High School Credit for Work Experience

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“Can I count my high schooler’s work experience for credit?”

In the course of a week, three parents asked me this question. One in particular came through the Celebrate High School Facebook community.

The answer is multi-faceted, unique to state requirements and learner’s educational and career path.

First, parents must know and understand their responsibilities and freedoms under their state home education statute.

Find out

  • Are home educated students in your state required to meet state graduation requirements?
  • Does your state statute allow parents to oversee coursework and determine course credit?
  • Are parents given the freedom to create titles for courses or must the state DOE titles be used (as is the case with some private schools)?

The answers to those questions will contribute to your decision making process.


The second step in the process of deciding whether or not to award credit for work experience is to determine what the high schooler gained from his or her employment. Life skills? Knowledge? Personal development? The gains vary greatly dependent upon the high schooler's motivation, work ethic, job title, and employment requirements. Again, this is highly individual. 

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Determine Gains

Conversation with your high schooler is essential in the process of determining the gains. Why? Likely, as with most parents, you are not on the job with your learner to see and hear what he or she encounters or discovers. Engage in discussion. Ask questions. Listen for the young adult's passions, likes, and dislikes without condemnation. Often as young adults process, they need someone to mirror back or clarify what they expressed. I find it helpful to remind myself that when my middle and high schoolers share feelings, they are processing, perhaps sharing thoughts for the first time. The thoughts and feelings shared matter to them and when I ask clarifying questions, they often come to a better understanding of the situation. As you walk the journey with your middle or high schooler, not only will the gains of the current job become known, but the relationship between you and your teen will have great potential for growth as well. 

To help determine what skills and knowledge were acquired by the employment--the experiential learning opportunity--consider asking your high schooler:

What skills he or she feels were learned as a result of the work experience?

This is one of those occasions when I encourage parents to make a bullet-point list of skills and content the high schooler learned. Seeing the visual list often clarifies gains and aids in determining a course title which is specific and accurate to the experience. Examples may include Equine Science (barn assistant who interacts with equine professionals, observes or oversees equine care and nutrition), Nutrition and Wellness (assistant to a personal trainer), or String Ensemble (member of string quartet playing for weddings and special events).

Are the skills focused on a specific content area or are the skills broad, focused toward soft skill and personal growth development?

Looking over the content acquired, determine whether the skills were specific to an area of study (paid position at a zoological park) or broad, general and related to successful movement to adulthood (time management, personal growth, and communication skills). The difference may be titling the course Zoological Studies or Personal and Career Development.

Did the high schooler earn accolades, awards, or hold specific leadership roles (positional or managerial titles) associated with the experience? 

For example, if your young adult is a shift manager there are likely managerial and leadership skills involved in what he or she does while on site. Perhaps a course title like Managerial Leadership, Leadership Strategies and Techniques, or Exploration in Culinary Management might be suitable. 

Our daughter became a self-employed, small business owner in middle school. She continued to build her business through the high school years. Not only did she create and keep track of inventory, she registered her business with the state, filed quarterly sales tax, figured profit and loss statements, kept a running log of sales and inventory, opened a checking account, built a website, handled emails, filled orders, and participated in craft venues. She earned money, but she also gained knowledge and work experience. With integrity, I awarded her one credit in Business and Entrepreneurial Principles.

Our journey of awarding credit for paid work experience hasn’t come without criticism. Yours won’t either. In fact, you may have been told you can’t double dip —count paid work experience as high school credit. 

"You can't double dip!"

This happened to me. A well-meaning veteran homeschool mom informed me I couldn’t use work experience for credit. I listened. Yet, as a Mom who has the freedom to oversee our children’s education, knowing the life lessons and knowledge my young adults were gaining in their paid employment opportunities, I set out to research. It just didn't seem right not to be able to obtain credit from such rich, valuable life experience. 

