Career Exploration for Homeschool Students

Career Exploration for Homeschool Students

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 exploring career exploration options for your homeschooler?  Check out these tips on how to point your child towards their desired career! #TNHA #career #homeschoolinghighschool

The Jr High Brain

The Jr High Brain

If you are raising a middle school student, you might have this strange sense of deja vu.  You feel like you’ve been through this stage before…but somehow a little different. They were shorter…less smelly (most of the time)…and talked less (or at least less clearly).  Ok, maybe not quite. However, there are a lot of physical and mental changes that take place in toddlerhood that occur again at a different level in Jr High.

Brain Pruning

One of the big things that changes in middle school and toddlerhood is brain pruning.  In this process, the brain “cleans out” extra connections that aren’t being used. This can cause some different behaviors to occur during this time.  Sometimes kids seem to “not be in control” and make “bad decisions.” Part of this is expressing their ability to make decisions for themselves, and establish independence.  Part of this is due to the brain pruning process going on in their brains (not an excuse for bad decisions by any means, but if we understand what is going on, as parents we can be better prepared for it).
What can we do?
  1. Lend them part of our “decision making brain” meaning give choices, but only ones that are acceptable to you.
  2. Help keep sleep and meals as regular as possible.  Just like a toddler needed a schedule, so does your middle schooler.
  3. Pick your battles.  If your child does better with school in the afternoon and gets their work done, let them work in the afternoon.

Emotional Rollercoaster

Emotions can be very powerful.  Naming emotions can be even more difficult, and yet give so much power to us.  As a toddler, our children begin to discover they have emotions, and they can choose emotions.  As middle schoolers, hormones begin to change how our emotions affect us. Being open to your middle schooler to come and talk to will help with this process.  These are the years when your kids will start to build a different relationship with you. Foster that relationship. You still have to “parent,” but work to listen too.


As 3-year-olds, children tend to be all about “me.” MY feelings, MY toys, MY mommy/daddy/sister.  They do not see the world outside of “ME.” As they mature into 4-year-olds, they begin to realize there are other people around them.  Mommy and Daddy (and eventually siblings) have feelings and wants/needs too. They begin to realize they can do things to “help” others.  They start wanting to do things to please others, and to receive praise and possibly rewards.
Middle schoolers go through this process again but on a bigger level.  Elementary years are a lot about acceptance and building community (or at least that is what most elementary level schools are trying to do).  Middle school changes a lot of that. Suddenly there is a world out there full of other people’s opinions about what you eat, wear, and how you wear your hair!  It can be difficult to find your “place” during this phase of life. I’m reminded of my sister who became an “opinion shopper.” She would ask everyone their opinion on a decision she needed to make.  Eventually, she would hear the opinion she wanted to hear and go with that one!
What can we do?
  1. Allow for some self-expression.
  2. Give choices that are acceptable to you and allow your child to become more independent.
  3. Be there to listen when needed – without judging.
  4. Still set boundaries and “parent” when necessary.
  5. Make mistakes in front of your kids – and OWN THEM!  Our kids need to know no one is perfect.  Especially in Jr High, when they are trying so hard to be “grown up” and independent!

Growing and Changing Bodies

I hear a lot about middle school students/high school students and SLEEP.  Up all night. Sleep all day. Don’t shower until noon. Eat everything in sight.  Sounds a lot like my toddler. As kids enter the Jr High years, they often enter into growth spurts.  The body needs sleep for growth, moving information from short-term to long-term memory, and for all the hormone changes.  Stress can bring about a lack of sleep. Stress from the changing social relationships and dynamics mentioned above can create a lack of sleep.
At two distinct times in our child’s lives, we feel like we go through clothing sizes like tissues.  When they are toddlers and when they are teens (especially boys). For me, personally, I stopped growing when I entered middle school, at least in height.  But I grew in other ways that made clothing more challenging. This German/Irish mama has always had curves, and in Jr High, this was a challenge!! (Especially when it seemed most other girls did not yet!)  Finding clothes that fit right, and fit in with the crowds can be challenging for middle school students.
Some suggestions:
  1. Even if you use “second hand” clothes, find a way for your child to be able to pick some key pieces of clothing that are “just theirs.”
  2. Find ways for your child to express themselves through clothing in appropriate ways if this is important to them.
  3. Purchase clothes that fit comfortably (consider body type and sensory issues).
  4. Find a schedule that works for them – and work to stick with it!
  5. Find time to talk and connect – this can help with the stress they are experiencing.
  6. Teach about changing hygiene needs, and be sensitive to when their bodies change.  Everyone changes on a different schedule.
  7. Look for “samples” to try out different hygiene products to find the one your child likes best.  Different products work better for certain body types, and sensitivities can arise over time.


