This is part 2 of a 2 part article. Read What's Next? 8 Options After High School Part 1.
Last month, we explored four of the traditional college options for what comes after homeschooling high school. This month, we will continue our discussion by looking at four less-traditional options - options that are growing in popularity and should be explored with your teen. I say four options, but really one of them is a path I would not recommend. Read on to discover some of the roads less traveled for homeschool high school graduates. You may discover a path that fits your family perfectly.
Try Distance Learning
You can work toward distance learning independently, and have your child earn college credits while studying at home. This involves taking CLEP or AP exams. College policies vary widely so make sure that it’s going to meet your needs. CLEP exams can be outside documentation of your homeschool, or you might want to use CLEPs for college credit in order to save money, which is a little bit different. There are two basic ways of using CLEP. One is to follow behind your student and scoop up what they know; wait until they have learned something and then take a CLEP exam when you’re absolutely positive that they can pass the CLEP exam in that particular class. The other way of doing it is to plan ahead. That means that you study a new material to study for a CLEP exam in that particular college subject.
You can also get help with Distance Learning, by relying on the expertise of reputable companies that can guide you through the process. I recommend CollegePlus. CollegePlus will mentor the students that are homeschooling college. That has some real benefits as sometimes students can be difficult for parents to deal with and yet not so much trouble for other adults to deal with.
For more information, I love the books Accelerated Distance Learning and Bear’s Guide to Earning Degrees by Distance Learning. It sounds very trendy today to say you’re doing online college or something like that, but it’s really not a new phenomenon at all. Years ago, people would do distance learning as well. They would mail in their tests and their papers instead of email or fax them, but it was really the exact same thing. Resources for distance learning have been around forever.
Take a Gap Year
Taking a gap year is becoming more and more common among high schoolers. It’s becoming favored by some colleges, notably Harvard and Princeton. It can also develop a more mature student. If a child were to take a year off between senior year and when they start the university, they will become much more mature during that time and the colleges are hoping that they will function better as students when they get there.
College policies vary widely so it’s really good for you to look into the college that your child wants to go to. Some will be very easy-going and happy to have you no matter what, and others will be so persnickety you won’t even know how to please them. It’s a good idea to check each policy.
When you think of a gap year, you want your students to actually do something. Sometimes that means community service, missionary work, or youth with a mission. Other times it might be a meaningful work experience. Sometimes as children are doing these things, they will search for scholarships.
Try Meaningful Work, Internships or Vocational School
Eventually children need to become self-supporting. Instead of college, some children will enter the work world directly. Although it is tempting to believe that any job is a successful launch into society, it's important to remember that your goal is not for them to "work." Your goal is for your children to grown up and become independent, and that means making a living wage. While meaningful work is important, they will need to make enough money to support themselves, pay rent and car expenses, buy groceries, and eventually raise a family of their own.
Even in conservative families where women do not work outside the home, girls still need a vocation in order to be fulfilled. Nobody feels satisfied sitting on a couch all day, and each child must feel productive. When these girls graduate, they will still need to provide full time contributions of work in the home. Homeschool must prepare them for marriage and family, and the possibility of living independently if marriage doesn't come immediately. The need for meaningful work is deeply embedded in all of us and as homeschool parents, we need to find ways to encourage our children to find work that will help them feel fulfilled.
Internships are a very popular option for homeschool graduates to "test drive" a vocation/profession. Whether they are paid or unpaid internships, they can be valuable if only for the insights they provide. Students who successfully complete an internship may eventually even land a full time position at the same company. But even if they don't, internships can yield some valuable letters of recommendation which can be used for finding paid jobs.
Finally, vocational school is a wonderful way for students to transition to independence. These often grow out of the passionate interests that often develop with children reach the teen years and begin to discover more about themselves. Far from being "less than college," a vocational school graduates are well on their way to meaningful employment and an honorable career in a field they care deeply about.
The "Couch Potato" Strategy
It is not the same as a gap year. The goal of graduating your children is to have them grow up. As a parent of young adult males, the movie Failure to Launch (which I do NOT recommend), is a scary possibility. You don’t want your children to sit on a couch playing video games for the rest of their lives. You want them to do something meaningful to find their place in the world. Your job as parents is to avoid enabling their dependency upon you. Your goal is to encourage them to become independent adults.
It’s possible to do everything in your power to ensure independence and still end up with a couch potato adult. When I talk with my older friends from all walks of life, I’m surprised at how often it happens – and how rarely parents will voice their concerns to others. If you have trouble with failure to launch, these resources may help.
There is online encouragement in the article ‘Parenting Super Hero or Not?’ from Crosswalk. The author has two free ebooks that I recommend, "10 Ways to Turn Around Teens" and "Rules/Boundaries." There are some books that may be helpful. Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children: Six Steps to Hope and Healing for Struggling Parents by Allison Bottke is geared primarily toward parents dealing with delinquent behavior: drugs, alcohol, felonious behaviors. Parenting Your Adult Child: How you can help them achieve their full potential by Campbell and Chapman may help, but it seems to recommend counseling more than anything. When Our Grown Kids Disappoint Us: Letting Go of Their Problems, Loving Them Anyway, and Getting on with Our Lives by Jane Adams provides warmth, empathy, and perspective.
Remember that kids will change their minds. You just don’t know what the future is going to hold. Kids mature and change their minds and the next thing you know, they want to own a business of their own and they need a degree. Working is an option but planning for a college prep education is one of the best ways to provide that for them in the long run.
© Lee Binz, 2011
Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, specializes in helping parents homeschool high school. Get Lee's 5 part mini-course, "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School." You can find her at http://www.TheHomeScholar.com.