high school series

058. Time Management, Stress, Organization, Study Skills

Time Management, Stress, Organization, Study Skills

Stress is normal! With all that your high school student is likely to have on their plate (balancing classes, assignments, college applications, extracurriculars, a social life, and more), it’s normal that they’ll experience stress from time-to-time. Understanding how to manage the stress they feel is an important skill for your teen to learn – during the high school years and throughout their life. Tune in to help your teen manage all the things and keep their stress in check.

This is the 12th and final episode in our HIGH SCHOOL SERIES

Episode 058:

TWO WAYS TO LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE:
1. Click PLAY Button Above ^^ to listen here.
2. OR Listen on your favorite podcast platform:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

If you are homeschooling a high schooler, you already know that navigating the intricate balance between academics, extracurriculars, and personal life can be tricky. Add in college applications, part time jobs, and social opportunities, and it’s no wonder some of our teens can feel overwhelmed and anxious about their future. With a focus on time management, organization, stress management, and study skills, we will explore some strategies and tools in today’s episode to aid in your student’s quest for academic success while maintaining a healthy lifestyle in the realm of homeschooling.

Let’s face it, High schoolers have a lot going on!  From expectations and normal pressures of academics to extreme feelings of stress, understanding how to manage the stress they feel is an important skill for your teen to learn – during the high school years and throughout their life. Stress is normal! With all that your high schooler is likely to have on their plate (classes, assignments, college applications, extracurriculars, a social life, and more), it’s normal that they’ll experience stress from time-to-time. 

Homeschoolers often experience less stress than students in traditional schools because they have more time available to them, more flexibility, and are less likely to compare themselves to others, but they probably still feel a lot of these same pressures!

How can our high schoolers deal with stress? (4:27)

Let’s talk about some ideas for high school students to deal with stress: 

  • Keeping a journal
  • Getting plenty of exercise
  • Eating healthy, regular meals and drinking plenty of water. 
  • Making sure you get enough sleep 
  • Meditating, deep breathing, or mindfulness, and monitoring their self-talk. 
  • Channeling their energy into sports or creative pursuits such as music, art, theater
  • forming meaningful relationships or friendships helps reduce stress. 
  • Reaching out to friends or family members who help you cope in a positive way
  • Staying organized and teaching your teen to create routines can be helpful. We are going to talk more about this today!
  • Limiting excess caffeine in soft drinks or coffee
  • Making time to do fun things
  • Spending downtime relaxing 

With so many big life decisions ahead, getting through high school happy and whole can definitely feel challenging at times. It’s easy to see why so many high school students feel stressed. The good news is that there are solutions. Adopt the strategies above, take a deep breath, and remind them it’s not forever!

Dialectical Behavior Therapy has helped millions of teenagers since it was developed just over 30 years ago! The DBT Skills Workbook for Teens: A Fun Guide to Manage Anxiety and Stress, Understand Your Emotions and Learn Effective Communication Skills. This Workbook takes your teen on a journey going through four quests to learn the four key skills in DBT.

Sometimes a big source of stress can actually be due to a lack of time management.  I know this well as I am a lifelong organized procrastinator!  I work best under pressure.  But every time I get through yet another project this way, I vow not to do it again next time. Mastering time management is an essential skill that not only cultivates discipline but can really help your teen maximize study time more efficiently. By establishing structured routines, setting clear goals, and teaching the value of efficient scheduling, you can empower your teens to take ownership of their education while also allowing for a healthy balance between their academic pursuits and personal growth.

Parental involvement in homeschooling time management is not a solitary endeavor. It entails open communication, active listening, and a keen awareness of your high schoolers’ individual progress. Some will be more mature and independent than others. By consistently assessing their growth and helping them to adapt the schedule and approach you will be helping to teach them self awareness and how to manage their stress. 

How can we help our teens manage their time wisely? (9:57)

Here are some time management tools and techniques that can set your highschooler up for success:

1. Homeschool Planner:

Using a dedicated homeschool planner or digital app like Google Keep organizing lessons, assignments, and activities. This helps them stay on top of their responsibilities and ensure they have plenty of downtime and time with their friends.

2. Time Blocking:

Time blocking is a simple yet effective way you can teach your teen to take control of their time. They can implement a time blocking strategy where they allocate specific time blocks for different subjects. This prevents overloading on a single subject to ensure balance. Time blocking asks you to divide your day into blocks of time. Each block is dedicated to accomplishing a specific task or group of tasks, and only those specific tasks. Instead of keeping an open-ended to-do list of things you’ll get to as you can, you start each day with a concrete schedule outlining what you’ll work on and when.

The key to this method is prioritizing your task list in advance. The free resource I created this week is a time blocking template that your highschooler can use as they plan out their day. Scroll Down to download! This method really does add hours to your day! It’s so effective. Time Finder is the app that I use when I’m on the go instead of using the paper template but I find the paper easier for teenagers to use.

3. Set Realistic Goals:

Teach them to set achievable goals for each day or week. It’s an essential skill to learn how to break down larger objectives into smaller, manageable tasks. This can prevent them from feeling overwhelmed and provides a sense of accomplishment as tasks are completed.

Most students believe that straight A’s can be achieved only through cramming and painful all-nighters at the library. But Cal Newport knows that real straight-A students don’t study harder—they study smarter!
How to Become a Straight-A Student: The Unconventional Strategies Real College Students Use to Score High While Studying Less reveals for the first time the proven study secrets of real straight-A students across the country and weaves them into a simple, practical system that anyone can master.

4. Weekly Planning:

Set aside time daily and each week to check in and go over assessments and progress. This helps them maintain a clear overview of what needs to be covered. Be sure to include extracurricular and fun with friends outside of academics. These are really important!

5. Flexible Routine:

Teach them to adopt a flexible routine rather than a rigid schedule. More than likely you’ve been doing this all along. This will teach them to accommodate variations in assignments and unexpected events.

6.Prioritize tasks:

Learn to differentiate between urgent and important tasks. This skill helps in managing workload efficiently and reducing stress.

Your involvement plays a vital role in helping them learn these skills. You can address their individual strengths, interests, and challenges, which will promote a deeper understanding of subjects and encourage a lifelong love for learning. You know we love to say that! 

How to teach study skills, note taking, organization, and other executive function skills?  (16:49)

As students enter into the high school years, they also need to add effective study skills and habits.  They must master skills like:

  • reading for content and not just for pleasure
  • note taking
  • researching
  • finding knowledgeable mentors
  • communicating with others to find out what they need to know
  • honing memorization techniques
  • practicing computer skills
  • identifying and utilizing helpful online resources

Homeschool high schoolers have a unique opportunity to learn some of these skills to suit their individual learning styles and schedules. Here are some effective strategies for homeschool high schoolers to cultivate good study skills and be more organized:

  • Create a designated study space: Establishing a dedicated area for studying helps in maintaining focus and organization. Ensure it’s free from distractions and equipped with necessary materials.
  • Develop a schedule: Design a timetable that includes study sessions for various subjects, breaks, and extracurricular activities. A structured routine aids in time management and consistency.
  • Encourage the use of checklists: Using checklists for daily or weekly tasks can help your teen visualize what needs to be done and experience the satisfaction of checking items off the list as they complete them.
  • Break tasks into smaller steps: Teach your teen to break down larger tasks or projects into smaller, manageable steps. This method helps in avoiding overwhelm and encourages steady progress.
  • Utilize various learning methods: Experiment with different study techniques such as mind mapping, summarizing, flashcards, or teaching concepts to someone else. Find what works best for individual comprehension.
  • Practice active learning: Engage in discussions, take notes, ask questions, and participate in activities related to the subject matter. Active involvement enhances understanding and retention.
  • Take regular breaks: Incorporate short breaks during study sessions to prevent burnout and maintain focus. Breaks can re-energize and improve productivity.
  • Promote decluttering: Assist your teen in decluttering their space regularly. Encourage them to get rid of unnecessary items and organize belongings in a way that makes them easily accessible.
  • Model and encourage organization: Set an example by staying organized yourself. Show your teen how you manage your schedule, maintain a clean environment, and handle responsibilities.
  • Provide guidance, not control: Offer guidance and support rather than micromanaging your teen’s organizational efforts. Encourage independence by allowing them to make their own decisions and learn from mistakes.
  • Develop effective note-taking techniques: Find a method that suits the learning style, be it Cornell notes, bullet points, or visual diagrams. Good notes aid in better understanding and revision.
How to Be a High School Superstar: A Revolutionary Plan to Get into College by Standing Out (Without Burning Out) provides step-by-step instructions to help any student adopt the relaxed superstar lifestyle—proving that getting into college doesn’t have to be a chore to survive, but instead can be the reward for living a genuinely interesting life.
Learning How to Learn: How to Succeed in School Without Spending All Your Time Studying; A Guide for Kids and Teens teaches teens about the importance of both focused concentration and letting their minds wander, how the brain makes connections between different pieces of information, the value of metaphors in developing understanding, why procrastination is the enemy of problem solving, and much more. 
Are you tired of struggling with exams and feeling overwhelmed by your studies? Do you wish there was a way to improve your grades and achieve exam success without all the stress? With Study Strategies for Teens: A Teenage Guide to Exam Success and Getting Better Grades as your guide, , you will learn effective study techniques, develop essential time management and organization skills, and gain the confidence needed to conquer exams and become a straight A student.

Note taking is a big question I see come up often on high school forums- it’s almost like none of us can remember or picture how this works outside the classroom. We ended up doing a bit of a deep dive on different techniques and thought we could share some popular note-taking methods:

  • The SQ3R Method: An acronym for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review. It involves a comprehensive approach to studying a text, starting with a survey of the material, formulating questions, reading actively, reciting or summarizing key points, and finally reviewing the material. Learn more about SQ3R.
  • Cornell Method: This method involves dividing the paper into sections: a section for notes, a section for cues or questions related to the notes, and a summary section at the bottom. It encourages active engagement and summarization of key points. Learn more about Cornell Method.
How To Take Great Notes Quickly and Easily is a very easy guide for teenager. (40+ Note Taking Tips for School, Work, Books and Lectures. Cornell Notes Explained and more!
  • Outlining Method: Structuring notes hierarchically using bullet points or numbering. It involves organizing information into main topics, subtopics, and details. This method emphasizes the relationship between different ideas. Learn more about Outlining Method.
  • Mind Mapping: Utilizing visual diagrams to represent concepts and their relationships. It starts with a central idea or topic and branches out into related subtopics, creating a visual representation of connections. Learn more about Mind Mapping.
  • Charting or Tabular Method: Organizing information into tables or charts with columns and rows. It’s useful for comparing and contrasting different elements or presenting data in a clear format. Learn more about Charting.
  • Sentence Method: Writing down key points or phrases in complete sentences. It involves summarizing information in a coherent narrative format, making it easier to follow when reviewing. Learn more about Sentence Method.
  • Flow Method: This method involves jotting down notes in a continuous flow, without much structure. It’s useful during lectures or when information is presented rapidly. Later, these notes can be organized into a more structured format. Learn more about Flow Method.
  • The Feynman Technique: Explaining complex ideas in simple terms as if teaching someone else. It involves identifying gaps in understanding and revisiting complex concepts until they can be explained in straightforward language. Learn more about Feynman Technique.
  • The Charting Method: Creating columns and rows to organize information, often using headers and bullet points. It’s useful for comparing and contrasting different elements or categorizing information. Learn more about Charting Method.
  • Annotation/Highlighting: Underlining, highlighting, or annotating text in books or articles with personal comments or key points. This method helps in quickly identifying important information for later review. Learn more about Annotation and Highlighting.

Our kids did an awesome study skills camp with a fellow homeschool mom that taught several of these techniques.  Choosing the most suitable note-taking technique depends on personal preferences, the nature of the information being recorded, and the context in which the notes will be used. Experimenting with different methods can help individuals find the one that best fits their learning style and enhances their understanding and retention of information.

By actively supporting and guiding your teen through all of these above strategies, you can help them develop strong organizational skills that will serve them well in academics and throughout their lives. 

This Week’s Freebie:

Help you teen stay organized and reduce their stress by Time Blocking
Download your Free Template

057. Homeschooling in the Kitchen

Homeschooling in the Kitchen

Encouraging kids to learn how to cook is an invaluable life skill that extends far beyond the kitchen. It’s a journey that introduces them to the basics of nutrition, math through measurements, science in understanding how ingredients interact, and creativity in crafting their culinary creations. Tune in to learn more!

Episode 057:

TWO WAYS TO LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE:
1. Click PLAY Button Above ^^ to listen here.
2. OR Listen on your favorite podcast platform:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

Encouraging kids to learn how to cook is an invaluable life skill that extends far beyond the kitchen. It’s a journey that introduces them to the basics of nutrition, math through measurements, science in understanding how ingredients interact, and creativity in crafting their culinary creations. Cooking  also helps kids gain confidence and the importance of following instructions. 

Beyond the practical skills, it can be an opportunity for bonding. Families can spend quality time together in the kitchen sharing stories and creating lasting memories. You know we always talk about cultivating curiosity and exploration and a lot of homeschoolers find this happening in the kitchen as children experiment with recipes and flavors.  This kind of exploration can spark a passion that can last a lifetime. Learning to cook empowers kids and giving them the tools and opportunities to present their creations really gives them a sense of pride. In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about the many skills your kids can learn in the kitchen, we’re going to talk about some basic foods everyone should know how to make (especially when your kids go off to college or move into their own home), and we have some really great resources and cookbooks that will help guide you as you teach them these skills.

THE ULTIMATE COOKING SET FOR KIDS – This kids baking set includes a portable reusable tool box for storage, cookbook, stylish unisex apron, measuring cups & spoons, kitchen timer, tongs, rolling pin, 3 nylon knives, spoon, spatula, whisk, 3 cookie cutters, and a cutting board.

