Pondering High School

Have you ever listened to a podcast or participated in a webinar, and thought: man, I wish I had kept my notes… especially because people will inevitably ask me for my thoughts on the experience, and I will be trying to remember, what were the high points? Anyway, I recently participated in a webinar led by Lisa Nehring from True North Academy, where she was giving a drink-from-the-firehose kind of information about planning and pulling off high school years in a homeschool setting. Have I mentioned lately how excited I am to be finally jumping into high school? I’m not positive that’s something I ever expected to say, but it really is true. I am so delighted to be walking with my son through a few more years of dedicated, diligent, purposed, curated work as we seek to pack in all the joy and the wisdom and the practice and the iterating we can. In true firstborn fashion, he seems like the type who may fly the coop at a young age, and I am here for embracing whatever years of this the Lord has left for me. I’m buckled in and ready to go. By God’s grace.

So I will share my own plans soon, which combines both personal plans and co op direction – and I will happily share everything from book lists to curriculum to field trip dreams. But in the meantime, enjoy some bullet points that I took away from my time gleaning wisdom from Lisa Nehring. I love to be caught in the middle: I am holding the hands of those who have done this before me, as they urge me on and pull me through when I am getting stuck; but I am also holding the hands of those alongside me and following after, and I want to do my own due diligence in sharing the resources I love, the experiences I have, and pulling others along when they need an external boost as well.

That said, hello bullet points:

