(Be sure to catch the AMAZING giveaway we have going on at the bottom of this post!! It’s only good for a limited time so check it out now!!)
Getting your teen started in life planning
The hardest part of this process is getting started. Respecting your teen’s input and independence is crucial. In the end, they will be responsible for their life, but we can resource and equip them for the journey. Creating an overall 4-year plan for high school is a great way to start. Of course, expect twists and turns along the way, but having a clear path, to begin with, will give you a simple guide that can be easily modified.
When talking about your child’s future, it’s very easy to share your own career story. It’s also easy to over plan for your child without letting them give input into their hopes and goals after graduation. On the other hand, a teen’s “I don’t know what I’m doing next” is a cry for structuring in the decision process. How do you give them this balance of independence and structure?
With your kids, come up with a list of things your student loves to do or study. Don’t edit as you brainstorm that defeats the purpose of brainstorming. The sky is the limit. The power and purpose of brainstorming is not to be practical; it’s to generate ideas.
Use a graphic organizer or a mind map, if that will be helpful to you. Get a big whiteboard and add to it over several days.
What are some great sources for brainstorming?
What are your child’s favorite books, movies, and TV series? Many young kids are discovering interests based on T.V. shows. NCIS has generated an entire group of students fascinated by Forensic Science.
What does your student do in their free time? My history loving, botany loving gardener, has been thinking about paleoethnobotany since our visit to Mt. Vernon.
Youtube is an excellent source of recorded interviews of professionals explaining their careers and talking about how they got where they are at today. Check out our friend Alex Steele for inspiration on many levels.
Take steps to help your high-schooler find a post-graduation plan: are they work, vo-tech or college/ university-bound, military, marriage, or entrepreneurs?
Brainstorm and make a game of researching options
Explore job -shadowing and volunteering. Kids may discover areas of interest they didn’t even know existed. They may also find that they dislike certain things. A friend of ours was totally sold on Forensic Science as a Career until they job shadowed at a Mortuary.
Research Clubs, Activities, Camps in areas of interest to build skills and explore jobs.
Think about Test Prep. Test scores can make or break scholarship and career opportunities.
Need more great tips on life planning for your home-school high school student? Our Orienteering Course is specifically designed to help students take ownership for high school and beyond! Check out our other career planning posts.
Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for, our High School Life Planning Giveaway! You can win one full year of a live, online writing club; our Surviving High School Ebook, or a FREE Academic Advising session. Don’t wait, enter this one today!
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!
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