Preparing for Graduation: 3 Critical Mistakes Parents and Teens Make

Here we are, a few weeks away from going back to school and starting over fresh in a new school year, and many students have not even given their future a thought. Perhaps they are caught up in the wonder of television, the excitement of video games or the busyness of the work world. Do you wonder why teens today do not think too far ahead and never anticipate what they need to do to prepare for graduation? Do you ever wonder why some kids never achieve even a small step towards graduation or a successful career? Blame it on pure dreaming and lack of setting goals for achieving their dreams. Many teens lack a sense of personal responsibility and ownership in the future. Parents can help change this trend.

Kids must learn to plan and set goals for their future. Many times, parents overlook this critical component of parenting. Parents must take time to help their children visualize what life will be like in the future. The discussion should be about more than, "What do you want to do when you grow up?" This conversation should be in depth, long range, and cover topics such as career goals, schooling, how to qualify for this career, how to budget for the lifestyle they wish to have, and where the money will come from when they get there. Many times, this small step is put aside as a "one day" conversation, but it is critical and needs to happen as the children are growing up, so they can learn to see beyond the four walls of home and school.

Students must learn to accept responsibility and take ownership for their own direction. Parents need to guide, coach and train children to think in terms of how to create personal action. Sometimes, parents think they are helping children by stepping up and helping. Sometimes, kids take the easy way out and beg for help when, in reality, they can really do it all on their own if given a little extra support, accountability and encouragement. Parents are afraid that if the child doesn't fill out the job or college application then it won't get done...right, maybe not. The next step would be to help the child feel ownership, want the job or college acceptance and take responsibility to get the task done.

Students must also become proactive in dealing with the life challenges and "not fair" moments that may affect his plans. Many times kids lack the ability to be able to outline possible difficulties that may occur as well as the solutions to these difficulties. If a parent always rushes in to fix and handle the situation, the student is left crippled and unable to take action. If the student is given the skills early and taught to be proactive, then he is not easily scared or defeated when challenges occur because he has already prepared for them. The student then is strong and can think ahead and realize that when the next challenge comes his way, he will have a prepared a solution or strategy ready to attack the challenge.

Graduation can be a reality for any student. Parents can make the journey to graduation a little bit more uncomplicated by equipping their kids with these three tools. It's not about telling them what to do; it's about empowering them and letting the student take ownership. Those who learn early to take ownership of the future, set goals and be proactive will be able to clearly set a direction and their target achievements in life, marking where they should begin, where to pause, where to delve a bit, and where and when to stop. By being able to consciously make confident and empowered decisions, success is guaranteed.

Parents and students can easily learn how to set goals, take ownership and be proactive by following these simple guidelines.

Spend some time at least once a week thinking and dreaming of the big picture. Play "what if" games with the child. Help them catch a glimpse of life through an adult's eyes by thinking of real-life money problems or real-life job dilemmas. You will be amazed at how quickly the child responds and starts learning about what it takes to solve life's puzzles.

Ask a lot of questions. Try not to lecture or feed the information to them and put ideas in their head. Yes, adults have lived it, they have the answers. However, it's a known fact that most people learn more by figuring it out on their own. Let them ponder the ideas and questions and come up with the answers - whether right or wrong. Use these as learning opportunities. Keep asking questions to make them think.

Acknowledge and admire the child. If the answer is wrong, encourage and motivate by responding about how well he is thinking through the process. Consider his point of view and commend him on it. If the child always feels he is in the "wrong" or in "instructive" mode, he will tend to shut down. It might be okay in this instance that the answer is not perfectly solved at this moment. Be patient, it's about helping them take ownership and gain confidence in his own thinking.

As we head back into the school year, we can all work to help our kids think a little more about what is required to graduate. We can urge kids to be more proactive in thinking NOW about graduation so they can achieve even a small step towards graduation or a successful career. Perhaps the kids will find a healthy balance between pure dreaming and setting healthy goals for making it to graduation and beyond. Keep in mind that students are more productive and successful in preparing for graduation if parents have fostered a proactive, self-accountable and goal-setting atmosphere. It takes a positive outlook and self-discipline on both parts to follow through to guarantee success. Be sure to be reasonable and be careful of becoming too ambitious in setting up goals as sometimes an unrealistic and difficult path will cause a child to shut down and become discouraged and unmotivated.

"Ask - Don't Tell" - How You Can Use Socratic Dialogue in Your Home School

Socratic Dialogue refers to a method of classical home education that was first recorded in ancient Greece by Plato. In two of his more famous works, The Republic and The Apology, Plato records the conversations between the teacher, Socrates, and a variety of students. Although not immediately apparent, these conversations represented a method of inquiry in which an abstract moral concept such as justice, temperance, or virtue was examined through the process of asking questions. In effect, the master Socrates taught the pupil a concept by asking instead of telling.

So, how do you use Socratic Dialogue in your own home school? Well, the parent decides what concept he or she wants to explore and plans a series of specific questions that will eventually eliminate contradictions and reveal underlying beliefs. The questions are intended to help the student discover his or her belief about a certain topic while exposing errors in the student's reasoning. As the child answers each question, the parent scrutinizes the answer and asks if it's consistent with the child's original statement of belief. Often the parent is not looking for the right answer, but rather hopes to assist the child in drawing from his or her own insights and experiences to clarify the child's own understanding.