Teaching kitchen skills to our kids is a hands-on and practical approach to education that extends well beyond just making meals. It teaches a sense of responsibility and fosters independence as they learn skills and cook more and more on their own. It’s also an opportunity to blend various subjects seamlessly; from math during measurement and fractions to science through understanding chemical reactions in baking, and even cultural studies by exploring diverse cuisines. 

Beyond the academics, your kids will gain so many life skills like following instructions, time management, and organization. If you think about it, there’s a lot that goes into cooking and this may be second nature for you because you’ve been doing it so long, but these skills are not intuitive. But thankfully homeschooling gives you so much extra time with your kids to teach these skills. And it’s really a perfect way to bond as a family, encouraging teamwork as everyone works together. Speaking of family, it’s also a great way to share traditions and stories. I love when my parents tell me stories of Cuba and foods they grew up with as we sit down to enjoy that traditional Cuban recipe. Or learn the way that our family has done things through generations. Now it’s our turn now to pass on these traditions to our children.

Essential Kitchen Skills Kids Should Know (9:29)

Mastering fundamental kitchen skills can set a strong foundation for kids to become confident and capable in the kitchen. Here are five essential skills:

Knife Skills:

Learning how to safely handle and use knives is crucial. Kids should understand how to properly hold a knife, basic cutting techniques, and knife safety to chop, slice, and dice ingredients.

Jr. Knives for Kids 3-Piece Kitchen Cooking and Baking Knife Set
Kids Knife Set for Real Cooking with Educational Ring & Finger Guard for Cutting Training
Resilient Roots Kids Knife: Toddler Knife for Chopping

Measuring and Math:

Understanding measurements and basic math skills are fundamental in cooking. Kids should learn how to measure ingredients using measuring cups and spoons, understand fractions, and work with recipes that involve different measurements.

“Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Every Day Cooking”, Michael Ruhlman’s groundbreaking New York Times bestseller takes us to the very “truth” of cooking: it is not about recipes but rather about basic ratios and fundamental techniques that makes all food come together, simply.

When you know a culinary ratio, it’s not like knowing a single recipe, it’s instantly knowing a thousand!

Why spend time sorting through the millions of cookie recipes available in books, magazines, and on the Internet? Isn’t it easier just to remember 1-2-3? That’s the ratio of ingredients that always make a basic, delicious cookie dough: 1 part sugar, 2 parts fat, and 3 parts flour. From there, add anything you want—chocolate, lemon and orange zest, nuts, poppy seeds, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, almond extract, or peanut butter, to name a few favorite additions. Replace white sugar with brown for a darker, chewier cookie. Add baking powder and/or eggs for a lighter, airier texture. Ratios are the starting point from which a thousand variations begin.

Learning fractions and measurement are two of the hardest concepts to teach in math, but these Rainbow Fraction Measuring Cups make it easy!

Stovetop Safety:

Teaching kids how to safely use the stovetop is essential. They should learn how to adjust heat levels, use kid-sized pot holders, and understand basic stovetop safety to prevent burns and accidents.

Following Recipes:

Reading and following a recipe is a valuable skill. Kids should learn how to read and comprehend recipes, follow step-by-step instructions, and understand the importance of accurate measurements and timing.

in Salad People, each illustrated recipe offers your child “The Chef” the opportunity to count, measure, mix, assemble, and most important, have fun. Designed as do-together projects—with your child as chef and the adult as assistant—these kitchen adventures will give children confidence in their cooking skills and inspire a life-long healthy relationship with food. With Salad People and a little time in the kitchen, budding chefs will cheer: “I like it because I made it myself!”
In “Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes: A Cookbook for Preschoolers and Up“, children as young as three years old and as old as eight become head chef while an adult serves as guide and helper. Extensively classroom- and home-tested, these recipes are designed to inspire an early appreciation for creative, wholesome food. Whimsical watercolor critters and pictorial versions of each recipe will help the young cook understand and delight in the process. Just consider all that can be explored in the kitchen: counting, reading readiness, science awareness, self-confidence, patience, and, importantly, food literacy.
“Honest Pretzels: And 64 Other Amazing Recipes for Cooks Ages 8 & Up” speaks directly to children through 65 fully kid-tested, illustrated recipes that require only a little adult assistance. It’s not just a cookbook full of yummy recipes–it also gives young cooks, ages eight and up, a chance to practice reading, math, and logic skills.

Food Safety and Hygiene:

Teaching kids about food safety, including washing hands, proper food handling, and understanding basic hygiene in the kitchen, is crucial. They should learn about cross-contamination, proper storage of food, and the importance of clean cooking surfaces and tools.

On our Finding Balance in Your Home and Homeschool episode, we talked about teaching your kids to help with chores. We discussed how to make a grocery list, budget, and shop for ingredients – we even created a detailed menu planner you can download for free! Mastering all of these basic essential kitchen skills will not only equip your kids with practical skills but it will also instill a sense of pride and a love for cooking.

Knowing how to cook some fundamental dishes can be incredibly useful. As I mentioned earlier, especially when your kids are heading off to college!

A Safe Adjustable Stool is the best investment I made when I had younger kids. They helped me prep all the meals and I was able to have both hands to meal prep since I didn’t have to hold them! Kids as young as 18 months can safely stand and help!

Essentials Everyone Should Know How to Cook (12:43)

Here are ten essential dishes that can serve as a foundation for various cooking skills:

  1. Pasta: Being able to cook pasta opens the door to countless dishes. It’s a versatile and simple staple.
  2. Eggs: Mastering the art of cooking eggs (scrambled, fried, boiled) offers a quick, nutritious meal for any time of day. Adventure kids omelets
  3. Rice: Learning to cook rice is a fundamental skill for many cuisines. I have graduated from the stove top to this super fancy Japanese rice cooker that I love, but knowing how to make rice on the stove is a skill everyone should have,
  4. Soup: Making a basic soup teaches the principles of building flavors and can be easily adapted with various ingredients.
  5. Stir-Fry: Stir frys are an easy and quick way to throw a meal together with tons of variations. Understanding stir-frying techniques opens the door to quick and healthy meals.
  6. Salad Dressing: Creating your own salad dressing introduces the basics of emulsification and flavor balancing.
  7. Homemade Pizza: Making pizza from scratch teaches the basics of baking and flavor combinations, a homemade crust is really such a simple recipe with just a couple of ingredients
  8. Roast Chicken: Roasting a whole chicken is a skill that can lead to various meals and is a classic comfort food.
  9. Grilled Cheese Sandwich: It’s a simple yet satisfying dish that you can make in a pinch on a low budget. When kids learn how to make this it helps them understand heat control. And you can get really creative and make gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches.
  10. Baked Goods (like muffins or cookies): Understanding the basics of baking allows for sweet treats or breakfast options and teaches precise measurements and oven skills.

All these dishes cover a range of cooking techniques and ingredients and teaching them can provide a solid foundation for both beginners and those looking to expand their culinary skills. We didn’t talk about grilling but that’s a great skill too! 

Over the years, we have used a lot of resources to help teach our children how to cook and some of them were fantastic and some of them were not so great. We wanted to share some of our favorites with you. 

Favorite Cookbooks for Kids (20:02)

Several of our recommendations are cookbooks that cater specifically to kids and they can make cooking both educational and fun. Here are some of our favorites for their engaging recipes and kid-friendly approach:

“The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs” by America’s Test Kitchen Kids

“The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs” by America’s Test Kitchen Kids Known for its detailed instructions and emphasis on teaching cooking techniques, this book offers a wide range of recipes suitable for different skill levels.

“Kid Chef Bakes” by Lisa Huff

“Kid Chef Bakes” by Lisa Huff: Focused on baking, this book provides simple, delicious recipes and it encourages kids with clear instructions and colorful visuals.

“Cooking Class: 57 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Make (and Eat!)” by Deanna F. Cook

“Cooking Class: 57 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Make (and Eat!)” by Deanna F. Cook: This cookbook is designed like a class, guiding kids through basic cooking skills and includes recipes for all meals and snacks.

“The Disney Princess Cookbook” by Disney Book Group

“The Disney Princess Cookbook” by Disney Book Group: Featuring recipes inspired by Disney princesses, this book makes cooking an enchanting experience for young chefs with themed dishes and easy-to-follow instructions.

“The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook” by Dinah Bucholz

“The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook” by Dinah Bucholz: Perfect for young Harry Potter fans, this cookbook includes recipes inspired by the series, making cooking magical and engaging.

MasterChef Junior Cookbook: Bold Recipes and Essential Techniques to Inspire Young Cooks” by MasterChef Junior

“MasterChef Junior Cookbook: Bold Recipes and Essential Techniques to Inspire Young Cooks” by MasterChef Junior: Based on the popular TV show, this cookbook offers challenging yet achievable recipes that encourage kids to explore diverse cuisines.

“Good Eats!” by Alton Brown

For older kids, we are big lovers of Alton Brown.  Finding his old episodes of “Good Eats!” are totally worth watching and he has several books, too.

“The Pioneer Woman Cooks” by Ree Drummand

Another favorite by someone we used to follow back before she was a household name and just another homeschool mom blogger is The Pioneer Woman.  One of my daughter’s favorite cookbooks is her holiday one, “The Pioneer Woman Cooks―A Year of Holidays: 140 Step-by-Step Recipes for Simple, Scrumptious Celebrations”

These cookbooks not only offer delicious recipes but also incorporate educational elements, teaching kids about nutrition, kitchen safety, and the joy of cooking. They often feature colorful illustrations and easy-to-follow steps, making the cooking experience enjoyable and accessible for children.

Now I am hungry!  This was a lot of fun! I hope we’ve inspired you to get in the kitchen with your kids and empower them with these essential skills that will last a lifetime. Even young toddlers can help by ripping lettuce leaves for a family salad. Kids are always more likely to eat dishes when they’ve had a hand in preparing them. So get cooking!

This Week’s Freebie:

Download your Recipe Tempates

056. How Do You Create a Unit Study?

How Do You Create a Unit Study?

Unit studies are a great option for homeschoolers. They foster a deeper understanding of a subject by exploring it in detail and encouraging critical thinking. We love all the hands-on, experiential learning opportunities they provide. They also offer a unique way to combine multiple subjects around a central theme, allowing for a more immersive and interconnected learning experience. Learn all about unit studies and how to create your own!

To help kick start your journey, we’ve put together an extensive list of Unit Study Ideas.

Episode 056:

TWO WAYS TO LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE:
1. Click PLAY Button Above ^^ to listen here.
2. OR Listen on your favorite podcast platform:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

If you’ve chosen to follow a curriculum, sometimes the monotony of it can feel stifling, leaving you and your children disinterested and longing for a more engaging approach to learning. Oftentimes, people will start curriculum hopping, but exploring a unit study might be the refreshing change you’re looking for. Its integrative approach can breathe life into your homeschool as it weaves together various subjects around a central theme. 

Unit studies can really be an opportunity to infuse excitement into your day. We love the hands-on engagement that comes with unit studies and how it can really get kids excited about the theme.  

Some people even choose to do unit studies as the central core in their homeschool instead of traditional curriculum. There are tons of options. In today’s episode, we are going to talk about unit studies and how to create one for your homeschool.

We have always really enjoyed unit studies and we especially enjoyed them when our kids were younger and they were hyper focused on a certain topic and we would dive in deep and learn everything we could about our chosen theme. We did unit studies on penguins, the light spectrum, music, and so many other themes. Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the curriculum and jump into a unit study. It always seems to reignite our kids and brings a new and refreshing joy of learning into our home. 

One of our favorite ways to incorporate unit studies is during the holiday season. We’ve always found that embracing a unit study during the holidays offers a sense of flexibility, allowing for exploration while still delving into meaningful learning experiences.  Everybody is always so busy during the holidays and it’s a great time to abandon the typical curriculum. It also helps to avoid burnout. Susan Wise Bauer once said “Everyone wants to quit in November and February” and seasoned homeschoolers know this is true! Learn more about Homeschooling During the Holidays.

Homeschoolers often gravitate towards unit studies due to their holistic and integrative approach to education. They offer a unique way to combine multiple subjects around a central theme, allowing for a more immersive and interconnected learning experience. This method of learning aligns with the personalized nature of homeschooling, enabling parents to tailor education to their child’s pace, interests, and learning style. It fosters a deeper understanding of a subject by exploring it from various angles. It also encourages critical thinking, and provides hands-on, experiential learning opportunities. 

You can generally make unit studies multi-age, which promotes family involvement. This is one of my favorite things about unit studies, everybody’s learning the same thing – maybe just at different levels or depth. This approach tends to nurture a rich and engaging learning environment that goes beyond traditional textbooks and classroom settings.

What is a unit study? (7:33)

A homeschool unit study is an interdisciplinary approach to learning that revolves around a specific theme or topic. It encourages students to explore and understand a subject deeply by incorporating multiple subjects and various activities into a comprehensive study plan. 

Let’s break down the key features of a homeschool unit study:

Theme-Centered:

Unit studies focus on a central theme or topic, it could be as simple as an animal like penguins or a broader topic like birds. It could be a historical event or historical period, it could be a scientific concept, a piece of literature, or even a specific country, or geographic location. There’s really endless options for these!

Unit Studies can open up a world of possibilities, allowing you to follow your child’s interests and curiosities wherever they may lead. See our Extensive list of Unit Study Ideas
Emphasis on Student Interests:

Homeschool unit studies can be tailored to a student’s interests which helps to foster a love for learning. Is your kid obsessed with dinosaurs, or cars, or a time period or country?  Try a unit study!

Integration of Subjects:

They integrate multiple subjects like math, science, history, language arts, and art around the chosen theme. This fosters a holistic understanding of the topic.  This also can be a huge time saver if you have multi-age kids, or are trying to fit a lot of subjects into your day.  You can meet with all the kids to read aloud, and then break off for age appropriate activities.

Multi-Sensory Learning:

They incorporate various learning methods, such as reading, writing, experiments, field trips, art projects, and discussions, to cater to different learning styles. Unit studies often emphasize real-life applications and hands-on activities to make learning more engaging and practical.

