Planning 9th Grade with YOUR Freshman in Mind

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Four home graduates. One current high schooler.

Five unique ninth grade years.

As I finished adding the grades for the ninth-grade year of the transcript for our fifth high schooler, the proverbial light bulb illuminated my thinking.

I double-checked, looked over each transcript of our five learners.

Indeed, EACH of our high schoolers had a unique and individualized ninth grade year—distinctive of their gifts and strengths. I knew each of our children were different, yet I hadn’t set out their transcripts side-by-side to compare the courses they had completed in the freshman year. Yes, some had earned credit in the same course, but even the content of those courses varied according to the bents and interests of the learner. Same title, different content. Each learner had individualized educational paths, courses tweaked by interests and strengths, goals and aspirations.

As it should be with homeschooling.

Every learner—gifted—different.

None better than the other.

What were the ninth grade courses on our five high schooler’s transcripts?

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One of our learners dug into a variety of interests, from academics to sports to music. This learner also extroverted high schooler wanted to take Spanish earlier in the high school plan so that it could be completed with an older sibling. Further observation lead me to realize this learner was the only one who completed two years of foreign language by the end of ninth grade—making time for other studies; a big WIN as far as she was concerned. These ninth grade course choices were right for this learner and provided distinctive advantages in regards to having time for opportunities which were still to come in the later high school years.

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One of our other learners enrolled in high school level courses prior to ninth grade, hence completing Algebra 1 and moving to Algebra 2 in ninth. The same was true for science which paved the way for chemistry to be the logical next step for the freshman year. No other learner took Algebra 2 or chemistry in the freshman year.

This learner was also the only one who completed world history in ninth grade due in most part from having studied history independently—and passionately with much depth—in previous years. We didn’t want freshman year to be a repeat of past content so we allowed this student to continue to study history through travel, historical documents, biographies and other non-fiction resources. This high schooler was also the only sibling who completed economics in the freshman year—again due to personal interest and independent study. This course provided additional fuel business-minded young adult.

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This learner was a mover, a kinesthetic.Learning was experiential and hands-on, even through high school. Athletics played a major role in this learner’s life, hence all the PE credits in the freshman year (as well as years to follow). For this learner we chose to split American history into two years—Early American (up to the Civil War) and Modern American (after Civil War) allowing time to add experiential learning to a text and provide extended time to other subjects of interest.

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This introverted learner loved people—understanding how they thought and were motivated—and was eager to have people live their best lives—hence the bent toward sign language. Interestingly, this young adult’s ninth grade year was also the year our sweet great-grandmother was very ill and in and out of facilities (which the learner requested to tour and research because of the love for Grammy). This learner asked to be a part of the process and dialogued (summarization, recall, and interpersonal communication) with me (and her grandmother) about what was being learned through this heartbreaking journey. This high schooler was also an entrepreneur and a creative—owned a small business—hence the business and creative arts electives. Different learner. Different interests. Different courses.

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Another introverted creative, this learner set up a work studio where endless handmade cards were made with numerous types of media and by various techniques. Hours were spent learning technique, researching skills, and experimenting creatively. Hence, this high schooler earned credit in courses not considered by our others—Foundations in Interior Design, Stamp and Stationary Art Design, and Survey of American Musicals. This learner, like several siblings, earned credit for personal fitness, yet her content was very different from the content of athletes who spent hours on the field or in the weight room. This high schooler chose her own relaxing, peaceful blend of aerobics, stretching, and strengthening—using personally-selected workout videos.

Five freshman years each with unique content and character—personalized to the interests of the learner earning the credit.

Personalization doesn’t have to end in ninth grade! In fact, it can continue throughout the high school years in order to help our young adults learn who they are, what they were created for, and how they can bring value to the community in their spheres of influence—at home, across the nation, and throughout the world.

Need guidance in the journey to make high school matter beyond the turning of the tassel?

