Cabrillo College and Homeschooling

This is a piece I had written back in May of 2007 for the mailing list for the Santa Cruz homeschooling program Alternative Family Education (AFE), back when a local K-12 administrator was trying to make some trouble about Cabrillo College classes -- fortunately the trouble went away when the administrator did!

Because the mailing-list archives are only open to subscribers, I'm putting a copy of my posting up here as well, so I can link to it from a posting about Cabrillo-related wristbands in my "Wearing my Heart on the end of my Sleeve" blog about message/awareness bracelets/wristbands.

A 2011 update: Alas, due to budget cuts Cabrillo's bus passes (which both I and my older son relied on for our general transportation needs for years) are no more, and classes have increased from $20 a unit to $36 a unit.

 [AFE_Online_Bulletin_Board] Cabrillo College classes
Tané Tachyon <>
5/20/07 1:32 PM
AFE_Online_Bulletin_Board <>

A common use for this list is to put out a good word (and some personal testimony) for a local resource or activity that has been or would be useful to AFE families. So now it shall be Cabrillo's turn.

Cabrillo offers hundreds and hundreds of classes in a very wide range of subjects, levels, and hours, with all the equipment and supplies you need, and in my experience instructors who really care about teaching and their subjects. As opposed to the cliché of the University seminars where you wind up being lectured by a grad student in a huge room full of hundreds and hundreds of students, in my experience Cabrillo classes are all small enough that you can get a lot of personal attention from the instructors.

Cabrillo classes are incredibly affordable -- only $20 a unit, and you have the option of getting a bus pass that can take care of your transportation all around Santa Cruz County for four months. With music classes (typically only one unit) in particular, it's almost like you're being paid to take the class -- instead of paying high hourly rates for expensive private lessons, the $20 unit charge plus fees plus the four-month bus pass cost less than it would cost to buy four months worth of bus passes alone from the city.

Students follow their interests and work at their own pace by taking as many or as few classes as they like, and the more popular classes are available in multiple sections on different days and at different times for ease in scheduling around the other things in their lives. They can attend the first session of a class to see what it's like and get an overview of the subject -- a good learning experience in itself even if they don't see themselves actually wanting to take the class anytime in the near future if at all. If they sign up for a class and it doesn't turn out to be a good fit for them, they can (as long as they do it in a timely fashion) drop it and get their money back, without the drop even showing up on their transcript.

Most Cabrillo classes have been certified by both the University of California and California State University systems as being equivalent to their own undergraduate classes. Along those lines, for students who are interested in doing a junior transfer to a school in the UC or Cal State systems, Cabrillo has guaranteed-transfer agreements with many of them, and counselors and advisors to help.

One topic that came up at the meeting that I would like to address is the idea that taking classes at Cabrillo College is some kind of passing fad for AFE students, is a questionable activity in terms of compatibility with homeschooling, and that taking a class at a local high school (if they let you jump through the hoops, and with no flexibility or choice in schedule) is an adequate substitute.

Cabrillo has long been a resource for AFE students. The AFE information packet I got at the first AFE meeting I ever went to (back in May 1993) recommends Cabrillo as one of many "local community resources" for families to "utilize and explore". The June 1993 AFE Newsletter talks about a trip to the Cabrillo Planetarium. In the September 1993 AFE Newsletter, the first item in the "AFE's 'How To' Column" section is "How to sign up for a Cabrillo Class". Flipping through the issues a little more, I see that the October 1995 newsletter contains an essay on homeschooling that a teenage Laura Wilson wrote for a Cabrillo English class. And so on. I also notice that the AFE's current "Links & Resources" web page has Cabrillo as the second link in the "Homeschooling Resource Links" section.

As a *community* college, Cabrillo is a resource center for the whole community. To quote the beginning of the Cabrillo Mission Statement: "The mission of Cabrillo College is to enhance the intellectual, cultural, and economic vitality of our diverse community by assisting all students in their quest for lifelong learning and success in an ever-changing world."

Cabrillo classes are a wonderful example of the "students work in mixed age groups" ideal from the AFE Mission Statement. OK, not for the youngest among us (though you could say that my son Sam's first Cabrillo class was the "Beginning Spanish" I took when I was pregnant with him), but students will find their classmates ranging in age from 13-year-old homeschoolers to grandparents. If they like, children and parents can take classes together.

There are lots of homeschoolers (including, yes, a fair number of homeschooling parents) at Cabrillo, and not just from AFE. I see homeschoolers there I know from the SLV Charter 25 homeschooling program, and in two of Sam's classes I had sat in on -- "Dance Improvisation" and "Creative Writing: Prose" -- teens I did not know introduced themselves as homeschoolers.

From what I've seen, AFE students are among the top students at Cabrillo, and the instructors just love them -- students who are there because they want to be, who are hardworking and creative, who are used to being and being treated as responsible learners in charge of their own educations, who are really outstanding in terms of class participation and maintaining good communication with the instructors. I've read an account by an AFE parent of a Cabrillo biology instructor happily saying he had really changed his mind about homeschooling when he found out that his top students were all AFE homeschoolers.

I'm sure that AFE students have found many more opportunities to distinguish themselves at Cabrillo than just the ones I know of offhand, but I can say that among other things they have -- while they were still AFE high-school students -- been president of the Cabrillo Democrats, performed in Cabrillo plays and concerts, student-taught Cabrillo classes, and had their work featured in Cabrillo art shows and displayed in the Cabrillo Gallery. I hear that for the 2007-2008 school year the Cabrillo Student Vice President will be a concurrent AFE student, and that other AFE students are expected to be members of the Student Senate.

My son Sam was in AFE all the way from K to 12, in fact he was only the second AFE student to do this. This Fall he will be attending Reed College in Oregon, and in the application essay he wrote for Reed he talked a lot about how AFE was like a family, including how this extended to Cabrillo classes -- AFE students would plan their class schedules together, study and socialize together, and generally take care of each other and make sure they all learned the material and got their work done. Talk about an ideal introduction to college-level work and preparation for a four-year college, not to mention a great source of instructor letters of recommendation to send in with your applications ...

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