As students reach upper high school, parents suddenly find themselves in a quandary. What should be required of this almost-adult family member who seemingly has too much to do and not enough time to do it? We don’t want to jeopardize their future academically, yet we don’t want to raise self-centered snobs, either. When time is at a premium, it is important to select those things that promote the most growth, the best return for the investment. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you determine how your child will spend their last years of high school:
Work Considerations – Some teens must be gainfully employed to pay for their AP classes, their music lessons, or even to put food on the family table. When this is the case, college admissions officers are cheering them on, not penalizing them. This kind of work is a valuable character builder and will serve our children well. Of course, we should explain this in the application, but that is not a hard thing to do.
At the other side of the spectrum are kids working just to make new car payments or to put gas in that car to go to the mall or working at a clothing store and spending their entire salary on the newest fashion. This is shortsighted thinking that can penalize our kids’ future earning potential.
Then there are the students who have major responsibilities to keep their family functioning– babysitting while parents hold down outside jobs, running errands, helping younger siblings with school or activities, or cleaning house. If this is a necessity for the family to continue operating, colleges understand that, provided we explain it well.
Academic Considerations – For any student who aspires to a selective college, it is crucial to have four years in each of the core subject matter areas: English, math (through calculus), science, social studies/history, foreign language and some electives. A student needs 4-6 AP classes or other college level classes, if possible. They need to take the SAT or ACT and 2-3 SAT Subject tests (if they are required by the student’s college picks). Teens need to take a rigorous route that will challenge them, but not so much as to cripple them. This looks different for every child and there is no formula.
Training a Human Being – Combined with school requirements and work obligations is a third and most important part of life, learning to think about the needs of others. It seems that no one ever does well when the world revolves around them. If we place our kids on a pedestal, safeguard them from bruises, expect nothing of them, protect their time and activities, we can suddenly find that we don’t know them any longer and may realize that we don’t particularly like them.
If kids are under your roof, they are still a part of your family and still need to be functioning as such. They need to be active in keeping your home running, serving their church and community, basically helping life work for the greater good. Lest you fret about the effect this will have on their academic performance, let me explain how this works. What often happens is that an activity (studying, writing a paper, etc.) will expand to fill the time available. If a student has two hours budgeted, it will take two hours. If the schedule gets tighter to just one hour (because it is the student’s turn to fix supper for the ill neighbors or help a little brother with piano practice), then it will get done in an hour. They will learn to be more efficient. And, the habits of their heart are also being trained.
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