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:
- Agriculture, food, and natural resources
• Architecture and construction
• Arts, audio/video technology, and communications
• Business management and administration
• Education and training
• Government and public administration
• Health science
• Hospitality and tourism
• Human services
• Information technology
• Law, public safety, corrections, and security
• Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics
• Transportation, distribution, and logistics
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:
- Critical Thinking
- Work Ethic
- Time/Distraction Management
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! Learning foreign 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!
(For more information on teaching soft skills to your students check out our Podcast – Soft Skills 101 from the Ultimate Homeschool Radio Network.)
Would you love to create a unique and much-needed addition to your homeschool group or co-op? Plan and host a homeschool college and career fair for your group! This will be my fourth year creating this one of a kind experience for our local teens. So I am going to share with you all the details on planning a homeschool college and career fair for YOUR group!
Why Your Group Needs a Homeschool College and Career Fair
When you decide to homeschool, you take on a weighty load. Being responsible for your child’s education can be fraught with moments of mom guilt and worry that you are going to ruin your child.
Then you do something even crazier! You decide to homeschool during the high school years. Keeping records, choosing the best curriculum for the right year, and making sure you cover all the correct course takes over your thoughts. In the midst of all this stress, it can be easy to see “completing high school” as the ultimate goal. In reality, though, finishing high school is only part of the puzzle. We are also preparing our teens for the next step – post graduate education and/or career development.
Part of the reason I went forward with planning a homeschool college and career fair for my homeschool group was an awareness about our tendencies as homeschoolers to move career development to the back burner. And I get it! It can be challenging enough accomplishing everything that needs to be covered by our student for a high school diploma.
The other reason I created a homeschool college and career fair is that I am just a little passionate (read obsessed) with seeing people connect with their interests. That amazing moment when a person connects with the “right” job, receiving energy from a day’s work is amazing!
6 Benefits to Planning a College and Career Fair
There are some amazing benefits to a local homeschool college and career fair!
- The fair can be tailored to the specific needs of homeschoolers.
- Parents and teens can begin identifying schools of interest as they talk to colleges, asking questions.
- Parents can also gain a lot of knowledge on important dates, ACT/SAT, financial aid, the application process, and dual enrollment.
- It is a fun evening hanging out with friends and listening to speakers making career development less intimidating for teens.
- Students are exposed to a wide variety of careers, increasing the likelihood of sparking interest in a certain career field.
- Colleges are given the opportunity to witness first-hand the caliber of homeschool students.
Planning a Homeschool College and Career Fair
A homeschool college and career night, while a lot of leg work, is completely doable and fun for any homeschool group. Our homeschool group has around 100 families in a small Midwestern town, just to give you an idea of our size and budget, or should I say, lack of budget 🙂
The College and Career Fair has two elements that have made it an event that lots of families attend and teens request!
Local Colleges Are Invited to the Fair
First, the college aspect of the fair. One element to the fair is asking local colleges to come. Any college within an hour is typically happy to come. I started with a larger Christian college and our local community colleges the first year as they were the most receptive. The military is often thrilled to have the opportunity to attend too. Began making your phone calls several months prior so that you can get on the college and university’s calendars
Our event is the last week of February, and I start making phone calls in the fall.
By planning out several months ahead and speaking of our past attendance, I was able to draw more colleges in the second and third year.
Allow Colleges to Set up Tables and Speak at Break Out Sessions
Colleges are eager to have opportunities to speak so that makes your job easier. The evening is broken into various sessions and two tracks: Parent Track and Teen Track. Different colleges are invited to speak to the parents (teens are welcome to join, of course) on topics like how to apply to college, financial aid, scholarships or taking college classes while still in high school programs.
Having colleges speak on various topics works well for two reasons. Parents are more eager to attend if they believe that they can receive lots of information in one evening. And colleges are happy to put your fair on their list to gain the opportunity for a roomful of an engaged group of parents and teens.
Sweeten the deal by allowing colleges to set up booths where teens and parents can stop and ask questions before and after sessions.
Invite Local Career Professionals to College Fair to Speak with Teens
The other part of the program, Teen Track, is geared to the teens. For the “career” part of the evening, local professionals are invited to come and speak about their chosen career field. We include 7th grade and up, though you will find the younger siblings that come along are almost more excited!
Professionals share with the teens what a typical day looks like and what some of their duties are. Teen Track speakers also share characteristics or personality types that seem to thrive in that career field and education routes. Career speakers may also choose to share salary, perks of the job and some NOT so great things about the job.
How Do I Get Speakers to Come to a Homeschool College Night?
Most homeschool groups are run on a tiny budget. So how do you get speakers to come?
Some speakers will be compensated by their job because some public relation work is required of them. So several speakers will jump at the chance to talk to an interested audience while fulfilling the required hours.
Other speakers will just want to help out since they LOVE to talk about their job and want others to know about it.
Utilize parents in your homeschool group and homeschool graduates. Brainstorm with another homeschool parent about the parents and careers that are represented in your group. Invite some of your homeschool graduates to come back and speak too! You will be surprised when you start thinking about how many people you know that have interesting jobs!:)
Also, think about people you go to church with as they are a great resource too.
Another incentive is the opportunity to connect with families and advertise their business. If a speaker has a business allow them to hand out their literature to those in their group. Once we invited a local lawyer who was running for judge. He spoke on being a lawyer but also did a little campaigning! Worked for everybody! Another speaker was writing a Bible study manual. She taught about writing and self-publishing while sharing how to purchase her book. Win, Win!
If you are a personality test junkie like myself you realize that some personalities are drawn to certain jobs. So don’t worry about having every job represented. But do try to think do I have a job that a “creative” might like or a teen that is gifted in “leadership” will find interesting.
Discovering Your God-Given Gifts by Don and Katie Fortune covers the spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible and has served as a rich resource when thinking of job “types” to include at the fair.
Discovering Your God-Given Gifts has also been such a blessing when it comes to volunteering in the community and in the local church. You began to see others and their gifts in a whole new light that makes it easier to work with others and appreciate their gifts.
What The Homeschool College and Career Fair Schedule May Look Like
For our homeschool college fair evening, we split it into 4 sessions. When the teens arrive they receive a schedule of the speakers with a brief biography of the speakers on the back. Each speaker talks for two 25 minute sessions, unless they can only do one session. Typically, the teens will have 4 different speakers to choose from for each session.
The evening moves quickly! Prep your speakers beforehand that you will have to stop them after 25 minutes to give the kids time to move to the next class. Speakers may share their business information, if they so choose, to allow an interested teen to contact them with questions or set up a job shadow!
Planning a homeschool college and career fair is so rewarding! Parents, teens and even the speakers all reap the benefits from this amazing evening. If you are feeling led to create a homeschool college fair, step out in faith. And I hope by sharing, you realize how doable it is for your homeschool group! Comment below with any questions!
(Need more great advice about preparing your homeschool student for their career? Check out our career-related posts.
I’m Miranda, The Reluctant Cowgirl. Educator and Vibrant Life Mentor. A city girl married to a country boy! The Reluctant Cowgirl encourages busy moms of tweens and teens to care for their emotional health so they are better equipped to care for the well-being of their family. Single parent, blended family, homeschool mom, heart attack survivor…I’ve been there. After 15 years of facilitating groups, I have witnessed the challenges that so many moms of tweens and teens face in life. And I know that you are doing your best to take care of your family. But are you taking care of your personal growth and self-care? Find practical advice for an emotionally vibrant life at The Reluctant Cowgirl. Join Me!