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!
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)
Factory tours are a fun and frugal way to add unique field trips to your homeschooling year! You get an educational glimpse into the inner workings of companies and how products are made, and you never know what is going to spark an interest in your kids! Always be sure to check if there is a minimum age requirement to visit, to make reservations if required, and see if there is a nominal fee. If the tour is free, and their store sells inexpensive items, consider purchasing something as a thank you and to help support the company in their educational outreach.
We don’t JUST go to food factories…though it may seem like it. What can I say? When you’re driving all day, roadschooling, you want to stretch your legs and eat at the same time! Here are some non-food factories. Be sure to use the Field Trips Planning Pack for all your factory tours, and make those school days count!
It’s spring – time to dance with the flowers and soar with the birds! By spring, we’re starting to think about summer break, finishing out the homeschool year (unless you’re year-round),, and thinking about upcoming holidays… Here are activities, books, and resources for incorporating the holidays into your homeschool. Pick and choose what works best for your family. Bloom in springtime!
All of these resources are appropriate for middle and high school.
One lucky reader will win the History Behind Our Holidays unit study bundle! Come back daily for more entries to win. (giveaway runs 4/6-4/27 -- winner has 24 hours to respond) Visit the linky below to enter all of the giveaways!!
Meal planning is essential for the busy homeschooling family. It not only helps you save time and money, but also eat a bit healthier. After all, who wants to eat frozen pizza and chicken nuggets every night? (Maybe that should say ‘what adult,’ rather than ‘who.’)
Your weekly meal plan might be broken down to the day, or you might plan for five days worth of meals, and then choose what you’re in the mood for each day. This is a personal choice, and will depend on how much structure you and your family need. When you’re meal planning, keep in mind:
Your family’s food preferences — no need to make breakfasts if no one eats that early
Your weekly schedule — have some quick and on-the-go options for busy days
Family dynamics — older kids can help with prep, cooking, and cleaning
What’s on hand — for less waste / spending, create menus that use on-hand ingredients
Online Meal Planning
Ordering groceries online isn’t an option where we live, but it is for many people in urban and suburban areas. If you want to order online, start a grocery list and keep adding to it throughout the week (similar to if you have a paper one on the refrigerator to take in-hand to the store). Some folks swear by online shopping, saying they prefer to spend the extra money for someone else to do the shopping because it saves them from impulse purchases. You know whether you tend to impulse shop or not, so again, this is a personal (and potentially geographic) preference.)
Appliances & Early Meal Prep
Kitchen appliances are a huge time saver today…something our grandmothers would have cherished! You’ll want to take some time to get to know your appliance, but utilize them for convenient, healthy meals. Incorporate appliance-specific recipes into your meal planning each week to save time.
If you have them on hand, use your crockpot, air fryer, and InstaPot. However, if you’re in the market for a time-saving kitchen appliance, you can’t go wrong with the Ninja Foodi. This is the one we have, and it is A-MAZ-ING! (It does even more than the famous InstaPot.)
This little guy is a powerhouse – and barely takes up any room on the counter! It does the job of eleven different appliances, making it not only a time-saver, but a space-saver in the kitchen. As a former roadschooling family, I highly recommend this to any travelling families…it takes up just a little extra space in the car, but is very much worth it to have healthy meals while on-the-road.
So what all does Ninja Foodi do? Pressure Cook, Air Fry/Air Crisp, Steam, Slow Cook, Yogurt, Sear/Sauté, Bake/Roast, Broil, Dehydrate, Sous Vide & Warm. At 6.5 quarts, it’s large enough to feed a family of 4-6, but probably won’t work as well for larger families. It makes up to three pounds of fries, and can hold a six-pound roast, so it will depend on ages and how much food is needed.
I love it because of its versatility and efficiency. The other night, we made arroz con pollo – from dried rice and frozen chicken – in less than 45 minutes! For this and other great recipes, we picked up a very handy book called Ninja Foodi Complete Cookbook for Beginners.
If you know you’re going to have a busy period, try freezer cooking. This is essentially cooking everything ahead of time and then pulling it out of the freezer to reheat. Not all recipes lend themselves to this method, but many recipe PARTS do. You can prep taco meat or spaghetti sauce ahead of time, making dinnertime easier. Check out the freezer cooking resources below to get you started!
A Slow-Cooked Year This book includes : the whats and whys behind crockpot cooking, how-to tips and tricks, safe crockpot guidelines, printable planning sheets, and more than thirty seasonally-appropriate, kid-friendly recipes!
Another Year of Freezer Cooking For anyone who wants to get a leg up on getting healthy meals on the family table, without much fuss…this book includes : the whats and whys behind freezer cooking how-to tips and tricks pantry freezing guidelines, printable planning sheets more than thirty seasonally-appropriate, kid-friendly recipes!
Snag this adorable tee to tout your homeschool status and celebrate the #HomeschoolMomLife!
Thirty days of whole foods, at-home workouts, and spiritual rest…you’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain from hitting the reset button. You’ll get a month of grain-free paleo menus, plus Life Made Full’s 30-day guide will enrich your life physically, emotionally, and spiritually, setting you up for your best year yet!