Thursday, February 7, 2019

Homeschooling the Teen Years - Don't Fear the Gap Year

I'm writing today's post as much for myself as for anyone else.  A (age 17) has been throwing out the idea of taking a gap year (a year off between high school and college for travel, work, reflection and rest) with increasing frequency these days, and it's making me nervous.

I'm not sure why, because T (age 21) took a sort of a gap year between his freshman year in Bible school and his freshman (because NONE of his credits transferred) year at university, and it turned out to be a very good thing for him.

Still, the loss of momentum, the lures of the workforce, the opportunities for romantic or matrimonial entanglements all look like obstacles to a continuing education to me.  That's my fear.  A sees it as a time to gain focus, enthusiasm, direction and money to see her through the following four years (or hopefully two, as most if not all of her credits should transfer).

I decided that rather than arguing it out with her, I'd spend the day retracing the steps of T's journey, and I'm taking you with me (if you decide to keep reading, anyway).

Step 1 - T (age 17) graduated early from high school in the winter of 2014.  He had taken his SATs in the fall of his senior year, and immediately started receiving invitations to apply to various colleges (as students do).  He applied and was accepted into an online associates degree program from a Canadian Bible school.  We decided to let him graduate in December so he could take his first class in the spring of that year.

Step 2 - In the fall of 2015 he started into full time classes online.

Step 3 - He worked full time through the summer of 2016.

Step 4 - In the fall of 2016 he decided he didn't want to start back into classes.

step 5 - We weren't sure if he'd be going back to school or not, and so decided to have him take his HiSet (high school completion test) through our adult learning center.

Step 6 - We started charging him rent for the months he was not in school.

Step 7 - As part of his HiSet preparation program through the adult learning center, he had an opportunity to take a free college success class (that would transfer into the state colleges if he decided to take up a degree there) and a pre-welding course (to get a taste of the vocational programs being offered in our area).

A helicopter made during T's pre-welding course.

Step 8
  • He worked full time,
  • joined a young adult Bible study at church with others who were in school, in the military, or working,
  • attended plays, concerts and movies with friends and family 
  • joined in family activities

  • and kept an eye on the local job market.

Step 9 - By April of 2016 he was ready to apply for a business administration program at a nearby university.

Step 10 - He was accepted by May, and filling out FAFSA and scholarship applications.

Step 11 - In the fall of 2017 he was back to school a much more willing and ready student.

I wouldn't say it was an altogether easy year, there was soul searching and uncertainty, but looking back on it now, I wouldn't say it was a big deal or anything to worry about either.  And the difference between the T who graduated high school and the T who started university classes was significant.  He absolutely needed that time to grow-up and find direction.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

Thanks for sharing T's story. My A is also raising an idea of taking a gap year since she will be only 16 when she graduates from high school. Her current thinking, however, is to apply to colleges who allow a gap year to incoming freshmen. But she still has 4 years before any decisions need to be made, so we will see what she wants to do then.

Camie said...

My daughter, Darcie, who is 23 and now a graduate from her university with a degree in technical writing, took a gap year and loved it. We were living in Peru at the time and she spent her gap year volunteering in an orphanage in Lima. She even organized and directed a big fundraiser for the orphanage (involving the youth from our church), cleaned and organized their library, and put together personal hygiene kits. She kept a blog detailing her volunteer work as well, which she later used as part of her college submissions and for at least one school assignment. My oldest son and youngest daughter didn't take gap years, but each took time off from college to serve full time missions for our church. My son came back after his two year mission and returned to his university, more focused than before and with excellent study habits. My daughter finishes her 18-month mission this summer and her place is also being held at her university.

Phyllis said...

I think homeschoolers tend to look at their kids in a more individualistic way. Gap year is great for some, like my daughter (although it was years for her) but my don was ready for an academic life right away.

Ticia said...

There are also some amazing gap year programs out there that give teens a chance to work/serve and learn more about the world.