For the last few generations, the collegiate years have been a crucial part of the growing up experience. The system has changed, however, since my generation attended college, and it’s failing. Inflated costs have driven up student debt so high that many cannot fathom how to escape it upon graduation, even with a good job lined up.
Also, because so many students are still being funneled into colleges, even with the prospect of crippling debt, there are too many graduates for the available jobs. Students are either going on to graduate school, in the hopes of getting a job in their chosen field, or taking whatever job they can find. Simply put – there are too many professionals being graduated, and not enough professional jobs.
Or as Mike Rowe put it — “America is lending money it doesn’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist. That’s nuts.”
Rowe continues, “Schools have done away with vocational training to focus on academic learning, creating a one-size-fits-all model of college-to-workforce that doesn’t recognize the real opportunities in the workplace and the real needs of society.” And while it’s true that there are many careers which do require advanced training, such as those in the medical field, but not every career will require that four-year degree, and companies are just now starting to respond to this realization.
Before this homeschooling life, I worked with eighth, ninth, and tenth graders…and loved it! Teens are so exciting. They are old enough to have a real, heavy conversation with (and it’s really fun to explore the basis for their opinions), but young enough to still need and want guidance (even if they won’t admit it). From those years of experience, my experiences with my own children, and just the sheer memory of being a teen myself….here are five suggestions for motivating your student.
The Homeschooling the Upper Grades e-book is a collaboration project with bloggers from around the world, covering a wide variety of topics and issues facing the homeschooling parent of teens. Twenty-two topics spanning special needs learners to academically gifted, and college to career-oriented students, are covered in this free download.
Worried you’re going to miss one of the pieces for moving from homeschool to college? Here is the help you want with transcripts, scholarships, and making the transition! In Through the Door, you and your teen will work through thirty-three modules to smooth the way from homeschool to college life.
Looking for high school help? It’s not the academics for high school that are nerve-wracking so much as it is all of those ‘special things,’ like testing, applications, and deadlines that must be met for a smooth transition into college.
Maybe your teen knows exactly what s/he has wanted to be since childhood. Maybe they have no idea. A little career exploration is good for both scenarios, as it helps to better understand what those jobs truly entail…
Career-focused electives can be a good way to make high school fun, to bring some moments of levity to a day crowded with the intense courses found in these upper grades, particularly in a college prep scenario.What is your child interested in?Which hobbies does s/he gravitate toward?Are there any career interests yet?This is a good way to let colleges know more about your student, as they see which electives made the cut and ended up on the transcript.
Career Exploration guides seventh through twelfth grade students to discover their career path or college major. This eight-week elective course provides possible directions to the next step. Each lesson includes informative articles, self-inventory worksheets, relevant links to additional information, and inspiring true stories.
The Career Center offers a whopping fifty-five different courses, ranging from eight weeks to full-year, to help your student further explore their interest and see if it is a good fit.
Parents can also pull together resources to create a year-long, career-based course for their student’s interest – such as this one on Architecture. For technical or hands-on careers, check with your local community college to see if they have dual-enrollment high school programming.
Maturity / Relationships
Teens are navigating a tricky time of life, caught between the worlds of adolescence and adulthood. Now is the time to talk about all those hard things…before they take the next step.
Explore the clarity of intent, connecting through rapport, creating openness, reflective listening, and empathy. How can we explore the space between ourselves and others, and exchange meaningful perspectives? Just ask—powerfully.
The fourteen essential conversations to have with your tween and early teenager to prepare them for the emotional, physical, and social challenges ahead, including scripts and advice to keep the communication going and stay connected during this critical developmental window.
Read Prior to Graduation
Gender-based lists — Obviously you can read from either list, but they are sorted by traditional interests
This book list is designed for 8th – 12th grade college-bound students, and includes many classic pieces of literature as well as more modern day stories. The books represent a range of historic eras, and include elements from both American and World Literature courses.
Whether it’s a bedroom, an office, or digital life, having a good system of organization can save your student time and trouble down the line…
A good planner works for you and your needs. What is right for one person may not be the best option for someone else, so take a moment to investigate several options and find the one that works best for your student.
There are as many different forms of note-taking as there are students. Follow these four rules for note-taking, and you should see marked improvement in your academics!
You probably began writing essays in middle school, and started writing longer ones in high school, but as you enter the collegiate field, you’ll be required to write more complex and effective essays. It’s important to understand how to clearly communicate.
Resources for a wide range of students and their needs…
After eighteen years of caring for your child, it can be alarming to realize that on that magical birthday, they suddenly take on ALL the responsibilities of adulthood, whether they are equipped or not. There are ways, however, to have some legal protections in place ahead of time.
New hire paperwork, your first W-2, and all the financial basics in between…your teen needs to understand the ABCs of taxes.
Whether you’ve experienced troubles or enjoyed something, a business letter or follow-up to a phone call is a life skill that all teens should learn. These letters aren’t just for expressing displeasure — they’re also a great opportunity to point out what’s right with your product / service.