Flexible and Customizable:

Homeschoolers can customize unit studies to suit their child’s interests and learning style, which allows for flexibility in curriculum design. They encourage students to explore a subject in depth. This promotes critical thinking and a deeper understanding of the topic. Many find that choosing a main book or resource as a “spine” is helpful where they reference back to throughout the unit. You can incorporate field trips, projects, documentaries and movies, and fun games all around your central theme.  

Here are some examples of our favorite “spine” books:

Unit studies are a popular approach in homeschooling because they provide a flexible and immersive way to learn, allowing students to delve deeply into topics of personal interest while covering core academic subjects.

What are some ideas for great unit studies? (11:11)

The topics for unit studies are really endless.  You can make one about anything you want.  Here are a few examples of unit study ideas that can be adapted and expanded upon:

  • Ancient Egypt: Cover history by exploring pharaohs, pyramids, and daily life. Integrate art by creating hieroglyphics or Egyptian art pieces, study geography by examining the Nile River, delve into mythology and religion, and even incorporate science by studying the mummification processes. Ancient Egypt Projects
  • Weather: Explore meteorology, covering science through understanding weather patterns, math through data analysis, geography by studying climates around the world, and language arts through weather-related literature or writing weather reports. We used a Williamson kids book as our base for this. Weather Projects
  • Animals and Habitats: Dive into biology by studying specific animals and their habitats, incorporate geography by mapping out where these animals live, explore environmental science by discussing conservation efforts, and integrate art by creating representations of various habitats. This Visual Animal Encyclopedia is perfect for a unit study!
  • Cultural Diversity: Integrate social studies by exploring different cultures and their traditions, geography by studying various countries and their customs, language arts through reading multicultural literature, and art by creating crafts or artworks inspired by different cultures. Learn more about Cultural Study in your Homeschool. This is basically what our Geography club did for years!
  • Civil Rights Movement: Connect history by studying key events and figures. You can incorporate social studies by discussing equality and social justice. Language arts can be covered through reading or listening to speeches or reading memoirs of influential leaders,  Art can be taught by learning about powerful art created during that time or creating projects that represent the movement. “Timelines from Black History: Leaders, Legends, Legacies” introduces children to prominent Black people in history such as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, and Dr. Martin Luther King. “The Civil Rights Movement for Kids: A History with 21 Activities” is a great place to find resources for a unit study. Also, check out the PBS collection of Civil Rights Videos, Lesson Plans, and more.

These are just starting points; each unit study can be adapted, expanded, or combined with other subjects to suit the interests and educational needs of the child. The flexibility of homeschooling allows for endless possibilities in designing unit studies. See the Complete List of Unit Study Ideas

How do I create my own unit study? (22:09)

See our Complete Unit Study Ideas List

Creating a homeschool unit study can be a fantastic way to integrate various subjects around a central theme or topic. Our free resource for the week is a template to help you develop your own unit study. So to get you started, here are 7 steps to help you develop one:

1. Choose a Theme or Topic

Select a broad theme or specific topic that can encompass multiple subjects. 

2. Identify Learning Objectives

Determine what you want your child to learn or achieve through this unit study. Define specific learning objectives for each subject area you’ll cover.

3. Gather Resources

Collect books, online resources, documentaries, experiments, worksheets, and other materials related to your chosen theme. Libraries, educational websites, and museums can be excellent sources. For me this often means going through my house to see what stuff I already have!  

Your spine book will be your main go-to when you start working through your unit study. Within it, you’ll be able to find topics or rabbit holes to meander down. Here are some examples of spine books:

4. Create Lesson Plans

Develop a schedule or outline for your unit study. Plan activities, readings, experiments, and projects for each day or week. Be flexible and adapt as needed.

5. Integrate Subjects

Find ways to connect different subjects within the theme. For instance, if you’re studying the medieval time period, a math lesson could involve the Sir Cumference books, a language arts lesson might involve reading about King Arthur, and watching the show “Merlin.”   

6. Hands-On Activities

Include hands-on experiences. This is my favorite part! Put some thought into this. Are there science experiments, art projects, field trips, or interviews with experts related to the theme that can make learning about your theme more engaging? I remember when we did our entire school year unit study of American music. We had tons of activities during this unit I put together and every four weeks, I had a major project. We built a transistor radio, we made a mixtape, we wrote a song and performed it. And this was in addition to all the other fun, hands-on activities. I made him build a guitar for the final school year-end project. 

History of American Music Unit Study Final Project (guitar build)
7. Adapt to Your Child’s Pace

Be flexible and adapt to your child’s learning pace and style. If they show interest in a particular aspect, delve deeper into it. Foster a spirit of curiosity and exploration. Encourage your child to ask questions, seek answers, and explore beyond the boundaries of the set curriculum.

Periodically assess the effectiveness of your unit study. Consider what worked well and what could be improved. Adjust the plan accordingly for future studies. Remember, the beauty of homeschooling is the flexibility it offers. Don’t hesitate to modify the plan as needed based on your child’s interests, strengths, and areas that might need more attention.

What if I don’t want to do it on my own?  Where can I find homeschool unit studies?

There are several resources available for secular homeschool unit studies. Here are five that provide a variety of subjects and approaches:

  • Build Your Library: This is a literature-based curriculum that offers secular unit studies covering various subjects. It often integrates history, science, language arts, and more around engaging literature. We’ve done their Evolution and Darwin unit study and she had a great one on Government and Elections.
  • Blossom and Root: This curriculum is designed with a secular, nature-based approach. It offers unit studies across different subjects, focusing on nature, literature, and art.
  • Teachers Pay Teachers: provides eclectic, literature-rich unit studies for a range of ages and subjects, with an emphasis on making learning engaging and multi-dimensional.
  • Torchlight Curriculum: Torchlight offers unit studies based on engaging literature, history, and science for multiple grade levels, incorporating a secular approach.
  • Curiosity Chronicles: This resource offers unit studies that combine history, literature, and geography, providing secular materials suitable for homeschoolers.

More unit study resources available here:  Secular unit study Facebook group

These sources often provide comprehensive unit study packages or guides that cover multiple subjects, allowing for an integrated approach to learning while catering to secular preferences. It’s always a good idea to review samples or trial periods to ensure the resources align with your homeschooling goals and your child’s learning style. This is also often a good way to try out a particular curriculum.

If you’ve never thought about unit studies, you may want to consider buying or building your own. This might be just the thing you’re looking for to engage your child or if you’re feeling a little burned out and looking for a refreshing change from your regular curriculum.

This Week’s Freebie:

Download your Unit Study Planner

055. Navigating Technology, Social Media, and Gaming in High School

Navigating Technology, Social Media, and Gaming in High School

This is the 11th episode in our High School Series

In today’s interconnected world, technology, social media, and gaming have become integral aspects of our kids’ lives. Learn how to navigate the challenges and embrace the opportunities that technology brings to your child’s education.

Episode 055:

TWO WAYS TO LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE:
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Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

We’re uncovering the ever-evolving intersection of homeschooling and the tech-savvy generation, shedding light on how these young learners harness the power of the digital realm for growth, connection, and self-discovery.

Our digital landscape is rapidly evolving and whether we like it or not, technology, social media, and gaming have become huge parts of the lives of our kids – especially teenagers. With the rise of smartphones, social networking platforms, and increasingly sophisticated video games, teens find themselves navigating a complex and dynamic intersection of virtual and real-world experiences.  If your kids are like ours, they probably know and understand way more than you do about modern-day tech!

The use of technology, the influence of social media, and the allure of gaming significantly shape the lives of our children. Especially during the teen years! These social, educational, and recreational dimensions of their life offer both opportunities and challenges. This age of modern connectivity is reshaping the way they communicate, learn, and unwind, and can even blur the boundaries between the physical and digital realms.  Every family is going to have different rules of how all of this technology is introduced, but many kids get their start online with various apps and games and that only grows as they get older.

Teenagers often find connection in online gaming. We all know that homeschooling is a big timesaver over a more traditional school with more flexibility in their schedule, allowing them more time to explore their favorite virtual realms. When our kids were younger, Game Ed Academy was Homeschooling with Minecraft.

We talk all the time about hands-on learning, being present, and how many opportunities our kids get to socialize in person because they literally have more hours in their day. But online gaming can also foster social interactions, teamwork, and problem-solving skills. Through digital adventures, homeschooled teens can find a sense of camaraderie and shared experiences, cultivating a diverse group of friends who share their passion for gaming. 

Felicia Day book, “You’re Never Weird on the Internet” and her unique life as a homeschooler gave her a lot of opportunities to explore her interest in gaming and the tech world.

Striking a balance and intersecting homeschooling and online gaming showcases how technology can enhance the social and educational experiences of today’s teens. It can supplement what you’re already providing for them and create additional avenues for personal growth and connection. 

How To Approach Using Technology in Your Homeschool (9:35)

Balance

Find a healthy balance between screen time and other activities to ensure that technology doesn’t consume the entire day. Remember, this episode is for our highschoolers and in a couple years, they’re going to be off on their own. It’s our job to teach them effective time management skills to find balance in their academic work, social life, and online activities. Hopefully this is something you’ve been working on all along, but if not, start teaching them balance and good habits now. 

Online Safety

Be mindful of sharing personal information online, and use strong, unique passwords to protect your accounts.

The whirlwind of social media, online dating, and mobile apps can make life a dream—or a nightmare. For every trustworthy website, there are countless jerks, bullies, and scam artists who want to harvest your personal information for their own purposes. But you can fight back, right now. Even if your privacy has already been compromised, don’t panic. It’s not too late to take control. Let
The Smart Girl’s Guide to Privacy help you cut through the confusion and start protecting your online life.

Privacy Settings: Familiarize yourself with the privacy settings on social media platforms and gaming accounts to control who can access your information. Some apps have location sharing, so be sure you stay on top of that and don’t blindly approve platforms you’re unfamiliar with.

Digital Footprint: It’s important that teens recognize that their online actions leave a digital footprint that can impact their future, such as college admissions or job opportunities. 

Content Evaluation: Be critical of the content you consume online and in games to ensure it aligns with your values and doesn’t promote harmful behavior. 

Media Literacy: teach them the ability to discern credible information from fake news and be aware of the potential for manipulation on the internet. 

Healthy Relationships: Use technology and social media to foster positive, real-world relationships, rather than just substituting them with virtual connections. 

Cyberbullying: Understand the potential risks of cyberbullying and how to respond if you or someone you know experiences it. And at this age, it may seem like they aren’t listening, but I promise that they are so don’t stop guiding them because you don’t think they’re listening.  They are!

Social Dilemma

By considering all of these factors, homeschooled teenagers can make informed and responsible choices regarding their use of technology, social media, and gaming.

How To Use Technology in Your Homeschool (16:55)

Integrating technology into a homeschool high school is almost a must in today’s world. It can really enrich your academic experience. Utilizing digital resources can enhance the learning process by offering access to a vast array of educational materials, from virtual laboratories for science experiments to multimedia resources for history and language arts. Technology also facilitates personalized learning, allowing homeschooled high school students to have tailored curriculum according to their individual needs, interests, and accommodating their learning style and pace. It can also foster self-discipline and responsibility as teens manage their assignments, schedules, and research independently, which are essential skills for success in college and the workforce. 

Exactly, also our highschoolers taking dual enrollment courses in person and our college students taking classes in person at their universities requires them to also be online for exams, discussion boards, and other assignments. It’s essential that they learn to navigate these things. So, if you’re one of those hold-outs on technology, you may want to reconsider all the skills that they are not learning that they will need. 

So let’s talk about how our homeschool highschoolers can effectively use technology as a valuable tool in their homeschooling:

Online Resources: Access educational websites, digital textbooks, and online courses to supplement their learning.

Virtual Classes: Participate in virtual classes and webinars to learn from expert instructors or connect with other homeschooled students. Khan Academy.

Outschool: Outschool offers variety of classes and over 100,000 Interactive Online Classes for every age group from 3 to 18 years.

Outschool is an education platform that connects teachers of any subject with students around the world for a variety of engaging small-group classes online.  It gives kids the opportunity to explore their interests via interactive, live video by experienced, independent educators. Outschool offers variety of classes and over 100,000 Interactive Online Classes for every age group from 3 to 18 years. Find one for you:

  • Arts – Drawing, photography, dance, Theatre, Film, Sewing
  • Coding & Tech – Coding, Video Game Design, Robotics, Engineering, Internet Safety, Animation
  • English – Creative Writing, Grammar, Spelling, Book Club, Essay Writing, Poetry, Literature
  • Health & Wellness – Hygiene, Emotions, Exercise, Mindfulness, Nutrition
  • Life Skills – Cooking, Financial Skills, Study Skills, Social Skills, Critical Thinking
  • Math – Elementary math, Algebra, Numbers, Geometry, Fractions, Calculus, Statistics, Probability
  • Music – Guitar, Piano, Singing, Composers, Music Theory, Composing, Recording
  • Science & Nature – Chemistry, Biology, Zoology, Physics, Astronomy, Anatomy, Marine Biology, Psychology
  • Social Studies – Geography, World History, American History, Anthropology, Economics, Politics
  • World Languages – Spanish, American Sign Language, French, Japanese, Latin, German, Chinese, Greek, Italian, Mandarin

E-Libraries: Utilize digital libraries and e-books to access a wide range of reading materials and resources. Libby, Hoopla, Overdrive are all great sites for getting library books. If you are in a rural area with limited selections or struggling with access to banned books you can get access by using other libraries- New York City, Broward County. 

Educational Apps: Explore educational apps that cover a wide range of subjects, making learning engaging and interactive.  

Research: Your teenagers can use the internet for research. Long gone is the card catalog, this is where the research now happens. Although I did teach my kids how to use a card catalog. The Internet has vast amounts of information for research papers, projects, and assignments. One of my favorite resources is the Internet Archive. It’s completely free and available to everyone and has so many resources. It literally has everything and it’s a great place for your kids to access things you thought were long gone. You can also check out the Virtural Card Catalog or Britannica Online.