Homeschooling during the Jr. High years can be tricky, as you child questions your authority and understanding of my materials. Now is a perfect time to outsource some classes, resource your students growing interests and try new things together, be that food, places or experiences! If you are not sure where to start with this process, check out our Jr High Classes and Clubs– there is something for everyone!
Though the Jr High years can be challenging, they too will pass. Your child is transitioning from dependency to mature interdependency, from little to big. As with all transitions, it can be a tricky time to navigate, but take heart! Like toddlerhood, the Jr High years don’t last forever!

Amy Vickrey, MSE  is a mother of a seven-year-old and almost three-year-old. Her homeschool journey began over 20 years ago when she saw how homeschooling enabled her sister who had memory issues and fell through the crack at school, to graduate and go to college. Amy knew then she wanted to implement what she saw – the love and individual attention – into her own teaching. She now homeschools her two boys and loves every minute of it! Having completed the second year of their homeschool journey, she is looking forward to many more to come!

Amy holds a Masters of Science in Education, Specializing in Curriculum and Instruction, from the University of Central Missouri and a Bachelors of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from Texas State University-San Marcos.  Also, she spent 2 years of college studying Interpretation for the Deaf and Deaf Studies and knows American Sign Language. Her teaching certifications include Special Education, English as a Second Language and Generalist (early childhood through fourth). She is now part of the Struggling Learners Department of True North Homeschool Academy and loves the discovery approach to learning. Teaching children how to learn will help them reach their goals and dreams.

Amy Vickrey states, “My passion for learning and being a lifelong learner is something I want to pass on to the children I teach, as well as my own children.  Making learning fun and engaging is an important part of this process. My goal is to lift others up to help them achieve their own goals and dreams.”  Find out more about Amy and the classes she teaches here.

Surviving the Middle School Years

Surviving the Middle School Years

(The following is a guest post from Tammie Polk, True North Homeschool Academy contributor.)

“OMG!!! I HAVE A JUNIOR HIGH/MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENT!!!” says every parent at one point in their homeschool journey!

Don’t let this drive you mad, Mama! There is a way to coexist with the ebbing tide of this crucial part of life. Here are some things you can do to make this time bearable.

First, don’t shy away from interest-based/interest-led learning.

Yes, they will still have to learn the stuff that they complain about; however, finding out what they are interested in will help you to plan the middle school –and the high school years—without a lot of hassle.

Next, pay attention to what they’re NOT saying!

Your kids will amaze and surprise you. You’ll think they’re not getting it and then it happens—they show you exactly what you need to do next! What you see could be the key to the nagging question of “How do I motivate my kid to do more or better?” Using what they are showing you could very well be the silver lining.

Then, don’t be afraid to share your talents and hobbies with them.

Many times, when our kids get to this age, they think we don’t know about or haven’t experienced certain things, so it’s time to surprise THEM! Although they may act as though they are disgusted by the fact that they like something that their mom does, it’s still special to them and it opens up key discussions that need to happen at this stage of their lives. I credit my tech savviness to my Dad because he taught me his trade of being a computer technician! Let your kids know what’s in YOUR arsenal.


Goals are important; however, things DO happen. That light bulb may come on long before you think it will and you have to move quickly. Sickness is always a possibility, so it’s important to have backup or rainy day plans on DECK!

It’s important to make the best of these times because they do go FAST! How does that affect you as a working homeschool mom?

  • You may have to change the way you do business! Your kids’ schedule is going to change, be it because they need more help with their schoolwork or their activity schedule takes over a little more. You may have to change your hours and work on the go.
  • You may have to make them a part OF your business! I tell people all the time that we often miss out on the best help in the world because we don’t take advantage of the skills our kids show that WE consider annoying!
  • You may need to help them start THEIR OWN business! Entrepreneurship, whether they intend to go to college or not, is always the order of the day! If they can make money from what they want to do, train them up and help them out!

These years don’t have to drive you to a permanent coffee IV….just saying!

(Concerned about those pesky middle school years?  Check out True North Homeschool Academy’s Junior High Courses.)

Tammie Polk is a Mompreneur on a Mission! She is a married, homeschooling mother of three girls ages 15, 10, and 5 from Memphis, Tennessee. When she’s not pouring into her girls, you can find her writing, doing crossword puzzles, or playing games! Her major claim to fame is being the author of over 30 books on life, faith, family, and business- all of which were written in the last three years. Tammie is also a business coach, homeschool consultant, motivational and inspirational speaker, and international radio show host!

