What do you do with an undecided homeschool student?
Many use the terms work, job, career, and vocation interchangeably. While it’s true that each involves working and a wage, having a career and vocation means more than just a paycheck. They describe a type of work where your passion, purpose, skills, and the marketplace collide. In the words of theologian Frederick Buechner, “Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.”
While some students seem destined for a particular vocation at an early age, it is common for today’s students to near high school graduation without a plan. Parents can encourage informed early-career-direction decisions. It starts with helping teens identify who God made them be, supporting them as they explore occupations, and finally, helping them develop goals and create an action plan. By partnering with and encouraging them in this important decision, they can graduate high school with a vision for their future.
Help an Undecided Student Build Identity
Nothing is more foundational than being rooted in Christ. Assisting teens in forging strong, positive identities is one way to help them form true convictions and stand firm in them regardless of what everyone else does. Google “Who I am in Christ.” Print and review as a family. Emphasize that work is part of God’s plan and that He designed them for a purpose.
Be generous with your praise, affirming skills, and natural abilities you have observed.
Ask questions that help identify likes and dislikes and what is important: What kinds of interactions energize you or drain you? Do you like to work with facts and data, or prefer people-oriented activities? Are your decisions objective and logic-based, or are your decisions based on how they may impact others? Do you like to discuss your ideas, or do you prefer time alone to make decisions?
Encourage busy teens to enjoy downtime, strengthening their creativity and problem-solving skills. Schedule time to pursue hobbies and to invest in electives, sports, and other team activities that build skills and reveal interests.
Explore Career Options for the Undecided Homeschool Student
A better motto than “You can be anything you want to be” is “Be all you can be!”
Researching careers online will help teens better understand occupational profiles that match their interests and personalities. Set a goal for how many careers to research. Information should include primary duties, the education or skills needed for working in that field, the work environment, and the median wage. Discuss the findings. Check out CareerOneStop.org.
Utilizing a career assessment tool at age 16 may further identify vocations that match God-given interests. Informal assessments are readily available on the web.
These are self-interpreted and can lack reliability, so they are best used to generate discussion. Fee-based or formal assessments are more comprehensive and statistically validated. A trained career counselor can interpret the results to identify best-fit careers and college options. Look for a comprehensive assessment that covers the four components of vocational design: personality, interests, skills and abilities, and values. Check out CareerDirect.org.
Good Career Planning
Good career planning includes building curiosity and excitement toward participating in the marketplace. Use your networks to introduce people in occupations that interest them and match their vocational design. Thinking about a career sector rather than a specific occupation will generate a bigger list of options that match their interests. Encourage them to prepare a list of questions by Googling “informational interview.” Practice interview skills to improve their confidence level.
Take advantage of the flexible schedule of homeschooling. Facilitate opportunities to learn outside of the classroom through part-time work, volunteering, and job shadowing. This will help confirm interests and build a resume with skills that employers value.
(Do you need more great career ideas? Check out our posts on Career Readiness & Career Exploration.)
Set Goals and Take Action with Your Undecided Student
By integrating the gathered information and identifying the education, training, and skills needed for the career sectors, plans and goals can be determined. Don’t worry about choosing one specific occupation at this stage. Goals can be categorized into five pathways: four-year STEM-related college degree; four-year liberal arts college degree; two-year vocational degree or certificate; apprenticeship training, military, or workforce; and gap year or travel.
Teens with a healthy and productive level of parental guidance and support have a much better chance of making good college and career choices. Here are some questions: Which post-secondary institutions offer the programs needed? What is the cost for completion? How will it be funded? Can affordable or free college credits be earned in high school? What are the prerequisites or admission requirements? What courses should be completed during high school? Besides education, what experiences or skills would be valued? Together, you can develop a plan for high school, aligning them to support post-graduation goals.
Many students are more motivated when they have a defined purpose and set personal goals. Those who write down their goals are 50% more likely to achieve them. Work to break down their goals into specific, manageable tasks with timelines for completion. Change is constant, so capitalize on preparations for success after high school, no matter their choice.
Need Additional Help?
Need help preparing your student for their career path? Check out our Academic Advising Program at True North Homeschool Academy.
