truth mixed with just enough lies could make the faith of our children impotent and broken.  

Our kids need a good dose of Biblical Apologetics.  They need to know what they believe, why they believe it, and how to defend it when it is attacked and torn down.  Unfortunately, our children are not getting these classes at home, at school, in Sunday school, or even in youth groups.  We are sending them into a cultural battle for their souls, completely ill equipped. 

And let’s face it – the arguments against Christianity are incredibly deceptive and difficult to argue against in today’s culture.  Satan has done a very good job of twisting the truth and making it sound “loving, accepting, and tolerant.”  These original Christian words and themes like “love, truth, justice, equality, and tolerance” are all being redefined and turned upside down, and Christians are now made to look like the intolerant bigot in the room.  How do our kids fight against this?  How do they stand up and not only keep their own faith but bring others to faith as well? 

We need to be cementing the truths of what we believe, why we believe it, and how to defend it against the different attacks and arguments that our kids are going to face in their college courses, on their campuses, and from their peers.

How have you prepared your kids to stay grounded in their faith before heading off to college? 

Both Aaron and I came from a very strong classical education.  And that is the curriculum that we used to homeschool our children.  We wanted to prepare them academically for the scholastic challenges that they would face in college.  

But even more than that, we desired and prayed for a faith in each of our children that would plant its roots deep and be unshakeable.  We believe that if we put God in the right place, and He is first in our lives, that He will take care of the academic part as well.  So we really focused on the Biblical Worldview in every subject – from Bible to science to math to literature and language.  We tried to demonstrate how God is in all of it.  

We used Christian curriculums for the most part, but we also studied secular works and writings.  These made great discussion materials for comparing our Biblical beliefs with the world’s beliefs.  Where were they similar?  Where were they different?  Where did it matter that they were different and why? We wanted to teach our kids how to analyze and recognize the messages that they are being exposed to and be able to evaluate what is true and what is not and why.  

We also studied books like Mama Bear Apologetics to study the different worldviews, different beliefs, and different attacks on Christianity – learning how to defend our faith against them. If our kids are already exposed to the lies they will hear in college, and if they already know the truth with which to counter those lies – their faith will be much safer when they go out on their own. 

And then when the kids started high school, we used the Liberty University Online High School program.  Liberty University has a very strong Apologetics and Bible program that teaches about our faith, why we believe, and how to defend it. That is the main area that we wanted to make sure that we had cemented in our kids before we sent them off into the world.

When my daughter and I visited a so-called conservative Christian college, we sat in a theology course and heard ideas and arguments that were both wrong and dangerous.  When I sat down and talked to her about them, she told me exactly what was wrong with this school’s theology, why it was wrong, and how to argue against it.  When I asked her how she knew all of that, she said that Liberty had already taught her those arguments in their Theology courses.  She said that she had already been exposed to those ideas and had been equipped with how to counter them.  My little mother’s heart was rejoicing!! 

If we had not gone the route of Liberty University, I would have chosen a similar curriculum to teach at home and put a definite emphasis on Apologetics and defending our faith.  

What steps did you take to help your oldest daughter find the college that was right for her? 

I visited all of the colleges that Raegan was interested in attending with her.  When it was time for her to pick classes that she could sit in, I also chose classes at the school that I wanted to attend.  Raegan would go one way –  to the science classes in her field of study.  And I purposely chose the most religious, most liberal, and most controversial options that I could find and sat in on those courses.  

I remember that Raegan would roll her eyes and say, “Please don’t argue with the teacher and get us kicked out.”  And I remember another mother telling me that I was not allowed to sit in on the classes, that they were only for the kids.  But if I am sending my child to be educated at a certain school and paying them to do it, I want to know exactly what they are  teaching.   And there were some funny experiences.  Most of the time, I was the only parent in the classroom.  And one time I even had to join a discussion group with 19-year old college students who tried to ask very politely if I was actually going to their school.  But I never got kicked out, and most of the professors welcomed me and met with me after class.  It revealed to me many things that the prepared lectures trying to sell the school to us parents did not provide.   I would strongly recommend it and will do so again when my two boys head to college.

What factors did you both consider when choosing the right school? 

Location was big.  She wanted to be able to travel home on weekends or short holidays.  We did consider Liberty University, but Virginia was further than she wanted to be from the west coast. 

Tuition and scholarship offerings were also big.  College is extremely expensive and price is a major factor in today’s world.

Also the living situation.  Where would she be living and with whom?  Don’t get me started on the dorms today, but I am totally shocked at everything that is allowed to go on there.  We were not ready to have her living in a situation where she would be exposed to sex, drugs, marijuana, etc. on a daily and normal basis.  