12 Tips for Junior High Success

12 Tips for Junior High Success

Do you need junior high tips?

Junior High is looming and you are 1 part excited and 2 parts scared. Your delightful little is now a lanky, gawky and possibly awkward teen. But, never fear, this is a wonderfully, exciting time in a young person’s life to homeschool as they move from child to young adulthood!  Today we have gathered 12 tips to focus on during those junior high years.

Junior High Tip #1 – Stress Management

The first tip is to teach your almost junior high kiddos some simple stress & anxiety management skills.  These skills can include mindfulness, deep breathing and working out regularly. Working out can reduce normal tween drama and tension. Physically tired tweens are usually happier and more agreeable tweens!

Junior High Tip #2 – Schedule Success

Now is the time to teach your student some essential skills that enable success.  Some of these skills include how to use a planner, how to take tests (check out our Performance Series test), and how to strategically skill build so that their hopes and dreams become reality.

Junior High Tip #3 – Study Skills

Study skills are an important part of junior high life.  Skills like how to memorize, take notes, take a test, read a map and organize will yield results throughout your kiddos life. Reading independently and out loud together is a wonderful way to engage with each other and academic material.

Junior High Tip #4 – Strengthen Weaknesses

During junior high, it is important to strengthen weaknesses in any academic areas like reading, writing, spelling or math computation. Don’t overlook strengthening soft skills /executive functioning skills like manners, communication, teamwork, time and distraction management skills. Now is the time to identify processing disorders or learning disabilities and really hone in on strengthening overall academic skills and abilities.

Junior High Tip #5 – Successful Communication Skills

Students should have basic writing skills like how to write a solid sentence, paragraph and 3-paragraph report so that they can successfully move into a 5-paragraph essay. Students should be able to give short 2-3-minute presentations with the goal to move into longer speech or dramatic presentations and performances.

Junior High Tip #6 Foreign Languages and Travel

Junior High is the perfect time to learn about different cultures and people groups through foreign language studies and travel, which broadens one’s perspective on many levels.  You can also check out the great live, online foreign language classes from True North Homeschool Academy.

Junior High Tip #7 – Extracurriculars

One great idea for junior high is to seek out extracurriculars that are of interest and also challenging.  Many students by this age have developed interests in areas such as art, music or sports.  Junior high is the perfect time to dive a bit deeper, enter contests and find mentors that will push them to the next level of engagement.

Junior High Tip #8 – Choose Challenging Courses

Jr. High kids should be engaged in areas of study that push them beyond their abilities, cause them to experience new things, grow and develop. Angela Duckworth, author of “Grit” suggests that kids should commit to Grit Goals regularly.

Junior High Tip #9 – Self Directed

Begin thinking ahead to what you want to do and focus on in high school and beyond, begin career exploration and even development. Kids should begin taking initiative and responsibility in Jr High – some will do so more naturally than others.

Junior High Tip #10 – Career Exploration

It’s never too early to start exploring career options.  Find professionals for your junior high student to interview and shadow as they go about their workday. Offer career exploration classes that allow one’s scope to be broadened about the plethora of jobs available.

(Did you know that we offer self-paced career exploration courses at True North Homeschool Academy?  Check them out here!)

Junior High Tip #11 – Service Hours

Now is the time for your junior high student to get involved in Community Service. This gives kids a great perspective, develops gratitude, and might even open up internships and job or career opportunities and possibilities.

Junior High Tip #12 – Navigating Technology

When you give your kid a cell phone make time to sit down and talk about the responsibilities, dangers, and opportunities that come with it. Put controls on the cell phone and make sure that you can track where your kids go for accountability. Talk to your kids about integrity and how they should be the same person online as they are in real life.  It’s also a good time to teach your child how effective communication in the digital age.

Last and not least, have fun! Junior high can be serious business, but it’s a delightful time as you watch your kiddo move from dependent child to burgeoning adult.  If you are looking for an amazing program for your Junior High student check out our courses at True North Homeschool Academy!

Are you about to head into those scary junior high years in your homeschool? Never fear, True North Homeschool Academy has all the tips for junior high success. Check them out now! #juniorhightips #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy #homeschooling #homeschool

6 Steps to Prepare for Junior High Success

6 Steps to Prepare for Junior High Success

Junior high is a great time to get your child off to a great start. Don’t stress, the key to this stage is to focus on quality and not quantity. Actually, by focusing on just six easy areas, you can rest assured your child is ready to be successful in high school and beyond.
This method will prepare your student whether you’re coming from a lighter, unstructured approach in elementary school and early childhood or just beginning homeschooling from a brick and mortar classroom background. To create a well rounded middle school core just incorporate: foreign language, five paragraph essays, lab reports, math drills, drama, and social connections.

