Planning for Vocation and Career
As homeschoolers we often act as parent, principal, teacher, and guidance counselor. Fully involve your student in this process as he or she will need to personally investigate their own visions for their life. Finding accomplished adults who can share insights into a career or vocation may help spark an area of interest for a child.
Throughout this process, help your child discover the best uses for his or her talents. This process can be frustrating, so help them remember a job is what you do but a decent human being is who are. Remind them that finding the right fit for their talents will take time. Also suggest there may be seasons to life. Few of us ever keep the first job or vocation we encounter, but each opportunity can be a stepping stone along the pathway. Spending some time to investigate choices now could prevent some disappointing detours or delays later.
Determine Your Child's Interests
During the middle and high school years, have your child search areas of interest and abilities. Expose them to many different careers, vocations, and skills. Observe with them their natural talents and interests. Help your child determine what his or her goals for higher education should be to develop themselves for life's future needs. Look for opportunities as much as interests. Be patient and encouraging with your child as this can be an awkward time of self-searching as they seek direction for their life.
This is also a good time for personal finance studies (such as Larry Burkett's or Dave Ramsey's). Walk them through a "real life" scenario of living expenses in your community such as the cost of rent, buying a house, insurance, food, transportation, health care, utilities, entertainment, charity, etc. It can be eye-opening to then discuss the different roles each family member plays and how they contribute to the family's needs. A good dose of financial reality can help a child determine which talents might be best developed for career, vocation, ministry, family, interests, or hobby.
Researching Career and Vocational Fields
A good vocational/career search starts with books at the library and web search. If you can, talk with people in that line of work. Ask what they like and don't like about it. Also ask what kind of education and skills would be most helpful.
A good place to start looking for career information is The Occupational Outlook Handbook
Another really helpful site is the Vocational Information Center. It gives lists of vocations, descriptions, schools, programs, and helpful links for career investigation.
There are some free online career tests. A number are listed in links in this About.com article.
Larry Burkett also has written a career guidance book to help students discover fields that would be a good fit for their God given talents.
We encourage you to also consider the many hundreds of vocations that do not require a 4 year degree through Mike Rowe Works excellent website.
And, finally try these websites to walk through personality, interests, and talents to uncover career choices and educational goals:
Explore with Internships or Tours
To further explore fields of interest, have your student apply for a vocational or internship program offered at many local businesses. There are a number of local programs that introduce and expose students to different career fields (See our Career Development section). These internship experiences look great on the resume for college applications, and often internships lead to college scholarships.
Don't forget to also check out volunteer programs at many institutions which can equally lead to career and scholarship opportunities. You can see a list of suggestions on our Community Volunteer page.
Join (or start) clubs and activities that provide exposure and skills in their area of interest (ie a LegoRobotics Club for engineering, 4H photography club if your child is interested in journalism; Art classes for the artist, etc.). Please see our page of Extracurricular Clubs for location opportunities.
Many companies are open to tours if arranged ahead. Please be sensitive as not all businesses appreciate, or are allowed to have, outside visitors.
Researching College and Vocational Programs
After you have narrowed down some potential fields and careers, research the colleges, institutions, and guilds that carry programs which would fulfill the education or training necessary for that career or vocation. Determine what those programs require for preparation during the high school years, and in particular, what their admissions policies are for homeschoolers.
College career fairs occur frequently in the fall. The National Association for College Admission Counseling lists the schedules for major fairs (Portland is among the list), and the North American Coalition for Christian Admission Professionals has a listing of fairs for Christian colleges. Also see Homeschooler College Fairs for their schedule of available fairs and college search.
Learn in Freedom has a great article about colleges that are homeschool friendly together with lots of links for information about navigating the homeschool to college process.
And of course check the information on Mike Rowe's Profoundly Disconnected for links to training for trade jobs that might be a perfect fit for your student's goals and talents.
Our local Portland Community College can be an excellent way to get vocational training, 2 year degrees, or general credits to transfer to a more expensive 4 year college. A number of local colleges have contractual agreements with PCC for automatic transfer of credits. PCC has been very accessible to local homeschoolers.
The Vocational Information Center has an excellent help page entitled "Apprenticeship Training Resources" which includes many links to learn how apprenticeship programs work and how to find a program in your area.
Scope Their High School Accordingly
Armed with the above information, shape your child's high school courses and electives so that his or her course of studies reflects those subjects needed for the chosen field.
If your child is not sure of a specific career or vocation, then determine a solid foundation of subjects that reflect the level of academic rigor of the desired college or institution so that your child will possess the required and expected level of general education (as well as become a "well-rounded" citizen for life).
For the undecided, a strong general high school background can save a LOT of make up time later--make up time at premium college dollars. However, if possible, having a more specific direction in college from the start can save thousands of additional dollars and added course time due to switching majors.
For those who are college bound, please go to our Preparing for College page to read more in depth information and tips about the requirements for the college pathway for homeschoolers.
Further aids for Homeschoolers on the College/Career Path:
Debra Bell has written the "Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling" which contains chapters on high school and the "Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Teens."
Also HSLDA (the Homeschool Legal Defense Association) has numerous articles in its Colleges and Universities site.
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(Permission is given to print for personal use or link to this article as long as credit is given to Tammy R. Arp at the CHOC Board and our website address is shown.)