(The following is a guest post from Lolita, a content strategist at Praxis.)
You’re probably not thinking about your career seriously yet. You’re not alone.
Many teens push professional goals aside and just focus on getting through high school. Then college time hits and they’re left with just focusing on getting through college. After that? You guessed it. They just get through work, left wondering what they missed in high school and college.
Your professional life doesn’t have to be boring and life-sucking. In fact, it should be fun.
Want to accelerate your career? Start today to set yourself apart.
The coolest thing about these ideas is they don’t change depending on where you’re going to college or what your major is. They don’t change if you’re wanting to take a gap year or skip college, either.
I’ve linked these ideas to lots of outside resources so you can do some more research and follow the ideas wherever they lead you (because it’s no fun to follow anyone’s advice verbatim!)
Teach yourself an instrument. (Don’t get a teacher. Learn it yourself.)
Build a website. No one else has a personal website at your age! Document your high school experience and your projects there!
Teach someone else a skill. What better way to pass on what you know?
Learn a skill set that is uncommon today. Study something like blacksmithing or knitting.
Blog every day for a month. See if it won’t change your writing skills.
Do anything every day for a month. You’d be surprised at the skills you build by sticking to something for thirty days.
Set your goals in 30-day segments. Want to learn something new? Build a 30-day project around that goal.
Read x amount every single day. Instead of setting a huge goal of reading a certain amount of books, start small. Read 30 pages every day, or 20, or 10: whatever you feel you can handle. 20 pages per day is 140 pages per week. That’s a small book’s amount! Besides, once you get started reading, you’re more likely to keep going.
Complete a short course that’s relevant to your career interests. Places like Udemy have great courses that can help you expand your mind and build new skills!
Go to conferences. Meet up with other people that think like you. Challenge your mind to think outside the box. Build your network young!
Volunteer. There are hundreds of ways you can give back to your community and invest in yourself at the same time!
Get a part-time job. Nothing will give you better experience than working in the market and making money for it.
Find a mentor. Do you have big goals or ideas? Find someone ahead of you in those goals and learn from them. Better yet, do some free work for them and show them how much their advice matters to you.
Start a podcast. Want to share your ideas with the world? It’s not hard to get started podcasting! You’ll build public speaking and content creation skills to boot.
Hey, I’m Lolita, content strategist at Praxis and lifelong learner. I was homeschooled for most of my high school experience; I spent a lot of that time running a small business raising dogs. I’m a guinea pig of all the ideas I mentioned above. You can follow me on Quora, where I dive into writing answers for fun. Check out my Instagram, where I’ve challenged myself to do things like a streak of daily polaroids. I tweet sometimes here, and post about my work on Facebook here. My email is email@example.com and I’m always excited to talk about education, career success, and big ideas!
If you’ve homeschooled for any length of time, you’ve heard the question, “But, what about high school?” or “How will they ever get into college?” They don’t understand that you don’t really teach high school, but rather you become their guidance counselor. You choose or help your students, select curriculum, books to read, or even help them find co-op classes or a few online live courses where they learn subjects like Algebra, Latin, or history from a more learned teacher.
When starting my research on homeschooling high school, everyone’s advice seemed to have to do with getting the students into college. Teens take courses to prepare themselves for the college entrance exams, the ACT and the SAT, they volunteer in the community, participate in sports, and they might even earn a few college credits all to appease those college admission counselors. I started to wonder how hard it could be to “get in?” And although I’m in no hurry to rush them off into a college classroom and or onto a college campus, couldn’t they just start by taking some classes while in high school? What about college-level exams?
The first time I learned about CLEP exams, College Level Examination Program, my understanding was that they were a great way to prove your student had taken courses with academic rigor and that they had mastery of the material they had studied. Honestly, I didn’t know if my bright, but mostly average kids could pass a college-level exam. I had also heard horror stories of kids earning multiple college credits from one source or another, later to learn their student’s college of choice would never accept the credits. I was skeptical.
