After High School Options for Homeschoolers
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Application essays. PSAT. SAT. ACT. College-required classes.
For many of us, as our children enter high school, approach high school, begin first grade, we begin the panic of “What about college?” The phrases above become one more thing to worry about, right? So many questions. So much fear.
Our society has placed a great value on a college education. How many times has it been said or written “to succeed a person needs a college degree”? But is the statement true? No.
Not all occupations require a college degree. Here are a few examples:
- Attorney: In many states, a person may take the bar exam and receive a license to practice law in that state without a law degree or any degree for that matter.
- Technology: Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have become the poster children for success without a college degree. Some kids are learning technology skills, whether it’s programming or building equipment, at younger ages. The skills needed for technical positions are better learned in a hands-on environment than in a lecture hall.
- Medical assistants: Jobs such as surgical technician and licensed vocational nursing do not require a four-year degree. Specialized training at a community college or other school may be required.
- Skilled trades: News reports lament the fact of a lack of skilled trade people in this country—plumbers, electricians, carpenters, etc. All of these can be achieved through an apprentice program and can have above average wages.
- Customer service: My daughter-in-law works from home as a customer service representative for a national back. Her primary skills are a pleasant phone voice and empathy. No school can teach either of these.
Going to college should be a question, not an answer. The question for our students should be “Why?” not which one. Before panicking about whether we as homeschool parents will ruin our children’s chance at a college education, we need to help them determine if is even necessary.
What can be done to consider whether college is necessary? Here are some suggestions.
- Start with dad’s job
Most of our children know where their parent goes each day but not what they do. Encourage kids to ask about jobs with such questions as “What do you love about your job?” “What don’t you love?” “Why did you pick this career?”
For parents who work at home, I understand the need to separate job from family. Talking with our children about what we do all day at the computer is family time, not job time.
- Take kids to work
Many employers have a “Take Your Child to Work Day.” (National Take Your Daughter or Son to Work Day is scheduled for April 22, 2021.) If the position has restrictions about children under a certain age, use that day to learn about the career. At-home workers can bring the kids into the home office.
- Take field trips
Whether as a homeschool group or a family, visiting business and factories can be fun as well as educational. Start by asking other homeschool parents if you may visit their place of employment or business. Simple trips like the post office and grocery store can be wealth of information about careers.
As our children begin to express interest in specific careers, look for opportunities to visit those businesses. Ask to spend some time talking to people who work there. Some businesses have career days for students to come and shadow a person during the day.
My son was interested in a career as a fire fighter. Through a homeschool dad, we were able to arrange a twenty-four hour ride-along at the busiest station in the county. While he enjoyed the experience, he learned it wasn’t a job for him.
Study Occupations through History
Have a unit with career studies to learn what careers famous people of the past did. Brainstorm with your children who they would like to learn about. Here are a few suggestions to get started.
- George Washington
- Ben Franklin
- James Marshall
- George Washington Carver
Study the History of Specific Careers
As interest developments in specific vocations, learn how those occupations began. Using firefighting as an example. In early history, neighbors gathered together to stop a fire. This neighborliness evolved into a job opportunity.
Look at the Unusual
Sometimes people joke, what does a person who studies basketweaving do for a living. Seriously, what do they do? Find out. I have a friend who has an enormously successful business in glass art. Learn what the opportunities for a mathematician, historian, or archivist. Really, not all are teachers.
Learn Business Skills
Basic business skills are in many ways life skills. Budgeting is an example. The only difference between a simple budget and a corporate budget is the number of line items and the number of dollars. This can lead to a working knowledge of spreadsheets. Learning to use a word processor, database, and presentations software can be a useful tool no matter the career of choice.
Do Volunteer Work
Volunteering can lead to an interest in a specific career. Many non-profit service organizations are seeking help. Some are open to pre-teens as well as teens. Homeless shelters, animal welfare organizations, nursing homes and hospitals, and libraries all have various volunteer opportunities. Consider serving as a family in one of these areas.
Prepare a Resume
It’s never too early to begin building a resume. Even a pre-teen who mows lawns can show work ethic and skills. Although a full resume may not be needed yet, recording vital information about volunteer activities, clubs, awards, and small jobs will make the resume easier when the time comes. Include the name of employers (if appropriate), dates, job description, job duties, pay (if any), and other pertinent information.
What Are the after High School Options?
College, whether a community college or four-year university, certainly is a legitimate option. Even if your student wants to pursue a career requiring a college diploma, maybe starting the degree program immediately after high school isn’t the best option.
- Vocational or trade school
For most trade skills and some other skills, a vocational or trade school is the right choice. These programs are usually accelerated, give on-the-job training, and offer job placement opportunities
For thousands of years, apprenticeships have been a way to learn from the bottom up. While many programs now offer a salary, many do not. Apprentices often start by watching, handing tools to the craftsman, or even cleaning up after the job, all steps to learning the trade. As learners master each step, they move up to more complicated parts of the job.
- Short-term missions or travel
Many students opt for “gap year” travel before going to school. Travel of any kind is a learning experience. Many short-term mission opportunities, which can be a few weeks to a year or more, not only offer a chance to travel but also a chance to live and work in a different culture.
The young person with a lawn mowing business or shoveling snow may have what it takes to start a business. Starting a business is a matter of seeing a need and providing a service or product to fill that need. It’s inspiring to read the stories of millionaires and billionaires who grew up in poverty or orphanages, worked in low-paying jobs, and learned the skills needed to start major businesses. Search the internet for these tales.
Many young people aspire for a military career. Some enlist for the college benefits and job training. Others because they’re not sure what they want to do later in life. Organizations like Civil Air Patrol or Young Marines help teens learn about the military and whether it’s a good fit for them.
- Get a job
Maybe getting a job is the best option for our children. Any job is a learning experience. Whether the job is related to a future career or only to earn money for further education, it is valuable to future endeavors. Again, read some of the stories of corporation owners who started out in poverty. Most had what is considered a menial job in the beginning.
The beauty of homeschooling is allowing our children to flourish in their areas of interest, skills, talents, and gifts. After homeschool should be no different. Instead of worrying about whether our children will be able to go to college, spend these years helping them learn the options. Who knows? You may be training the next Henry Ford or Elon Musk.
Susan K. Stewart, Nonfiction Managing Editor with Elk Lake Publishing, teaches, writes, and edits non-fiction. Susan’s passion is to inspire readers with practical, real-world solutions. Her books include Science in the Kitchen, Preschool: At What Cost?, Harried Homeschoolers Handbook, and the award-winning Formatting e-Books for Writers. Her latest book, Donkey Devos: Listening to you donkey when God speaks, is scheduled to be released spring 2021. You can learn more at her website www.practicalinspirations.com.