©2019 Cheri Frame
Cheri Frame is a homeschool parent of three graduates, a certified Career Direct® Consultant, and the author of Credits Before College: A Comprehensive High School to Graduation Guide. She advises parents and students on how to earn affordable college credits in high school, choose a career, and graduate college debt free. Cheri and her husband live in suburban Minneapolis.
Have you ever considered teaching your child a foreign language? It’s a dilemma many homeschool parents face. When you start, what curriculum to use, and why do our students need to learn a foreign language anyway? At True North Homeschool Academy, we believe that learning a foreign language has many benefits. See just a few of them below.
Why learn Spanish? Here are 5 Compelling Reasons.
1) There are currently 20 million people studying Spanish right now!
Of all the foreign languages to study, Spanish might be the most popular, and for a good reason. There are approximately 437- 527 million Spanish Speakers worldwide, depending on which list you look at, but it’s definitely in the top 5 languages spoken worldwide.
2) Spanish is also spoken and understood by over 52 million people in the United States.
But buckle up because that number is going to grow! By 2060, the Latino population of the U.S. will reach close to 130 million, making it the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, overtaking Mexico, and increasing the Spanish language’s global standing.
3). Spanish, as a language, has a bright future.
With Spanish speakers on the rise, not only in the U.S., It is currently ranked as the second most important language for British citizens to learn.
4). Spanish will increase your employability.
The Spanish market is a huge demographic for companies to target. Currently, the Latin American market has a 1.5 trillion dollar purchasing power (according to Forbes), making Spanish-speaking employees more valuable than ever to employees as they tap into this profitable market.
5) Understanding Spanish will allow you more opportunities.
These opportunities may come as the chase to travel, work, or study abroad with a richer experience. Speaking Spanish will also open up an entire entertainment world, with Spanish You-Tubes, television, and movies produced in Spanish.
Why learn a foreign language? For the health and brain benefits, of course!
- Learning a foreign language can stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s! Mono-lingual adults showed signs of cognitive decline up to 3 years earlier than bilingual adults.
- Bilingual children score higher on problem-solving than monolingual kids. Learning a new language can improve overall cognitive functioning, including how second-semester you are. In other words, bi-lingual people are better able to observe and understand their surroundings, as well as edit out distractions. Bi-lingual people are better able to spot misleading information. Isn’t it interesting that Sherlock Holms, Lord Peter Wimsey (great fictional detectives), and their creators, Sir Conan Doyle and Dorothy Sayers, were bi or multi-lingual?
- Learning a foreign language enhances your understanding of your mother tongue. Learning a second language causes a student to look carefully at sentence structure, grammatical functions, and the nuances of vocabulary. A fun aspect of Spanish is that it’s a derivative of Latin. Latin words significantly influence English. You probably know some Spanish and Latin vocabulary already!
- Learning a second language enhances memory and vocabulary. These benefits allow students to score better on standardized tests!
- Learning a second language is good, clean fun! Kids naturally love to talk and write in codes, and a foreign language is just that. A terrific code to decipher for young minds eager to learn and develop! The early your child learns a second language, the more confident and adept they will be at learning multiple languages!
So are you convinced that your child needs to learn Spanish but not quite sure where to start?
If you are looking for a great second-semester memory-enhancing, code-deciphering, FUN class, check our Spanish for Children or Beginning Latin! Classes meet live online each week with a passionate, invested multi-lingual speaker.
Looking for a self-paced option? We have Self Paced Spanish!
(Wondering if live, online homeschool courses are right for you? Check out the reasons we love live classes!)
When homeschooling a struggling learner, communication can be difficult. Without healthy communication, it will be impossible to help your child, let alone teach them effectively so that they make real progress. Communication strategies for struggling learners are essential.
As a parent to an Asperger’s son who struggles in several areas, I have been blessed with a child who communicates effectively. I have learned a lot from him and our journey these last 11 years as a homeschooling family characterized by a close relationship. I learned this from a great resource I frequently use, AspergerExperts.com. The founder, a young man with Aspergers, teaches about what he calls defense mode and how to get your child out of it.
So what makes the difference? Let me share these five key communication strategies to help you with YOUR struggling learner.
