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How Homeschool Families Tap Experts

Homeschool families choose a dramatically different educational path for their children than families who enroll their children in the traditional public or private school system. According to Nancy Nemoyer of Carlisle, PA, "We are independent do-it-yourselfers, experts at being creative and leveraging our resources, often within the financial parameters of a one-income family." Nemoyer has three sons, all homeschooled. One is in college. "Home educators are practical problem solvers in seeking out methods, activities and other experts that can enrich their children's learning and help them succeed."

But when it comes to helping their children with college major and career decisions, they may be just as overwhelmed as any other parent trying to tease out their children's interests and link them to college majors and meaningful career options.

In their key role as teachers, homeschool parents work more closely than most parents with their children. They also know when it is helpful to step back and get an objective third person perspective. That's when they may tap the knowledge and skills of an expert.

"The homeschool community is terribly underserved in the area of college and careers," according to Nemoyer. "We do not have anyone who can serve as a career consulting resource for us."

How do homeschool families benefit from the assistance of a career professional?

"We were concerned about preparing our children for college. It's daunting what has to be done. I feel a lot of pressure to help my daughter make good decisions," says Margee Simeo of Glen Ellyn, IL. Simeo has homeschooled her 6 children over the past 13 years. Her eldest, a daughter, is ready for college this year.

In 2008, Simeo collaborated with Career Vision to develop a program titled, "How to Help Your Homeschooled Teen with College Major and Career Decisions." This free Career Literacy program was subsequently presented for the parents and students of Simeo's homeschool support group. Just prior to this presentation, Simeo brought her daughter, then a high school junior, to Career Vision. "It was beneficial to have a third party - her consultant - identify her strengths, instead of just hearing it from me or my husband. The process increased Elizabeth's confidence in herself."

In addition to the list of career and related college major recommendations her consultant prepared for Elizabeth, Simeo gained some key insights for herself as a homeschool mother. "Even though I have been teaching my daughter for 13 years, I learned some new aspects about her learning style that were aptitude-based. Her results helped me understand some additional ways I could teach her more effectively. For example, I knew Elizabeth was creative, but learned that she needed some time to think and prepare before her ideas took off and she could begin writing an essay. We discovered that her concentration and focus is very strong, so I understood I should not worry when she listened to music while studying."

"I also learned that a favorite subject or college major does not make a career. So her career recommendations linked to potential majors gave us clear, practical options to explore in more depth," reports Simeo. "We also appreciated all the resources provided that would help us accomplish this."

Deborah Harris of Elmhurst, IL, is a homeschooling mother of six and agrees. "We have brought our four oldest children to Career Vision. We found that the guidance their consultants offer is not something you can find in your homeschool network. We got a more global view of our children's talents and broadened career options based on their capabilities." For some of her children, results confirmed a career path in which they had already shown interest; for others, the results opened up possibilities and new choices. "We felt the Career Vision process was thorough, enlightening and extremely cost-effective."

There are millions of homeschooled students in the U.S. today

The number of homeschooled students continues to grow. In its December, 2008 Issue Brief, the National Center for Educational Statistics, part of the U.S Department of Education, reported that there were 1.5 million homeschooled students in the U.S. in 2007. The Home School Legal Defense Association, the nonprofit advocacy organization established to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children and to protect family freedoms, places the number at 2 million.

Families often belong to locally-organized support groups and meet for social time, group activities, and field trips. Co-operatives, or co-ops, are arrangements where parents teach each others' students and volunteer hours are typically required.

Home educators use cost-effective college options

Home educators are more aware than most parents about cost-effective ways to obtain a college degree. Many are advocates of the College Level Examination Program® (CLEP), as well as AP® (Advanced Placement) tests. Offered through the College Board, which also offers the SAT® college entrance examination, CLEP and AP exams are an accelerated, economical and convenient way to earn credit. This can be accomplished through independent study, prior course work, on-the-job training, professional development, cultural pursuits, or internships.

Homeschool families also tap into the wealth of online distance learning courses from a variety of colleges and universities. A popular resource for homeschool families is College Plus!, a Christian-based coaching program that helps students earn their bachelor's degrees in less time and at a fraction of the cost. This is accomplished by working with a consultant to map out a plan using a combination of CLEP tests; DANTES, a program offered to military families through the U.S. Department of Defense; TECEP® Tests and Prior Learning Assessments (PLA) offered by Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, NJ.

Prior Learning Assessments, or experiential learning assessments, provide students with the opportunity to earn college credit for mastery of already acquired college-level knowledge in a specific subject area. This mastery may be acquired in non-traditional ways such as employment, volunteering, hobbies, travel or civic activities. In a 2007 Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) survey of college and university administrators, 66% reported that their institutions accepted prior learning assessments.

Since CLEP tests, TECEP tests and prior learning assessments are available to anyone, not just homeschooled students, these options are worth investigating as a supplement to traditional coursework on campus.

© Copyright 2009, Career Vision. Article may be reprinted with permission.

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