Collaboration: Collaborate with peers on group projects using online collaboration tools and video conferencing platforms. We are all experts in zoom now, thanks to covid.  Google docs is something I used with my Future City and GEMUN groups for writing a collaborative essay.

Digital Note-Taking: Use note-taking apps and tools to organize and store class notes and assignments. My kids also use shared google docs for notetaking with classmates. 

Learning Management Systems: Some homeschooling programs use learning management systems (LMS) to deliver and manage coursework. Google Classroom, Blackboard, Bright space, canvas are all examples.

STEM Resources: Access online resources and simulations for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects. Here are some Online Dissection Resources.

Language Learning: Use language-learning apps and websites to study foreign languages. Having pronunciation built in is brilliant! Duolingo and Mango are favorites.

Coding and Programming: Learn coding and programming skills through online courses and coding platforms. Khan Academy has a lot of resources for free including Hour of Code. MIT has their free software to help teach kids how to program called Scratch. You can also get a lot of these directly from your local library. A lot of them have subscriptions that you just need your library card to login and your account is paid for.

Virtual Field Trips: Take virtual field trips to museums, historical sites, and other locations around the world. Another great thing that came out of covid was access to museum sites. I also always recommend sites, like the Dallas Human Rights museum, for educational resources. Museums and other educational sites always have tons of resources listed for educators, often these include lesson plans or are categorized by age or grade level. I mentioned in a recent episode that I was hanging out online at the Louvre in Paris. I also love wildlife cams. Visit Museums Virtually Online.

Discover a world of wonders without leaving your home! Explore the 30 most captivating online museums

Online Tutors: Seek help from online tutors or educators when needed for specific subjects or topics. 

Digital Portfolios: Create digital portfolios to showcase their work and accomplishments.

Presentations: After high schoolers finish a unit study, we typically think of a research paper to wrap it up. But you can get really creative with this. They can create a digital presentation with PowerPoint or another presentation software or they could even create a blog, a website, or a podcast in lieu of a traditional research paper. 

Time Management Tools: Utilize time management apps and tools to help balance their academic schedule. We both love checklists and things like Trello and Time Finder. The key is to find something that works for your teenager that they are happy to use. They may not use what works best for you. If it’s an app, you may want to also login with the same ID or use a shared app so you can communicate assignment completion that way. Many highschoolers are doing more and more of their own time management. We’re starting to hand off the torch with guidance, of course. 

Those are just some of the cool things tech can offer your homeschool.  Obviously, homeschooled teens should work with their parents to ensure they are using technology in a balanced and responsible manner so keep communicating with them and make sure expectations are clear to everyone.  But don’t be afraid of using technology!  Take advantage of the educational opportunities it offers while managing screen time and online safety. 

Do teenagers need social media? (29:06)

Social media can have both positive and negative impacts on homeschooled teens. On the positive side, social media platforms provide them with opportunities for social interaction and community building. Many teens use social media to connect with peers. It may be friendships, shared hobbies, or even study groups. This can help combat feelings of isolation and ensure that they have a support system in place, even outside of traditional school.  Additionally, social media offers a vast repository of educational resources, like some that we addressed and even educational communities where homeschooled teens can exchange knowledge and seek guidance. These platforms can help teens explore their interests, discover new subjects or hobbies, and even connect with mentors or experts in various fields.

This book written FOR teens on digital citizenship. The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices will help you navigate the digital world with 21 refreshingly honest and humorous tips that will not only inform, but that also just might change the way you think about your social media interaction.

However, the negative aspects of social media really need to be considered. We all know now that excessive use of social media can lead to distractions from responsibilities and impact their academic performance. Cyberbullying and exposure to inappropriate content are other significant concerns. And we all know that social media can create unrealistic comparisons and peer pressure. That can contribute to mental health issues like anxiety and depression. It’s important for parents and teenagers to strike a balance between the benefits and drawbacks of social media, ensuring it is used as a tool for learning, connection, and personal growth while being mindful of its potential pitfalls.

With all of that in consideration, homeschooled teenagers, like their peers in traditional school settings, are going to use social media for a variety of purposes.  For one, social media platforms help them stay in touch with friends and make new connections, combating potential isolation. We’ve moved a lot, but this has allowed us to stay friends.  We also regularly use SM in the sport my kids do. 

Homeschoolers can also participate in virtual clubs and interest-based groups through social media. You can also use it as a platform for showcasing talents, whether in music, art, or other creative pursuits. My 16yo son, Cameron, is a musician and teaches guitar lessons. We built a website for him, but he also has a Facebook and YouTube page where he promotes his music. He also wrote the BTDT Homeschool jingle!

Some homeschool teens use platforms like Pinterest, TikTok, or Instagram to learn new skills, such as cooking, art, or coding.  They may use social media to access educational content, connect with online tutors, or join study groups. We also have a good friend’s teenage daughter those crochets little stuffed animals and has a successful Etsy shop.

They may use social media to stay updated on current events, news, and trends. Some use social media to advocate for causes they’re passionate about or to raise awareness of issues they care about. You just might want to stay away from the comment section. 

Homeschooled teens often seek advice, resources, and support from online communities of homeschooling families and educators just like parents do.  We are on Facebook- but a lot of them aren’t!  But they use other sites just like we do.

Social media can provide an outlet for self-expression through posts, photos, and videos. Some find that negative- talk to your kids about how social media is often showcasing the highlight real and to be realistic about what they see. If you think social media is causing issues with self-esteem or jealousy, by all means restrict it. Sometimes we have to tell this to ourselves too. Especially as homeschoolers because these highlight reels can be really intimidating when everybody else’s kids are doing things that maybe our kids aren’t doing yet. It’s crucial for homeschooling parents and teens to approach technology use with care, finding a balance between the valuable connections and Learning opportunities it offers, while being mindful of the challenges of time management and online safety.

This Week’s Freebie:

Download your Guide to Online Gaming Safely

053. Teen Independence and Life Skills including Driving

053.

Teen Independence and Life Skills including Driving

Fostering independence in homeschool teens is a pivotal aspect of their educational journey. As they navigate their academic pursuits outside the conventional classroom setting, they have the many opportunities to develop self-reliance and a strong sense of responsibility. Today we are talking about helping your teenager gain independence and life skills including steps to becoming a driver making safe decisions on and off the road.

This is the 10th episode in our HIGH SCHOOL SERIES

Episode 053:

TWO WAYS TO LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE:
1. Click PLAY Button Above ^^ to listen here.
2. OR Listen on your favorite podcast platform:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

Homeschooling not only offers a unique and personalized education, but also fosters a strong sense of independence in our teenagers. As homeschooled teens navigate their academic pursuits outside the conventional classroom setting, they have the opportunity to develop self-reliance and a strong sense of responsibility. Homeschooling takes a fraction of time compared to a traditional school day and combined with newfound independence, teens are able to explore their interests and shape their own learning experiences, preparing them for the challenges of life in an empowering way. In today’s episode, we’re talking about teen independence and how to make sure your teenager learns all those essential life skills including driving before leaving home.

Fostering independence in homeschool teens is a pivotal aspect of their educational journey. The unique nature of homeschooling provides a safe space for teens to develop essential life skills, self-motivation, and autonomy. Parents can empower homeschool teens by allowing them to take ownership of their learning, encouraging them to set goals and manage their time, and providing a diverse array of learning opportunities. Also, engaging in open and constructive communication with your teen, as well as offering guidance and support rather than rigid control, can nurture their self-reliance. This emphasis on independence not only equips them with the tools they need to succeed academically but also prepares them for the challenges and opportunities they will encounter in life.

How do you foster independence in your teenagers? (5:25)

The teen years are a time of personal growth. Teenagers typically feel an intense desire to establish an identity for themselves apart from their family. This often begins in middle school. While this sometimes manifests itself in expressions of teenage “rebellion”, it doesn’t have to be like that. Children should be encouraged to learn about themselves, practice introspection, and grow with intention. Guiding them towards independence is crucial for their personal growth and preparing them for adulthood. 

As high school draws to a close, it is a time to let your children spread their wings. Let them dip their toes into the water of the adult world. Your active homeschooling might be winding down, but you are always going to be mentoring your child, especially as they start dabbling into adulthood. The more supported your child feels in this regard, the more successful they will be—intellectually, professionally, and emotionally. 

How do we do that? For one, allow your teenager to make age-appropriate decisions. This might include choices about clothing, hair, extracurricular activities, or their own schedules. You want to provide guidance, but let them have the final say in non-critical matters. Choose your battles!

Assign age-appropriate household chores and self-care tasks. This teaches them to take care of their living environment and personal needs. Hygiene is super important- taking care of your hair and skin and teeth is something you’ve been working on all along, but as they get older there may be puberty related challenges- body odor, greasy hair from increased oil production, acne.  Make sure you are sharing products and information about these things in a supportive way. 

When your teenager faces challenges or dilemmas, guide them through the problem-solving process. You can ask open-ended questions to help them analyze the situation and encourage them to make the decision. Establish clear but reasonable rules and guidelines in your home. This helps them understand the importance of rules and boundaries in society. Teach them to speak up for themselves and communicate their needs and concerns effectively, whether it’s with teachers, peers, or adults. Be sure to foster open and honest communication. Make sure they know they can discuss their thoughts, feelings, and concerns with you without judgment.

It’s also really important to teach them how to manage their time effectively. Encourage them to create their own schedules, set goals, and prioritize tasks. Allow them to take ownership of their education by completing assignments, studying for tests, and managing their own academic responsibilities. And remember, they are still learning, so be sure to offer support when needed. Don’t just assume that you need to tell them one time and you’ll never have to tell them again. 

Support their interests and hobbies, whether it’s playing a musical instrument, pursuing a sport, or engaging in creative activities. This helps them develop passions and skills on their own. Encourage them to explore their interests independently, even if it means self-directed learning outside of formal education. Provide access to resources and encourage reading, research, and curiosity. Encourage volunteer work or even a part-time job to help them gain real-world experience, build their resume, and understand the responsibilities that come with employment. Download your FREE Extracurricular and Volunteer Workbook.

Be a role model by demonstrating independence and responsible decision-making in your own life. Teens often learn by example. Fostering independence will be a gradual process, and it’s essential to strike a balance between providing guidance and allowing them to learn from their experiences, including making mistakes. Encourage them to take responsibility for their actions and to learn from both successes and failures. Remember Einstein’s quote, “If you’ve never failed, you’ve never tried anything new.”

How do I teach my teenager to drive? (11:20)

This is when things start getting real! Learning to drive is a  huge  milestone in a teenager’s journey towards independence. It marks the transition from relying on parents for transportation to having the freedom to explore the world on their own terms. The ability to get behind the wheel not only opens up new opportunities but also comes with profound responsibilities. For many teens, it’s a rite of passage that symbolizes their burgeoning adulthood, offering a taste of self-reliance.So, Let’s talk about the significance of learning to drive in the context of teen independence, as well as the essential skills and steps required to help them become safe and responsible drivers.

BTW, Some kids don’t feel the need to learn to drive right away- I was itching to get my license the minute I turned 16.  But with uber and social media, a lot of kids today choose to wait.  My wise friend once told me though that she’d rather her kids make big mistakes with her car and on her insurance.  She didn’t want their beginning driving experience to be at 18 while they are also navigating adult life and maybe a new city, college, etc.  Some kids, on the other hand, are eager to drive and start Drivers Ed at 14 to complete the course right when they turn 15. That can give you a little comfort to know that they would have an entire year with a learners permit to practice under your watch. 

Aceable Driver’s Ed
Aceable 
is the most effective (and least expensive) Driver’s Ed for Homeschoolers!

Preparing your teen for driving involves a combination of educational, practical, and safety steps to ensure they are well-equipped to handle the responsibilities of being a safe and responsible driver. First, you need enroll your teen in a state-approved driver’s education course. There are often several options for this.  Here, we can use an independent driving school, or you can do a parent self-taught course, like Aceable.  These courses cover essential traffic laws, road safety, and often include hands-on driving practice.

Whichever you choose, your teenager should thoroughly read and understand their state’s driver’s manual. It covers the specific rules and regulations they need to know to pass their written test. And these tests are not very hard and everything they will need to know will be taught in the course. A lot of it is common sense. Don’t forget to get your New Driver Magnets! Also, help your teen study and pass their test with these Road Sign Flash Cards.

The Driving Book for Teens: A Complete Guide to Becoming a Safe, Smart, and Skilled Driver

Ensure your teen meets the age and educational requirements to obtain a learner’s permit and a driver’s license in your state.  A trip to the DMV is always an adventure.  Have them help you gather up all the identification and information you will need. This will be a great lesson in patience and bureaucracy.  If you have to wait for a really long time, also make sure your teenager notes how awful this is so that it encourages them to never lose their ID. 

Once they get their learner’s permit, it’s time to start practicing. Start with parking lots and quiet residential streets. Then gradually progress to busier roads. You also want to be sure to provide opportunities for them to practice various driving scenarios and conditions. Spend time discussing and demonstrating defensive driving techniques, including how to anticipate and react to potential hazards. Spend a significant amount of time supervising their driving to help them gain experience and confidence behind the wheel. Teach them how to drive at night and in adverse weather conditions, like rain, snow, and fog. Emphasize the importance of obeying traffic laws, using seat belts, avoiding distractions, and never driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol – or even riding passenger with someone under the influence. Uber gift cards are a great gift for new graduates!

Teach your kids basic auto maintenance like checking tire pressure and oil, and performing routine safety checks. 

Auto Repair and Maintenance: Easy Lessons for Maintaining Your Car So It Lasts Longer

Many states have a graduated licensing program that includes restrictions for new drivers, such as limits on nighttime driving and the number of passengers. Ensure your teen complies with these restrictions. Here there are rules about how many unrelated people are allowed in the car, too. You may have some personal family rules regarding new drivers.