1) Intentionally enter their world.
I must have instinctively known this because it’s something I’ve always done. I take note of my son’s interests and come alongside him to learn and listen.
Whether that was building legos with him or playing cars when he was young or even attempting to play a video game, I make it a point to spend time doing what he loves. This builds trust.
Trust is a foundation of communication, which leads me to the second point:
2) Spend time with your struggling learner APART from school.
Years ago, I learned that my son VALUES spending time with me. Going out to lunch or coffee together satisfies him the most. So I’ve made a point of going out weekly with him for coffee or lunch. Sometimes we take school with us and do school after our food comes. Other times, we just talk.
Regardless, taking this time together regularly sends the message to him that I value his company, which has helped our schooling tremendously.
3) Actively listen.
It’s easy for a parent to get defensive and feel like you’ve failed. I’ve been there many, many times. But when I listen to my son and what he has to say, I can truly understand what’s going on with him.
Case in point: several months ago, I had him evaluated at LearningRx, and we found out he struggles with visual processing. Several weeks after we were working on the school, he told me that he CANNOT visualize, which upset him. I didn’t realize this, so for all those years; I was mistakenly approaching how we did school. I had been using a lot of visual resources rather than audio ones. I had completely missed it!
But because I actively listened to what my son was saying, I finally understood, and now we’re using more audio resources.
4) Treat your child with respect.
Respect goes both ways. Of course, as parents, we deserve respect, but children need and deserve our respect. What does this mean practically?
It means little things like giving your struggling learner advance warning. For instance, rather than demanding my son stop everything he is doing right now instantly, I give him at least a fifteen-minute warning. Or I will give him choices. Like, “Hey, would you like to do school at 10:00 or 10:30?”
And always have empathy. I learned this most from Love and Logic. LEAD with empathy and mean it, especially if your son or daughter has made a wrong decision or they are struggling in a minor way. Because you never want to minimize their feelings or tell them they are not feeling a certain way. That will lead to them shutting down and not trusting you. Feelings are feelings, and perceptions are reality.
So just saying a simple “I’m sad for you” when your child is struggling can go a long way!
5) Be consistent.
I have a hard time with this, but it’s so important. When your child is having a hard time or being defiant, making empty threats will only worsen your situation. You’re training your child to ignore you until that moment when your tone gets serious, and they know they have to obey.
Communicating up front your expectations and the consequences if these expectations are not met is so important. And then follow through! And don’t threaten something that’s not realistic or will hurt you in the long run!
Communication is so important when teaching a struggling learner. Communication is essential in EVERY aspect of life. These keys will not only help you with your child but will assist in all areas of your life!
Do you need more help with your struggling learner? Check out our special need courses, tutoring, and advising at True North Homeschool Academy.
About the Author:
Dana Susan Beasley, a graphic artist, writer, and musician, is the principal/publisher/program director of AngelArts. Dedicated to providing excellently-designed ebooks, books, homeschooling curriculum, cards, stationery, gifts, and art services to homeschooling families, inspirational artists, entrepreneurs, and art enthusiasts, Dana delights in sharing her gifts and talents and the talents of others with people who are passionate about spiritual, personal, educational, professional, ministerial, artistic, and relational growth.
Married to Travis Beasley, Dana is a homeschooling mother to her Asperger’s son, Sam. She helped her husband start his architectural business, Essential Pillar Architecture, and assisted him with marketing and administration.
You pulled your child from traditional school (or maybe you never started at all) because the environment just wasn’t suited for their needs. Now you’re at home, learning together, all the time. You’ve started noticing little things preventing your child from focusing and truly showing their abilities. It’s so frustrating!
Easy Homeschool Hacks for Kids with Special Needs
There are simple ways that you can 100% change your homeschooling story.
Some of these are adapted from the traditional classroom – but only because they work! As with all things homeschooling, do what works best for your child today. Try things out, make some tweaks, and keep on learning together!
Task List or Schedule Chart
One thing that trips a lot of kids with special needs – as well as typically developing kids – up is keeping things in order, knowing what’s next, and anticipating changes.
Making a simple visual schedule helps children feel settled and in control. They can see their week, day, morning, or even their current task.
