Originally Sent: 8/5/2014
August 7, 2014
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The Four-Year Plan Form: Batter up for the Big Leagues
We hope you are enjoying the lazy, hazy days of August! August ushers in the last hurrah of summer activities, and we trust you’ve enjoyed a well-deserved respite from school. We know that summer doesn’t last forever, so we’d like to gently nudge your thoughts toward the anticipation of a new school year.
With September peering around the corner, we encourage you to start organizing your ideas regarding your teen’s high school program from both short-term and long-term vantage points.
We’d like to introduce the four-year high-school plan as a valuable aid for staying on track.
Benefits of a Four-Year Plan
As busy homeschool parents, you are likely juggling many children and various grade plans! The craziness of daily details often clouds the big picture. Especially during the high school years, it helps to follow a clear roadmap because you are principal, guidance counselor, and primary teacher of your high school all at the same time.
The four-year plan charts the high school years in their entirety. For teens on the brink of high school, the chart gives you a roadmap to follow. Likewise, if your teen is in the midst of the high school years, taking time now to list courses already completed and thinking through the courses yet to be taken will give you a clearer route to follow. Completing the plan narrows down the course curricula you must consider each year, and course selection becomes far more manageable.
The four-year plan should definitely be held loosely and done in pencil only! View your chart as a work in process. It’s the block of marble that your teen’s program will be chiseled from, but along the way you’ll carve changes into the block as your teen better understands how the Lord is leading him and what future education, training, or skills may be necessary. Many teens are still undecided about their futures. That’s perfectly fine. You can use the early years of high school to cover the basics and then fine tune your plan as you progress.
As guidance counselor, consider signing up your teen for career and aptitude testing.
As primary teacher, assign a list of occupations to research that career and aptitude testing has recommended for your teen.
As principal, network with individuals in selected fields to set up various job-shadowing or internship opportunities.
With all this under his belt, direct your teen to focus on areas of interest. Finally, consider a career development elective to ignite your teen’s motivation.
Some parents find themselves at the end of 12th grade without having taken any of these steps. Attempting to do all this in the final school year is intimidating, but a comprehensive four-year plan will insert these steps periodically in different years to prevent overwhelming you or letting something slip through the cracks. Teens who have direction are more motivated students and don’t flounder when people ask, “What are your future plans?”
Steps to Building a Four-Year Plan
Sample high school plans are provided in A Guide to Homeschooling through High School if you need a starting point. Realize that high school for most teens covers four years—don’t burn out your teen by overloading him in his freshman year. Instead, space out the courses to a reasonable number across each year of high school. Conversely, colleges frown on a senior year that is weak. College admissions officers prefer students who make the most of each year of high school. Even though your teen may need only a few courses to graduate from your homeschool, the senior year course load should be substantial and include courses your teen enjoys.
When filling out the four-year plan, you may find it easiest to first concentrate on the five core academic subject areas (one subject at a time) in order to mull over various course options. For example, remember that most high school English courses include four components: reading and analyzing good literature, writing a variety of compositions, increasing vocabulary comprehension and usage, and using grammar properly and with style.
Some parents may wish to place more emphasis on literature in certain years than in other years, while others may wish to ensure that American, world, and British literature are covered before high school graduation. These are decisions each parent will make for his or her own teen. One major benefit of homeschooling is having the freedom and flexibility to determine the specifics of your teen’s high school courses. Most colleges consider four years of English a core requirement, but the emphasis of some English courses can build around your teen’s interests.
Likewise, math courses should take into account your teen’s post-high school plans because that will determine how many math courses you teach and which particular ones make sense for your teen to complete. High school-level math usually begins with Algebra 1, and most high school plans will also include other foundational math courses such as geometry and Algebra 2.
For some teens directly entering the workforce after graduation, business and consumer math along with accounting may be better choices. For students interested in elite colleges, the sciences or engineering, consider beginning algebra in 8th grade, and build each year towards calculus in the senior year. For more details relating to the progression of math courses and prerequisites click here.