There were also college options that we just plainly said “No way.”  The liberal political agenda and anti-Christian sentiments were just too strong at some colleges for us.  We did not want our daughter exposed to it.  Nor did we want any part of funding it with our tuition dollars either. 

So once we narrowed all of that down, we ended up visiting three different colleges in the northwest area, closer to our home.  Raegan and I drove together and started out our trips with prayer and seeking God’s will and leading – mainly asking that He would show us His will for Raegan at this particular school and “Please make it very clear.”   Then we spent the day visiting the college together, attending classes, lunch time, different lectures, meeting with professors and advisors, and attending the different program options.  

When it was finished, we drove back home together and discussed both of our impressions and feelings.  I was very careful to let her speak and share what she thought and felt, and I did not try to persuade her one way or another.  But the truth is that we were usually always on the same page.  We saw the warning signs and had the same feelings.  So that was a blessing for sure.

One of the main discussion points that we talked about on the car ride home was that the conservative “Christian” colleges that watered down the truth and Gospel and blended the new political agenda with the Bible, were the most dangerous and uncomfortable.  Raegan made the comment to me that she felt like she would have to always be on her guard trying to figure out the truth from the lies, and she felt like it would be exhausting.  She said that a secular university that did not mix the Bible with the new woke philosophy would be easier because it wouldn’t be coming in and undermining her Biblical theology with mixed messages, the lies being much easier to recognize.

When it came time to make the final decision, we all knew exactly where she was supposed to go.  God just worked it out, and all of the details fell into place.

What does your relationship and level of influence look like now that she is away from home?

Well, I miss her – A LOT!   I am now in a house full of boys, and I miss my girl.  However, we still have a very close and healthy relationship.  She checks in every day.  We talk about once a week on the phone.  

She is living with my aunt and uncle, and so she is not in the dorm room situation.   We are very thankful and fortunate that she has family to live with while away at college.  We have several other family groups in the same city, and she has dinner with different family members several times a week.  She also found Christian friends at college by attending the InterVarsity Bible Study held at her school.  After a few months, she joined the leadership team and attends trainings and conferences with the groups.  She attends church with her Christian friends.   My husband’s cousin is the youth pastor there at that church, so we are very blessed to have a wonderful support network for her.  

When she returns home, there are a few days where we are all getting used to each other again, finding our places.  It is different as she is learning to be more independent but still coming home to parents and brothers.  It’s a balancing act.  But it has been really good.  She still brings us all of her problems, issues, questions – asking for our opinion and advice.  And we are growing into more of an adult/adult friendship.  But there are times she still needs her mom to let her cry, hold her, and tell her that it will be alright.  

Any other advice you would like to share from your experience going through the college application process with your daughter? 

Honestly, it was overwhelming.  It was so much different than when I applied and attended college 20+ years ago.  I filled out my application, sent in my scholarship applications, got accepted, got awarded scholarships, and then picked one and attended.  

The application and scholarship process is way more intense and lengthy today.  We filled out so much paperwork and so many applications.  We visited one school three times.  Some scholarship applications are now in person with a two-day, overnight interview process.  It is difficult to keep up with when applying to and juggling several different schools.  Plus there are application fees for everything – so the more schools you apply to, the more expensive it gets in a hurry. 

I would recommend narrowing the school choices down BEFORE you actually apply as the process is so labor intensive and time consuming.  My daughter ended up applying to five schools, visiting three schools (one of them three times), and then choosing the one she is attending.  I would not do any more than that, and even fewer schools if possible. Trying to keep up with the other kids, travel, school, and the application process was A LOT to add into the daily juggle. 

Plus, it is emotional.  I remember telling God, “You give us these amazing kids; they complete our families and fill our hearts and our homes, and then You take them away to go live their own lives.  I hate it!”   And many tears.

There is a closing of a chapter in our mother hearts, and a mourning that has to take place as we let go and say goodbye.  The next chapter is good, but it is different, and it doesn’t go back to how it was before.  So let yourself mourn.  (Don’t do it in front of the kids though – be excited for them and their next chapter and adventures).  

Also realize that it affects the other siblings as well.  My youngest son is very close to his older sister, and it was a difficult loss for him as well.  We had times where we sat down and let him tell us how he felt, and we let him cry too.  

But it is a new and exciting adventure for our kids.  My biggest advice is to bathe them in prayer everyday.  When we can’t be there with them, protect them, or fix it anymore – God can.  And He is there with them.  And that is what I rest in every day.   

Thank you, Lindsay, for sharing your experience with us.  I know many moms will find your words encouraging and helpful as they navigate preparing their kids spiritually for college.