My NEW BOOK, More than Credits: Life Skills High Schoolers Need for Life, offers frameworks (think practical skill acquisition from real-life, project-based learning, experiential opportunities, related literature and writing assignments, and meaningful decision topics and questions) for FIVE elective courses:

  • Nutrition and Wellness

  • Personal Fitness

  • Personal Awareness and Career Exploration

  • Philosophy, and

  • Personal Finance

The contents of each class are not just boxes to check, but ideas meant to be tweaked and adjusted for each learner based on what they may already be doing.

Earn credit for what matters…not just today, but beyond.







Experiential Learning in High School : The Motivation

Motivation Matters

When a young adult is involved in contributing to content—a vested determination to learn—greater retention and true understanding follow.

Young adults thrive when there’s purpose. If something matters to them, they become invested and personally motivated. When parents give their children freedom where responsibility is evident, growth potential flourishes. The more young people become responsible, the more confidence they gain. It’s a perpetual cycle, much like the ebb and flow adults face.

Our sons were passionate about baseball. Both were pitchers, one a righty and the other a lefty. Improvement in skill and arm strength required discipline, daily workouts, and throwing. What fueled their passion? Motivation to be the best pitcher he could be as well as knowledge of what was needed to meet the goal. It wasn’t me. I hadn’t any idea how to build arm strength or design a workout. Instead, the boys listened to coaches, consulted with trainers, and implemented or tweaked their plans. I encouraged them, served as their cheerleader, drove them to practice, and figured out how to incorporate and communicate all they were doing into credits. Many of the activities they integrated into their days are listed in this resource.

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The content suggestions listed in these five personal development electives aren’t meant to be objectives to be checked off, tested, and graded. They are chunks of knowledge which can be gleaned from life, fully understood in the context of life experiences. Will resources—print, digital and personal contacts—be needed? Likely, yes! And, the lists I provide aren’t meant to be exhaustive. They can’t possibly be because each high schooler—and their circumstances—is unique. Their courses will be as well.

Many of the ideas or projects listed in this book stem from real-life scenarios or situations our children—or the hundreds of high schoolers we’ve worked with—faced or were curious about. You will notice much of the content will be learned from naturally-occurring conversations, often because of a young adult’s interest, personal need, or life circumstances. These discussions were often catalysts for deeper study, additional conversations, or visits to the library…and our high schoolers earned credit!

Later in the chapter….

For learners who have an inkling of what their post-high-school paths will be, they will move forward in that direction. Along the way, they will need help to process and question. They will seek out people who are willing to listen. Likely that person may be you! Embrace it. The conversations may feel constant and never-ending. However, the reality is that the time will be very short. As you help process your high schooler’s ideas, keep an open perspective. Be ready for change. An interest one semester may transform into a niche the following semester. It really can be a beautiful personalized journey.

Let’s say your high school learner is interested in pursuing a career in veterinary medicine. Talking with her, you believe the next right step would be to talk with professionals in the field. As move through the brainstorming process, you and your daughter make a list of venues which could be possibilities for volunteering or job-shadowing experiences: a vet's office, a local clinic, and the county animal shelter. As you discuss how to prepare for possible conversations with professionals, you list questions which could be asked in an interview situation. They may include

  • What universities are considered optimal for preparation of a career in this profession?

  • What are the potential degree and career paths available?

  • What classes or experiences were most helpful to you in the education process? 

  • What are the specialty areas in this profession?

  • What areas, in any, do you recommend or foresee might be most helpful five years from now?

  • What would you, as a professional, recommend for a young adult pursuing this career?

(Excerpted from More than Credits: Skills High Schoolers Need for Life)

Perhaps your high schooler is motivated to learn more. You may not feel you have the expertise or the knowledge necessary to help your young adult move forward. Guess what? You are not alone. And, you don’t need to know the answers. There are people in your high schooler’s field of interest who do, people who work in the profession. Seek them out.

