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!
Many people use the terms work, job, career, and vocation interchangeably. While it’s true that each involves working and a wage, having a career and vocation means more than just a paycheck. They describe a type of work where your passion, purpose, skills, and the marketplace collide. In the words of theologian Frederick Buechner, “Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.”
While some students seem destined for a particular vocation at an early age, it is common for today’s students to near high school graduation without a plan. Parents can encourage informed early-career-direction decisions. It starts with helping teens identify who God made them be, then supporting them as they explore occupations, and finally, helping them to develop goals and create an action plan. By partnering with and encouraging them in this important decision, they can then graduate from high school with a vision for their future.
Help an Undecided Student Build Identity
Nothing is more foundational than being rooted in Christ. Assisting teens in forging strong, positive identities is one way to help them form convictions based on truth, and then stand firm in them regardless of what everyone else does. Google “Who I am in Christ.” Print and review as a family. Emphasize that work is part of God’s plan and that He designed them for a purpose.
Be generous with your praise, affirming skills and natural abilities you have observed.
Ask questions that help identify likes and dislikes and what is important: What kinds of interactions energize you or drain you? Do you like to work with facts and data, or do you prefer people-oriented activities? Do your decisions tend to be objective and logic-based, or are your decisions based on how they may impact others? Do you like to talk out your ideas, or do you prefer time alone to make decisions?
Encourage busy teens to enjoy downtime, which can strengthen their creativity and problem-solving skills. Schedule time to pursue hobbies and to invest in electives, sports, and other team activities that build skills and reveal interests.
Explore Career Options
A better motto than “You can be anything you want to be” is “Be all you can be!”
Researching careers online will help teens better understand occupational profiles that match their interests and personalities. Set a goal for how many careers to research. Information should include primary duties, the education or skills needed for working in that field, work environment, and median wage. Discuss the findings. Check out CareerOneStop.org.
Utilizing a career assessment tool at about the age of 16 may further identify vocations that match God-given interests. Informal assessments are readily available on the web. These are self-interpreted and can lack reliability so are best used to generate discussion. Fee-based or formal assessments are more comprehensive and statistically validated. A trained career counselor can interpret the results to identify best-fit careers and college options. Look for a comprehensive assessment that covers the four components of vocational design: personality, interests, skills and abilities, and values. Check out CareerDirect.org.
Good career planning includes building curiosity and excitement toward participating in the marketplace. Use your networks to make introductions to people in occupations that interest them and match their vocational design. Thinking about a career sector rather than a specific occupation will generate a bigger list of options that match their interests. Encourage them to prepare a list of questions by Googling “informational interview.” Practice interview skills to improve their confidence level.
Take advantage of the flexible schedule of homeschooling. Facilitate opportunities to learn outside of the classroom through part-time work, volunteering, and job shadowing. This will help confirm interests as well as build a resume with skills that employer value.
By integrating the gathered information and identifying the education, training, and skills needed for the career sectors, plans and goals can be determined. Don’t worry about choosing one specific occupation at this stage. Goals can be categorized into one of these five pathways: four-year STEM-related college degree; four-year liberal arts college degree; two-year vocational degree or certificate; apprenticeship training, military, or workforce; and gap year or travel.
Teens who have a healthy and productive level of guidance and support from their parents have a much better chance of making good college and career choices. Here are some questions to think about: Which post-secondary institutions offer the programs needed? What is the cost for completion? How will it be funded? Can affordable or free college credits be earned in high school? What are the prerequisites or admission requirements? What courses should be completed during high school? Besides education, what experiences or skills would be valued? Together, you can develop a plan for high school, aligning them to support post-graduation goals.
Many students are more motivated in their studies when they have a defined purpose and have set personal goals. Those who write down their goals are 50% more likely to achieve them. Work to break down their goals into specific, manageable tasks with timelines for completion. Change is constant, so capitalize on preparations for success after high school, no matter what they choose to pursue.
Cheri Frame is a homeschool parent of three graduates, a certified Career Direct® Consultant, and author of Credits Before College: A Comprehensive High School to Graduation Guide. She specializes in advising parents and students on how to earn affordable college credits in high school, choose a career, and graduate college debt free. Cheri and her husband live in suburban Minneapolis.
Register Now for High School Fall 2019 -2020 Full Year Classes =1 High School Credit. We do the teaching AND the grading for you! If history repeats itself, I am so getting a dinosaur! Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. Benjamin...
Academic Advising Are you overwhelmed, confused or frustrated by the thought of homeschooling, especially as you tackle the high school years and beyond? Our Academic Advising takes the worry out of Homeschooling so you can enjoy the process! What you’ll receive: A...
Strictly Necessary Cookies
Strictly Necessary Cookie should be enabled at all times so that we can save your preferences for cookie settings.
If you disable this cookie, we will not be able to save your preferences. This means that every time you visit this website you will need to enable or disable cookies again.
3rd Party Cookies
This website uses Google Analytics to collect anonymous information such as the number of visitors to the site, and the most popular pages.
Keeping this cookie enabled helps us to improve our website.
Please enable Strictly Necessary Cookies first so that we can save your preferences!