Steps on Your Path

  1. Read and write. Have your homeschooler reading and writing. Write about anything from their likes and dislikes to assigned reading, but have them express themselves and their thoughts. Make sure they know how to develop a point and express it with effective articulation. The grammar and spelling, while important, should function as support and not the focus A hillbilly can be more effective than a man with a doctorate in English language studies if the hillbilly can present his ideas with accuracy.
  2. Do not skimp on the math. Statistically, the better scores on the math section of the ACT and SAT are achieved by the students who have had more exposure to higher level mathematics courses in high school. The raw evidence can be seen by visiting the ACT and SAT websites. Prepare in high school by using materials that encourage students to understand and apply math--not just work problems. According to HSLDA, homeschoolers are just barely better than public schools in math--often because of the poor selection of material and the lack of math education parents think their children need. Once again, we highly recommend avoiding programs that emphasize learning by repetition. The "learn by repetition" method works quite well in the lower grades, but a good score on the ACT and SAT will require concept analysis, not just memorization of some facts and formulas. Because of this, programs such as Saxon can be excellent in the lower grades, but aren't a good choice at the high school level.
  3. Prepare for the ACT and SAT. You must understand how the tests are put together. The writers who create these tests are required to include distracters--false answers to the question which will seem plausible and thereby "distract" the student from the right answer. This method tests how firmly a student grasps the concept being presented. Preparing for the tests using ACT or SAT study guides can help you understand the process and prepare. A student who has the knowledge and education to score extremely high on the ACT/SAT could still get a low score simply because they were not ready for the testing methods. Practice! Practice! Practice! Meet your own potential.

Find the Right Path
Most importantly, a student must discover their goals. It is no secret that many students change paths in college--usually two or more times. The high school years are a great opportunity for exploration. First, encourage your student to pray about his or her future and the direction God might want them to take with their life. Then seek out other individuals whose jobs interest your student and ask them about their careers. Explore several passions and interests and see how people with similar interests put them to work in real life. Get the student to take jobs not just to earn money, but to learn about what might be an interesting career move.
A word of caution to students: Many people do all of their exploring through close friends and relatives. This is useful, but limited. Reach out and seek out people who are doing things which are interesting, even if they are outside your "circle." Most people are more than willing to tell you about what they do and how they came to do it--and often a few well-placed questions can land a high school student a temporary job to try things out. Be aware that you will not walk into a big office with a view on your first day out Mama's front door just because you smiled well. Be respectful and willing to do the grunt work and people will help you get where you want to go. Your sincere interest will be respected.
A word of caution to parents: College faculty members know very well how to be college faculty. These individuals are knowledgeable and useful sources of information. However, when having your student investigate different career opportunities, the best source of information is someone who is currently holding a position in that field of interest.
College is often the launching pad for a successful career in the future. Recognizing how colleges work, as well as providing a solid educational foundation with ACT and SAT preparation in high school can be critical steps on the path to college. As parents, you will spend a lifetime giving your kids an education that will allow them reach their dreams and pursue God's calling in their lives. Don't let poor planning now prevent them from getting the training and preparation they need.

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Dr. Callahan is founder of the AskDrCallahan video math series for high schoolers. Dr. Callahan has 15 years of experience in the telecommunications industry and holds a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. His wife Lea has a masters degree in electrical engineering and has co-taught the high school math and physics classes they offer. They have 4 children and have homeschooled 2 through high school.

Cassidy Callahan is producer of AskDrCallahan, a high school curriculum company for homeschoolers. She is a 3rd year English major at the University of Montevallo. In her free time she enjoys launching model rockets, painting, three dogs, a cat, and a horse.

This article was originally published in the Nov/Dec '06 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. For more details, visit http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com