Wondering what types of questions you and your learner could brainstorm together? I offer ideas in this post. This is a sampling in what you will find in More than Credits: Skills High Schoolers Need for Life.

High school is more than credits. It’s being future-ready.

Preparing High School Learners to Interview Professionals

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We can’t know everything.

No one can. But, we do have the ability to know how and where to get our questions answered. Our learners should be empowered to do the same.

Let’s say your high schooler is interested in veterinary medicine. Your majored in business and finance.

How do you help your young adult learn more about this career field?

Find a trusted professional who is willing to share his or her passion, and then ask. Most people wait eagerly for an opportunity to talk about what they love. In the process, your young adult is afforded a chance to learn about the education requirements, niche areas of the profession, and perhaps even what the career might look like in the future (at the time when you learner is trying to land a job) from a person in the know. In addition, should an ongoing mentoring relationship form, there may be a potential connection made for later employment.

Identifying a person who could be interviewed is the first step. The second step, preparation, is key. Intentionality often reaps the greatest reward (another one of those life lessons our high schoolers learn from experiential learning).

Preparing for interviewing is an important skill. Afterall, if someone carves out time in a schedule to meet with a high schooler, being prepared for the meeting not only allows the learner to glean the most helpful information possible, but also shows respect for the professional’s time. Some high schoolers decide they need help brainstorming to make a list of questions and practice asking those questions through a role play scenario. Other young adults prefer to work more independently to create their list and then seek input or additions from someone they know will provide feedback. This process is another step in discovering how one learns best is a unique benefit of experiential opportunities.

When our high schoolers showed interest in an area and wanted to talk to professionals in the field, we developed a list of questions. I offer a full list in the appendices of More than Credits, but these examples will jump start the thinking process for your high school learner.

  • How did your high school experiences benefit your career?

  • Where did you attend college?

  • How or why did you decide to choose this college?

  • How did your post-secondary studies influence your career?

  • Which post-secondary courses were particularly beneficial in your career preparation?

  • Is there something you feel would have been helpful—maybe even a different major—than what you pursued?

  • How do you see your career field changing in the next five years?

When preparing to interview someone in a trade or technical field, we adjusted our list of questions to address trade-specific aspects of a field. The complete list is also included in the book, but again, these should provide a place to start as you and your learner develop a list of questions.

  • Did you earn industry certifications and if so, which were helpful to you?

  • What should I consider as I research post-secondary education options?

  • What skills do you use every day?

  • What types of writing do you do in your field?

The high school journey is more than taking tests and finishing study guides. Those do have a place in education, but it is important to remember these aspects of learning should not overshadow and crowd out some of the most beneficial ways our young adults gain knowledge—through experiential learning opportunities like interviewing professionals.

Available through Amazon.

Experiential Learning in High School: Why It Matters

I find it ironic that homeschooling parents encourage young children and elementary-age learners to explore their interests, yet as the middle and high school years loom on the horizon, the tune often changes.

When it does, students, parents, and educators tend to concentrate on core courses (with good reason) while pushing strengths and giftings—and often real-life learning—aside. Often those life experiences offer learners the lessons and skills most needed for their future.

There is another advantage of pursuing electives of interest. Not only do high schoolers receive credit, but these pursuits also help reduce the stress of typically tougher core courses.

By their very nature, electives provide avenues for personal growth, renewal, and skill acquisition.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the middle and high school years provided the same real-life educational opportunities found in the younger learning years? Homeschooling makes that possibility a reality.

Interest leads to higher-quality content and greater retention in both core and elective classes. With this knowledge in one hand, grab a cup of coffee or a thick creamy milkshake with the other and invite your high schooler to brainstorm with you. In the course of the conversation, listen to what he or she would like to study and how those interests could be enhanced or accomplished with real-life experiences. Experiential learning in high school is just as valuable as it was in the elementary and middle school years.

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