CLEP Exams can save time and money!
My research quickly led me to some astonishing information. While watching a wonderful webinar by Becky Muldrow of Dual Credit at Home, I learned that not only are homeschool high school students passing these exams and earning college credit, they are also earning associate degrees, and some are earning four year Bachelor degrees.
They are doing it for a small fraction of the cost of attending a brick and mortar school. There are accredited colleges that accept many college credits via college equivalency exams, dual credit exams, and more! Consider Liberty University, which accepts 75% of 120 credits needed for most bachelor’s degree as transfer credits. Three colleges, known as “The Big Three,” accept almost all credits via transfer. Charter Oak State College, a regionally accredited online college, accepts 114 transfer credits. They offer Bachelor degrees that, if carefully planned, can be obtained for less than $6,000! Our college funds are currently pretty small. However, if we can combine college and high school at the same time, I believe they can finish their undergraduate degree debt-free.
Planning is Key
When planning to do college and high school simultaneously, it’s important to plan well. You want to make sure your student meets at least your state’s homeschool high school requirements if any. You also need to know the transfer policies at the college your student plans to complete their studies with. Most of the general education or lower-level classes needed for a Bachelor degree are the same subject high school students study. Your student will study subjects at a high school level, add in some extra study and then take and pass a 90-120 minute college-level exam which helps them bank college credit and you can issue them high school credit for their time and effort while studying to learn the material.
Our CLEP Exam Journey Begins
Not one to enjoy wasting time or money and enjoying a good challenge, I plunged in with this journey last fall, my twins’ Freshman year of high school. I recommend starting with a subject your student enjoys as your first exam. For our boys, it was US History, and I had already planned to have them study this subject. They began high school history, Omnibus III from Veritas Press in the fall. They did extra studying using Quizlet’s free games, and online flashcards with Speedyprep (HSLDA offers members a discount for Speedyprep.) By February, they were ready to take the plunge and just see how the testing would go with CLEP US History I.
Our First Test!
The staff was quiet and calm when we arrived, and all eyes were on us as they noticed the ages of our kids. They asked if we knew these were college-level exams and there was no guarantee of passing. We paid the $25 proctor fee, per test; fees vary among testing centers. The boys were sent into the testing room and out of my line of sight.
I waited in the lobby for the first hour of the 90-minute exam and returned to wait for the rest of the time in the small testing office just outside the exam room. The receptionist asked where the boys went to school and how old they were. She said quietly, “Oh, I see. Well, a passing score is 50, for most colleges, and we typically see scores just under that or slightly over. Occasionally, someone studies hard and manages a score in the 60’s.”
I told her that I honestly, just wanted them to pass. These exams are pass or fail, and at most schools, will not earn a grade. Ten minutes later, our son Luke emerged from the exam room with a large smile on his face. The receptionist took his printed score off the printer and said, “Nice job, young man!” as she mouthed the words “Seventy-one!” to her co-workers. Two other staff members came out from behind their cubicles to congratulate them. They also asked about homeschooling and when we planned to return for the next test! In the meantime, our other son completed his test with a respectable 68! We were elated.
Banking College Credits
Since then, they have banked 12 college credits by passing the Civil War and Reconstruction DSST, which is another college exam worth a 400 level college history course at most schools that accept CLEP, the CLEP American Government, and CLEP US History II. They could also take CLEP American History, which we plan to take next year, which will earn 3-6 credits depending on the transfer school.
Day to day while preparing for an exam and doing high school? We are currently working on studying a few high school classes, like Algebra II and Spanish, plus one exam at a time. On an average day during this past spring, they would spend an hour doing their high school level history curriculum, thirty minutes practicing online flashcards with SpeedyPrep or Instantcert, around 45 minutes watching videos reviewing the material with Study.com, and around 15 minutes doing the review questions from the free membership with Modern States.