It can daunting to think about what post-graduation brings for the special needs student, but s/he is in a great position as a homeschooler! In the upper grades years, homeschooling allows students the time to explore passions and career interests. Take some time to examine your special needs student’s strengths, combining those and their interests to find a career exploration starting point.
Critical thinking is something every parent should help foster, age-appropriately, from the earliest years. We want our teens to go out into the world with eyes wide open…
Looking to focus on critical thinking skills? This Guidebook Set features four books, each with multiple lessons that are direct, concise, and help students relate concepts to their daily lives. Two of the books are designed to make students think about thinking and thought processes. The other two books are motivational and inspirational in nature, showing examples of people who trudged through difficult times to make a difference in the world.
Literary Adventures for Kids is a language arts curriculum that fosters both writing and critical thinking skills. There are five different year-long classes to choose from, each including a blend of classic and modern books and encouraging students to ‘think beyond the book.’
Regardless of the path, all students need to become familiar with the Microsoft Office family. This elective curriculum uses project-based learning to teach critical thinking, problem-solving, research, and out-of-the-box thinking skills. It celebrates students’ creativity and innovativeness and allows students to learn by creating solutions, all while introducing learners to a full range of Office skills.
Using short, online unit studies, this site introduces your student to apps, online programming, and other ‘new tech’ being used currently in both educational and on-the-job settings. Students develop skills and practice through short, fun projects.
Do you have high school students who are considering college? One of the steps they’ll need to take is standardized testing. This is especially important for homeschooled students as it helps to provide outside validation to the grades on their transcript.
Even if you know the material and are prepared for your test, it’s completely normal to experience test anxiety. In fact, to a degree, anxiety helps you perform better on the test! However, too much can prevent you from doing your best…so what test skills do you need?
Does the following conversation sound familiar to you:
-Child: “I hate school! I don’t want to do school today!”
-Parent: “Well, at least you don’t have to be in school for 7 hours every day. You should be glad that I let you have so many breaks and give you the opportunity to bring your favorite things to the school area…”
I have had these conversations with one of my children (on several occasions!), and I have not always said the above part in the most patient of ways. I am a work in progress.
One of my children has Sensory Processing Disorder. School can be hard, frustrating, angering, and discouraging for this elementary-aged child.
“…Trouble managing information that comes in through the senses. These issues, sometimes called sensory processing disorder or sensory integration disorder, can have a big impact on learning and on everyday life.” 
No matter if your child struggles with this sensory need or with any special need that directly affects all-things life and school, I hope you can find encouragement from the Understood Team. Online, this team makes it their mission to guide those who think and learn in ways other than “the norm.”
Encouragement for Special Need Families
If you have a child who has special educational needs, please take hold of the following:
YOU are the best person to help guide your child through his or her different adversities. Whether in educational hurdles or life challenges, you know your child best. You are your child’s greatest cheerleader and support system. YOU are just what your child needs!
Home Educational Goals for Special Need Families
When it comes to homeschooling goals for special needs families, here are some “goal traps” that may creep up unexpectedly. By “goal traps” I mean homeschool goals that may accidentally be given too high of a priority for a child with special needs.
That your child stays at grade-level in each subject
That your child goes through the same amount of material each year as your other child
That your child needs to learn basic math facts or phonics principles in the “correct year”
That you as the parent must cover everything on your child’s daily school checklist
Hopefully, removing these “goal traps” will open you up for these “out-of-the-ordinary” homeschool goals.
*Here are three “out-of-the-ordinary” homeschool goals to think through:
For your child to not hate learning—as much as possible!
I know—you have the right to say, “Wait! At the beginning, you said that your child hates school. Why is your own homeschooling goal not being met?”
My child would honestly tell you how much he hates school. That is why I included the phrase, “as much as possible.”
Hard school will be hard for your child. Your child’s special needs will be hard, and understandably, you cannot remove all hardships from your child. However, throwing out the above “goal traps” will immensely help your child not to hate school more than necessary.
It is okay if your child is not on “reading level” or cannot start learning multiplication facts during the same year as other age peers. You know your child best, and a slower pace may be necessary AND be just what your child needs to have personal educational success in your child’s right educational timing.
In my case, I need to not overly push my sensory child beyond what my kiddo is capable of in that moment, resulting in needlessly causing my child to hate school even more. I must give priority to my child’s sensory needs before any educational goals can be met.
For your child to learn to persevere!
I view it as more important that your child have experience and practice in what true perseverance looks like than to learn division rules in the “right” year.
Your precious kiddo has more opportunities to stretch in this area of perseverance than many other children. Look for any (even small!) examples of your child having a persevering attitude and highlight these in a special way.
You can keep track of perseverance moments in a special-to-you way and review these with your child often. Encourage your child that he or she is doing great at doing hard things!