Foreign Language

Starting foreign language in junior high jump starts high school credits and make your child attractive to universities and open up additional scholarships when applying for colleges. Younger students picks up language vocabulary and structure easier than if they wait till high school. Foreign language credits in college can also be earned by CLEP or test out lightening the college class load and cost.
A fluent foreign language also increases chances of getting a competitive job when older. The experience of interacting in a foreign culture with a separate language is unparalleled. There are also strong health benefits to foreign language, including better cognitive abilities and slowing aging and memory loss.

5 Paragraph Essay

The most valuable principle of writing is the five paragraph essay format. This structure is simple enough to be grasped at a 6th grade level, yet versatile and adaptable to almost all college essay assignments. At a junior high level, all assignments should be simple and concrete. This will keep essays age appropriate and easy to write.
Teach a thesis as a statement related to your child’s interests. For example, ’Penguins are the strangest birds on earth’ or ‘Soccer is a very hard sport’. Once your child can give three reasons he believes this statement is true, he has the basic outline for his writing. Jensen’s Five Paragraph Essay book is an invaluable resource for teaching an excellent essay design. This will teach your student not only writing, but structured, reasoned thinking and communication.

Lab Science

STEM careers are both fashionable and practical, and junior high is not too early to begin encouraging exploration in this field. It’s important to strike a balance with unstructured, interest based study and academic rigor. Lab based science achieves this balance. A hands on curriculum is best, with minimal lectures and no textbooks. A library tour on each topic will suffice.
Activities can stimulate interest in each discipline. Consider introducing physics by building a trebuchet, biology through dissection, chemistry by pouring baking soda into a cup of vinegar. Afterwards, a formatted lab report should be prepared, a skill that will prepare your student for success in both high school and secondary education. For this age level, use structured outlines with pre-formatted purpose, method, results, and conclusion sections. Keep it simple and brief, allowing about 10-15 minutes to complete.

Math Drills

Math Drills. Simple enough. Your student cannot succeed on standardized tests without math, and speed is key on ACT. Junior high students should have mental math to score high on the standardized tests. This will also make more difficult math concepts easier to grasp. Percentages, fractions, and negative integers are much more understandable when mental addition, subtraction, and multiplication and division are fluent. Focusing on drills also gives the appropriate emphasis on this crucial subject. Not too much for the non mathematician but rigorous enough to support a potential STEM career.


One of the most valuable activities I did in junior high was participation in drama performances. Acting teaches an innumerable number of life skills and is fun at the same time.
Unexpectedly, I pulled from my drama experience more than any other subject. I realized I had learned techniques to control nerves, create presence, and connect with an audience. So much of both education and life presentation based, and the ability to present successfully doesn’t always come naturally. Must learn to control nervous habits, speak clearly, and maintain eye contact.
Acting teaches similar debate and speech in a subtler way.  A child can focus on a dynamic presentation without the stress of having to use their own words. Your child also will learn how to begin to manage pressure and stress as they prepare to perform onstage.


 A significant amount of time in junior high should be dedicated to setting up a healthy social structure. This is important in order to support your child’s good choices and morals as they mature. Peer pressure should not be underestimated, so it’s crucial that your child form deep relationships with good and trustworthy friends. This is even more challenging with the surging of influence social media has on friendships at this age.
Too much screen time in general can also change the nature of relationships that should be developed in person. The good news is that tech companies are aware of these dangers and struggles (computer developers and silicon valley families often opt for a technology free childhood) and are making child proof screen control apps available. Tools like these to structure and limit screen time will lead to lower social media mental health problems and improve the nature of friendships in real life.
Parents of junior high students are often tempted to stress about curriculum and subjects.  A simpler structure focusing on mainly these important points.  This approach leaves ample time for creativity, friendship, and still provides a strong base for high school and college. Pick a limited number of subjects to do hard core, music, math, and foreign language. If these get done everyday it will set the appropriate structure and learning routines for incredible success.
Are you looking for amazing junior high courses in your homeschool?  Check out our live, online courses at True North Homeschool Academy!
  Sarah Frederes is a homeschool graduate and a Dakota Corps Scholarship recipient, which allowed her to attend and graduate from college debt-free with a Summa Cum Laude and a BSN. She is the oldest of eleven children and has a love and passion for music, parrots, writing, gardening, and photography. You can find more of her writing and lovely photography on her personal blog All That is Gold.