  • High school should be focused on getting kids headed well toward adulthood. Give them a broad smorgasbord of topics is huge, key here in these ages.
  • Good basic math and language literacy—not just functional, but literate. Stop and pause to shore up those skills. Jr. High is when those struggles come into a head. High school is a great time to offer your kids great opportunities, develop their interest in broad categories and mastery in particular interests.
  • High school is a great time spending time and energy to work on identifying passions and skills.
  • Parents are the most important resource your kids have. God gave you to your kids for a reason.
  • Typical course of academic study means generally, and means what the public schools and other day schools are probably working under:
    Math, English, science, history, foreign language, and electives.
  • Are you obligated to follow that? Technically, it depends on your state. So if you care, find out from your state what the laws are. HSLDA.com is the best resource for that.
  • Typical math progression: Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II; trig, precalc, personal finances.
  • Typical English: I, II, III, IV—you can put into those credits (120-180 hours of work per credit) whatever you need to. Focus on where their individual struggles are. Most kids should be able to write a 3-5 paragraph essay by the time they begin high school without stressing about it. Writing isn’t actually very subjective, as most people think. Mechanics of writing a good sentence is simply a basic skill. Find a good writing program, or hire a good writing teacher, because if your kids need to know anything, it’s how to communicate well—both written and orally. It should include literature and composition throughout their high school studies. General, World, US, Brit. Are the typical lit/comp classes covered in high school.
  • Typical science progression: biology, chemistry, physics (non-math physics is okay, if necessary), and another science—maybe environmental science or A&P.
  • Typical History progression: world geography (important for history, politics, economics), US history, government/economics
  • Foreign languages: most colleges do not require foreign languages for acceptance, so technically you don’t need it in high school. But it is a really great skill to have. Starting with Latin is the best, because it establishes good English grammar, plus 15000 English words come from Latin roots. Modern language is also okay: do one or two years, and that’s plenty before college. But if you are competent in foreign language, you may get scholarships for college, so that’s a consideration. Spanish is actually spoken by more people in the world than English. It helps to have Latin first.
  • Electives: state geography, speech class for good verbal communication, health, Bible, drama, art, music.
  • Don’t overlook BIBLE! Developing humanity is the number one thing you can do for your kids as they launch into a technical future. But they need to understand the Master of the universe and their part in the world—this starts with Bible.
  • Do not overlook art and music. It is so easy to drop those, but don’t do it. The arts will always play a big part in our lives. Teach your kids both to create and to observe.
  • (Check Truenorthhomeshoolacademy.com blog on college requirements.)
  • PA state standards are more strict than other states, so if you follow their standards, you will for sure cover your own or anyplace you might move.
  • Take advantage of whatever amazing resources God has put near you.
  • Write your transcript according to where they are going to go next. It is just a written record of what your kids have done in high school—it is like a resume. You can do transcript by subject or by year. Write it according to where they plan to go next, and what they want to do with it. Make it scannable. Make sure that it is easy to read. Make sure it conveys what you want it to convey. Vocational (21 credit hours), college prep (24 credit hours—a couple years of foreign language, 3 yrs math), and honors (more hours, more credits) are different types of transcripts.
  • Logging work and counting it for credit can be helpful. You need to not just count hours but also rigor. Not just taking in information passively, but a feedback loop—they need to be able to respond, communicate, write, debate.
  • What does it mean to develop your kids’ standout factor? High school is a great time to think about developing this. It can really garner scholarship dollars for your kid. Elite athletics, for instance. Entrepreneurism if your kid has developed a product or company in their teens is also really great. Your kids could write a novel or a how-to book. Remember that your unique things as a parent is also something that you can easily, generally, offer to your kids. Don’t be afraid to use the resources God has put into your family, extended family, neighbors, or close friends.
  • Have your kids aim to go to college or university as quickly as possible with as little debt as possible. Period. Do not drag out college. Start adulthood. Move on.
  • Developing kids’ life skills, soft skills, and marketable skills.
  • Communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity are really key.
  • Your kids need to nail down how to write an essay. They need to be able to write a 5 paragraph essay by their junior year. They should also know a persuasive essay by some point in their junior year. Help your kids be at ease speaking in public. This starts with simply teaching them to read aloud in the youngest years, and build on that for years. The persuasive essay is the way to start learning to do a persuasive speech. Critical thinking: logic classes are excellent, deductive reasoning games are good for brain breaks, looking at something and being able to parse out what is true & what’s not, how do pieces fit together. Collaboration means getting along with others and working together well; don’t overdo group projects, but find ways to help your kids learn to work together with others. Even sports or gardening is a form of collaboration. Creativity is a soft skill that people really look hard for, it is a hallmark of our economy and country: invest in creativity, give them lots of opportunities to experience arts and create a little bit of everything. Find their interest and grab onto them.
  • Life skills your kids should know: food, shelter, vocation, health, aging, how to manage personal finances. Make sure your kids know how to cook, how to budget for food. Teach your kids that insurance is important. Encourage your kids to earn, spend, give, tithe, and save. Teach your kids to invest in other people, both time and money. Resources are meant to be shared, not hoarded. This can also be honed into community service, which can earn scholarships—writing letters to servicemen even counts, so do food drives, etc. 200 hours a year really earns great scholarships—but you’ll need to keep excellent records for that. Some high schools require 15 hours of community service per year.
  • Soft skills: teamwork, collaboration, critical thinking, work ethic, leadership skills, time and distraction management, communication, etc.
  • Teach your kids to sleep. Teach your kids to have quiet. This helps with circadian cycle as well as sleep hygiene. Look into digital detoxing. Leaving electronics out of bedrooms, and turning the wifi off at night.
  • Technological literacy is super important—not just how to use an app or log on to things, it’s about how to store files, how to work independently and appropriately online, how to have access to tools, how to use all the Microsoft products. Basic computer information system class is helpful. Learning how to store your files is a big thing.
  • 3D printing is going to be booming in the near future. AI and robotics as well. These are economies which will completely explode. Also pastors, counselors, and psychologists.
  • Career exploration is also a good thing to have in your high school plan. Who are your kids, what is the world going to be like, and what is their skill set? How do these things work together to prepare for a life where your kids can have a lifestyle they can live with? We are in another time of industrial revolution (technological advancements), and we need to have a lot of adaptability and flexibility because of that.
  • Don’t overlook verbal and written communication. Leadership skills are also hugely important, regardless of whatever career they may pursue after high school or college (or trade school or apprenticeship). Make sure your kids know how to research what requirements are for different career options—help your kids get on the right path as early as possible, but also be flexible. See if your kids can test drive a career through volunteering or internship. Teach your kids to create a resume. Teach your kids how to network both in person and online, and how to make a good first impression—train your kids how to interview well.
  • Education is about developing the whole person, not just checking off boxes for a kid to feel like they are done being kids and ready to be an adult. Education is much greater than just filling a vessel for 18 or 22 years.
  • 6 week summer classes are a la carte if you want, or buy a bundle of 3 and share among your kids.
  • Education takes place best within community—yes, family is community, but it should branch out into other community as well.
  • TeenCourt and TeenPact are good resources to check into.

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