You can include your teen on your auto insurance policy and explain the importance of safe driving habits in keeping insurance rates manageable. This varies from state to state- you don’t have to do that here until they are licensed so you usually have a free pass during the learner permit time. This can be so expensive!

If they need to, have them take practice written and driving tests to help them prepare for the actual exams. We did the driving test through a local independent school- they have a youtube video of the driving test so we went and practiced it.  And lots of parallel parking!

It’s important that they know what to do in case of an accident, breakdown, or other emergency situation so be sure to go over all of that with them. Test out how empty your tank of gas really is when it’s on E. Show them how to call roadside assistance if you have it.E doesn’t mean enough! 

Some families may consider creating a written agreement that outlines your expectations and rules for your teen’s driving, including curfews, passenger restrictions, and consequences for breaking the rules.

They’ve been driving around with you their entire life and learning from you.Be sure that you’re a positive role model by practicing safe and responsible driving habits yourself. Your actions can significantly influence your teen’s behavior behind the wheel. Do you text and drive? There’s a good chance that they will too. Kids are always watching.  You can help your teenager become a competent, responsible, and safe driver, ensuring they are well-prepared for the challenges of the road.

Even after taking driver’s ed and passing that dreaded road test, there are so many things new drivers need to learn about the practical aspects of driving that will only come from experience. Handing over the keys is a traumatic rite of passage for parents, and they will sleep better knowing that The Driving Book is in their teens’ glove compartments. Covering virtually every scenario a new driver may face, from changing a tire to negotiating privileges with parents to handling a car in bad weather, Karen Gravelle helps teen drivers navigate through tricky new territory.

How do we teach essential life skills? (22:34)

Have you ever seen people online complaining about “adulting”? The term adulting has become a catch-all phrase describing the tasks and responsibilities characteristic of adulthood. The latter years of high school are a great time to introduce your child to some of the skills a person needs to be a competent, functional adult. 

And really, you’ve been teaching them life skills all along. But now it’s time to step it up. Now it’s time to teach life skills like opening a bank account, home and auto maintenance, the basics of tax preparation, filling out a FAFSA form for college, how to fill out a job application and talk to prospective employers. These sorts of skills are the things a child should learn as they transition into adulthood. They aren’t all about job skills or higher education, but just about navigating the adult world in general. This is one of those things where Homeschool teens really have an advantage. People often complain that these skills are not taught in school – well, they are taught in my school! And you can teach them in your school, too.

Teaching important life skills to homeschooled teenagers is a critical part of their education. These skills equip them for independence, self-reliance, and success in various aspects of life. Here are some essential life skills to teach homeschooled teenagers:

Financial Literacy

Teach them the basics of personal finance, budgeting, saving, investing, and managing money. You can cover topics like understanding credit, taxes, how to make informed financial decisions, and how to improve and maintain your credit score!

Financial Envelope System
This system was invaluable to me as I taught my kids about budgeting and learning how to manage money. If you’ve never heard of it, I really encourage you to teach them this essential life skill.

Time Management and Organization

We’ve talked about this a lot in other episodes, study skills fall in this category, too. Help them develop effective time management skills, including setting goals, prioritizing tasks, and creating schedules. This skill is crucial for academic success and managing responsibilities. We want them to know how to learn new skills and how to research information critically. Also, having confidence in their ability to learn new things. Taking notes and independent learning is so important. 

Communication Skills

Teach effective verbal and written communication, including active listening, public speaking, and how to write emails and formal documents. Using technology – we live in a tech world. I get it you want to restrict but learn how to use the tech around us, typing, making presentations, how things work, etc.  

Teach them how to stand up for themselves and be a self advocate.  Talk about the importance of boundaries and consent. We talked about this in our recent high school episode about High School Socialization Friendships, and Dating.

Critical Thinking

Encourage them to think critically, analyze information, solve problems, and make decisions based on evidence and logic.  Problem solving, recognizing fallacies, debating properly, how to recognize propaganda.

Life skills form the foundation of the future you’ve always dreamed of and admired. While learning and developing these skills is a continuous process that never ends, the bulk of it occurs during your teen years. Essential Life Skills For Teens: 13 Different Ways To Use Your Critical Thinking, Manage Your Time Better, Set Your Smart Goals, And Navigate Social Media Safely is a guide designed to help equip teenagers with the tools they need to maximize their potential and enjoy a fulfilling life.

Self-Care and Well-Being

Instill the importance of physical and mental health. Teach them about nutrition, exercise, stress management, and the ability to seek help when needed.  Teach them about basic first aid, how to learn where to find information, survival skills-such as identifying plants, how to tell time and direction from the sun, how to survive, avoid an animal attack, etc. Take a CPR course. And really, some of these basic skills are things you’ve been teaching them all along.

Help them learn how insurance works and how to navigate the healthcare system. Filling out medical forms and calling and making a doctor’s appointment. Teach them stress relief and meditation.

Cooking and Nutrition

This is another topic we have talked about a lot. Teach cooking skills, meal planning, and the importance of a balanced diet. Understanding food labels and dietary needs is also essential. Meal planning and grocery shopping,  gardening, and preserving, too. In a previous episode, we created a free meal planner for the homeschool mom. Download it and have your teenager start doing some of this meal planning. Start by doing it with them until they can independently make a meal plan for the family. This is one of my favorite things about having teens! Get your FREE Meal Planner.

I made my kids cookbooks with family recipes and had a very basic list of all things  they should know how to cook- things like an omelet, rice, boiled eggs, a simple cream sauce, gravy, etc.  If you know a few basics, you will never go hungry.  My youngest watches a lot of tiktok cooking videos and you should see and smell her ramen!

CREATE YOUR OWN RECIPE ORGANIZER with this Recipe Binder: This recipe books are super user-friendly and convenient for teens, making them easy to customize by organizing pages into categories. Just open to write in 3 ring binder and reorganize the pages to suit your needs. Leather 3 ring binder is designed with 12 blank dividers that are conveniently labeled for you according to recipes’ type, meaning they’re easy to find based on what kind of meal you want!

Household Maintenance

Ensure they know how to perform basic household chores like laundry/ironing, cleaning, and minor repairs. They should also be familiar with home safety measures. Basic home repair- like using an anchor to hang a picture, how to unclog a toilet, change the fire alarm battery, switch out the AC filters. Lawn care, gardening, and snow shoveling/winterizing the home would fall under this category, too, if these are things that apply to you.

Networking and Social Skills

Teach them how to build and maintain relationships, navigate social situations both in-person and online. Teaching them the difference between growth/ fixed mindset, staying true to their word, social media etiquette and how their reputation will precede them.  Being considerate of others’ feelings, doing the right thing even when it’s not the popular choice. Again, these are things that you’ve been teaching them all their life. We have an entire E guide that helps guide you and teach your teenager about healthy relationships, consent, and spotting red flags among other things.

How to act when pulled over by the police or questioned by them. These are things we hope don’t come up, but they might and your teenager needs to be prepared.

Job Search and Career Development

Help them create a resume, search for jobs, and prepare for interviews. Discuss career goals and pathways to achieve them. How to fill out forms, taxes. Learn more about Internships, First Jobs, and Entrepreneurships.

Emotional Intelligence

Teach emotional regulation, empathy, and conflict resolution. These skills are essential for healthy relationships and emotional well-being. Managing relationships, making phone calls,public speaking, coordinating and planning small events, etc…How to utilize public transportation. 

Life Skills Books to Guide Your Teen:

By incorporating these life skills into your homeschooling curriculum, you can empower your teenagers to navigate the challenges of adulthood with confidence and competence.

This Week’s Freebie:

Download your FREE Teen Driver Car maintenance and Repair Guide (pdf)

045. High School Socialization, Friendships, and Dating

045.

High School Socialization, Friendships, and Dating

Tune in today as we answer these questions and more!

Episode 045:

Click PLAY Button Above ^^ to listen on our website or listen on your favorite podcast platform:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

Socialization, friendships, and dating are such important roles in the holistic development of high schoolers, and this holds true for homeschooled students just as much as their traditionally schooled peers. During the teen years, friendships become even more important as our children are growing in their understanding of the world and where they fit in it. Recognizing the significance of nurturing meaningful friendships and exploring healthy dating relationships can empower homeschooled high schoolers to build vital life skills, emotional resilience, and a strong sense of identity as they transition into adulthood. 

The Youngest BTDT Babies on Campus for Dual Credit Courses
November 2014 vs. August 2023

These socialization aspects of teenage life are not merely about having fun and passing the time; they are essential for emotional, social, and psychological growth. While homeschooling provides many advantages, such as personalized education and flexible schedules, it can sometimes present challenges when it comes to social interaction. But we need not fear that our teens will be “limited” socially by being schooled at home during these years. That is short-range thinking. The social possibilities for homeschoolers are endless, really. All it takes is a bit of creativity and willingness to make it happen. 

How much time should my high schooler spend with friends? (6:12)

The amount of time your high schooler should spend with friends can vary greatly depending on their individual personality, needs, and commitments. Not every child has the same need for interactions. And the same goes for parents.  If you are an introvert and your child is not, you are going to have to make some effort to facilitate social interactions for your child.  That may mean stepping way out of your comfort zone! 

Family Dynamics

Also, consider your family dynamic.  If you have more than one child, or those of varying ages and interests, this sometimes requires some massive scheduling on your part. Likewise, don’t forget the importance of family time. It’s essential for your child to maintain a connection with the family unit. Consider setting aside specific times for family activities and bonding. 

I have been a fan of The Chicken Soup Series forever. I love that they made a teen version. Being a teen is hard – and this book makes them feel like they are not alone. This book is filled with stories that will make you laugh and make you cry. It will act as a best friend, keep you company, motivate you, and reassure you that other teenagers have been through the same ups and downs and have come out okay.

Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul

Academic Responsibilities

High school students will have academic responsibilities that should be a priority, especially if they are college bound. Encourage your teen to establish a balance between schoolwork and socializing.  Luckily, as homeschoolers, we do have the flexibility of setting our own schedules, so social activities don’t have to be limited to weekends or evenings.  

Extracurricular Activities

If your child is involved in extracurricular activities such as sports, clubs, theater, or music groups, they may naturally spend more time with friends during these activities. This is beneficial as it combines socializing with personal interests and skill development.  Socialization needs will vary from kid to kid, and as your child gets older, they may naturally want more independence and private time with friends, outside of these activities. It’s essential to strike a balance between allowing them this independence and ensuring they still meet their responsibilities and obligations at home and school.

Open Communication

You really want to make sure you maintain open communication with your high schooler about their social life. Encourage them to share their plans and needs with you and be willing to listen if they have concerns or questions about how much time they should spend or want to spend with friends. There are definitely times when we feel over scheduled and over socialized, and we had to dial everything back in and then there were times where we felt the opposite.  

Opposing Schedules

High school gets tricky because a lot of kids have fine-tuned their interests, everyone is going different directions, and doing different times of schooling or classes, and sometimes you may even stop seeing some of your best friends due to opposite schedules and activities, or if they’ve chosen to go to public school at this point. When that’s been the case, we have always encouraged our kids to try to schedule times to hang out with those friends and to open the door to new friendships. That happens to everyone – even us as adults. Friendships come in and out of our lives. Gone are the days of easy park days where you just show up.  Sometimes you really have to make an effort to plan things and stay on top of schedules to ensure it happens.  If you kids can’t or don’t want to do that, you may have to!

Healthy Relationships

You really want to ensure that the time spent with friends is healthy and positive. Know the company your child keeps, and discuss any concerns you may have regarding peer pressure, negative influences, or unsafe behaviors. Take an active role in meeting their friends and chatting with them – and their parents. Keep an open dialogue with your kids. They’re starting to branch out and spend less time with family and more with friends. One of my favorite things about homeschooling is establishing a strong bond from a young age, so that we always have an open dialogue. You want your children to feel safe telling you things.

It’s also more important for your high schooler to have a few close, meaningful friendships than to be constantly surrounded by friends. Encourage them to focus on nurturing these deep connections.  We always try to stress quality over quantity.

Safety and Setting Boundaries

You also need to make sure your child understands the importance of safety and setting boundaries in their social interactions, both online and offline. Teach them to make responsible decisions about where and with whom they spend their time. This is especially important for kids who spend a lot of time online.  We try to talk a lot about not oversharing information, being cautious of potential scammers and fake people, and just guarding your online interactions, in general. We have a responsibility to teach our kids to think critically. Teaching them online safety can sometimes be especially hard for us because our kids usually know way more about tech and online things than we do!  So do your best to stay current so that you can discuss this stuff with your kids. 

Overall Well-Being

Pay attention to your child’s well-being. If they seem overwhelmed, stressed, or exhausted from socializing, it might be a sign that they need to scale back and prioritize self-care.  Talk to your kids about stress management – nutrition, hydration, healthy sleep habits. If they seem lonely, down, or moody, you definitely want to address that and do what you can do to help them-some of these highs and lows are completely normal with teenagers as they feel all the feels. But pay attention when things seem off more than normal.  Even though they are older, they often need guidance navigating relationships and activities.  

If your teen is new to homeschooling and maybe came out of a difficult school situation due to bullying or negative social interaction, this is even more important and can be a huge adjustment.  Keep trying and do what you can to assist.

Different Needs

Lastly, remember that every teenager is different. Some may be more introverted and prefer less social interaction, while others may be extroverted and thrive on frequent social contact. Respect your child’s personality and adjust expectations accordingly. Again, this is one of the many advantages to homeschooling, that we can customize our approach to socializing just like we can with academics. Ultimately, the amount of time your high schooler spends with friends should align with their personal needs and interests. It’s important to maintain a healthy balance between socialization, academics, extracurricular activities, and family time while allowing your child to develop the social skills and connections that are so important for their well-being.