After completing the courses with Modern States, they offer a free voucher to pay for the $89 CLEP exam and will even reimburse the proctor fee. They offer this to the first 10,000 students to apply each year.) After getting through the Study.com videos, about three weeks per exam, they would spend a week doing practice tests from either Peterson’s or REA and reviewing any areas they were weak in and then they took the exam. The practice exams were equal to or harder than the actual exam. It is a lot of work. Some subjects will require more time for us. But their success has motivated us to press forward.
Planning for Success
Our son, Luke, has zeroed in on a Bachelor degree in Government with a concentration in Policy and Politics from Liberty University Online. They accept up to 90 credits of the 120 needed for a degree to be transfer credits. Because several CLEP exams are worth 6 credits and some language exams are worth up to 12 credits, I believe they can finish all of their general education credits within the next year. We won’t have Luke actually apply to Liberty until he has earned around 80 credits including all of his general education credits which he will earn through these examinations.
During high school, he also plans to volunteer or intern for a non-profit lobbying group which defends school choice, life, and the freedom of religion. Our son Grant is working on his general education requirements and considering all his options including aviation, biology, or cartography. They are working hard toward their goals to complete high school along with a degree at the same time or shortly after and are already eager to work in an area of their interests to make a difference. We’re enjoying the ride.
(Are you interested in CLEP courses for your high school student? Check out our CLEP Prep Course offerings at True North Homeschool Academy.)
As homeschooling parents, we are called upon to choose curriculum, teach the kids, keep track of credits and graduation requirements and guide our kids to a successful launch. We are the school board, administration, academic advisor and teacher, all rolled into one.
It can be difficult to do all of that on one’s own. I’ve heard several times on homeschooling forums and message boards who state that their parents didn’t help them navigate college or career and they came out just fine. And while I do believe that resiliency and grit are often overlooked and possibly under-expected, I caution parents against leaving their kids to figure it out on their own for two compelling reasons.
Time and Money
The average student in American is graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in 6 years instead of 4 with $37,000 in debt. Couple that with the fact that only about half of all students who enter college complete it and you could have a very expensive recipe for disaster.
Hacking High School for Future Success
The savvy homeschooler will view homeschooling high school as the opportunity for two things:
Time to explore new opportunities and options
Time to prepare for a successful launch
When I am putting together our “school” for each school year I am thinking about academics. I am also thinking about extra-curricular, camps, internships, sports, clubs and other possibilities. I am thinking about how my kids are developing and growing in unique areas (developing their “otherliness”), how to develop their professionalism in specific areas of interest, what kind of personality skills or traits that they need shoring up on, or natural areas of ability that can be further developed.
Why hire someone when you can DIY Homeschool Academic Advising?
So, what does this have to do with Homeschool Academic Advising? Many, if not most, homeschooling parents short change the high school years. They under-credit what they have done, don’t know where to invest time and energy based on students interests or callings because they are worried about what a transcript “should” look like. They tend to forget to think about things like camps, awards, sports, roles, responsibilities, and community service.
That’s where a seasoned Academic Advisor is helpful.
I see the credits you overlook because it’s your normal. For example, I recently worked with a high school student who basically flunked most of last year’s courses. After digging a bit deeper I discovered that he had extensive camping and fishing experience – like he provides fresh fish each year for more than one family; has hundreds of hours of Community Service (mowing and plowing his Grandmas and neighbors driveways and walks) works full time laying fiber optic cable (because he has such an amazing work ethic and is a responsible worker), and has re-built a diesel engine for the truck he bought with cash that he’d earned watching YouTube videos.
Along with identifying a processing disorder and getting him the academic help he needed, I was able to create a transcript for him that reflected the hard working, high PIQ (Performance IQ), kind and generous young man he was. Additionally, we were able to lay out a doable plan that will get him the professional certification he needs in life to earn the kind of money he should, given his abilities, despite academic struggles.
