We are in our ninth year of homeschooling, and regularly this question comes up even for the college bound homeschooler. Moms and dads fret and lose sleep over the simple question:
"Am I doing enough?"
So how do you know? Where is the balance to logically not "over-teaching" versus making certain they are prepared for their future, as well as for possible changes in plans.
You know what?
I think secretly we all know the answer to this one for our own family. I think sometimes we feel guilty and want others to "let us off the hook" by asking the question and hoping to hear from others that we can slack, or that doing the bare minimum is enough.
I also think (and since this is an opinion piece, I am allowed to opine here all I want! Hahaha!) that we just might be asking the wrong question.
How about instead of asking, "Are we teaching enough?", replacing it with, "Are we teaching what they need?"
Does your trade bound student honestly need 3 full years of in depth Biology, Chemistry and Physics? Or do they need a solid overview with key concepts taught, and then perhaps replace those sciences with things like Electronics or Computer Repair?
Does your trade bound student need AP level courses in History or English? Or might English for The World of Work or a more in depth study of the Industrial Revolution and The History of Manufacturing make more sense for them?
The simple fact is that our trade bound Blue Collar Kids deserve the very best education we can provide them...but it needs to be relevant, and they need to be ready for the real world they will step into. That doesn't mean teaching "less" or "more", it means paying closer attention to what we are teaching and keeping it relatable to the future they imagine for themselves.
Here are some key things to think about when you have doubts about teaching your kids "enough":
1) Everyone needs to write well, trades bound or otherwise. Are your kids at grade level? Can they write with ease? Are their writing mechanics solid and can they formulate more complex sentences. In other words, if they write a business proposal or response to a customer, will they appear to be reasonably well educated and can they handle all sorts of writing? They may never need to learn how to cite sources or create bibliographies, but they need to be able to get their ideas across to any audience in writing.
2) Can your learner read at a true 12th grade level? Can they interpret more complex writing and do they have a wide vocabulary? With the average reader today reading no higher than a 7th grade level, I can not emphasize enough how imperative it is to get your child's reading level up to par so they can handle reading contracts, understand insurance policies, and easily read tech manuals. Unless there is a disability, there is no reason for a child to be unable to read at a 12th grade level, as long as they have been offered progressively harder reading material, and you have worked diligently on vocabulary. Trades people are not dumb, and they deserve to be able to access any written material they come across, and not be hindered because someone thought their future wouldn't require more than a middle school reading level.
3) Can they handle Algebra 1? If not, can they do all basic math functions easily and with fair speed? Do they know how to use an adding machine and calculator? Instead of calculus, geometry and trig, have you at the very least presented them with Business Math, taught them how to read a spread sheet, and helped them understand basic accounting and Consumer Math? Now, keep in mind, that many skilled trades as well as tech and computer related work will require far higher levels of math, so this is an area not to skimp on if a career path isn't certain. But if your child is not "mathy" and you have taught the other items above, you are doing a great job!
4) Does your learner have a solid grasp on American History...not just wars, dates and famous people but the overarching themes and recognition of "why" things happened? Have they studied World History and do they understand key shifts? Do they know the three branches of US government and can they explain their roles? Do they know the Constitution and Bill of Rights? Or better yet, would you be embarrassed by their answers if they were stopped on the street and asked questions that were filmed and shared with your friends? Haha! That one right there may make you rethink "How much is enough?". Young adults need to have a sense of civic responsibility and an understanding of their country's origins and development.
5) Can your student interact well with technology? Can they share files, download and upload photos, use photo editing software in very basic form, email, be safe from online scams, use word processing software, explain the difference between hardware and software, function well on the internet researching and finding information they need? It is absolutely imperative that your young adult moving into the world be computer literate. If not, I will say this one bluntly...you are not doing enough. They need to have a typing speed that is reasonable so they can function well on their jobs. Even auto mechanics have to input data to check engines!
6) Does your young adult understand their body and how it functions? Do they "get" weather and motion/energy and cells at a basic level? Are they considering a career that requires knowledge in specific areas of science? Nursing...are the studying chemistry and biology? Airline pilot...are they studying physics and weather? Science is an area where we can get bogged down quickly and can "over teach" in my own opinion, because honestly, most of us will not have careers that require detailed knowledge of The Big Three areas of science, but they sure might require knowledge in one!
There are of course other areas...life skills, health, arts, and much more. But if you can look at your child and honestly say they can not read, write and compute well, you might want to pump up your school effort. And by well I don't mean "ok" or middle school level by high school graduation. Focus on doing the basics and doing them really, really well. There are those fundamental skills that will be used by virtually everyone, and those should be rock solid.
Should you teach to college admission for kids you think are Blue Collar bound? Honestly, if they have the capacity, teach as much as they will take in! Why limit learning? That doesn't mean you have to feel pressure about it, nor do you have to do AP this and Honors that, but keep tackling progressively more challenging subjects! Your Blue Collar kids may work in a trade for awhile and decide she or he wants to move into management and want to go back to school for a business degree. You just never know, but the idea is to teach to the child, to develop a love of learning, and to help them be prepared for a future that is bright, regardless of the road they take.
Oh yea...and if you are doing two hours of school a day...uh...yea...probably not enough ;-)