What can I do to help my high schooler develop meaningful friendships? (16:24)

Helping your high schooler develop meaningful friendships is important for their social and emotional development. But where do you even begin finding friends and developing these relationships?  Like we mentioned before, high school can get tricky even if you aren’t new to homeschooling because kids tend to split at this age- their interests are more fine-tuned, they may be involved more heavily into other groups and activities, and their time is precious, too.

Look for local homeschooling groups or co-ops where your high schooler can meet other homeschooled students. These groups often organize activities, classes, and events that provide opportunities for social interaction.  Even if you have been involved in a group for a long time, you may want to consider branching out to other groups and seeing what else is out there. We belong to a lot of groups and they all have a different dynamic and vibe, and bring something else to the table.

Encourage your child to participate in extracurricular activities such as sports teams, music groups, art classes, and community service clubs. Not only are these essential for just being a well-rounded person, but these activities can also help them meet like-minded peers who share their interests. 

In today’s digital age, online friendships can be just as meaningful as in-person ones. A lot of parents who really limit online interaction and are very strict about kids not having phones, social media, etc. While you do want to make sure your child is protected, technology is our future and kids are going to find their way to it eventually- with or without your blessing. Ensure your child has access to safe online communities, forums, or social media groups where they can connect with other homeschoolers or friends who share their hobbies and interests. 

One service that I’ve used for years is called QUSTODIO. When my kids first got devices around middle school age, I really struggled with online safety and protection, and I eventually found this great tool that allows me to monitor apps and websites from my phone. I can even see what websites they visit and block sites from my phone! As they’ve gotten older, I’ve dialed back the monitoring as they have learned online safety but if you’re struggling with this, I would highly recommend this.

Keep your kids safe online:
Learn more about Qustodio>>

Engaging in volunteer work is another great opportunity. It not only allows your child to give back to the community but also offers more chances to meet people who share their passion for making a difference. We also really like scouts for this. It’s great for kids who want organized opportunities with a lot of fun and group activities. 

Look for local classes or workshops related to your child’s interests or hobbies. This can be anything from dance classes to coding workshops. These environments often foster social interaction. Your local recreation center is a great source for this, as well as your local libraries.   Library classes and activities are typically free even if you don’t have a card and a lot have reciprocal programs with neighboring city libraries, too.

If your child is old enough, a part-time job can be an excellent way to meet new people. Working with peers can help develop social skills and build friendships. Sometimes these are great learning opportunities to help your kid figure out what they want to do- and what they don’t want to do! 

One challenge for homeschoolers that do dual credit, is that their on-campus peers are often a lot older than they are.  While we are ok with them swapping numbers or meeting up on campus after class for study related things, we do let our kids know that they need to be upfront about the fact that they can’t really socialize with them outside of class. 

Make sure your child has the necessary social skills to build and maintain friendships. Teach them effective communication, active listening, empathy, and conflict resolution. And while it’s important to support your child in building friendships, it’s also crucial to respect their autonomy. Allow them to choose their friends and give them space to develop these relationships, while still talking often about positive interactions and safety. This can be hard for some parents! Just do your best to keep communication lines open with your child. Encourage them to talk about their feelings, experiences, and any challenges they may be facing in the process of making friends.

This is a bit older but still a relevant and helpful resource for parenting in our “Tech World”. In iRules, Hofmann provides families with the tools they need to find a balance between technology and human interaction through a philosophy she calls Slow Tech Parenting. In the book, she educates parents about the online culture tweens and teens enter the minute they go online, exploring issues like cyberbullying, friend fail, and sexting, as well as helping parents create their own iRules contracts to fit their families’ needs.

iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know about Selfies, Sexting, Gaming, and Growing up

Building meaningful friendships can take time, so be patient and don’t push your child too hard. It’s normal for the process to have its ups and downs. And when you’re a teenager, these shifts can sometimes feel very extreme from happy to sad. Like we mentioned earlier, the quality of friendships is more important than the quantity. Encourage them to focus on building deep, meaningful connections with a few individuals rather than trying to be friends with everyone. Building friendships is a skill that takes time and practice, so continue to provide support and guidance.

Should my high schooler date? (24:46)

Deciding whether or not your high schooler should date is a personal and often complex decision that depends on various factors, including your child’s maturity level, values, and your family’s beliefs and guidelines. 

You really need to assess their emotional and social maturity. Are they capable of handling the responsibilities and potential challenges that come with dating Like communication, compromise, and understanding boundaries? I would encourage you to sit down and have an open and honest conversation about dating. Ask them about their thoughts and feelings regarding dating and really listen to them. In a couple of years, they’ll be young adults and they’re going to be off doing their thing without consulting you, so use this time to help them and influence them in a positive way.  As your teen grows, you can be there to help them work through different situations or challenges. Talking to them about relationships and consent will help them understand how to take care of themselves and others. Remember that your child may not always feel like talking or opening up. Be patient and make sure they know they can speak to you about anything. 

Sheldon and Amy’s Relationship Contract

Mentioning consent always makes me laugh thinking about Sheldon and Amy’s relationship agreement in The Big Bang Theory. It’s so funny when he draws up the contract about when they can and can’t hold hands. Or that short video about tea and consent (*warning F-Bomb) when somebody changes their mind about having tea.  

Tea and Consent

Give your child some examples of healthy and unhealthy behaviors – watch these videos with them. They are humorous, but it’s a serious topic that needs to be addressed. Chat with them about how consent comes across in words and body language. If someone seems uncomfortable with something or says no, it’s important to listen.

Discuss with them what a healthy relationship is. It’s when both people are:

  • Caring
  • Considerate
  • Kind
  • Encouraging

You want to teach them about red flags in a relationship like:

  • Controlling
  • Isolating the other person (they might discourage them from seeing friends)
  • Passive-aggressive or unkind
  • Self-centered, not considering the other’s needs.

Talk to your child about respect. Speak about gender equality and spotting sexual harassment It’s our job to educate our kids well beyond academics. These are conversations that should be happening from when they were young, but if they weren’t, start today. This goes well beyond dating. These are things that teach them about respecting others and themselves.  Be sure to get your FREE Healthy Relationship E-Guide>>

Be aware of potential peer pressure or external influences that might be motivating your child to date. Encourage them to make decisions based on their own feelings and values, not solely to fit in or meet others’ expectations. This is another positive of homeschooling. Many homeschooled kids haven’t really had to succumb to peer pressure. From early on, they were encouraged to have a voice and be heard, and that carries through not only in their teen years, but for the rest of their lives.

Consider your family’s values and beliefs regarding dating and relationships. Different families have different approaches, and it’s important to align your decision on dating rules with your family’s values. Model healthy relationships and communication within your own family. Your child will learn a lot about relationships by observing how you and your partner interact.

Sometimes, focusing on building strong friendships during high school can be a more suitable approach for teenagers who are not yet ready for dating. But if you decide to allow dating, set age-appropriate boundaries and rules. Depending on your child’s age and your comfort level, you might choose to supervise their early dating experiences more closely. These could include curfews, group dates, and guidelines for physical affection. Or no closed doors when in bedrooms, and not being at someone’s house when parents aren’t home.  As they demonstrate responsibility and maturity, you can grant more independence. Be clear about your expectations.

Ultimately, the decision to allow your high schooler to date should be based on their individual readiness and your family’s values. Keep in mind that every teenager is different, and what works for one may not work for another.  Emphasize the importance of maintaining a balance between dating, academics, extracurricular activities, and family commitments. Ensure that dating doesn’t interfere with their responsibilities. It’s crucial to maintain open communication with your child, listen to their concerns, and provide guidance and support as they navigate the complexities of dating and relationships.

This Week’s Freebies:

FREE Teen Healthy Relationship E-Guide (18 pages)
Get your FREE Extracurricular and Volunteer Workbook

We created this group as a way to share FREE resources all over the world with NO SPAM:

BTDT Homeschool Free Resources
Join the Group for Free>>

Show Notes

If you’re brand-new to homeschooling, be sure to visit our GETTING STARTED Page

This is the 8th Episode in our
HIGH SCHOOL SERIES

Socialization, friendships, and dating are such important roles in the holistic development of high schoolers, and this holds true for homeschooled students just as much as their traditionally schooled peers. During the teen years, friendships become even more important as our children are growing in their understanding of the world and where they fit in it. Recognizing the significance of nurturing meaningful friendships and exploring healthy dating relationships can empower homeschooled high schoolers to build vital life skills, emotional resilience, and a strong sense of identity as they transition into adulthood. 

The Youngest BTDT Babies on Campus for Dual Credit Courses
November 2014 vs. August 2023

These socialization aspects of teenage life are not merely about having fun and passing the time; they are essential for emotional, social, and psychological growth. While homeschooling provides many advantages, such as personalized education and flexible schedules, it can sometimes present challenges when it comes to social interaction. But we need not fear that our teens will be “limited” socially by being schooled at home during these years. That is short-range thinking. The social possibilities for homeschoolers are endless, really. All it takes is a bit of creativity and willingness to make it happen. 

How much time should my high schooler spend with friends? (6:12)

The amount of time your high schooler should spend with friends can vary greatly depending on their individual personality, needs, and commitments. Not every child has the same need for interactions. And the same goes for parents.  If you are an introvert and your child is not, you are going to have to make some effort to facilitate social interactions for your child.  That may mean stepping way out of your comfort zone! 

Family Dynamics

Also, consider your family dynamic.  If you have more than one child, or those of varying ages and interests, this sometimes requires some massive scheduling on your part. Likewise, don’t forget the importance of family time. It’s essential for your child to maintain a connection with the family unit. Consider setting aside specific times for family activities and bonding. 

I have been a fan of The Chicken Soup Series forever. I love that they made a teen version. Being a teen is hard – and this book makes them feel like they are not alone. This book is filled with stories that will make you laugh and make you cry. It will act as a best friend, keep you company, motivate you, and reassure you that other teenagers have been through the same ups and downs and have come out okay.

Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul

Academic Responsibilities

High school students will have academic responsibilities that should be a priority, especially if they are college bound. Encourage your teen to establish a balance between schoolwork and socializing.  Luckily, as homeschoolers, we do have the flexibility of setting our own schedules, so social activities don’t have to be limited to weekends or evenings.  

Extracurricular Activities

If your child is involved in extracurricular activities such as sports, clubs, theater, or music groups, they may naturally spend more time with friends during these activities. This is beneficial as it combines socializing with personal interests and skill development.  Socialization needs will vary from kid to kid, and as your child gets older, they may naturally want more independence and private time with friends, outside of these activities. It’s essential to strike a balance between allowing them this independence and ensuring they still meet their responsibilities and obligations at home and school.

Get your FREE Extracurricular and Volunteer Workbook
Open Communication

You really want to make sure you maintain open communication with your high schooler about their social life. Encourage them to share their plans and needs with you and be willing to listen if they have concerns or questions about how much time they should spend or want to spend with friends. There are definitely times when we feel over scheduled and over socialized, and we had to dial everything back in and then there were times where we felt the opposite.  

Opposing Schedules

High school gets tricky because a lot of kids have fine-tuned their interests, everyone is going different directions, and doing different times of schooling or classes, and sometimes you may even stop seeing some of your best friends due to opposite schedules and activities, or if they’ve chosen to go to public school at this point. When that’s been the case, we have always encouraged our kids to try to schedule times to hang out with those friends and to open the door to new friendships. That happens to everyone – even us as adults. Friendships come in and out of our lives. Gone are the days of easy park days where you just show up.  Sometimes you really have to make an effort to plan things and stay on top of schedules to ensure it happens.  If you kids can’t or don’t want to do that, you may have to!

Healthy Relationships

You really want to ensure that the time spent with friends is healthy and positive. Know the company your child keeps, and discuss any concerns you may have regarding peer pressure, negative influences, or unsafe behaviors. Take an active role in meeting their friends and chatting with them – and their parents. Keep an open dialogue with your kids. They’re starting to branch out and spend less time with family and more with friends. One of my favorite things about homeschooling is establishing a strong bond from a young age, so that we always have an open dialogue. You want your children to feel safe telling you things.

Get your FREE Teen Healthy Relationship E-Guide. Learn strategies to help your teenager find meaningful friendships, navigate dating, learn how to set boundaries and spot red flags, and empower them with skills to form deep connections:

FREE Teen Healthy Relationship E-Guide (18 pages)

It’s also more important for your high schooler to have a few close, meaningful friendships than to be constantly surrounded by friends. Encourage them to focus on nurturing these deep connections.  We always try to stress quality over quantity.

Safety and Setting Boundaries

You also need to make sure your child understands the importance of safety and setting boundaries in their social interactions, both online and offline. Teach them to make responsible decisions about where and with whom they spend their time. This is especially important for kids who spend a lot of time online.  We try to talk a lot about not oversharing information, being cautious of potential scammers and fake people, and just guarding your online interactions, in general. We have a responsibility to teach our kids to think critically. Teaching them online safety can sometimes be especially hard for us because our kids usually know way more about tech and online things than we do!  So do your best to stay current so that you can discuss this stuff with your kids. 

Overall Well-Being

Pay attention to your child’s well-being. If they seem overwhelmed, stressed, or exhausted from socializing, it might be a sign that they need to scale back and prioritize self-care.  Talk to your kids about stress management – nutrition, hydration, healthy sleep habits. If they seem lonely, down, or moody, you definitely want to address that and do what you can do to help them-some of these highs and lows are completely normal with teenagers as they feel all the feels. But pay attention when things seem off more than normal.  Even though they are older, they often need guidance navigating relationships and activities.  

If your teen is new to homeschooling and maybe came out of a difficult school situation due to bullying or negative social interaction, this is even more important and can be a huge adjustment.  Keep trying and do what you can to assist.

