If your student is approaching the high school years, the prospect can be both thrilling and overwhelming. It can be intimidating to contemplate choosing courses and purchasing curriculum, making sure you get everything in.
The good news is that, although there are certain graduation requirements that every student must meet, there is also a lot of flexibility in the high school goal setting process, depending on post-graduation plans.
High School Goal Setting Basics
No matter what the future holds, there are certain core aspects that are fundamental for high school goal setting. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind as you prepare for each new high school year:
- Start with your state’s graduation requirements. Although not all states demand that homeschoolers meet those requirements, they provide a good framework around which any post-graduation plans can be built.
- Help your teen brainstorm a list of interests. Does anything stand out that could help direct course planning? Keep that list handy and intentionally seek out courses that match requirements and meet interests.
- Make sure incorporate training in organizational skills. Some teens will feel more comfortable with routines and big-picture approaches while others will prefer to make detailed lists. Help them learn how to navigate both approaches and to use a planner to keep track of to-dos, routines, and commitments.
High School Goal Setting Based on Post-Graduation Goals
Beyond these basics, there is a lot of flexibility. Much of the high school goal setting process depends on what your student plans to do after high school. Even if your student isn’t sure what the future holds, there are solid avenues to follow to help cover all the bases and allow a variety of opportunities.
Get to Graduation
Some students know that they will not be pursuing any post-graduation education. They prefer to find a job they like and get on-the-job training. These students need to be encouraged to remember that high school goal setting is still important!
Even if academics aren’t a student’s strong point, diligently tackling high school requirements goes a long way toward teaching a solid work ethic and preparing a teen for life. Your job is to help create a high school plan that encourages good focus and teaches goal-setting while not overwhelming your teen.
Stick with the basics of your state’s graduation requirements. Set high expectations within that framework, encouraging solid work and performance that fits with developing their strengths and interests.
Remember, though, that more academic courses might not meet the needs and interests of your teen. Instead of going beyond the basic requirements with elective credits, fill out your child’s high school curriculum with work-based training. Work together to look for part-time jobs, seek out internships or volunteer opportunities, or pursue entrepreneurial opportunities.
Prepare for College
When diving into high school goal setting, most college-bound students know that they need to focus on academics. The trick is knowing just what academics to focus on!
As you build a spine, look both at state graduation requirements and admission requirements for schools that match your student’s interests. Encourage your student to go beyond the basics. Instead of seeking an algebra or science course that will simply meet requirements, look for one specifically geared toward college preparation. This may include AP or dual enrollment courses, but look also for courses that include honors challenges or push and stretch your teen in other ways.
Add onto the spine with courses that show a student’s willingness to tackle challenges while also catering to interests. Use interests to dictate electives, but try to make sure that the electives are real courses with solid, measurable, academic-based progress.
Prepare your student for testing and scholarship applications by incorporating test prep, essay-writing skills, and other relevant skills into the school plan. If possible, talk to a college admissions counselor for ideas.
Prepare for Trade School
Like teens who just want to get through high school and get to work, students aiming for trade school often make the mistake of not taking high school seriously enough. Because they are not aiming for college, they assume that grades, testing skills, and course selection are not all that important. The opposite is actually true.
Although incorporating rigorous academics into high school goal setting is not as important for trade school as for college, solid performance and diversity of courses are still critical. Trade schools have admissions requirements, and many of them are looking for students who can demonstrate a willingness to learn.
Create a spine with the basics, then add electives based on interest. Make sure that electives have measurable evaluation points and solid learning rubrics, but feel free to seek out hands-on courses.
Start early! Some vocational programs can actually begin in high school, especially during the last two years. So, you can begin to explore options as early as your student’s freshman year to help you custom-tailor an educational experience that will facilitate a solid start in trade education.
Be sure to incorporate test prep into the high school plan, as trade schools still may have very specific and challenging admissions requirements.
Prepare for the Unknown
The vast majority of students have no idea what direction they want to go after graduation, and that is okay!
The best way to approach high school goal setting for an undecided student is by combining the goals of both the college and trade school approaches.
For academic courses, look at the admission requirements for a state university as well as for some potential vocational programs, then build on electives that combine both academic and hands-on evaluation points. For electives, look for hands-on learning that can stretch and challenge your student while helping them explore interests.
By focusing your high school goal setting on laying out a curriculum geared toward meeting a range of requirements, you are preparing your student for a wide variety of options without overloading them with overwhelming expectations. Gear electives toward your teen’s interests, encourage a part-time job, and allow experiences that will begin to shape ideas to help plan for the future.