While the concept of compulsory schooling is relatively new, parents wanting their children to learn is as old as civilization itself. Today, it is estimated that more than 1.5 million children ages 5 - 17 are homeschooled nationwide. The U.S. Department of Education released data in 2015 that the number of homeschooled children rose by 61.8 percent over the previous decade. Those are big numbers accompanied by big responsibility for parents of homeschooled students, especially as homeschoolers reach the teen years and start thinking about a career path. As a parent, you are not only an educator but a guidance counselor as well.
But what if your child doesn’t have a clue about current or future career possibilities? How do you help guide them toward rewarding, engaging career fields that might work best for them?
The good news is you know your children better than anyone; whether they are introverted or extroverted, their interests and passions, skill levels, and what drives them to do well. Tools and resources help, from volunteering and traditional job shadowing to government websites that explore occupational outlooks and future outlook. Just as comprehensive, but more engaging and interactive, VirtualJobShadow.com provides easy-to-use career assessments and then links to results which highlight careers that may be a good fit.
It’s getting started that can be the hard part. So where to begin?
Career Exploration as a Process
Career exploration is among the most important high school endeavors for students of all types. There are numerous books and websites on the subject that prove popular among homeschooling parents. Even so, it can be difficult to access information about careers that are relevant to today’s youth, particularly in a rapidly changing technology-based world.
In addition, most adults change careers or hold several different jobs throughout their lives. Knowing that career exploration is a process, one that may require flexibility to find the best “fit” helps homeschooling parents realize there is no single path to guiding their teen to the right occupation.
However, there are some effective guidelines compiled by career specialists and homeschooling experts to help homeschooling parents get started.
10 Steps to Guide Your Homeschooled Child through Career Exploration
|It’s not enough for your homeschooler to simply pick a career. It’s also critical to learn who they are and what they enjoy most through research and discovery in career exploration.
Here’s a checklist of things to do to get started:
- Explore your teen’s strongest interests with them – those your teen recognizes but also those you or others recognize about them. Keep your child’s personality in mind: introvert or extrovert? A sensing personality or intuitive? A thinker or a feeler? Personality tests can often confirm these traits. Go to www.humanmetrics.com for a free 10-minute test, or http://www.16personalities.com/ as a personality barometer.
- Encourage your homeschooler to participate in career assessments – a way to zero in on likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses inherent in everyone. Most people are happiest in career fields in which they have some natural talent. As an extra bonus, you may be nearing the final homeschooling years and want to test your own interests and skills for the next working stage in your life. The World of Work Map provides primary work tasks based on working with people; people and data; data only; data and things. You can find it at http://www.act.org/wwm/student.html.
- Steer your homeschooler toward hobbies and volunteer work that align with their career aspirations. Volunteering helps determine their level of motivation, initiative and sense of responsibility. They might also learn what employers tend to look for in desirable employees.
- Be competitive - competitions in science, math, writing, spelling, geography, etc. can help steer your teen toward certain career fields for which they already show a high level of skill.
- Consider exploring career occupations outside the norm – from starting a small business to highly technical careers not well known. Resources include the Bureau of Labor through the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook at www.bls.gov and VirtualJobShadow.com at www.virtualjobshadow.com.
- Investigate internships, apprenticeships, mentoring programs, or on-the-job training for teens. Don’t forget to explore professional organizations in a chosen career field. The American Dental Association, for example, can provide an inside peek at the profession along with other resources.
- Check out traditional job shadowing which involves observing people on the job in order to experience firsthand a particular career field.
- Have a plan. An education and experience plan will help your homeschooler reach designated career goals. Do they need particular classes, educational requirements, part-time jobs, volunteering, or other onsite experience to help reach their career goals? What is the timeline for working toward their goals?
- Always consider values and priorities in any future careers. Ask your homeschooler what gives them meaning. What do they see as their life purpose? What type of work environment do they envision and what results do they want most from their work?
- Think positive – following different career paths can be fun and exciting. And who knows? It may trigger something dynamic in your homeschooled teen and in you that is totally unexpected.
How VirtualJobShadow.com Can Help
In reality, it’s not always practical, cost-effective or feasible to allow your homeschooler to live-shadow a person on the job, or make contact by phone or email. There is another alternative: VirtualJobShadow.com.
The challenges homeschooling parents face as homeschoolers approach the teen years and look toward their future prospects are well understood at VirtualJobShadow.com, which provides your teen with access to hundreds of engaging job shadowing and career advice videos of real people at real jobs.
With a one year license, students have access to the Career Clusters Interest Survey which helps identity the clusters that are the best match based on the responses. For details visit www.virtualjobshadow.com.
Through online resources, homeschool educator guidelines, networking, and career assessments found at Virtual Job Shadow and other sources, help is available to parents of homeschooled children when the time is right for career exploration.
Bottom line: As a homeschooling parent, you can be educator and guidance counselor all in one.
VirtualJobShadow.com provides career exploration for K-12, post-secondary institutions and workforce development programs nationwide. It is used throughout the country for career readiness and planning in school districts, colleges, career centers and workforce agencies, offering an interactive, practical approach with multiple resources for work-based learning and career planning. Visit us at www.virtualjobshadow.com.
Career Exploration for Homeschool High School Students, by Carol Topp, CPA, e-book available online and through www.CarolToppCPA.com; “History of Homeschooling” 03/23/15; “Number of Homeschoolers in the U.S. 2016-2017,” 08/06/16, www.a2zhomeschooling.com;
Oklahoma Homeschool, www.oklahomahomeschool.com/career-training.html; “Homeschooled Children up 61.8% in 10 years,” by T. Jeffrey, 5/19/15, www.cnsews.com; Career Exploration Workbook, by V. Tillman, M.A., book review, www.anniekateshomeschoolreviews.com, 2016; High School Life Skills Career Exploration, 3/21/16, www.startsateight.com; www.homeschoolsuccess.com/explore-career-options, reference to U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook www.bls.gov.