Your own math background need not limit your teen’s math career. Many online/distance-learning providers, AP providers and local co-ops offer upper-level math classes. Also, be on the lookout for people in your church or community who can tutor math. If you decide to take advantage of dual enrollment, know that community colleges often require students to take both an English and math qualifying test (usually the Accuplacer or Compass test) to determine in which courses a student may enroll. Highlight dual enrollment courses as this will prompt you to pursue the admissions process in preparation.
When considering science courses, recall that various courses build on prerequisites. Remember that math is the language of many sciences, so good math skills are essential for certain courses. Some parents may opt for dual enrollment at the local community college for lab science courses. Again, the advantage of seeing all four years of high school on one diagram helps prepare you for each future step. The science path you choose should match your teen’s future goals. For more details relating to science course progression and prerequisites click here.
For some hands-on learning, schedule a government field trip when your state legislature or county council is in session. During an election year, discuss volunteering for a candidate’s campaign because this gives valuable insight into the election process.
Other history courses can be as varied as your family background and teen’s interest: economics (macro or micro), constitutional law, church history, ancient history, Western Civilization. Or build your own course around African-American history, Asian-American history, Hispanic-American history, 20th century communism, African history, Asian history, British history, or South American history.
Foreign language rounds out the core academic subject areas. Knowing another language will be useful in future employment, community service, church ministries, or missions work. It’s typical for college-bound teens to consider at least two years of the same foreign language and sometimes three. Also, college-bound teens who plan to take courses in American Sign Language or Latin should check with an admission officer to determine if these courses will satisfy the college’s foreign language requirement.
Electives Round out the 4-Year Plan
One or two elective courses each year of high school provide teens with opportunities to learn new skills, hone an area of interest, deepen their understanding, or promote physical activity! The possibilities for electives are limitless and may cover categories such as fine arts (instrument performance, band, music theory, drama, drawing, painting, sculpting, jewelry, set-design, cartooning, etc.), practical arts (industrial shop, home economics, tailoring, baking, cooking, home management, etc.), computer skills (languages, programming, web-design, apps, networking, computer security, etc.), worldviews, Bible (history, theology), apologetics, social sciences (psychology, sociology), business (entrepreneurship, marketing, budgeting, bookkeeping, finance), and many more.
The Four-Year Plan Culminates at Graduation
A four-year plan affords a long-range view, but also offers a telescopic view of each year of high school. By crafting a four-year plan, you are less likely to overload your teen in one year and then undershoot the following year. The progression of courses becomes clearer in your mind as you see how one year of high school builds on the previous year. Gaps in subject areas will stand out when you take time to flesh out the plan.
When it comes time for your teen to apply to college, your four-year plan will quickly show how well his schooling measures up to the admission requirements listed for each college. You may need to adjust your plan to add a course or two to your teaching schedule in the senior year to meet the necessary requirements. For teens eager to join the workforce directly following graduation, the four-year plan will help you keep track of courses that provide marketable skills employers require.
Be sure to include your teen when working on the four-year plan because teens need to see the big picture and understand how courses completed in one year fulfill prerequisites for future courses. Provide your teen with several course options, and let him choose which course he might like to take while deciding in which year to include it. The more involved your teen is in the decision-making process, the more likely he is to take ownership of his studies.
The four-year plan organizes course decisions year by year and helps you focus on each school year without worrying “Have I done enough?” It lays the groundwork for your teen to graduate high school with confidence, and you will know that you have laid a firm foundation for life after homeschool. Enjoy the process, and let us know if we can offer specific assistance or answer questions. Congratulations on making it to the big league! These amazing four years will be the finest, most creative of your homeschool career.
Join us next month as we walk you through the college admissions process from a homeschoolers point of view.
With a cheer for the last vestiges of summer,
Carol Becker and Diane Kummer
Note: Some resources linked to in this newsletter are available only to HSLDA members.
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