You can adapt traditional classroom tools to DIY your schedule! Grab a hanging single strip calendar organizer with clear plastic pockets and some schedule cards or sentence strips. Write out things that you do in your homeschool regularly. Think subjects, special activities, breaks, etc. For pre-readers, you can use pictures printed online. For older kids who can tell time, include a time. You can just add this on the spot with sticky notes or use a whiteboard marker.
Hang your daily schedule in your learning zone or a prominent place in your home. To make a change in the schedule, just swap the cards around. If your child can’t handle a full day of things to do, keep it super simple with just the first 2-4 activities.
Your child will be able to anticipate what’s coming up and feel more confident flowing through the day.
Above the Line/Below the Line
Everyone has things they’d prefer to do, especially kids. For children that push back on learning one particular subject or doing a certain activity, an above-the-line/below-the-line chart helps.
It’s a contract between you and your child. If they can commit to completing 2-4 items of “must do” work, then they can reward themselves with a preferred activity from below the line.
For example, my child must complete Daily Language, one math lesson worksheet/activity, and clean up any learning materials used. Then, she can grab a book to read together, choose an educational show to watch, or enjoy free time with the music of her choice.
Showing the reward for positive, productive work on non-preferred items is a super motivational tool.
Make your own chart by laminating a piece of construction paper. With a permanent marker, draw a line about ½ to ⅔ of the way down. Above the line, draw as many lines as work items you’d like your child to complete, numbering each line; every day, write in your child’s “must do” work. Below the line, using a whiteboard marker, write out the rewards available each day. This keeps things adaptable. Simply erase yesterday’s work and rewards to have a clean slate!
Chunking Work for Success
Plowing through all your work in one big learning session does seem like the most sensible thing to do sometimes. Unless it backfires and you’ve got a meltdown on your hands before half the things are done.
Instead, try chunking out your working time. Work for 5-10 minutes, then take a break and do something else. This is a great time to do physical activity like yoga or “heavy work” – squats, pushups, etc. You could also put on soft music and dim the lights to meditate. Having a healthy snack is another great option!
Building in breaks helps the work seem more manageable. These breaks shouldn’t be super long. Just a few minutes, about 3-5 minutes, is usually enough to reset.
There are two ways to handle the work chunks.
- Work in 5-10 min blocks, continuing with the same task/subject/project until complete before switching to a new task or subject.
- Work on one task for 5-10 minutes, take a short break, then start a new task or project; whatever you get done in each working block is considered good enough for today; you can continue with the same assignment tomorrow if needed.
Sensory Tools to Stay Focused
Ever notice that your child calms down when they’re holding a certain blanket or bouncing on an exercise ball? Use it!
Try these simple sensory hacks to help your child focus:
- Velcro strip: attach a small piece of Velcro – either one side or both sides – to your child’s primary working space; your child can stick and unstick two pieces of Velcro or rub their fingers over their preferred side (rough/soft).
- Exercise ball seating: for kids that wiggle, sit them on an exercise ball – either on its own or as part of a chair system; balancing or bouncing keeps their body engaged, works out the wiggles, and helps their mental focus.
- Squishy things: use a stress ball, slime or other squishy things to help your child focus; your child can manipulate the squishy as they work – providing a calming and focusing effect.
- Resistance band chair: stretch a heavy resistance band around the front two legs of your child’s chair; they can rest their legs on it to swing back and forth or push down against the pressure.
- Fidgets: slide beads along a rope, play with a Koosh ball or fiddle with a small car – fidgets can help your child keep their mind more focused by providing movement.
- Get creative! Use what your child already loves; offer a preferred object as a reward or to hold/use while working.
These three simple changes can make homeschooling a child with mild to moderate special needs, like ADHD, much easier.
What are your favorite hacks to simplify homeschooling a child with different learning needs or styles?
(Are you looking for academic advising or online courses for your special needs homeschool student? Check out all of our services at True North Homeschool Academy.)
About the Author:
Meg Flanagan, the founder of Meg Flanagan Education, is a teacher, mom and military spouse. She is dedicated to making the K-12 education experience easier for military families. Meg holds an M.Ed in special education and a BS in elementary education. She is a certified teacher in both elementary and special education in Massachusetts and Virginia.
