How in the world do I homeschool a high school senior who is headed off to college?!
By Brad Beckstrom
Our youngest son is a senior in high school. On March 13, 2020, his senior year ended. Like most schools around the world, his classes ended due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. His school district is fortunate in that it’s well-funded and all the students have laptops. However, not everyone has the Wi-Fi speed needed to utilize some of the cumbersome online tools and video conferencing. The school district has decided to provide remedial material for students to improve their grades through three semesters. There will be no final semester, no finals. And seniors will have their grades locked in through the first three semesters unless they opt to improve them through remedial work.
We all know that sort of sucks, especially for a high school senior headed off to college. With no fourth-quarter grades and remedial work optional for A students, I didn’t see much being done over the next few months.
I know that it’s important to establish routines for the family especially during difficult times like this global pandemic. My wife and I talked about it and we had a few options. We could have him review the remedial material, but that material would not be tested on and would not impact his final grade.
So, I chatted with my son about it and we came up with the idea of life learning. We would call it the School of Life, not Dad School which was my weak initial idea for it. The school would not be perfect, especially since I would be the primary instructor. It would have some big benefits though, there would be no homework, no tests, and the school would only last about 30 minutes a day with occasional follow-up tasks that would not be graded. We would start at the same time each day and the topics would be open-ended.
There is no required reading or essays, just information sharing. I decided just to create an open-ended list that we would add to as part of each class.
Now comes the hard part. What the heck do I know that I can teach my son? I sat down and I thought about what college life might be like for him. Especially in the new normal where there will be more online classes, more distance learning, and digital communication. He will also be on his own for the first time so I wanted to make sure we cover plenty of skills that are useful as he heads off to college including, of course, personal finance.
I decided to start simple. Something I’ve always been good at which is workflow. Basically setting up some daily planning and to-do lists. Since he is using a Mac, I decided to share tips on some of the applications that come built-in to the Mac including email, reminders, browsers, keynote presentations and pages, documents, spreadsheets, and more.
Since I know the future of school and work will be largely cloud-based, we will spend some time refreshing on Google docs and how to use cloud-based apps like Dropbox and Evernote. We will be working on how all of this syncs with his iPhone and cloud applications.
Luckily my son has been on a Mac for years so some of this will be remedial for both him and me. But that’s the whole point of it. We’re reviewing some of the most important tools he will be using in college. Just the act of working together to solve some tech challenges like password management, app syncing, and cloud applications is a great start.
Once we work our way through the technology and get his computer set up for college, we will get into the meat of the program which includes everything from philosophy to spirituality, personal friendships, relationships, and the highly complex topic of women. We will also bring in some guest lecturers including Mom and his 21-year-old brother who is graduating from college who will be able to share some secrets.
There are some big topics here but that’s fine. We’re going to tackle them in small bites and the ones we struggle with we will be able to revisit. There is no set syllabus, just open discussion and learning.
I’ve signed him up for some daily and weekly emails we can review together. I’ve included Seth Godin, James Clear, and 5 AM Joel. We don’t review all of these together but at least once or twice a week there are some great nuggets or quotes that we can start a discussion on.
We all have different strengths and skills. I think the most important elements are to set up some routines and spend time with kids during the pandemic. Whatever’s in your wheelhouse, teach that. Some days you can just have a conversation. Not everything needs to be a specific topic or off of a to-do list.
The cool thing is in thinking about what to talk about you, will revisit some old skills, and think up some new ones you’d like to explore.