Q: As a homeschool parent of an 8th-grade son who wants to be a nurse, should I let him get a degree in liberal arts now through testing out and then do the nursing degree after high school?
A: I’d continue Homeschooling for College Credit with less degree planning and more diploma planning. High school really is the time to dream big and explore, there’s no reason your son can’t become a nurse, but rushing into a degree will ultimately undermine his success because it requires you to jump through hoops that will only get him closer to a degree instead of his REAL goal. That’s my sincere opinion, of course, you should do what you think is best.
Without knowing your state, I’ll just operate under the assumption that you have full curricular control. If that’s true, I’d suggest a Language Arts at grade level (all college majors and career occupations require a grasp of the English language in some regard), a math at grade level (no need to go higher than Algebra 2 if he’s struggling- it’s better to have EXCELLENT algebra mastery, even if that means taking Algebra 1 and 2 over 4 years instead of 2), and a good amount of science. Science can be at high school or college level, since the difference is negligible. Biology, chemistry, and physical science are the typical high school subjects, but your son might enjoy different sequence, something like biology, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and genetics. Those would absolutely be better aligned to his current interests!
Those 3 will keep him on track with academic progress, and if there are special interests, add those in, too. If your city offers dual enrollment options, he can kill two birds with one stone, but also don’t disregard the adult education catalog. When I was a teen, some of my favorite classes were through the community college studying chocolate, cake decorating, and others – they were non-credit (didn’t count toward my degree) but monumentally significant in my decision to pursue culinary school. In your son’s case, depending on his age, they may offer health occupation options like a nursing assistant or similar. Dipping his toe into those topics and perhaps even some volunteer work at a hospital (or job shadow) will allow him to decide if he’s up for the hard work of nursing school. I like the courses he’s considering, keep in mind those are allied health courses, so perfect for exploration, not perfect for degree completion. If he does one or two and that seals the deal- he wants to be a nurse, both of you can meet with the nursing advisor or attend an info session to find out which courses they’d like him to do in high school.
It’s true that nursing is competitive, but so what. It’s not “Harvard-competitive” where fewer than 10% who want it get in, it’s more like 50% competitive- he can do it if he’s dedicated. And there’s really no point in adding a bachelor’s degree in front of someone at his age. One degree will do. Give him a good high school education and remove barriers to things that get in the way of his good high school education. You can find classes, pay the bills, write the transcript, etc. All of those allow him the pleasure of thinking about his future. You can even inject CLEP exams, but I’d strongly suggest these not be in the sciences because that’s usually not acceptable in anything healthcare-related. Keep them in the electives (literature, computers, business, etc) or basic core subjects (math, history, psychology, etc.)
Finally, if you haven’t already, be sure to thoroughly investigate the laws of your state and be sure you’re in full compliance. I strongly suggest joining HSLDA if you’re in a state that is tricky. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, so you want to be sure his high school graduation requirements are met and his diploma is considered official. That task falls on the parents.