It's a fear every parent knows, but homeschool parents might feel it more: Will my children be able to find a meaningful career ... that they love ... that will allow them to support themselves (and maybe a whole family)?
Of course, we can't force young adults to take any particular route, but we can be a loving coach that helps them discover good options. With some forethought and planning, we can help prepare them to land on a great track.
As John and I helped each of our four children (Amy, Luke, Jonelle and Justin, now adults) find their paths, we paid attention to four things. I thought I'd encourage you with these, and then I'll suggest a few resources at the end:
- Talents: When Luke begged for a video camera as a boy, we could tell he had an eye for framing and telling a good story. So we bought him one and watched him take off. He used that tool all the time. While children certainly have a huge learning curve when they undertake new endeavors, it was clear Luke had talent for media and filmmaking.
- Skills: When Jonelle started art classes in high school, she clearly had talent. But she went further than that and carefully cultivated the skills she would need to be a great artist. That took lots of patience and slow, hard work. If a child has talent, but doesn't want to take the time to develop the skills in a field, that field probably isn't the right fit.
- Desires: This is obvious, but worth digging deep into. What do your children want to do? What do they have a drive to do? Sure, Amy could have been an excellent high school English teacher. But she had zero desire to pursue that route. No sense in pushing our children into something they'd truly hate. There are enough options out there that we can probably find something they would enjoy and be successful at. Check out the resources below for ideas to help you in this quest.
- Personality: This one is huge. My husband John had always wanted to be a pastor. But after finishing his M.Div. and starting his first pastoral job, it became painfully clear that he doesn't have the personality for it; his true gifts lie elsewhere. I wish we had faced that reality sooner. Our son Justin, at one point, wanted to be an aerospace engineer (i.e., a rocket scientist). But he is the most extroverted, outgoing person I know. His attention is usually directed in 15 different ways at once. He would probably be bored to tears with the day-to-day work of an engineer. So we dreamed up other possibilities. And, from looking at personality profiles with him, it became clear that he has the magnetic persona perfect for sales and entrepreneurial positions. And that is the path he's followed - to his great fulfillment.
A helpful resource
In addition to any local mentors and resources you can find, I highly recommend Sonlight's College and Career Planning course for your high schoolers. It will help them identify their talents, skills, desires and personality. It will help spur conversations with you about their dreams, and will encourage them to be both inspired and practical about their decisions. It also includes very practical step-by-step guidance regarding college admissions for homeschoolers. (And yes - homeschoolers can get into college just as easily as other students. Some colleges even prefer homeschoolers because they know these students will come in ready to learn.)
How my children's stories turned out
If you're curious, Luke did end up going into film. He majored in film at Biola University and now works as a media specialist for Sonlight. He filmed and produced the ever-popular MathTacular series, and even runs a free online film school on the side.
Jonelle got a scholarship to art school. We knew it'd be extremely difficult to make a living as a "traditional" artist living off of commissions and art shows, but we could see that her art and communication skills combined would serve her well as a graphic designer. She majored in graphic design and worked for an ad firm after school, as well as a designer for Sonlight for a while. She now stays at home and homeschools her three children, and also helps me on the curriculum development side of things at Sonlight.
Amy graduated with a degree in Literature. After several years living a suburban life with her engineer husband and their children, she and her husband Phil both felt a strong, clear calling to move to Virginia and start a homestead farm on unbroken land. They knew they had the personalities for such a difficult endeavor. (They both have unbounded energy and a deep love of learning new things.) So they took the plunge and became farmers. Amy and her husband now homeschool their five boys and farm the land. Amy contracts on a part-time basis to help develop curriculum for Sonlight. She has also followed God's call to use her shepherding and hospitality gifts to offer her house as a safe haven to nearby university students, who come over for impromptu prayer, discussion, guidance and love.
Justin has jumped around to several different jobs since college. He's found he loves entrepreneurial work, but it still waiting to break into whatever big thing will be his life's work.
Room for change along the way
As you can see, the first job out of college does not determine everything. Your children have a LOT of room for change along the way. Unlike my generation, the generation coming into the workforce now is likely to change careers multiple times throughout their working life. So one of the best gifts we can give our children is a love of learning and the confidence that they can learn and master new endeavors.
And as a parting word, I also heartily recommend that we teach our children (boys and girls) homemaking skills. The transition to adulthood is hard enough as it is. Let's give them the skills to be able to cook, clean, handle their finances, know how to maintain a car, etc. before they leave the home. As food for thought, check out a Sonlight mom's recent post: 7 Skills My Kids Won't Be Leaving the Nest Without.
What do you think? What are your biggest concerns with helping your children find their careers? Have you found resources to help?
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