Building-Block Courses

| May 2, 2017

Studying core academic subjects is certainly at the heart of earning credits-by-exam. The academic skills practiced in preparing for CLEP and DSST exams overflows and prepares students for the rigor of future college classes. But, just as important to their academic education, is the instruction in areas that equip students in the areas of decision-making and resilient leadership. Help your step off the traditional path of college loans and instead walk towards academic and financial independence with instruction in these important skill areas.

7th Grade: Financial Literacy
Make this the year of financial literacy. As loving parents, we want our students to have it all: the best basketball shoes, fashionable clothing, a current laptop, a paid-for cell plan with unlimited texting. What we sometimes miss is that students don’t understand the cost of these items and they may even assume they are entitled to them.

Consider helping your student understand the role money plays in your own decisions and guide them to make wise financial choices. But to do that, they have to learn that money is a limited resource and sometimes difficult decisions have to be made. Having practiced making choices and even sacrifices to live within their means, students will be more inclined to be on board with your efforts to avoid college loans.

Starting in 7th grade, We gave my kids a clothing allowance that was distributed twice a year, October and May. From this, they were responsible to purchase all items for their wardrobe including socks and tennis shoes. The only exceptions were swim suits and winter coats which were replaced every-other-year and I paid half. The budgeted amount you set in your family should be low enough so that your student has to struggle with making choices.

No more running to the mailbox in just socks or tromping in the woods in their new shoes. Or if they did, it didn’t bother me anymore, because it was their dime they were wearing out. They also didn’t leave sweatshirts at youth group functions or mittens at the skating rink. They valued what they owned.

Seventh grade was also the year each of our kids earned money for their labor. For each child, this process looked different, but for all, a valued lesson. My oldest son and I partnered to create a state history game that actually went to market and was sold at local retail outlets. Together we learned the basic steps of creating and registering a business, creating a marketable product, packaging and website design, and retail and wholesale sales. My daughter and I opened an Avon business for one year and she learned how to track accounting entries, handle money and enjoyed spending her profits. My last son earned money by working at a locally-owned greenhouse and was mentored by the owner.

Once the value of a dollar is established, springboard into teaching investing. We really enjoyed the Motley Fools Investment guide for Teens book. It’s a radical model to today’s spend-now, pay-later culture. The goal is to help them understand that while college is a worthwhile investment, it is not worth 10 years of repayment on loans.

8th Grade: Critical Thinking
Eighth grade is a perfect year for exposing your student to various marketing techniques, fallacies in logic, persuasion techniques, and methods of reasoning and evaluating. If we teach our students to think analytically, then we are giving them the foundation to be leaders, rather than followers.

We used to assign everyone the task to be on the lookout for fallacies and be ready to share at the dinner table. There are several good curricula available that are age-appropriate. Choose one and get the whole family involved.

9th Grade: Career Exploration
Most college students end up changing their major at least once and over half work in areas outside of their major. It is not ideal, but understandable since most students are left to simply find their way without a plan or guidance. Let’s change that! Focus this year on helping your student explore career options by conducting several (at least 8) Informational Interviews. Talking with people who are actually working in a job you find interesting to gain first-hand knowledge about that career area. This realistic preview will provide insights to increase your students’ confidence in making college and career decisions.

Not even sure how to narrow down career areas to put on your short list? Start with Career Assessments for students over 15. For a younger students, tap your friends or relatives. Use this Career Wheel as a starting point. Students can often include or exclude at least two colors on the wheel. Don’t think they have to have it figured out before conducting Informational Interviews. The process itself will help students define a future direction.

Help your student prepare a script and either make a phone call or send an e-mail asking for 20 minutes of the person’s time to answer a few questions. Make sure to arrive on time, dressed in a nice outfit, questions arranged and neatly written out on a note pad. Wondering what to ask? Simply Google Informational Interview for ideas. Students should have practiced their handshake, introduction, smile, eye contact, and exit thank you. Wear a watch and never go over time, even if the interviewee politely says it is okay. Always follow up with a handwritten thank you note.

I taught a class of 9-12th grade homeschool students where each student was asked to conduct Informational Interviews as part of their quest to define career areas of interest. The result was nothing short of remarkable. Adults are eager to help respectful engaged students. After a few interviews, students will often have a greater understanding of how to eliminate career options that are not good fits and will have polished their employment interviewing skills as well.

10th grade: Leadership
Make this year’s goal an opportunity for your student to engage in leadership activities. It looks completely different being in charge versus being a member or a group. Consider having your student teach music lessons, dance, drama or sewing. Have them prepare and deliver lessons in Sunday School or a club they are involved in, such as Civil Air Patrol or 4-H. Put together a short basketball-skills camp or craft class or offer tutoring in an area you are gifted in and volunteer to lead at the local Boys and Girls Club or YMCA.

If you student does not already have a part time job, also look for a volunteer opportunity in an area where your individual efforts are noticed. Besides building their transferable skills (listening, learning new procedures, communicating, providing and hearing constructive criticism, etc), volunteering is a great way begin building a network and to rub shoulders with someone who might be a future employer.

Please share this article with friends and introduce them to Credits Before College.  

Copyright©2017 Cheri Frame – All Rights Reserved

Category: Blog, Building Blocks

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