Similarly, I worked with a family earlier this year who has hopes of graduating from college while still in their teens. This student has the intellectual capability of doing just that but he is also very interested in going into an art field, doing creative, free-lance work. His Personalized Learning Plan included CLEP and Dual Enrollment classes. These classes were coupled along with developing an online presence, going to professional conferences, developing his artistic abilities, and going to graduate school in a location that would allow him to create the best connections possible.
Story Telling and the Art of High School & Career Counseling
Here’s the deal. At heart, I’m a writer, a teller of stories. I love listening to people, hearing their hearts and learning about the story they’ve lived so far and the story that God is writing. From there it’s easy to create an Action Plan that makes sense, to resource the students and parents with camps, classes, competitions, books and ideas to make the story they are living be cost and time effective and lead to success.
Whether you have a fast burner or struggling learner- We Can Help!
Whether your student is on a fast track or struggling to just keep going, we can help. We have worked with homeschooled students from around the world for many years- from profoundly gifted to disabled. Along the way, we’ve mentored everyone from Olympic hopefuls to kids who use P.T. for PE credit. We have helped kids go on to Internships, the military, community college, State and Christian colleges as well as Ivy League schools. Every student has a story and we would be honored to work alongside you to help write the next amazing chapter!
Testing often gets a bad rap in the homeschooling world. Could it be that we are trying to create space for our kids to be free and expressive, without the constraints of externally imposed values?
I want to take a moment to advocate for testing our homeschoolers- especially as they begin looking at the big, “what are you going to do with your life” type of questions.
Testing could and may determine a lot of things for your kids, such as what career they are eligible for if they go into the military, what college or university they get accepted to, how much debt they take out for vocational training post high school, what graduate schools and internships they are eligible for and more. Furthermore, tests can indicate disabilities and allow parents and advisors to seek out services and that can enable students to succeed where they might otherwise fail, or get certifications and training that wouldn’t be possible for them without accommodations.
While test taking might seem like a way to pigeon hole our kids, in many ways, their future will be impacted by their ability to take tests well. Some kids are naturally good test takers; some are not.
A general high school test schedule might look like the following:
High School Testing – 10th Grade
PSAT-The PSAT is a qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program. Each year the top 1% of 11th grade PSAT takers become semi-finalists. This is also considered a PSAT prep test.
ACT/SAT Test Prep – These tests attempt to measure college readiness and predict future success. Familiarity with each test and understanding test strategies (should you guess at questions to answer them or is it better to leave questions you aren’t sure about unanswered, etc.) will improve test scores, and many test-prep guides suggest doing at least three practice tests to ensure your best score.
The ACT – The ACT measures what a student already knows and will have learned throughout high school. Research indicates that 50% of those who re-take the ACT a second time improve their scores
The SAT – The SAT is a predictor of what the student is capable of. It deals with material that the student may not have learned in high school. There is no evidence that re-taking the SAT improves scores.
Students can take the ACT and SAT multiple times as long as they pay the exam fee.
High School Testing – 10th-12th Grade
AP Exams (Advanced Placement)- Colleges and Universities may or may not accept AP tests for credits/ Classes
CLEP exams (College Level Exam Placement) Students can begin taking CLEP exams as early as they want. CLEP tests scores can be “banked” for many years, but not all colleges and universities may accept CLEP tests for Credits/ classes.
High School Testing – 11th & 12th Grade
ACT– 11th & 12th
PSAT/ NMSQT, or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test)– This test unlocks millions of dollars in scholarship money for qualifying students. Additionally, it can be a good indicator of how well students will perform on the SAT.
What about testing for military enlistment?
ASVAB Test – This test is given before joining the military (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery). This one is a skills discovery test.
What about testing for Community College?
What if your student has plans to go to the local Community College instead of college or military? Will they be required to take the ACT/ SAT? Probably not, unless they want to Dual Enroll as a high schooler, in which case, they may need to take a standardized test. Otherwise, a high school transcript or a GED should suffice.
