March 15, 2018
There is More to Life than AP Classes
Maybe it’s parental bragging rights, or perhaps the college entrance rat race, but somehow our society has become so focused on making our children “college ready” that we’ve forgotten how to prepare them to live a good life.
Without question, we all agree there are academic skills they need to know for their future, but most of us live our lives never knowing if the person next to us took AP Chemistry. It just doesn’t matter.
What Does Matter
Are they happy? Are they kind? Do they take care of their families and their community? Homeschoolers have the unique opportunity to encourage the necessary academic skills, but also to provide the time and space to cultivate other traits which contribute to their overall success as an adult.
Even so, homeschoolers seem to worry that “it all counts” once their children reach high school and suddenly, you no longer see them at park days, field trips, or activities.
But let’s be honest, there are skills and traits in life that are important no matter your occupation or academic achievements. Here are six areas we should strive to balance with academics that have a lasting impact on our high schoolers.
Here are six areas we should strive to balance with academics that have a lasting impact on our high schoolers.
From the mundane necessities of laundry and food preparation to significant decisions regarding debt and insurance, these are skills which will make our children’s transition to adulthood less stressful.
Naturally, homeschoolers are at an advantage when it comes to life skills because most see and participate in the everyday workings of life. They participate in the preparation of meals and the acquiring of groceries. They’re present to see bills being paid and the process of doing laundry for a family.
Our children aren’t kept insulated from the messes and stresses of everyday life. Most are expected to help and contribute to the overall functioning of the family.
Social Skills and Relationships
Teenagers are in a transition time when they still want our help at times but also want independence. This dynamic can prove challenging, yet gives the perfect opportunity to develop their social skills and build relationships.
Whether dealing with siblings or the varied ages present at most homeschool events, this gives them the opportunity to navigate the social expectations of society at large. They see the interconnectedness of life and how individual actions affect relationships.
Don’t we all want our children to become adults who recognize how their actions affect others?
Reading about something or somewhere just isn’t the same as experiencing it personally, Traveling and experiencing the world outside of books and classes contributes to their understanding of humanity in a very tangible way.
It’s amazing how we can read about someplace, yet when we visit, it’s entirely different than how we imagined. I’ve read about Machu Picchu, but can I genuinely comprehend it without standing on its edge?
Obviously, visits to Machu Picchu are neither required nor possible for many of us, yet the diversity right out of our doorstep can be a valuable tool to seeing the complexity of the world.
The benefits can also be extremely personal. A few years ago my oldest had the opportunity to go on a cross-country trip with her grandparents. She had two weeks of no siblings, no chores, and nothing but the full attention of her grandparents. Fortunately, she was also able to visit with her remaining great-grandparent before he passed away.
As homeschoolers, it is usually possible to maneuver obligations to make experiences like this one possible. Take advantage of that flexibility!
The high school years are the perfect time for teenagers to flex their entrepreneurial muscles with little risk to their financial future. Why not spend some time thinking of ways to earn money for themselves and seeing where it leads?.
More importantly, this is the perfect opportunity to learn about budgeting and the countless other skills that go along with operating a business.
Fortunately, we belong to a project-based homeschool co-op that values the initiative entrepreneurship can provide. Last year, this was our focus for an entire month, and it culminated with kids of all ages selling their wares, a practice that continues today. Whether cookies, jewelry, or slime, they loved coming up with creative ideas for their business.
Community service gives high schoolers the opportunity to help others but also gain skills themselves. Even better, volunteering allows them to give their time and talents freely. Is there a better way to cultivate generosity and combat entitlement?
As soon as my girls are old enough to volunteer at vacation bible school, they’re there. Indeed, those early mornings take some dedication from my late-sleeping teenagers. There have been many lessons learned along the way, such as following the instructions and rules given to you as well as the effect of other people not doing their job to the best of their ability. Indeed, a difficult lesson.
Whether it's volunteering at an animal rescue or helping at a senior center, teenagers are able to give their time and meet the expectations of others. Volunteering can also open their eyes to issues affecting their community and provide them with insight into the challenges others face.
Finding Their Interests
Lastly, teenagers should also be given space to find their interests - what excites them and makes them want to learn more, not just what will be on the test.
Recently, my oldest learned of the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge and decided she wanted to complete her novel. She had been formulating the idea for some time, but the challenge of a time limit and the freedom to spend most of November writing propelled her forward, and she wrote over 50,000 words. Indeed, a considerable accomplishment for a 15-year-old.
Keep in mind; if you are told every day what you must be interested in, with little thought given to what you would like to do, you lose sight of your desires. My biggest hope is that my children will know what they want to do and find a way to make it happen.
It’s All Connected
As with most things in life, it turns out that these are all connected. Any one of these areas leads to growth in all of them. Focusing on your child’s interests could direct them toward community service, entrepreneurship, or travel, and could certainly help their growth in life and social skills.
Why do we compartmentalize academics and give so little thought to the overall well-being of our children, ourselves, and our society?
Not only do we make academics something that must occur in a specific place at a particular time, but we separate them and make them seem unrelated. It wasn’t until I was a homeschool mom that I realized history and science were related.
Let’s not become so overwhelmed with preparing them for the narrow focus of standardized tests and college applications, that we forget the broad road that is life.
Bethany is the mom of six always-homeschooled children whose eclectic style of homeschooling draws upon Classical to Unschooling and everything in between. While homeschooling her children, teaching at a Project Based Co-op, and writing about learning outside of school, she still tries to find time to read a book, drink coffee, and pay the bills. Your can find her thoughts on living without school at www.BethanyIshee.com.