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Credit Worthy

I discovered my state provides the right for me--as a registered home educator--to oversee the education of my children. In that freedom, I am able to decide what can be deemed credit worthy and I can title mastered content accordingly. I could not ignore the fact that my high schoolers were engaged in learning while on the job. And, with the valuable conversations Mike and I were having with our high schoolers, we knew they were learning content not taught in a traditional textbooks or acquired through lecture. The skills and content they were learning required experience--opportunity to do, decide, make mistakes, and to try again--often under the guidance of a mentor or the supervision of a professional in a career area. In addition, I observed our high schoolers applying what they learned in the work setting to other areas of their lives. They would summarize what they learned on any given day, share their thoughts about what they experienced, and ask questions about things that intrigued them. Our discussions led to discovering deeper life truths as well the building of grit, growth mindset, and personal emotional intelligence—some of the most valuable assets to adulthood and future employment.


What our learners were gaining on the job was credit worthy. 


In my mind, the experiences—the content learned while on the job interfacing with professionals—was credit worthy, regardless of whether or not the high schooler was paid. Essentially, the learner was paid to learn!

If life is learning and learning is life-long, it made sense to me that I could confer credit.

Our second son was invited to apply for a summer job as a teacher’s assistant at a preschool. I knew the Director and many of the teachers who worked at the school. In fact, I had worked there as a high schooler and my experience became a catalyst for my choice to pursue early childhood education. Knowing the value of my personal experience, I encouraged our son to apply for the position. Yes, he would earn a paycheck, but he would be mentored by knowledgeable staff who knew the developmental needs of young children.

Art camp began and indeed our son came home each day recounting his experiences. He commented on the conversations teachers had with students, how they listened and responded with open ended questions. He observed as teachers fostered curiosity and intentionally planned activities to promote wonder. His understandings of the developmental stages of art came from comparing preschooler's line drawings and seeing beaming smiles of accomplishment. Learning was experiences, not just memorized facts. In addition, he was learned about classroom management, developmentally appropriate art experiences, and the profession of early childhood education.

The summer came to a close and he was invited to remain on staff for the next school year. He would be the outside assistant--the preschool physical education overseer. He accepted. This change in position brought opportunities to observe the stages of motor development in real life. He watched children progress from running to galloping, from climbing stairs one foot at a time to alternating feet. He knelt down beside children who poured sand in funnels and floated boats in water tables. We talked about discoveries he watched children make and asked me about my experiences with children on the spectrum. The knowledge he gained through his experiences at the preschool were some of the very same things I studied in my college early childhood college courses.

At that moment, I realized the fifteen hours a week he was working at the preschool was preparing him with life skills of time management, communication skills, and workplace etiquette, but it was also equipping him with a foundation of knowledge in the area of early childhood development. In his junior year, I awarded him one credit in Introduction to Early Childhood Education.

Where is your learner employed? Maybe it is the local hardware store where knowledge of tools and home repair are prerequisite for employment. Maybe your high schooler was hired as a shift manager at a local eatery, managing and overseeing a team of co-workers. No matter where your young adult is employed, consider the skills being acquired, the career-related vocabulary being obtained, the decision making involved as part of the job, the conversations being had between coworkers and employers, and subject content being mastered through the opportunity. No doubt much more is being learned than you or your student imagined! 

Titles Speak Volumes

Generally high schools title work experience Executive Internship or Work Study. These are broad brush titles which say nothing about the student or content. However, if the home educating parent has the freedom to title courses, course titling can be strategic, mirroring the student’s interest and the content knowledge gained. Here is a small sampling of title examples. 

Arts

Creative Photography

Studio Arts

Printmaking

Dance Technique

Dance Performance

Dance Kinesiology

Choreography

Eurhythmics

Music Performance (use specific instrument in titles if appropriate)

Music Ensemble 

Jazz Ensemble

Chamber Orchestra

Music Internship

Music Composition and Arrangement

Musical Theater and Production

Music Technology and Sound Engineering

Theater Production

Cinematography

Technical Theater

Set Production

Acting

Theater Management

Print and Broadcast Media

Library Media Services

Journalism

Digital Art Imaging

Digital Media Design

Video Production

Visual Technology

Computer Sciences

Applied Computer and Information Technology

Information Technology

Business and Entrepreneurial

Business Principles

Marketing Strategies

Marketing Principles

Managerial Principles

Health Sciences

Nutrition and Wellness

Food Service

Human Growth and Development

Introduction to Early Childhood Education

Personal and Career Development

Capstone or Cornerstone Projects

Capstone Seminar

Capstone Research

Consider the course titles provided in this blog post about electives. 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

 

Dual Enrollment? Not So Fast

Dual enrollment offers learners opportunity to earn high school and college credits--simultaneously--before graduating from high school.

