Have you ever stopped to ask yourself what in the world is the point of high school? What is it that your child REALLY needs to get out of their high school years? What are the priorities? And what if YOUR priorities don't align with what others think your priorities ought to be?
It is when our kids hit high school that we begin to ask ourselves the tougher questions, and we homeschooling parents begin to feel the pressure of "getting it right" so we don't "ruin" our kids. How many times have we all read those words written online in heartfelt, anguished posts from educating parents who are fearful they are going to somehow screw it all up?
Depending upon who you talk to, you will get a wide variety of answers to this question. Some would say the point of high school is career and college readiness. Some would say it is to have the time of their lives and still be kids! Some would say these critical years are for growing academic skills, and exploring who they are as maturing young adults. And (thankfully) a few would say the point is to hopefully come out alive on the other side! Haha!
Instead of asking, "What's the point?" I would suggest an entirely different approach. How about asking a very different question instead...
"How can we make high school a meaningful experience?"
What a difference in tone alone that particular question reflects!
You see, high school is an important time in anyone's life, but sometimes we focus so much on
"the point" that we literally lose the bigger picture. We focus so much on the end goal and where our learners go from there, that we forget high school can be incredibly meaningful and a formative time in all kinds of ways, and that it needs to be about a lot more than getting to the end and measuring something.
Just as in the image above, when we focus too sharply on the end goal or the point far off in the distance, we miss out on here and now. This doesn't mean we have to set aside goals, ignore academic achievement, or take all pressure off. Kids learn to handle the pressure of adult life by gradually being introduced to it in small, ever increasing doses. We also need them to be academically well prepared for their future, whatever that might be.
But there is more...SO much more...to high school!
This is the time of greatest freedom to explore who they are, to try all kinds of things and find interests that are non-academic. The high school years are when they try on new personas and settle in to one, so guidance and reflection back to our learners about how the latest incarnation of themselves strikes you is important work. Teens are gaining new skills such as driving, handling their own affairs and their own schedule, and are hopefully also learning how to do real work as they step into adulthood gingerly.
It seems all anyone wants to focus on through these precious years is achievement and complaining about kids doing the very things they ought to be doing at this age...trying things out, casting aside some, grabbing hold of others. Some call it flighty and unfocused, and expect a finished product by the end of the teen years. How absolutely unfair!!
How can you make your teens high school years meaningful?
Give your kids free reign to volunteer anywhere they want to.
Work on trying new hobbies, crafts, clubs, sports and more...yes, even (maybe even "especially")
if they are not transcript-worthy!
Think about your children the way you used to...as whole people, not just as a student who needs to get good grades to get ahead in life. Remember when they were toddlers and so excited about the world around them, and you couldn't WAIT to show them everything? Why do we lose that attitude as parents once we bring grades and textbooks into the picture? We don't have to, just remind yourself of ALL the parts of your child!
Take time to chew on good books together about topics that matter. Explore read alouds together that are more adult, such as self-help books, philosophy, etc.
Talk about current events and ask what they think. Make this a part of your daily morning or evening routine. Don't TELL them what to think, either, let them share their developing thoughts about the world around them and don't cringe when something strikes you wrong. Remember that point I made above about trying on new personas? Let them differentiate from you, but insist they support their point with more than "because I think so"!! You might be surprised at the level of thinking this evokes.
Share more about your dating years, your struggles with trying to fit in, your doubts as a young adult as you faced the world on your own for the first time. Share when you screwed up, made a fool of yourself, or lost a first love.
Challenge them to try something new and difficult, something way outside their comfort zone. Applaud them if they fail or succeed, for regardless of the outcome they have definitely learned something new about themselves.
So, what is the point of high school? Maybe the point is that there is no single point to it, and there never should have been in the first place.