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!
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.
Unlike traditional schooling, homeschooling affords you the opportunity to jump down rabbit trails! What’s a rabbit trail? This is when your child develops a sudden interest in a topic, and you spend the whole day (or week, or month) exploring that topic in-depth, following the trail as far as it goes, or until your child moves on to another interest. Regardless of age, this is a valuable tool to add to your homeschooling toolbelt!
Developed by a 19th century educator who believed in reading ‘living books’ rather than ‘twaddle,’ this approach involves living learning. It revolves around reading aloud together as a family, and following child interests. Nature walks, art museums, and living books are all a part of this approach.
Unit Studies This approach takes all of the subjects and smashes them together in an in-depth study of a topic. For example, a unit study of Rome might include reading and writing about Rome, studying the history of Roman emperors, calculating timelines and marketplace purchases, creating artwork and projects from Ancient Roman times, and studying water (from the aqueducts built during this era). Units may be literature-based, and this is a great style for teaching multiple grades together.
Definitely for the Type B family, this is a child-centered approach to schooling. There are no formal lessons, or even formal curriculum, but the children follow their interests and learn from life experiences. Schedules are not utilized, and there is much flexibility and freedom. This does not mean that they don’t read, write, and do math, but that they follow their interests. Math might be adding up the tab at the restaurant, or figuring the tax.
Are you struggling to find productivity in your day-to-day? Are you feeling like you are constantly putting out fires and not making any progress on the things that matter most to you? If so, you’re not alone. Many people struggle with productivity because they are making some common mistakes. In this blog post, we will discuss 10 blunders that are sabotaging your personal productivity. Once you become aware of these mistakes, you can start taking steps to correct them and finally get stuff done!
Blunder #1: Not Having a Plan
One of the biggest productivity killers is not having a plan. If you don’t know what your goals are or what steps you need to take to achieve them, it’s going to be very difficult to get anything done. You will likely find yourself spinning your wheels and getting nowhere fast. Take some time to sit down and figure out what you want to achieve. Once you have a goal in mind, break it down into smaller steps that you can take to get there. Having a roadmap will help keep you on track and prevent wasted time.
This will get you nowhere fast on both the little things AND the big things. When looking at the major life decisions for what comes after high school, it’s easy to get stymied by all the “what ifs.” Do a little research and choose a path, you can always course correct later. Download the free Homeschooling Help book or pick up the High School to College course.
Blunder #2: Not Breaking Down Tasks Into Smaller Steps
Another common mistake people make is not breaking down tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. When you have a big project or goal that seems overwhelming, it can be tempting to just try to power through it without taking the time to break it down. However, this usually leads to frustration and a feeling of being stuck. Instead of trying to tackle the entire project at once, break it down into smaller steps that you can complete one at a time. This will help you stay focused and make progress until the task is done.
Something I’m always telling the students at Sparks Academy, particularly as they begin to tackle large assignments, is – “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!” A racer runs a marathon one mile at a time. And a good student tackles a large project one chunk at a time.
Blunder #3: Not Scheduling Time for Important Tasks
If you don’t schedule time for the things that are important to you, they will likely never get done. It’s easy to fill up your day with busy work and put off the things that really matter, but this will only lead to frustration. Make sure you schedule time for the tasks that are most important to you, and stick to that schedule as much as possible. This will help ensure that you are making progress on the things that truly matter.
The ability to prioritize important tasks, culling the wheat from the chaff, is a hallmark of a good leader, and leadership skills are important for all kinds of successes in life, from employment to relationships. See how to boost your leadership skills here.
Blunder #4: Not Having a Dedicated Workspace
One of the biggest productivity killers is not having a dedicated workspace. If you are constantly working in different locations, it can be difficult to stay focused and get things done. Make sure you have a designated space that is just for work. This will help you stay focused and avoid distractions.
It’s possible to work from your kitchen table, but having a private workspace makes getting into the study zone much easier. Having set work hours and visual cues, such as a small sign or wearing headphones, will let well-meaning family members know you’re working.
Blunder #5: Not Taking Breaks
It might seem counterintuitive, but taking breaks can actually help you be more productive. If you are working non-stop, you are likely to get burnt out and make mistakes. instead of trying to power through, take a break every few hours to recharge. This will help you stay focused and avoid errors.
Your break can be a walk around the block, shooting some hoops with a sibling, or picking up a musical instrument for a bit. It could be having a snack or taking a field trip to town — after all, every field trip doesn’t have to be long and / or exotic…
Blunder #6: Not Staying Organized
Another common mistake people make is not staying organized. When you are constantly trying to find things, it can be very frustrating and time-consuming. Make sure you have a system in place for organizing your work so that you can find things quickly and easily. This will save you time in the long run and help you stay on track.
Get a hold on this with the Rise & Shine Student Planner. Each month contains an at-a-glance calendar, with space for notes and a to-do list. Weekly pages are broken down by day, and daily pages provide space for habit tracking, notes, meal planning, and an hourly planner.
Blunder #7: Trying to Do Too Much
One of the biggest productivity killers is trying to do too much at once. When you are constantly jumping from one task to another, it can be difficult to focus and get anything done. Make sure you are prioritizing your tasks so that you are only working on the most important things. This will help you stay focused and avoid feeling overwhelmed. Having a plan will help you keep on task.
Blunder #8: Procrastinating
One of the biggest productivity killers is procrastination. When you put off tasks, they tend to pile up and become even more daunting. Make sure you are staying on top of your tasks by setting deadlines and holding yourself accountable. This will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and ensure that you are making progress.
Are you easily distracted, noticing every sight and sound around you? When working on a task, are you often side-tracked and have a difficult time focusing? Procrastination is one of the hallmarks of distractibility. Learn how to focus more easily, which will help your studying.
Blunder #9: Not Getting Enough Sleep
One of the biggest productivity killers is not getting enough sleep. When you are tired, it can be difficult to focus and get things done. Make sure you are getting enough rest so that you can be productive during the day. This will help you avoid feeling exhausted and ensure that you are able to focus on your tasks.
Eliminate this blunder with the New Year, New Me Habit Tracker. This reusable calendar features monthly at-a-glance pages and weekly pages with space for notes and planning. Each week also has a habit tracker grid to help keep the momentum going with your new habits!
Blunder #10: Not Eating Healthy
Another common mistake people make is not eating healthy. When you are not getting the proper nutrients, it can be difficult to focus and stay on task. Make sure you are eating a balanced diet so that you can maintain your energy levels and avoid feeling sluggish. This will help you stay focused and productive throughout the day.
It may take some adjustments in your shopping and cooking habits, but eating real food (and not nuking it in the microwave) is so much healthier for you! Your body will appreciate the difference, and after a little bit your mood will improve as you begin to feel more energized. Check out the No Sweat! Cooking Bundle for quick, easy, and healthy meal ideas.
There are many common mistakes that people make that can stand in the way of their personal productivity. By avoiding these mistakes, you can ensure that you are able to stay focused and get things done. Make sure you try to implement some of these tips so that you can increase your productivity and achieve your goals.