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It's a great option for some students.

But, it isn't the best option for all students.

Yes, sign me up! (the Pros)

  • Free or reduced tuition for college-level courses.
  • Experience campus life.
  • Offers student opportunity to learn course content in the student's area of interest.
  • Student's enrolled get to learn what goes into completing college work.
  • Allows colleges and universities to validate a student ready and capable of handling college-level material.
  • May improve a student's weighted GPA. 
  • May equate to graduating from college early. 
  • Evaluation (grade and credit) based on the entire course, not on single test performance. 

Not so fast! (the Cons)

  • While there's money to save, there may not be savings in the long run. Be sure to research what courses are needed for a degree and if credits will transfer. 
  • Not all learners are ready to walk on campus alongside older students. Perhaps, inquire about online options.
  • Not all admission advisors are versed in the prerequisites for specific college majors, hence some courses may be taken and "wasted". Parents should stand ready to know the requirements of a learner's four-year degree (or possible majors) and double check advisor guidance. 
  • Not all credits may be accepted; some courses in the major area may be required to be completed where degree will be earned. Check transfer policies like this one for UNF. 
  • Excess hours may be costly
  • Some colleges won't accept all dual enrolled courses. Research and ask questions to avoid unnecessary surprises. 
  • Grades earned become part of a permanent college transcript. 

Some of the biggest mistakes we have seen families make are:

Not knowing degree requirements. We know students who weren't sure of future major take an introductory science course (generally without a lab and worth three college credits)--Introduction to Biological Sciences, for example--thinking it would be easier, only to find out once the major was declared the lab science was required. The student sat through another science--Biology in most of the cases we know--again.

Starting dual enrollment too early. It is wise that parents remember DE grades become a permanent part of the college transcript. We personally know quite a few families wishing they had waited to dual enroll their students--especially for foreign language--because doing so compromised their learner's GPA. And, in some cases, being on the President's list (with a 4.0) each semester of the AA has earned students merit scholarship when transferring to an institution to complete the Bachelor's.

For example, several young adults we mentor through annual evaluations decided to complete foreign language credit through dual enrollment. Each of them soared through the first semester, each earning an A. However, the second semester the students didn't fair as well because of the difficulty of the content. In the majority of those learners earned a C, compromising their overall college GPA. 

When our learners hit the high school years, we discussed accelerated credit options with each student. Each had different options to consider due to their varied after high school plans. For our learner who did dual enroll, I am thankful we did not consider foreign language as part of his dual enrollment plans. Why? At the end of earning 60+ hours for his AA, the university to which he was transferring offered him scholarship monies because he transferred to complete his Bachelor's with a 4.0 GPA--hence earning a spot on the President's list every semester. Could he have gotten A's in his foreign language classes at the state college? Possibly. Yet, thankfully we didn't take that gamble. 

Additional resources

If you are a Florida resident, consider this comparison of accelerated learning. 

Parents looking for additional research may want to refer to this article by The National Center for Postsecondary Research.

The decision to dual enroll should not be taken lightly. Each learner is unique in ability and maturity. In addition, some students find it more beneficial to focus their high school years in other directions--perhaps theater, entrepreneurship, or sports. Other learners will need the boost dual enrollment can provide. Dual enrollment is an individual family and learner decision and is worth every moment of research, questioning, and considering. 

YOU can celebrate high school by building and executing a plan unique to the individual learner. 

Just one more reason why

EVERY. MOMENT. MATTERS. 

even in the high school years! 

 

High School Photography Elective

Several years ago, our daughter became interested in photography.

A real interest, one she thought about every day and one that did not go away!

She spent time researching and talking through her ideas about what she wanted to learn. Home educating, I knew she had the freedom to explore her interest as part of her day—every day—if she desired to do so.