Meg regularly writes for MilitaryOneClick, Military Shoppers, and NextGen MilSpouse. You can find Meg, and MilKids, online on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.
To get actionable solutions to common K-12 school problems, parents should check out Talk to the Teacher by Meg Flanagan.
As homeschooling parents, we are called upon to choose curriculum, teach the kids, keep track of credits and graduation requirements and guide our kids to a successful launch. We are the school board, administration, academic advisor, and teacher, all rolled into one.
It can be difficult to do all of that on one’s own. I’ve heard several times on homeschool forums and message boards kids state that their parents didn’t help them navigate college or career, and they came out just fine.
And while I do believe that resiliency and grit are often overlooked and possibly under-expected, I caution parents against leaving their kids to figure it out on their own for two compelling reasons.
Compelling Reasons to Use Homeschool Academic Advising
Time and Money
The average student in America is graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in 6 years instead of 4 with $37,000 in debt. Couple that with the fact that only about half of all students who enter college complete it, and you could have a very expensive recipe for disaster.
Using Homeschool Academic Advising to Hack Homeschool Success
The savvy homeschooler will view homeschooling high school as the opportunity for two things:
- Time to explore new opportunities and options
- Time to prepare for a successful post-homeschool launch
I think about academics when I put together our homeschool for each school year. Including considering extra-curricular, camps, internships, sports, clubs, and other possibilities. I am thinking about how my kids develop and grow in unique areas (developing their “otherliness”). What about knowing how to develop their professionalism in specific areas of interest? What kind of personality skills or traits do they need shoring up on, or natural areas of ability that can be further developed?
Why Hire Someone When You Can DIY Homeschool Academic Advising?
So, what does this have to do with Homeschool Academic Advising? Many, if not most, homeschooling parents short-change the high school years. They under-credit what they have done. And they don’t know where to invest time and energy based on students’ interests or callings. Primarily because they are worried about what a transcript “should” look like. They tend to forget to think about things like camps, awards, sports, roles, responsibilities, and community service.
That’s where a seasoned Academic Advisor is helpful.
I see the credits you overlook because it’s your normal. For example, I recently worked with a high school student who flunked most of last year’s courses.
After digging a bit deeper, I discovered that he had extensive camping and fishing experience – like he provides fresh fish yearly for more than one family. He has hundreds of hours of Community Service (mowing and plowing his grandma and neighbor’s driveways and walkways). Works full-time laying fiber optic cable (because he has such an amazing work ethic and is a responsible worker). And has re-built a diesel engine for the truck he bought with cash he’d earned watching YouTube videos.
Along with identifying a processing disorder and getting him the academic help he needed, I created a transcript for him. The transcript reflected the hard-working, high PIQ (Performance IQ), kind and generous young man he was. Additionally, we could lay out a doable plan that will get him the professional certification he needs in life to earn the kind of money he should, given his abilities, despite academic struggles.
Similarly, I worked with a family who had a student hoping to graduate from college while still in their teens. This student has the intellectual capability of doing just that, but he is also very interested in going into the art field, and doing creative, freelance work. His Personalized Learning Plan included CLEP and Dual Enrollment classes. These classes were coupled with developing an online presence, attending professional conferences, developing his artistic abilities, and going to graduate school in a location that would allow him to create the best connections possible.
Story Telling and the Art of High School & Career Counseling as Part of Homeschool Academic Advising
Here’s the deal. At heart, I’m a writer, a teller of stories. I love listening to people, hearing their hearts, and learning about the story they’ve lived so far and the story that God is writing. From there, it’s easy to create an Action Plan that makes sense, to resource the students and parents with camps, classes, competitions, books, and ideas to make the story they are living be cost and time effective and lead to success.
Whether You Have a Fast-Burner or a Struggling Learner, Homeschool Academic Advising Can Help!
Whether your student is on a fast track or struggling just to keep going, we can help. We have worked with homeschooled students worldwide, from profoundly gifted to disabled.