Different Needs

Lastly, remember that every teenager is different. Some may be more introverted and prefer less social interaction, while others may be extroverted and thrive on frequent social contact. Respect your child’s personality and adjust expectations accordingly. Again, this is one of the many advantages to homeschooling, that we can customize our approach to socializing just like we can with academics. Ultimately, the amount of time your high schooler spends with friends should align with their personal needs and interests. It’s important to maintain a healthy balance between socialization, academics, extracurricular activities, and family time while allowing your child to develop the social skills and connections that are so important for their well-being.

What can I do to help my high schooler develop meaningful friendships? (16:24)

Helping your high schooler develop meaningful friendships is important for their social and emotional development. But where do you even begin finding friends and developing these relationships?  Like we mentioned before, high school can get tricky even if you aren’t new to homeschooling because kids tend to split at this age- their interests are more fine-tuned, they may be involved more heavily into other groups and activities, and their time is precious, too.

Look for local homeschooling groups or co-ops where your high schooler can meet other homeschooled students. These groups often organize activities, classes, and events that provide opportunities for social interaction.  Even if you have been involved in a group for a long time, you may want to consider branching out to other groups and seeing what else is out there. We belong to a lot of groups and they all have a different dynamic and vibe, and bring something else to the table.

Encourage your child to participate in extracurricular activities such as sports teams, music groups, art classes, and community service clubs. Not only are these essential for just being a well-rounded person, but these activities can also help them meet like-minded peers who share their interests. 

In today’s digital age, online friendships can be just as meaningful as in-person ones. A lot of parents who really limit online interaction and are very strict about kids not having phones, social media, etc. While you do want to make sure your child is protected, technology is our future and kids are going to find their way to it eventually- with or without your blessing. Ensure your child has access to safe online communities, forums, or social media groups where they can connect with other homeschoolers or friends who share their hobbies and interests. 

One service that I’ve used for years is called QUSTODIO. When my kids first got devices around middle school age, I really struggled with online safety and protection, and I eventually found this great tool that allows me to monitor apps and websites from my phone. I can even see what websites they visit and block sites from my phone! As they’ve gotten older, I’ve dialed back the monitoring as they have learned online safety but if you’re struggling with this, I would highly recommend this.

Keep your kids safe online:
Learn more about Qustodio>>

Engaging in volunteer work is another great opportunity. It not only allows your child to give back to the community but also offers more chances to meet people who share their passion for making a difference. We also really like scouts for this. It’s great for kids who want organized opportunities with a lot of fun and group activities. 

Look for local classes or workshops related to your child’s interests or hobbies. This can be anything from dance classes to coding workshops. These environments often foster social interaction. Your local recreation center is a great source for this, as well as your local libraries.   Library classes and activities are typically free even if you don’t have a card and a lot have reciprocal programs with neighboring city libraries, too.

If your child is old enough, a part-time job can be an excellent way to meet new people. Working with peers can help develop social skills and build friendships. Sometimes these are great learning opportunities to help your kid figure out what they want to do- and what they don’t want to do! 

One challenge for homeschoolers that do dual credit, is that their on-campus peers are often a lot older than they are.  While we are ok with them swapping numbers or meeting up on campus after class for study related things, we do let our kids know that they need to be upfront about the fact that they can’t really socialize with them outside of class. 

Make sure your child has the necessary social skills to build and maintain friendships. Teach them effective communication, active listening, empathy, and conflict resolution. And while it’s important to support your child in building friendships, it’s also crucial to respect their autonomy. Allow them to choose their friends and give them space to develop these relationships, while still talking often about positive interactions and safety. This can be hard for some parents! Just do your best to keep communication lines open with your child. Encourage them to talk about their feelings, experiences, and any challenges they may be facing in the process of making friends.

This is a bit older but still a relevant and helpful resource for parenting in our “Tech World”. In iRules, Hofmann provides families with the tools they need to find a balance between technology and human interaction through a philosophy she calls Slow Tech Parenting. In the book, she educates parents about the online culture tweens and teens enter the minute they go online, exploring issues like cyberbullying, friend fail, and sexting, as well as helping parents create their own iRules contracts to fit their families’ needs.

iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know about Selfies, Sexting, Gaming, and Growing up

Building meaningful friendships can take time, so be patient and don’t push your child too hard. It’s normal for the process to have its ups and downs. And when you’re a teenager, these shifts can sometimes feel very extreme from happy to sad. Like we mentioned earlier, the quality of friendships is more important than the quantity. Encourage them to focus on building deep, meaningful connections with a few individuals rather than trying to be friends with everyone. Building friendships is a skill that takes time and practice, so continue to provide support and guidance.

Should my high schooler date? (24:46)

Deciding whether or not your high schooler should date is a personal and often complex decision that depends on various factors, including your child’s maturity level, values, and your family’s beliefs and guidelines. 

You really need to assess their emotional and social maturity. Are they capable of handling the responsibilities and potential challenges that come with dating Like communication, compromise, and understanding boundaries? I would encourage you to sit down and have an open and honest conversation about dating. Ask them about their thoughts and feelings regarding dating and really listen to them. In a couple of years, they’ll be young adults and they’re going to be off doing their thing without consulting you, so use this time to help them and influence them in a positive way.  As your teen grows, you can be there to help them work through different situations or challenges. Talking to them about relationships and consent will help them understand how to take care of themselves and others. Remember that your child may not always feel like talking or opening up. Be patient and make sure they know they can speak to you about anything. 

Sheldon and Amy’s Relationship Contract

Mentioning consent always makes me laugh thinking about Sheldon and Amy’s relationship agreement in The Big Bang Theory. It’s so funny when he draws up the contract about when they can and can’t hold hands. Or that short video about tea and consent (*warning F-Bomb) when somebody changes their mind about having tea.  

Tea and Consent

Give your child some examples of healthy and unhealthy behaviors – watch these videos with them. They are humorous, but it’s a serious topic that needs to be addressed. Chat with them about how consent comes across in words and body language. If someone seems uncomfortable with something or says no, it’s important to listen.

Discuss with them what a healthy relationship is. It’s when both people are:

  • Caring
  • Considerate
  • Kind
  • Encouraging

You want to teach them about red flags in a relationship like:

  • Controlling
  • Isolating the other person (they might discourage them from seeing friends)
  • Passive-aggressive or unkind
  • Self-centered, not considering the other’s needs.

Talk to your child about respect. Speak about gender equality and spotting sexual harassment It’s our job to educate our kids well beyond academics. These are conversations that should be happening from when they were young, but if they weren’t, start today. This goes well beyond dating. These are things that teach them about respecting others and themselves.  Be sure to get your FREE Healthy Relationship E-Guide>>

Be aware of potential peer pressure or external influences that might be motivating your child to date. Encourage them to make decisions based on their own feelings and values, not solely to fit in or meet others’ expectations. This is another positive of homeschooling. Many homeschooled kids haven’t really had to succumb to peer pressure. From early on, they were encouraged to have a voice and be heard, and that carries through not only in their teen years, but for the rest of their lives.

Consider your family’s values and beliefs regarding dating and relationships. Different families have different approaches, and it’s important to align your decision on dating rules with your family’s values. Model healthy relationships and communication within your own family. Your child will learn a lot about relationships by observing how you and your partner interact.

Sometimes, focusing on building strong friendships during high school can be a more suitable approach for teenagers who are not yet ready for dating. But if you decide to allow dating, set age-appropriate boundaries and rules. Depending on your child’s age and your comfort level, you might choose to supervise their early dating experiences more closely. These could include curfews, group dates, and guidelines for physical affection. Or no closed doors when in bedrooms, and not being at someone’s house when parents aren’t home.  As they demonstrate responsibility and maturity, you can grant more independence. Be clear about your expectations.

Ultimately, the decision to allow your high schooler to date should be based on their individual readiness and your family’s values. Keep in mind that every teenager is different, and what works for one may not work for another.  Emphasize the importance of maintaining a balance between dating, academics, extracurricular activities, and family commitments. Ensure that dating doesn’t interfere with their responsibilities. It’s crucial to maintain open communication with your child, listen to their concerns, and provide guidance and support as they navigate the complexities of dating and relationships.

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036. Applying to Colleges and Finding Scholarships

College Applications and Scholarships

Applying to Colleges and Finding Scholarships

College isn’t cheap and transitioning from homeschool to a four-year university may seem overwhelming and you probably have a lot of questions but don’t worry! We’re going to walk you through the application process and the best way to get some extra cash to pay for it all!

-How do I choose colleges to apply to?
-How do I begin the application process?
-Where do I find scholarships?

Episode 036:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

We’ve talked a lot already about designing your 4-year plan and mapping out future goals. Your teenager may be opting for a future in the military, trade school, entrepreneurship, or the workforce and maybe college is not part of their plan.  Or maybe they are considering going to community college and then transferring to a university which can often be a huge savings for families choosing this route.

They may even be considering a gap year. Several students we know chose this pathway.  For some, it was because of the pandemic, for others, their students possibly needed time to save up money for future schooling. Others chose service programs like Americorps. Another student friend is doing a foreign language program abroad.  There are so many options. But for those who are college bound, thinking ahead to college can be an overwhelming prospect.  

How many applications?

While there is no exact formula or a perfect number of schools to submit your applications to, most students apply to 4-8 universities.

Safety School (2-3)

Sometimes called “back-up schools,” are schools you’re practically guaranteed admission. In general, safety schools have high acceptance rates. 

If you are new to homeschooling, be sure to check out our Getting Started Page where we step you through the entire process.

Target School (2-3)

Sometimes called ”match school” your grades and test scores should fall into the accepted range of the school’s most recently admitted class. While acceptance isn’t guaranteed, you should have a 40-60% chance of getting accepted.

Reach School (1-3)

If your grades and academic credentials fall in the lower range or below a school’s average from the previous year’s accepted students, then that school would be considered a “reach school” (also called a Dream School).

How do I choose colleges to apply to? (6:46)

Choosing a college to apply to can be really exciting for your teen but it can also be a challenging decision. It’s important to remember that this is their path, and they are the ones that are ultimately making the decision. Your job is to guide them and help them through this process. So, talk to them and have open discussions and dialogue. To help you through this process, we’ve put together some steps to help narrow this down for them. 

  1. Identify priorities: you’re going to be making a list of your priorities to guide your decision-making. Think about what factors are important to them in choosing a college. Consider things like academic programs, location (maybe they want to live in a sunny, warm state?), campus culture, extracurricular activities, size, cost (obviously, this is a big one for a lot of families!), and any other criteria that matter to you in a college. 
  2. Research colleges: Look for colleges that are going to align with the priorities you laid out. You’ll want to consider factors like academic reputation, majors and programs offered, faculty expertise, campus facilities, student organizations. Books like Fiske Guide to Colleges and the Princeton Review: The Best 388 Colleges are a great way to see ratings and criteria. Scroll down to view our list of college websites and resources.
Fiske Guide to Colleges
The Princeton Review: The Best 388 Colleges
  1. Tour some campuses: If it’s feasible, try to tour the campuses of the colleges you’re interested in. Visiting a campus will provide insights into the atmosphere, campus life, facilities, and overall vibe of the institution. Many offer information sessions so take advantage of those. You can take the official campus tour, and talk to current students and faculty, and just explore the surrounding area. Often the tour guides and people working in the visitor center are students themselves and love to share about their experiences.If you don’t know where to start with this, visit a few of the college campuses that are closest to you, even if your kiddo is pretty sure they don’t want to go there.  You definitely want them to have an idea of what to expect and be able to have a baseline for that. Even though you can do some of these tours online, it pales in comparison to being on campus and taking it all in.
  2. Seek guidance and advice: Talk to friends, family members and homeschool parents who can offer insights into the college selection process. They may have recommendations based on your academic strengths, interests, and career goals. You can get advice from people you know who may have attended or have knowledge about different colleges or a college on your list.  Reach out to current students or alumni of the colleges you’re interested in. Ask questions about their experiences, campus life, academic rigor, and career outcomes. Their perspectives can provide valuable insights that might not be available through official sources. Many out of state schools have local or regional representatives or alumni groups.  We met with a traveling advisor about one school, and we attended an alumni event for another school and it’s a great way to get a great vibe. You can also join the school’s social media pages for information.  Look at what kinds of clubs and activities they offer.
  3. Consider financial factors: College can be a significant investment, so it’s essential to consider the financial implications. Evaluate the cost of tuition, fees, room and board, and other expenses. Research scholarships, grants, and financial aid opportunities offered by each college. Consider your financial situation and weigh the affordability of each institution. Have an honest heart to heart with your children about yours/their financial situation so they understand from the get-go what their options truly are.
  4. Review admission requirements: it’s essential to meet the admission requirements for each college you’re considering. We talked about this in a couple of our other high school series episodes. Specifically checking with the college admissions to ensure that your 4-year high school plan will meet those. Check the necessary standardized test scores (SAT, ACT, and others.), GPA requirements, prerequisite courses, and any other criteria. It’s also important to have a realistic understanding of your chances of admission to each institution. Definitely look to see if they have special requirements for homeschoolers.  Also consider whether you have a solid chance at this school.  Many schools charge to apply and that adds up quickly.  An average student might not want to waste time applying to a college with a 7% acceptance rate.
  5. Consider your long-term goals: Think about your future career aspirations and how each college can contribute to your academic and professional growth. Look for colleges with strong programs and resources in your area of interest. Consider internship opportunities, research facilities, and alumni networks that can help you advance your career. If your child knows what they want to major in already, you can research what schools are ranked highly for that.  
  6. Trust your instincts: After conducting thorough research and gathering information, trust your instincts and listen to your gut feeling. Reflect on which college resonates with you the most and aligns with your goals, values, and aspirations.

Remember that the college application process often involves applying to multiple institutions to increase your options. Be sure to meet application deadlines, submit required documents, and give yourself enough time to complete the process for each college you choose. Good luck!