Perseverance examples do not have to only happen in school. Your child may show perseverance in a big way outside of school time. These can be highlighted, too! (In the picture, you can see how we document perseverance moments through our “perseverance notebook” filled with example pictures.) [Insert Picture]
For your child to learn to self-regulate!
Having your child be the top speller is not nearly as important as he or she learning to deal properly with frustrations.
I like the book, The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. The main character in the story learns about the importance of breaks when her anger gets too strong. With this book as a springboard, you and your child could work through ideas to help when your child feels the anger boiling inside.
Home education is a beautiful way to work with your special needs child at the right pace, to take the right breaks, and to reach more than just the traditional school goals.
I cheer you on! There is nothing more exciting than seeing your special child succeed. Plus, “success” may look different but be just as extraordinary!
The Encarta World Dictionary defines religion as “people’s beliefs and opinions concerning the existence, nature, and worship of a deity or deities and divine involvement in the universe and human life.” In a world that is constantly struggling for peace, having a better understanding of belief systems and values can help us to understand different people and cultures…which may lay the foundation for a thoughtful progression amid a multitude of complex cultures. Studying world religions can lead to a better understanding of the relationships between religion and politics, economics, and social structures..
This tale of the Roman invasion of ancient Britannia remains one of G.A. Henty’s most popular novels of all time. Join Beric and his best friend Bodouc as they live the adventure of a lifetime – captured by the Romans, trained as gladiators, and placed in the service of Emperor Nero himself! When the story of a mysterious “Christus” begins to circulate the Roman Empire, Beric and Bodouc are forced to confront their pagan past. Will the two young prisoners be able to overcome their thirst for revenge and discover the source of true forgiveness?
The troubles in the district of Tiberias, the march of the legions, the sieges of Jotapata, of Gamala, and of Jerusalem all come to life. In this impressive and carefully studied historic setting, you will follow a lad, John of Gamala, who passes from the vineyard to the service of Josephus, becomes the leader of a guerrilla band of patriots, fights bravely for the Temple, and after a brief term of slavery at Alexandria, returns to his Galilean home with the favor of Titus. The fall of Jerusalem is brought to life in this classic.
By gaining a greater understanding of the cultures and beliefs of people around the world, children build respect and tolerance for the differences that make each of us unique.With objectivity and accessibility, this title in the Kids Book of series looks at the histories, scriptures, places of worship, religious leaders, gods and major festivals that are the foundations of many of the world’s religions.
Over 7 billion people live on the earth, and 84 percent of them describe themselves as being religious. Few topics incite such passion as religion. What does that mean? Why are humans invested in ideas that may never be proved? Why has religion played such an important role in history?
Although the people we study in history lived decades or even centuries ago, their actions impacted how we live our lives today. Names, dates, facts…these are some of the things that I hear students complain about when they talk about disliking history. It’s too confusing…they can’t put it into context. A visual display, however, can help tie everything together in an easier-to-digest format! Our two favorite, visually-appealing ways to link historic events include this book (fantastic for those with small spaces) and this wall chart (for those with a dedicated homeschool area).
But it’s not just faceless names and random dates; history is full of transitional events that have altered the world’s story. By learning about different eras, you start to see what changes might happen in the future and what would drive that change. For example, learning about the fall of Rome teaches you that even the most powerful society can fall apart—and what happens to cause that crumbling.
By studying history, humanity has a chance to learn from its mistakes, theorize about alternative options based on correcting past mistakes as it moves forward with future events. After all, history rhymes…so it’s likely that there will be a chance to act differently in the future.
There are five concepts – or 5 Cs – of history. These are at the heart of every question historians ask as they seek to better understand the past, and they include (from most easily understood to the more complex): change over time, causality, context, complexity, and contingency. The strangeness of the past enables us to step back and look at our society and ourselves from a new perspective—indeed, we might start to look a bit strange to ourselves! (Think not? Check out Motel of the Mysteries)
Geography gets a bad rap for being boring, but usually that’s just because it’s not being taught in an engaging way. After all, who wants to look at a bunch of maps for places they’ve never been (or possibly never even heard of) and think about people and things they will never see? To really get kids interested in geography, you have to bring it to life!
Why study geography?
Geography is the study of humans and people through space, throughout time, and how those spaces have shaped history. Every place has a history behind it, shaped by humans, earth, and climate. By studying geography, we gain meaning and awareness to those places, which also puts history in context. It helps us see the why, when, and how of what happened in history. Learn more about History, Mythology, and World Cultures.
Studying countries also helps with spatial awareness and mapping skills. If you don’t know where a place is, or the physical context of the area, how can you understand what is being reported on the news? Learning about land, resources available, and how that has shaped a culture of today helps you understand the uniqueness of each local culture.
Geography helps us to explore and understand the differences in cultures, political systems, economies, landscapes, and environments across the world. By understanding these things, we can explore the connections between them. As we learn how all people are interconnected, it makes the world a little bit smaller, making us care just a bit more about our fellow man…even if he is halfway around the globe.