Though I enjoy photography and have a "creative" bent, I had no idea what concepts and skills would be included in a high school level photography course. Therefore, when she asked me what areas I thought would be included in a photography course, I knew I would have to join in the learning. 

First, I searched the Internet for syllabi of high school level photography courses. Reading, I discovered common threads. This was a starting point.

Second, my daughter and I brainstormed additional content she wanted to learn. For example, she wanted to upgrade her camera. Researching the pros and cons of brands and features was definitely something she could include in her course.

Third, we talked about what real-life experiences could be added: job shadowing, taking pictures of family members, learning and using editing programs, and shooting seconds for a professional photographer.

Clearly, my daughter’s interest drove the learning. I simply had to be open to the ideas and be ready to encourage her progress.

Before we knew it we had accumulated not only content but resources.

Here is a snapshot of the content we developed. 

Course Content

I. History of photography

  • the pinhole camera, daguerreotype, Kodak Brownie camera, film development, darkrooms, Polaroid cameras, flash cubes, and flash bars

II. People of Influence

  • Joseph Nicephore Niepce, Loius Daguerre, R.L. Maddox, George Eastman

III. Types of Photography

  • portrait, children, pets, landscapes, macro, food, nature, architectural, forensic, sport, science, 

IV. Parts of a Camera

V. How Cameras Work

VI. Lighting, Shutter Speed, Aperture, Depth of field

VII. Composition, Color, Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness, and Special Techniques

VIII. Photo Editing

IX. Analyzing and Critiquing Photography

X. Documentary and Photojournalism 

XI. Famous Photographers and Photojournalists 

XII. Mounting and Displaying Photography 

  • enter photography in contests or county fairs

XIII. Digital Photography

XIV. Photography Careers

  • portrait photography, commercial photography, fine art photography, wedding photography, scientific photography, sports photography, medical photography, forensic photography, nature photography, aerial photography, photojournalism

XV. Photography Licenses

  • royalty free, rights managed, stock photography

XVI. Legal, Ethical and Copyright

  • fair use, buildings protected by copyright, difference between photography for personal use or commercial use, model/copyright releases, editorial photography as a profession in regards to rights and fair use

The outline above was the jumping off point. Once we had the major areas of study--at least a plan--we could adjust as we went along. 


We added experiential learning. Our list of considerations were

  • Job shadowing a photographer or interning as a photographer's assistant

  • Working in a camera store

  • Setting up a darkroom

  • Creating a yearbook for a school or co-op

  • Working with a blogger to communicate content visually

  • Learning mounting techniques.

For learners who appreciate the power of a story, these Living Books may be just the ingredient to bring additional life to the course. 

  • Cameras and Courage, Margaret Bourke-White by Iris Noble, Julian Messner biography

  • Joseph Pulitzer, Front Page Pioneer by Iris Noble, Julian Messner biography

My daughter's interest led to elective credits, not one but TWO! When she finished these studies, she decided to take an online course. 

Once the interest is sparked, there is no limit to where the learning path may lead. Sometimes it is an elective. Other times the study leads to employment. The possibilities of high school electives is endless! 

If you will be attending Florida Parent Educators Association (FPEA) conference May 25-27, you may be interested in the two high school workshops I have been invited to share: Keeping High School ALIVE with Living Books and High School: Mission Possible. In addition, my husband Mike will join me at the podium to share The Real-Life Influence of Family Conversation and my oldest son and I will present an encouraging session, Thank You, Mom!

FPEA is always a highlight of our speaking calendar. Can't wait to see you there! 

 

 

 

 

Teaching High School American History and American Literature with Living Books

I am often asked how we teach American History and American Literature in high school. 

Actually, we have used different means and methods with each of our high school learners, dependent on their interests, learning styles, and in some cases, learning challenges. 

This blog post addresses one of those methods; the method we used with our reader who LOVED history. 

With our son's interest in reading and history, we divided American History into Early American (to 1850) and Modern (from 1850 to present) so we could allow time for him to dig deeper. After extensive research (based on my love for education as well as the fear I was doing enough--yes, I have been there!), I developed literature lists for American, British, and World Literature courses. These lists provided my son with reading suggestions to get him started, a springboard of sorts. His desire to learn history prompted him to seek out additional titles. My motto became, 

"You read it, I will give you credit."