Don't let the term "Socratic Dialogue" intimidate. I'll bet you use the Scientific Method when performing homeschooling laboratory experiments. Both Socratic Dialogue and the Scientific Method use the concept of induction to arrive at conclusions. Inductive reasoning observes, interprets, and applies. Take the Scientific Method and apply it to an abstract concept through conversation, and you have basically constructed the Socratic Method. Here's an example using the Scientific Method:

  1. Define the question (why does ice float?)
  2. Gather information (glass, water, ice cube)
  3. Form a hypothesis (ice floats because it weighs less than liquid water)
  4. Test your hypothesis (drop the ice cube in the glass of water)
  5. Analyze the data (the ice cube rises to the surface)
  6. Interpret the data (this might mean ice is lighter than liquid water)
  7. Conclude (ice floats because it weighs less than liquid water) or reject the hypothesis and start again

Apply the same 7 steps of the Scientific Method to an abstract concept, and you have the Socratic Method. Here are the same 7 questions using the abstract idea of worship :

  1. Define the question (why do you think the children of Israel worshipped Canaanite gods?)
  2. Gather information (they were worried that Moses wouldn't return from the mountain, they were bored, their neighbors did it, they forgot their past experience with God's deliverance from Egypt)
  3. Form a hypothesis (people turn to other gods when their neighbors influence them, or when they are bored, or when they forget God's faithfulness - your call)
  4. Test your hypothesis (what gods do your neighbors worship? money, power, etc.)
  5. Analyze the data (do you know of kids who blindly follow their neighbors' example? do you?)
  6. Interpret the data (some people allow their neighbors to influence them; some influence their neighbors)
  7. Conclude (some people turn to other gods when their neighbors influence them) or reject the hypothesis and start again

You could apply these same 7 questions to any area of understanding like recurring themes in current events, history, or literature.

Socratic Dialogue is not the same as discussion. In discussion, both parties talk about what they are learning in a two-way conversation that may not have an ultimate goal. In Socratic Dialogue, the home school parent intends to help the child towards self-discovery through guided questions. The basic principle of Socratic Dialogue is "Ask. Don't tell."

Regular Socratic Dialogue trains the homeschooling child or teen to think critically and logically as he explains, rejects, and defends positions. Inductive reasoning, also used in the Scientific Method, becomes a regular habit as the child observes, interprets, and applies his learning to his life. The student is not the only one who benefits from regular Socratic Dialogue. Through incremental questioning, the parent is able to monitor the child's understanding (or misunderstanding) so that he or she can quickly respond with additional training or explanation. Written quizzes are unnecessary because Socratic Dialogue is one big quiz! If the child hasn't mastered understanding of the concept, more work is required until mastery is achieved. Conversation is active and challenging.

Typically Socratic Dialogue is introduced in the home school around the age of 11 or 12 when the child begins to exhibit analytical skills. (When your preteen starts asking "why" regularly, you know it's time for the Socratic method!) Start with a specific question. Draw from the child's prior knowledge or area of current homeschooling study. In the example above, it would be pointless to ask about the worship of other gods if the child had not already studied the applicable passages of the Old Testament. You must know the material yourself so that you can lead the child to the desired conclusion. Think of a map. When you start a trip, you know your final destination, and you plan the route. (Question? Answer. Question? Answer. Question? Conclusion.) Do the same with Socratic Dialogue. Plan the stops along the way, and lead your homeschooling child to the joy of self-discovery! Remember: "Ask. Don't tell."

Home Schooling During the High School Years

Home schooling during the high school years can be a fun and rewarding time for both the child and parent. This time can be used to keep, maintain and even deepen a relationship with your child during a high stress time of their lives. This can be a time to build a trust with your child so that they are willing to listen to council that you would like to share with them during this time of their lives. Also, as a Christian parent it can be the time to guide your child in their Christian walk and to help with any questions that they have so that their relationship with the Lord is their own; which will help them as new choices and decisions come their way in the upcoming years.

As your child enters the high school years record keeping becomes very important. You will want to start recording the things that your child accomplishes so that you can report them for college admission considerations. This is the time to start looking at the requirements of the top three college choices that your child is thinking about attending. This will help in knowing what they require from incoming freshman. Also, check your state requirements in what they recommend a high school student to have before graduation. Some things that we learned along the way is to start a record writing down every book read during the high school years either for school or free reading. Keep up to date with your records; this will help if you need to present them for scholarships or grants.

Keeping track and recording your child's extracurricular activities are just as important as recording the grades of the academic classes. For homeschoolers this is important because sports can also be counted as physical education credit as well as extracurricular. Colleges are interested in a child's outside activities only to show that they are a well rounded person, sports, 4-H, part time job it isn't important to a college what a student is involved in just that they have a well balanced life and are active in academic as well as extracurricular activities.

During this time of your child's development it is important for them to start learning life lessons while they are still in a safe environment and still have you as a sounding board to hear from them and have some input towards their dreams and decisions. This is a great time to teach about finances, if they have a vehicle its time for them to pay for the bills that occur from that vehicle; hopefully there isn't a payment on it; but there will be insurance that has to be paid, gas, maintenance such as new tires and oil changes. All of this is to teach them that as they get ready to step out on their own there are financial things that they will be responsible for and this is a step towards learning this responsibility.

This is a busy, exciting time for your teen. They still have their school work to keep up with; they are busy with extracurricular activities as well as many of them having jobs to help them earn the money they need for their special purchases. Its also a time for teen parents to start paying more attention to record keeping to help our teens take the next step in their educational process as well as being there to listen and give sound advise as your kids contemplate what they will do next in their lives.