Along the way, we’ve mentored everyone from Olympic hopefuls to kids who use P.T. for PE credit. We have helped kids go on to Internships, the military, community college, State and Christian colleges, and Ivy League schools. Every student has a story, and we would be honored to work alongside you to help write the next amazing chapter!
Do you need more great career advice for your homeschool student? We have resources to help!
Young Professional Series Bundle
5 Tips for Homeschooling Through High School
FREE Personalized Learning Plan
You have a special needs kiddo, and they are in high school. They are not quite up to grade level in Math or English, or it takes them a few years to get through what is traditionally a one-year program. How do you award special needs credits and special education transcripts?
The basics and therapy eat through your week, there is no time for extracurriculars, and the list of concerns goes on. Special Needs parents have unique life challenges, including creating a Special Needs Transcript for their High School years.
Twenty-Five Clues Hinting at Learning Disabilities that Hint at Learning Disabilities. Need a helping hand? Our SPED Academic Advising will save you time and money!
Creating a Special Needs Transcript
The Basics of a Special Needs Transcript
- Vocational Transcripts are often 19 credits total, compared to a 24-credit College Prep or 28-credit Honors Transcript.
- You will want to list 4 credits of English, 3 of Math, 3 of Science, 3 of History, 1 of PE, ½ credits of Health, Speech and Computer and Bible, and other electives.
- A credit is generally considered to be 120 hours of work. You can organize this work by book study, lessons, practice, time logs, recitals, performances, hands-on work, etc.
You can list courses and subjects using a traditional 4 x 4-course grid (which you can find on our True North Homeschool Tribe FB Group) with the subjects along the left-hand side and years along the top, or you can list courses by subject area. My only caution is that if your students hope to enter the military, they might not accept a by-subject transcript.
Transcripts, Special Needs, and Graduation
Your special needs student may be unable to handle high school level classes or struggle with what would be considered traditional high school work in a specific subject area. It is perfectly acceptable to list courses that your students are capable of, regardless of the level of “grade.” If your student is 15 and capable of 4th grade English, list English on the transcript and give them full credit for an entire year’s work and the grade they earn.
According to Federal law, children with disabilities have the right to stay in school until they complete their school program or until they turn 21, whichever comes first. That is good news as you manage and balance life skills, academic and vocational training, and therapies. Give yourself – and your student! – the time they need to develop and succeed!
Can therapies “Count” for Credit?
Absolutely! You can log PT and OT for PE credit. Special needs tutoring or educational therapies can count towards credit in subject areas. You can use logs to keep track of credit hours.
How About Hobbies and Electives?
Inevitably, parents underestimate what their students have done and what they can do. Dramatic or musical theater can count towards Speech, Music, Drama, etc. Working in a computer repair shop can be logged and count towards Community Service, BCIS- depending on how detailed and involved the work was -or sales and marketing.
I worked with a student a few years ago who, at age 16, could not manage to write a complete sentence. This same student successfully co-owned and operated a model train store with his Mom. He had customers worldwide who understood that his speech impediment would in no way impede the high quality of service and attention to detail that he would offer every customer.
The Power of the Parent
So many parents of Struggling Learners and Special Needs students go above and beyond looking for resources, experiences, tutors, and therapies that bolster and build their student’s ability to succeed. Too often, the parent doesn’t understand how to transcribe these experiences, travel, therapies, and P.E. opportunities into credits. Boy Scouts, 4-H, etc., and other similar programs can translate into many academic credits. Think creatively!
Now, where to start?
Parents of struggling learners and Special Needs are often thrust into a world that requires much research and goes beyond normal. High school can be especially daunting. But you don’t’ have to go it alone! Connect with other Special Needs parents and homeschooling companies that partner with Struggling Learners and Special Needs.
Our favorites include SPED Homeschool and our Special Needs Academic Advising, Classes, and FB Group: Survive and Thrive Special Needs Homeschool.
Our Special Needs Academic Advising program was created to come alongside struggling learners and special needs families. We will do a credit evaluation (and find those “hidden” credits you may have overlooked), recommend curriculum, classes, and programs, develop a Personalized Learning Plan, and provide the support you need to manage to homeschool successfully.
The world of Struggling Learners and Special Needs can be tricky to manage, but thankfully, with the resources available today, you don’t have to go it alone!