By Lee Binz, The HomeScholar
Keep it Simple!You have only one goal per year in the four years of high school
It can be overwhelming. After years of happily homeschooling young children, parents look at high school and suddenly panic. Record keeping, transcripts, courses, credits, and tests! Those things are challenging, I'll admit, but they really aren't a matter of life and death. They are just discrete, manageable tasks that you can complete one at a time. When you strip away all the fluff and meringue, you are really left with just one major goal each year. There are only four key goals in the four years of high school.
Freshman Year: Think about College
During freshman year, all you have to do is think about college. Students vary, and teens will often change their minds. College seems like a long way off, too! But when you begin high school thinking about college, then life for the next four years will be much easier. College preparation allows for maximum flexibility. No matter how many times your child changes career plans, you will be ready for anything. Thinking about college can help if your child goes to college, of course. However, if your child does not go to college, no harm is done. You simply end up with a well educated adult, ready to take on the world.
Think about college by learning how to homeschool high school. Take classes and read books that will help you learn about course selection and record keeping. Begin to talk with your child about college preparation. Focus on core subjects like reading, writing, math, history and science. Teach your child at their level and they will be very well prepared in 4 years. Don't worry about the past or the future, but today keep doing what works. Seek help and guidance if you need it.
Sophomore year is the time to prepare for college. Your homeschool should still remain the same warm and loving learning environment it has always been. Preparing does not mean transforming your happy homeschool into a military academy or Socratic classroom. Instead, the best preparation will occur when you continue to use what has worked for you in the past. Move forward with the curriculum that has been working, and make adjustments with the problems you identify. Keep forward momentum with confidence.
Within the context of your family school, prepare for college by taking two specific steps in sophomore year. First, begin a foreign language if you haven’t already. Colleges like to see two or three years of a single foreign language in high school. For homeschoolers, it may be a source of great fear, and some put it off. Prepare for college by making sure you begin a foreign language in sophomore year. Second, prepare for college by taking the PSAT for fun. This is the first college admission assessment test, and it will help your child prepare for college. The PSAT will put your students name in front of colleges that want homeschoolers! It’s a thrill to receive mail from a college, and can encourage parent and student alike.
Junior Year: Find a College
The focal point of junior year is finding some colleges where you want to apply. Although you could quickly choose by throwing darts on a map or only looking only close by, I don’t advise it. Sure, you've chosen a college, but it could be a disastrous choice. An unsuitable college and a mismatch with your family values is a very expensive mistake. Instead, choose colleges with a step-by-step approach.
To achieve your goal of finding a handful of appropriate colleges, the first step is to go to a college fair. Similar to a homeschool convention, it’s a quick and easy way to learn a lot about many colleges in a short amount of time. Step two is taking the PSAT in October of junior year. Step three is taking time to visit colleges during the year, so you can eliminate poor choices from your list. The fourth step is taking the SAT or ACT in the spring, which can help you determine the right college fit academically and financially.
During senior year, the main goal is completing college applications. Applying early for college can improve your chance of admission and financial aid. Just like Tax Day on April 15th, college application deadlines are immovable, inflexible, and have financial consequences. In addition, applying for college is not at all like applying for a job at McDonalds! It takes a lot of time, and there is a lot of work involved.
Applying for college will require long and thoughtful essays. Letters of recommendation will take time to acquire, even from willing and helpful writers. The application itself is quite complex and takes a while to complete. Each application must include your homeschool records: a transcript, possibly a reading list, and perhaps course descriptions as well. For best results with maximum financial aid, apply early and often. Apply for a handful of acceptable colleges, carefully watching deadlines and following the fine print. Applying for college doesn’t end with admission. It continues with additional correspondence regarding financial aid. It’s a prolonged task, but worth the effort.
Each year of high school your child will mature by leaps and bounds. As a newborn is dramatically different from a four year old, it is also true that a freshman will barely resemble a high school senior. Children grow up so fast, and mature very quickly over the four years of high school. Be prepared for anything, so your children can attend a college that will meet their family and career goals. Focus on the one goal for each year of high school. Don’t get lost in the details, and don’t worry about the future, just focus on the task at hand.
Freshmen think about college, sophomores plan for college, juniors find a college and seniors apply to college. Have a great year THIS year. Next year you can work on the next goal, but for now just focus on the one step before you.
I am so so so thankful to God for you. I spent the morning becoming confused and in despair over math and science next year. I was reading a homeschool forum trying to decide what to do for science next year. Some of the moms had the idea that you HAD to do certain things or your child's college career, not to mention life, would be ruined if you didn't do things a certain way. I finally remembered many of your encouraging, reassuring words regarding individuality and turned off that silly forum. I'm serious, I was nearly in tears. And the Lord brought your words so clearly to my thoughts.
~ Christy in Texas
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Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, specializes in helping parents homeschool high school. Get her 5 part mini-course, "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School." You can find us at www.TheHomeScholar.com.