Having a general idea of what your student wants to do after high school can help you determine what tests to take and what test schedule makes the most sense for you.
I love working with parents of tweens and teens to develop a Personalized Learning Plan for their Jr and Sr High School years. High School should be a time when students are considering and exploring opportunities, being exposed to possibilities, and honing their work ethic, academic and skill sets. During this time they should begin career exploration.
For many parents, it can be overwhelming to think about covering all the basis for High school, let alone start thinking about what comes next. But, when I am working with families during Academic Advising sessions, I always start with where the students/parents think the young adult will end up after high school. Will they go to college, go to work, go to an apprenticeship, a ministry or the military?
Answers to these career exploration questions will help determine the course students should take during high school.
For instance, if a student or parent is relatively certain that their student wants to go military enlisted right out of high school, and the sooner, the better, I would advise them differently than if they wanted to go to a Military Academy. Their high school programs will look a lot different, even though a rigorous Physical Education program would be recommended for both.
If a student thinks they want to go into a Creative Field, like Writing or Movie Production, I will advise them to begin building their online presence as soon as possible, with either a blog or a YouTube channel, along with opportunities and classes that will develop their skills, along with their Transcript.
They are hired for their hard skills and fired for their soft skills
Of course, not every student is going to know what they want to do “when they grow up.” The reality is that many of them are probably going to be doing a LOT of different things as the Bureau of Labor Statistics points out. Most young adults should expect to have over 14 jobs during their vocational life-time. This statistic indicates that young adults need training in the soft skills of adaptability, flexibility, critical thinking, and so much more! Focusing on life skills such is always a good idea; if your kids are flexible, good communicators and know how to learn, they’ll go far regardless of what career field they go into!
For Career Exploration, think in terms of Career Clusters
With the changing world, and having to prepare our kids for jobs that may not even exist, focusing on career clusters, rather than a specific career, is a more logical way to approach career exploration. The following are Career Clusters, as defined by the Bureau of Labor:
Do you still need more career exploration? Try clubs, camps, jobs, and internships!
Exposing young adults to clubs, camps, jobs, and internships might spark an interest that takes them in crazy directions. Both of our sons have done internships for our State’s Family Heritage Council in the State Capital during Legislative Sessions. While this hasn’t led directly to a job, per se, it has exposed them to policy-making, lobbying, connections around the state, allowed them to rub shoulders with men and women with an incredible work ethic and led to other internships and opportunities. These kinds of opportunities also give our kids the confidence to do the next big thing.
Still need more help?
What if your student can’t decide on what’s next? Check out our Academic Advising program, where you’ll get help not only creating a Personalized Learning Plan for High School, but suggestions and curriculum for career exploration and development. Our Survive Homeschooling High school E-book, is full of resources to kick start what’s next brainstorming. We also offer an Orienteering course which will allow the student to take responsibility for their career exploration with plenty of surveys, brainstorming, discussion, practical tips, and more!
Are you teaching soft skills and career readiness in your homeschool?
A well-known adage in the business world is, “You’re hired for your hard skills, you’re fired for your soft skills.”
Hard skills are those easily measurable and defined skills, like the ability to create an excellent PowerPoint, program a computer, speak a foreign language, or re-build a diesel engine. Soft skills are less quickly defined, perhaps, and can also go by power skills or personality traits. Soft skills are things like your ability to communicate effectively, work on a team, use critical thinking, and live and play with integrity.
Why are soft skills just as, if not more important, than hard skills in today’s quickly changing job market? Hard skills are easily taught through classes or training, but no amount of technical knowledge can make up for lack of integrity or work ethic.
What does this mean for us as homeschooling parents?
In the same way, we spend time, money, and effort looking for the all elusive perfect math curriculum; we should be strategizing ways to help develop our kids’ soft skills.
