Oh, the many hats of a homeschool parent. I run a fairly respectable cafeteria; at least we don't have food fights. And now that I have two additional drivers for the bus runs, our transportation department has improved. No one has had to visit my principal's office in quite a while. And though I chair the math department, I have some great video teachers under me. But here's the one department where I've certainly felt out of my depth: guidance. And I have two seniors!

Choosing a college, choosing a career: these seem to be the only discussions at our house this year. It's a lot of fun exploring all the options until it actually gets down to decision time. It was so much simpler when I was in their shoes.

My dad was the head of guidance at my high school and he just told me what to do: Deb, you can go anywhere you like, as long as it's a state school [the less expensive route]. And you can choose any major you want, as long as you get a teaching degree. It's a good job for a woman. Now my dear old dad knows he couldn't get away with that last comment today in a public place but the truth is I did just what he said, and he was right. I only applied one place: his alma mater. And there isn't another degree I think better suited for me.

I've already tried the same trick with Mike and Gabe. It didn't work. They don't want their mom making this call. So I pulled my dad aside, and prodded him into giving direction. Now, he's mellowed with the years, so he isn't telling them where to go and what to be; but he did firmly tell them they had to apply at least two places by the end of summer and that Mom and Dad would pay the application fees. My dad still has that way about him: you do what he says, so at least we have two applications with all the paper work submitted. And Kermit and I have paid our first college fees.

Tips From the Pros
If you don't mind taking advice from someone in process, I thought we would take a few weeks here to talk about guiding our kids towards their future careers, gleaning from the wisdom of my dad, and the many homeschool friends I have who have already tread this path. Who knows maybe by the end of the series, I'll know what my kids are doing next year. (It would be great to hear from those of you out there with experienced advice to share, too.)

My dear friend Cindy McKeown has mentored me through most of the seasons of my life (she insists I tell you she's barely older than me, she just got an earlier start on things.) Right now she has one son in medical school and two in college; so the road I'm currently plodding on is more familiar to her.

Her most comforting counsel: Deb, I don't think youre going to handle this very well. I like a challenge, so I've been making a serious effort at maintaining a stiff upper lip.

I haven't lost it totally yet, as did another un-named dear friend in the same shoes as me. Her daughter came to her for advice on writing her college application essay. K---- looked at the application in her daughters hand, looked at her daughter, looked at the application and burst into tears. I can't handle this right now, was her best advice.

Do you think homeschool moms need a support group for empty nest syndrome? I know Ive kept a running list in my head for years of all the things I would be able to do when my kids left home but at the moment they don't seem very interesting. And I've started the mantra for grandkids already! I must be ill.

Tip #1: Make Career Exploration A Part Of Your Program
At our co-op, the Learning Center, we ran a career exploration elective a few years ago. Most of the kids were just entering high school, so this started them thinking in plenty of time about career paths; and yet they were old enough to already discern some of their interests.

We used YES! (Youth Exploration Survey) from Larry Burketts ministry (www.cfcminstry.org), What Color Is Your Paracute? by Richard Nelson Bolles and Do What You Are by Paul and Barbara Tieger as our main resources, picking and choosing the portions we thought most helpful. One of our moms was trained to administer the DISC personality survey and we had a lot of fun and outrage with the kids taking that. (You can take a free version of this test online at www.cfcministry.org.) We emphasized though that this was just one of many tools they could use to help them evaluate possible career interests. A lot of kids didn't agree with the assessments conclusions about themselves, though, they did agree with the conclusions about others.

A Day In the Field
The best activity by far was shadowing someone in a field of interest for a day. Kids got ready for this by first identify what interesting places they might visit in our community and then generating questions together that each one ought to ask during the day. Everyone reported back at the next co-op. It was a big success, generating a lot of enthusiasm for using the shadowing technique again in the future. More than one student returned with the realization that their glamorized career interest had some real negatives to consider.

Many of the older students then set up an internship or apprenticeship as the next logically step after shadowing for a day. From my observation, that experienced either solidified their career direction, or made them realize they needed to go back to the drawing board.

Next time we'll talk about putting together an internship or apprenticeship and getting the most from them.

In His Sovereign Grace,

Debra