Last week, I wrote about why we would be homeschooling high school. It wasn't an easy decision, but it is one we feel reasonably confident about. This week, I'm sharing about our road map for homeschooling high school. What is our plan? Where are we going? How will get there? And how did we figure out those things?
I borrowed a concept from Steven Covey - his Second Habit that says, "Begin with the end in mind." For us, this means thinking about what our kid's next steps will likely be after high school and what he will need to succeed. I say "likely" because it is quite possible he will change his mind as he learns and grows and has new experiences over the next four years. We are fairly certain this kid is an engineer. When he was three, he wanted to take his high chair apart to figure out how it rolled (the wheels were hidden in casings so he couldn't see them) and one of his favorite outings was to go to Target where he'd choose a few vacuum cleaners to examine and he'd have me read him the specs. (Good times, good times...). These days, he has more sophisticated interests than the vacuum cleaner, but they all center around building, innovating, tinkering, and creating. Except for a brief interlude when he said he wanted to be an actor (!), we all agree that his best path forward is to plan for a career in engineering and business.
Our next step was to talk to folks we know who have had careers or are currently working in those fields. We are fortunate to have lots of all kinds of brilliant engineers on both sides of the family and among our friend circle, as well as business owners (which includes us). We've asked their advice on career pathways, what subjects he should be sure to focus on, specific coursework we should look for, and even advice about what colleges and universities we might look at and what they will be looking for in the admissions process. (If your kid is interested in engineering be sure you talk to someone specifically about admissions to engineering programs - it's often not the same as other majors!) But one of the best things we did was to sign up for a local annual event called Big Techs. Area tech companies set aside a day for the community to tour their facilities for free and it was a lot of fun. One of the tours we attended was at the Komatsu Mining facility and to say the kid was blown away would be an understatement. It wasn't just the massive plant or the scope of operations, the ginormous machines, or the state-of-the-art technology (which you can get a quick look at here) - it was the story of their founder, R. G. LeTourneau, and our fantastic guide, Kraig Green, Senior Manager of Manufacturing Operations. Kraig was a wealth of knowledge and had a great way of explaining details in a way that even I could understand (the engineering gene skipped me). He also shared that he had worked his way through the company which is exactly what kiddo needed to hear. Kraig was also kind enough to answer questions after the tour about what his career path looked like, what degrees he earned, and where he did it. That conversation was probably the most valuable one we've had so far. The kid was excited, had a more definite idea about how he could get where he'd like to go, and it made it feel more possible. When we got in the car, he said, "I want to do THAT!" and he was already bugging me to look up those schools and degree programs on my phone. So if you can, find opportunities for your kid to meet and talk with people who are doing things they want to do, or that are adjacent to things they want to do. Help them take it from the realm of imagination into the realm of reality.
Next, I looked at our state requirements for graduation. This was easy information to find. In Texas, there is a basic graduation plan, but kids can also choose one or more "endorsements" - which is a fancy way of saying a "major." They can also do some extra steps to be a "distinguished" graduate. In Texas, homeschoolers don't have to do any of these things. We are a low/no regulation state for homeschooling. However, for our family values and for what my kid wants to do for next steps (college or university), we need to be conscious of what other applicants coming from more traditional paths will have on their transcripts. We want him to be a strong candidate for admission and employment and be well-prepared for college-level coursework. We spent a long time looking at those, figuring out which ones interested him most, and which ones would be the most helpful for college and career. He's chosen endorsements in STEM and Business and Industry and he's aiming for the Distinguished Level of Achievement. (Big, big dreamer, this kid!)
Which brings me to the next step: looking at admissions requirements. For us, that was looking at our local technical college, community college, and likely options for four-year colleges and universities. We had lots of great conversations about college admissions, costs, pros and cons of living on campus, the scholarship process, graduation rates, campus culture, etc. - and will continue those conversations going forward. I was also pleased to find that many of our top picks have information specifically for homeschooled families. This suggests a few good things to me: they are serious about admitting homeschooled kids and seeing them succeed, and that the world is changing in the way we view nontraditional education. This was helpful to me as I choose his courses, document his work, and plan his transcript. What if your kid isn't college bound? You will still want to find out what they need to do to get into that apprenticeship, placement, or program. The time to figure out what hoops they need to jump is not when they have to do the jumping!
With all of this info, we put together his four-year plan. It isn't set in stone. We can change it. I'm sure we will. But it's something to work with. Here it is. Ta da!
Am I still slightly terrified about homeschooling high school? Yup. Overwhelmed? Not as much. Having a destination in mind and a roadmap for getting there really help.
The best thing we've done in this process was to involve the kid. It's hard to think that in just a few short years, he will be an adult (on paper...). This process was a way to invite him into the adult world of decision making. Choices aren't always binary; there are often lots of good options, and every option has pros and cons. He's now been part of clarifying purpose, gathering information, prioritizing, and committing to a course of action for something bigger than choosing a new vacuum. We are taking this leap together and if we need to make a change, we will figure it out together.
I'll be sharing some of my curriculum choices next week. What subject are you most interested in? Math? English? Science? How we are going to get those tech classes in? Something else? Leave me a comment and let me know.