These skills include things such as:
Now how do we focus on teaching Soft Skills?
Communication goes hand in hand with academics as we teach our kids to write and speak well. A robust writing curriculum works best in a group setting, in my opinion, where kids are required to read their writing out loud and give and take feedback from teachers and fellow students.
A solid Speech and Debate class or regular presentations or recitations will help develop communication skills as well.
Working on teams, be they sports or academic is a great way to develop teamwork. Your student can learn collaboration skills by getting a job or volunteering or even working with parents and fellow students on projects and events. Also doing simple things, like yard work with your family can require you to develop teamworking skills. Here students learn essential tactics such as communicating clearly, listening well, and doing tasks they wish were delegated to others.
Perplexors, or logic puzzles, are a super fun way to develop deductive reasoning skills. Parents also need to ensure that their students use a solid math and science curriculum. Lego League, Odyssey of the Mind, National History Day and Science Fair Competitions all demand and develop critical thinking skills in a fun and challenging way. Don’t overlook learning Logic- both informal and formal –a tremendous critical thinking training tool.
In my mind, nothing develops creativity better than actually being creative regularly. Take part in daily or weekly writing, painting, drawing challenges, start a blog, take up photography. Students can even join our Writing and Art Clubs. Here students set their own goals (developing critical thinking), get regular prompts, assessments, and challenges. Most importantly, kids are inspired by each other!
In today’s job market, flexibility and adaptability are more important than ever! Today’s students will probably have around 15 jobs during their working life span. Many of them which will probably be Independent Contractors, collaborating with teams from around the world. This global market makes flexibility and adaptability more crucial than ever! Learningforeign language, religions and culture, travel, and campaigning are all excellent ways to develop these areas. Reading about history, and understanding geography allows us to take into account different times, people, and places, which in turn gives us a broader perspective.
The best way to teach work ethic is by having your kids work. Work alongside them and teach them the value of work. Tie their work to meaning, so it doesn’t seem like a time waste. Have them do chores, and contribute to the family in significant ways. For example, setting the table, vacuuming, taking out the trash, etc. They can even work on larger projects, like painting the living room or laying a brick wall. Work can take on many forms, and the academic work of powering through a tough logic curriculum or winning a medal on the Latin National Exam should not be overlooked.
Teach your kids to use planners and daytimers from an early age. Have family planning meetings weekly, so kids get a big picture overview of what is happening in the lives of their families. Teach your kids to SMART goals and how to prioritize so that they can meet their goals.
Have filters and timers on electronics with an electronic free day each week. Use your electronics as tools that you manage, so that your kids aren’t hindered or addicted to them — place parameters around what happens when. For example, you can set between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. as electronic free, because that time is for sleeping. Turn off the wifi, take the phones, and make sure your kids get the right amount of sleep. Their ability to set and accomplish goals will be so much more doable on a good nights sleep. Teach your kids media etiquette(netiquette).
Integrity is all about character. I talked in one of our podcasts about how when my Grandpa shook your hand, it was going to happen, even if it cost him. My Grandpa’s word and commitment was a binding agreement, in his mind, and he would do what it took to make sure he could follow through on whatever he’d agreed to. Telling the truth, showing up, creating and keeping commitments, understanding limits (yours and others) these are all marks of integrity.
We’ve done in-depth Bible studies with our kids from the time they were very young. These studies, along with in-depth history studies, have allowed us to talk about what has worked and what hasn’t in life. Teach your kids empathy; have them get involved in serving others. Develop Grit goals so that your kids can learn to persevere through difficulties, hardship, and trials. Teach your kids to pray and give them living examples of what it means to live our faith out loud.
There’s a lot to think about as you train and educate your kids. It doesn’t have to be either or as we teach our kids hard skills and soft skills- take an integrated approach and use academics to teach soft skills! Not sure where to start? Our Academic Advising program can help!
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