There is something about the middle of the school year that makes us all take a step back and assess what we are doing. Are we making any progress? Are there things we need to change in our schedule? Are we covering all the academic bases?
Of course it is important to make sure you are getting the reading, writing and ‘rithmetic in, but you may be surprised to know that there are some key skills and experiences you can include in your students’ education to help them succeed when entering the high school years and beyond. These simple things will help your young adults become godly, able young men and women.
Now, don’t stress out that I’m adding MORE to your schedule. I am here to encourage you to think about some easy and helpful activities you may already be doing or can easily incorporate into your day that will help your students to shine as young adults in high school, college, and the workplace.
1. Build time management skills.
Taking responsibility for their education is a key skill that will help students stand out in college and a career environment. It is important to transition from giving out a few tasks at a time to training them to organize their own day. Help them to discover what method of organization works for them, whether it is checking off a list of tasks or working completely through a weeks’ worth of a subject at a time. By giving them ownership of some of their schedule, they have the opportunity to learn, make mistakes, feel the consequences of mis-managed time, and then make adjustments – all in the safe environment of your home.
Self-management will come with a few bumps along the way, but it WILL come. The goal is for you to be overseer while THEY become managers of their time. As homeschool parent your goal is to basically work yourself out of a “job.”
2. Encourage study
Another good skill-builder is to outline the major points of a textbook as it is read. For literature, they can summarize what they read in each chapter in order to more easily go over a story’s plot. And you can’t go wrong with helping them to build memorization techniques. Whether they are visual, auditory, or tactile learners, encourage them to find out what method best works for them.
3. Teach test-taking strategies.
I understand. It is not all about the test. Our goal is for students to LEARN and become life-long learners. Yet, if they are college bound, tests are going to be plentiful. Even students who go directly into a career path out of high school will find that there are often certifications or skill assessment tests to face.
Provide lots of opportunities for your students to see the various test methods that exist. Fill in the blank, multiple choice, and essay tests are all common assessment types. There are lots of test prep courses available to help you with this. Taking a test is much easier if a student knows how to prepare for it and how to approach it. And doing this first from home will help your students build the strategies they need to approach testing situations.
Believe it or not, exposure to good books is a great way to build grammar and vocabulary which helps in standardized exams as well as essays. A combination of individual reading along with family read-alouds (No, they are never too young for those!) enables students to take in excellent English with their eyes AND ears. A strong vocabulary and understanding of solid grammar rules will help your students to shine in their writing, whether it is a theme paper or an email!
4. Build computer and technological skills.
I know things were different when “we” were in school, but today students need to have time to develop “e-skills.” This will make them better prepared for college and more competitive in the job market. First and foremost, make sure they know how to type. Have them learn Power Point and present some of their lessons to you or to a class in that medium. There are several online tutorials for Power Point, Excel, and Mac versions of these computer skills.
One thing I loved doing with my teens was to encourage them to start a blog. Why you say? Well, all of my kids had certain things they were passionate about. One in particular liked cars…EVERYTHING about cars: manufacturers, models, concept cars, engine size, speed, etc. I had him write a short post each week on whatever aspect of cars he wanted. A new safety feature in some models. The difference between truck bodies and car bodies. Whatever “floated his boat.” He was motivated to do it, especially because I scaled back on his other writing to give him time for this. And he learned how to better navigate around a computer, explored blog page design, experimented with good writing format, dealt with editing images, better understood plagiarism issues, and so much more.
Many blogs can be set up for free. By writing about something they love (Legos, cooking, skateboarding, sports, cars, sewing or crafts), students will be building their writing abilities as well as their computer skills.
5. Give them time.
Students today are often overbooked. This can stunt their creativity and time to think deeply. Leisure is an important part of invention, so try not to over schedule your kids. Monitor their time on electronic devices and allow them opportunities to explore, ask questions, hypothesize, test ideas, fail, adjust, and try again. If necessary, reign back their curricula a bit (yes, I just said that!). More time allows them to volunteer and to be leaders in groups. Have them start a film or book club, a summer art fair or something else they love.
6. Build character.
This may be the most important “skill” of all. Character comes as a result of years of training and modeling. It is a heart change that slowly comes about from day-by-day influence. Something you are doing with your children right now. Why is character so important? Well, if you have a student who has learned diligence, for example, he or she will complete whatever given task to their best ability…without procrastinating (Procrastinating? MY child? Never!). Patience helps students endure when things get difficult. They will persevere because they desire to do their best. How do we teach character? Well, that’s another entire blog post (maybe even a book!), but I CAN tell you that by humbly going about your days, exhibiting your desire to have character in your children and in yourself, you will be giving them the best opportunity to understand its benefits. Of course, demonstrating a relationship with the Lord and being quick to ask forgiveness when we fail in our shortcomings is another GREAT way to help your students own this for themselves!
Now, I’m not sharing these points to provide stress. I’m all about encouragement and inspiration. As homeschoolers, we just sometimes get bogged down in the “academic race” that tends to put undue pressure on our teens. Our job is to continue to inspire in them a love for learning, give them the tools to succeed as adults in the world, and find opportunities to strengthen their character.
Most importantly, we need to remember to ENJOY being with them! You are your children’s best advocate, and you are doing a great job!
Sherri Seligson and her husband have homeschooled their four children for 21 years. Before she was promoted to the position of “mother,” Sherri worked as a marine biologist at Walt Disney World’s Living Seas, working with predators and publishing shark behavior research. She is the author of several books and curricula, including Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Marine Biology, Interning for High School Credit, as well as several companion curricula for feature films, including Dolphin Tale 1 and 2 and War Horse. Sherri has had the opportunity to speak at conferences and ladies retreats around the U.S., and enjoys sharing with families how to see God in science as well as encourage moms in their awesome mission field!