How do I begin the application process? (16:56)

The college application process can be stressful with numerous tasks and decisions involved. However, with some planning, you can navigate the process more smoothly. We’ve laid out some strategies and tips to help you manage everything, including your stress level during this time:

  1. Start Early: Begin your preparations well in advance. Give yourself ample time to research colleges, understand all those admission requirements, and gather all the necessary documents. Our high school documents episode in this series lays all that out for you. Starting early will allow you to spread out the workload and avoid that last-minute stress. Many people recommend things like using essay prompts for writing assignments during the summer or late junior year so that you already have things prepared for application season.  You can also get on Common App a couple years before you actually need to. 
  1. Break It Down: Divide the application process into smaller, manageable tasks. Create a timeline or checklist with specific deadlines for each task, such as researching schools, writing essays, gathering recommendation letters, and completing all the forms. Breaking down the process will make it feel less overwhelming. Make a spreadsheet with all the schools and all of their dates so we could figure out which things need to go where.  There’s a lot of information in a lot of places so it can get really overwhelming. Keep all your application materials, deadlines, and important documents well-organized. And definitely utilize those digital tools, like Trello. Staying organized is going to give you a sense of control and reduce anxiety.

TRELLO is a free app that keeps me organized: https://trello.com

  1. Practice Self-Care: Make sure to take care of your physical and mental well-being during this period. Get enough sleep, eat nutritious meals, and engage in regular exercise or activities that help you relax and unwind. Taking breaks and pursuing hobbies or interests can help alleviate stress and maintain a healthy balance. 
  1.  Manage Expectations: Remember that the college application process is competitive, and rejection is a possibility. While it’s essential to aim high and work hard, it’s also important to be realistic and have backup options. This is one of the reasons that we recommend applying to safety, target, and reach schools. Keep in mind that there are SO MANY colleges where you can receive an excellent education and have a fulfilling college experience. 
  1. Seek Support: Reach out to parents or homeschooling forums for guidance and support. They can provide valuable advice, or review your application materials, and help you stay organized. Sometimes, simply sharing your thoughts and worries can provide relief.  This is where we all really feel the stress because it all reflects on us as the homeschool parent.  If they were in school and somehow everything went downhill, we can blame that, but the pressure and focus is 100% on us!  (It isn’t really, but it sure feels like it!) Remember, you are not alone in this process, and many others, including both of us, have successfully navigated college applications. Reach out for support when needed, and stay organized. 

How do I pay for college? (25:43)

There are several ways people pay for college, and the methods can vary depending on personal circumstances and the country’s education system. Here are some common ways people finance their college education:

It’s worth noting that the availability and specific details of these options can vary by country, educational institution, and individual circumstances. It’s advisable to research and consult with financial aid offices or student advisors at each specific college or university for more detailed information about financing options.

The first place people typically look to help with college is through scholarships and the biggest are often offered through the schools themselves. It’s important to know that VERY few graduates get full ride scholarships. The National Center for Education Statistics study entitled National Postsecondary Student Aid Study found that even though 70% of undergraduates received some financial aid, only .2% received $25,000 or more. 

  1. Personal savings: Some individuals or families save money specifically for college expenses. This could involve setting aside a portion of their income or making long-term investments like a 529 to fund their education.
  2. Scholarships: Scholarships are financial awards given to students based on various criteria such as academic achievements, athletic abilities, or specific talents.
  3. Grants: Grants are similar but are usually need-based. These do not need to be repaid, making them highly desirable sources of funding. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is completed by current and prospective college students in the US to determine their eligibility for aid. The FAFSA is different from the CSS Profile, which is also required by some colleges. 

Federal Pell Grants: https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/types/grants/pell

  1. Student loans: Many students rely on loans to cover their college expenses. These loans can be obtained from government organizations or private lenders. Students are required to repay these loans after completing their education, typically with interest.
  2. Work-study programs: Some colleges and universities offer work-study programs that provide part-time employment opportunities to students. Through these programs, students can earn money to help cover their educational costs. So many of these opportunities keep the college running and at the same time help students pay for their education.
  3. Parental support: Some parents (or other family members) financially support their children’s college education by covering some, or all, of the expenses. This can be through savings, income, or borrowing on behalf of their child.
  4. Financial aid: Colleges and universities may offer financial aid packages that include a combination of scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study opportunities. Financial aid is typically determined based on factors like family income, assets, and the cost of attendance.
  5. Employer assistance: Some companies or organizations provide tuition reimbursement or educational assistance programs to their employees. This benefit allows individuals to pursue higher education while working and reduces the financial burden.
  6. Military Grants & Scholarships: There are several paths to financing college that come from previous service in the military or from a parent or siblings service.

Military Grants and Scholarships

If you’re an active servicemember, Veteran or if you’re a child of a military family, there are several financial scholarships and grants available to support you in covering your college expenses. These opportunities are designed to assist you in pursuing higher education and achieving your academic goals.

These are federal government programs, like the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, that can provide assistance. Additionally, nonprofit veterans’ service organizations, such as the Pat Tillman Foundation, offer scholarships and grants tailored to support individuals like yourself. Some educational institutions also offer direct financial aid options.

Scholarship Scams

Unfortunately, there are numerous scams making the rounds seeking to take advantage of unsuspecting students. Fraudsters prey on needy scholarship applicants and attempt to steal money, banking details, personal information, and more. Thankfully, there are ways to spot these schemes so you can avoid wasting your time and use it to focus on real scholarship applications. 

Here are 8 tips on spotting and avoiding scholarship scams:
  1. Question if it’s too good to be true
  2. Be wary of a sense of urgency
  3. The promise of exclusive information should be a red flag
  4. Question money-back guarantees
  5. Ignore claims of unclaimed funds
  6. Watch out for claims of affiliation with a reputable organization
  7. Learn to spot phishing emails and websites
  8. Don’t hand over personal or banking information

Where do I find college scholarships?

It’s important not to miss the joys of homeschooling during the high school years because you’re so stressed about scholarships. Finding scholarships for college can be a time-consuming but worthwhile endeavor.

Scholarships in Summary

We have listed some websites below for reference, but we highly recommend you don’t waste too much time but instead get this book: the Ultimate Scholarship Book. It’s updated twice per year. It has several thousand scholarship listings, and the opening chapters are gold for the advice they give. There are 13 indexes in the back so you can search by race, major and disability status separately.

Ultimate Scholarship Book
The Ultimate Scholarship Book

For local scholarships, I recommend that you look up your community foundation. Most are titled (your city/region) community foundation. Most have a scholarship portal where you can do a general app.

Professional organizations are also a good way to go. Many will probably be in the book, but you can google for them

Law firms also provide scholarships. No, you don’t have to be a law student to apply. Most just want you to write an essay on a topic that is relevant to their practice (i.e. importance of not drinking and driving)

See if your college of choice financial aid department has a scholarship portal.

Note: As a best practice, keep a copy of all the essays you write and reuse them for later. You would be amazed at how many prompts are the same/similar.

  1. Check with the College: Start by exploring scholarship opportunities offered directly by the colleges or universities you’re considering. Many institutions have their own scholarships, grants, or financial aid programs available to incoming students. Visit their financial aid office or check their website for information on scholarships specific to their institution.
  2. Use Scholarship Search Engines: Online scholarship search engines can be valuable resources for finding scholarships that match your profile. Websites like Fastweb, Scholarships.com, and College Board’s Scholarship Search offer comprehensive databases where you can search for scholarships based on your interests, background, field of study, or other criteria.
  1. Research Local Scholarships: Investigate scholarships offered by local organizations, community foundations, businesses, or nonprofit groups in your area. These scholarships may be less competitive than national ones, as they are often limited to students from specific regions or schools. Community organizations are great resources. For example, 4H and even our local orthodontist have a great scholarship! Local libraries are usually a great resource for information on these opportunities.
  2. Explore Professional Organizations: Many professional associations, industry-specific organizations, and trade groups offer scholarships to students pursuing careers in their respective fields. Research organizations related to your intended major or career path and check their websites for scholarship opportunities.
  3. Utilize Social Networks: Inform your network of family, friends, and mentors that you’re seeking scholarships for college. They may be aware of specific opportunities or connections that could assist you in your search. Additionally, consider joining online forums, groups, or communities focused on college scholarships to connect with others who can share resources or advice.
  4. Employer Programs: If your teenager has a job, check with their employer or parent’s employer and inquire whether your employer or parent’s employer provides scholarships for employees or their children. Many companies offer scholarships as part of their benefits packages or corporate social responsibility initiatives.
  5. Research National Scholarships: Look for national scholarships that are open to students across the country. Organizations like the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, or the National Merit Scholarship Program offer prestigious scholarships to deserving students. Research their eligibility criteria and application processes.

The Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) program, now known as the Gates Scholarship, is a prestigious scholarship program funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The program provides scholarships to outstanding minority students pursuing undergraduate degrees. The website serves as the platform for the application process and provides information about the scholarship.

The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation is widely recognized for its prestigious scholarship program and the significant financial support it provides to selected scholars. The scholarship covers a substantial portion of educational expenses, including tuition, fees, books, and room and board.

The National Merit Scholarship Program is a prestigious scholarship program that recognizes and awards scholarships to high-performing students based on their PSAT/NMSQT scores. The website has information about the program, scholarship opportunities, and the selection process. It provides comprehensive details on eligibility requirements, application deadlines, and steps for becoming a National Merit Scholar.

  1. Scholarship Books: Check with scholarship directories and books. My favorite “The Ultimate Scholarship Book” provides extensive lists and details on various scholarship opportunities. This book is so thorough! 

Favorite College Website and Apps

College Board Big Future

Big Future is an online platform provided by College Board, offering resources and tools to help students explore and plan for their college education. It provides information on colleges, majors, scholarships, and financial aid, allowing students to search for schools based on their preferences and compare them. Additionally, it offers career exploration tools and guidance for test preparation, making it a comprehensive resource for college-bound students.

Cappex

Cappex is a reputable platform that offers college and scholarship search services for students, including new graduates. It provides a comprehensive database of colleges and universities, as well as scholarship opportunities.

College Navigator

College Navigator, provided by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), is a widely regarded and reliable platform for exploring colleges and universities in the United States. It offers comprehensive data on institutions, including information on programs, admissions, financial aid, and more. The best part is that College Navigator is completely free to use, making it an excellent resource for students, parents, and educators seeking detailed information about colleges without any associated costs.

Unigo

Unigo is a popular platform that provides college reviews, scholarship information, and resources for students exploring higher education options. While Unigo offers free access to a range of college-related content, they also have a premium subscription service.

RaiseMe

RaiseMe is an online platform that allows high school students to earn micro-scholarships from participating colleges based on their achievements and activities. It can be a helpful tool for students looking to earn scholarships and explore college options.

Scholly Search

Scholly Search is a popular scholarship search platform that helps students find relevant scholarship opportunities. It offers a user-friendly interface and personalized scholarship matches based on the student’s profile. While Scholly Search does have a subscription-based service called Scholly Premium, which provides additional features and benefits, the platform also offers a free version that allows users to access and apply for scholarships without any cost.

HBCU HUB

HBCU Hub is a comprehensive online platform that provides information and resources specifically tailored to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). It offers a range of features, including college profiles, scholarship opportunities, virtual campus tours, and a community forum. HBCU Hub is free to use.

College Scholarship Calculator from College Raptor

The basic features of College Raptor are available for free, allowing students to access important information about colleges and estimated costs without any cost. However, College Raptor also offers a premium version called College Raptor Premium, which provides additional features and services at a cost. The free version can still be beneficial for many students.

Scholarships.com

Scholarships.com is a widely recognized and free search platform that provides access to a large database of scholarship opportunities for students. It offers a user-friendly interface and allows students to search for scholarships based on various criteria such as academic achievements, interests, demographics, and more.

Fastweb College Scholarships

Fastweb offers a comprehensive database of scholarships from different sources, including corporations, foundations, and educational institutions. Fastweb is free to use.

Niche

Niche provides a wide range of information and resources for students and families navigating the college search and selection process. It offers college rankings, reviews, and data on various aspects of colleges and universities, including academics, campus life, and student experiences. Niche is free to use but also offers some premium features for a cost.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop is a highly regarded website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. It offers a wealth of resources for career exploration, job search, training programs, and employment information. Completely free to use, it provides users with access to tools like career assessments, occupation profiles, salary data, job search resources, and training program information at no cost.

Things to know when evaluating financial aid offers

1) Make a spreadsheet so you can compare various aspects of the award. Scroll down to download the one we created for FREE!

2) How much grant money vs. loan money is each school offering?

3) Are the grants renewable in subsequent years?  If so, are there GPA requirements, major requirements, academic progress requirements?

4) Will the grants received be the same amount in subsequent years?  Be aware that some schools give the most grant money the first year with reduced amounts in years to follow.

5) What kind of loans are offered?  Subsidized are best.  Beware of parent plus loans, which require families to have good credit, and which can cost double the loan amount in interest.  

6) If a student or parent is considering taking out loans, what will repayment look like?  You can estimate this by using the Loan Simulator at studentaid.gov.

7) If work study is listed, be aware that work study is dependent on the student finding an acceptable on-campus job that fits their schedule.  A work study job is not guaranteed.

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a crucial resource for students seeking financial assistance for higher education. It is a form that students must complete to determine their eligibility for federal and state financial aid programs, including grants, loans, and work-study opportunities. FAFSA helps assess a student’s financial need and enables colleges and universities to determine their financial aid package. It is important because it provides access to various forms of financial aid, making college more affordable and accessible for millions of students each year. FAFSA deadlines vary, so be sure to submit the application as early as possible to maximize aid opportunities.

Remember to carefully review the eligibility requirements, deadlines, and application processes for each scholarship you consider. Pay attention to any essays, recommendations, or additional materials required, and make sure to submit your applications on time. Keep track of the scholarships you apply for and maintain a calendar to stay organized throughout the process. Lastly, be persistent and try not to get discouraged if you don’t receive every scholarship you apply for. Scholarships are really competitive, but the more you apply to, you increase your chances of securing financial assistance.

This Week’s Freebie:

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