Thinking Beyond High School

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Thinking Beyond High School

By Susan K. Stewart

“We will be sending Joel to public school next year. We don’t think we can provide the college prep classes he needs,” Mr. Perez said with some sadness.

My standard reply was “Are you sure?”

“Neither my wife nor I know how to teach high school math, science, and there’s no way we can teach foreign language.”

“Why do you think Joel needs a college prep course of study?

“Everyone needs to go to college, don’t they, to get a good job?”

“No, there are other options to consider.”

As the administrator of a homeschool program, I’ve had this conversation with at least one family each year. There is a prevailing myth: All students are destined to go to college. Otherwise, they will be unemployed failures, right? Not all kids need to or even should go directly from high school to college. I know. I was one of those students who should have at least waited a year.

God created each of us uniquely to serve Him in different capacities. This means there is no one way to prepare our children for the future careers. Let’s look at some of the options.

  • College is a legitimate option.

Some of our children know early on what God has planned for them. My granddaughter has not wavered from being a meteorologist since she was six years old. Even within the college option, different choices can be made.

  • Community college

Often students can get those “hard” classes at community college while preparing to go to a four-year school. Many careers can begin with a two-year degree with more professional study later.

  • College at home

Many of us have a 15- or 16-year-old who is bored with standard high school material and ready to move on to more advanced studies but not ready for the social demands of even a community college. Other students may choose distance learning for college so they can move at an accelerated pace. Many universities have this option available.

  • Four-year college

Going to a four-year college right out of high school is a good option for some students but not all.

  • Vocational or trade school

CBS reported in 2017 the biggest obstacle in the rebuilding effort after Hurricane Harvey was the lack of people trained in the trade skills: carpentry, electrical, plumbing, and so on. These career choices, along with many others, don’t require a college degree. Many vocational and trade schools offer practical hands-on experience and job placement.

  • Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are centuries old. At one time, this was the way young people learned the necessary skills for their career choice. Apprenticeships can be formal programs through trade unions or informal arrangements with a local business. (A little curriculum note: A unit study about the history of apprenticeships can be an interesting way to explore options.)

  • Short-term mission

When our child isn’t sure what God is calling them to, a short-term mission may be a way to serve others while seeking God’s plan. Many churches and youth organizations offer mission trips, which range from two weeks to one year. Often these trips are offered to high school students.

  • Entrepreneurship

My older son started his lawn mowing, leaf raking, snow removal business at the age of twelve. It became part of his homeschool curriculum. He decided from this experience while he earned extra money, having his own business wasn’t for him. Other teens, however, find owning their business to be just right. These businesses later become full time occupations. We can encourage our young people who have a “crazy” idea to move forward with it. They may love or leave it. But it’s an opportunity not to be missed.

  • Military

The military is now open to homeschool students. It is a viable option for both career and future college planning. Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has an article with up-to-date information for those considering military service. Preparing to Enter the Military: Your Mission

  • Gap Year

A gap year, a year between high school and future education, has become so popular many organizations now have gap year programs. Often a student will use this year for travel or for trying out various career opportunities.

  • Get a job

There’s nothing wrong with a full-time job immediately after high school. It may be the gap year alternative, or it may become a career of choice. Sometimes, these after high school jobs can lead to promotions and opportunities students who are in college may miss.

Are middle school years too early to start talking and thinking about these future plans? No. Now middle school is often the time our children are looking at professions they admire. Don’t discount the so-called pipe dreams of being a singer, ballet dancer, or astronaut. All those people started somewhere. I’m not sure David’s father envisioned his shepherd son being the king of Israel either.

In addition to giving our middle-school-aged kids and high schoolers opportunities to learn about various occupations, we can also be praying for and with them about God’s plan for their lives. As parents, we want to help prepare our children to listen to the voice of God and serve where God leads.

Susan K. Stewart, Managing Editor with Elk Lake Publishing, teaches, writes, and edits nonfiction. 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: Listen When God Speaks, was released in July. You can learn more at her website Join Susan and other homeschoolers at Harried Homeschoolers Facebook group.


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"Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).