For readers interested in the list of works from which we used toward either American History or Survey of American Literature, our reading list (remember it was a springboard from which he could jump in for more) is below. The American, British, and World literature lists are included in my book, Celebrate High School

Please keep in mind as you read through this list, our son was a self-motivated reader with an interest in the subject. Not all young adults will share this interest or learning preference. In addition to his independent reading, we used a textbook as a spine of topics. Though he started the year reading some of the text, by the end of the year he was reading more primary source documents, living history selections, and biographical pieces than text. He also had amazing opportunities to tour many of the Civil War battlefields and visited Washington, D. C., Boston, Plymouth, Philadelphia, and New York City. God provided for his love of history through many experiential opportunities. We realize not all learners will have these experiences but trust there will be other provisions for your family. 

This method worked for our oldest son. I tweak the process for each young adult, asking for their input. Please, don't use what is written here as a comparison for what your student should or shouldn't be doing. Learners are unique and high school is not a one-size-fits-all experience. 

Comparing ourselves or our children to others leads to discouragement and discontent, neither of which are valuable.

Our examples are only intended as encouragement, to give an idea of what worked for us and what you might be able to create (or adjust) for your high schooler. Our young adult was (and still is) a reader, but your young adult may have an opportunity to intern with a local historical site or job shadow a museum curator. Use what God provides for your learner and pray about how he is preparing your young adult for the future plans He has, not for the ones we best intention.

Our American Literature list:

Alcott, Louisa May, Little Men

Alcott, Louisa May, Little Women

Barton, David, Bulletproof George Washington

Baum, L. Frank, The Wizard of Oz

Bierce, Ambrose, Civil War Stories

Cather, Willa, My Antonia*

Cather, Willa, O Pioneers!*

Cooper, James Fenimore, The Last of the Mohicans*

Crane, Stephen, The Red Badge of Courage*    

de Tocqueville, Alexis, Democracy in America*

Dewey, John, Democracy and Education*

Douglass, Frederick, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass*

Edwards, Jonathan, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God*

Faulkner, William, The Sound and the Fury*

Fitzgerald, F. Scott, The Great Gatsby*

Franklin, Benjamin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin*

Hawthorne, Nathaniel, The Scarlet Letter

Hemingway, Ernest, A Farewell to Arms*

Hemingway, Ernest, For Whom the Bell Tolls*

Hemingway, Ernest, The Old Man and the Sea*

Hemingway, Ernest, The Sun Also Rises*

Hurston, Zora Neale, Their Eyes Were Watching God*

Irving, Washington, The Legend of Rip Van Winkle

Keller, Helen, The Story of My Life*

Lee, Harper, To Kill a Mockingbird

McCullough, David, 1776

McCullough, David, John Adams

McCullough, David, The Wright Brothers

Melville, Herman, Moby Dick

Miller, Arthur, The Crucible

Miller, Arthur, The Death of a Salesman

Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnan, The Yearling

O.Henry, The Gift of the Magi

Steinbeck, John, Of Mice and Men*

Steinbeck, John, The Grapes of Wrath*

Stowe, Harriet Beecher, Uncle Tom’s Cabin*

Thoreau, Henry David, Civil Disobedience*

Thoreau, Henry David, Walden*

Thurber, James, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Twain, Mark, Life on the Mississippi

Washington, Booker T., Up From Slavery

Wilder, Thornton, Our Town*

Williams, Tennessee, The Glass Menagerie*

In addition to this literature list, we use primary source documents including speeches and journals.

Here are some examples. There are plenty of resources available on the internet (which could be a great catalyst for a discussion on reliable sources.

50 Core Documents, Teaching AmericanHistory.org

Primary Source Documents in American History

National Archives

Journals of Lewis and Clark

The Story of A Common Soldier- Kindle ebook

The Journal of James Audubon

Orville Wright's journal entry

This post is based on the experience of our oldest son. It is not intended as legal advice and is written with the knowledge that parents are ultimately responsible for the education of their children.