More and more high school graduates are choosing to take a year off after high school and before college. Even college students sometimes choose to take a leave of absence. So the question I get from many families is how to make the most of this time.
I’m so glad they ask! Many parents are worried that the year will be wasted time. But, if used wisely, this extra year can be transformational! So, I have put together a guide for making the most of this time.
First, let’s talk about the benefits of taking a year off. If you’ve already decided, scroll down for tips to make the most of the year.
The Benefits of a Gap Year
I recently talked with a mom who has a son that knows exactly what his interests are, what he’s really good at, and that he wants to travel right after high school.
I said, “That’s great! And then what?”
“Oh, he’ll probably go to college.”
“Cool! What’s he going to major in?”
“He doesn’t know.”
“Ok, what kind of work does he want to do?”
“He doesn’t know.”
This is very common. I often hear from parents, “My teen knows what they are interested in, but they don’t know how to turn it into a career, and it’s an area of interest I know nothing about!”
When it comes to racial injustice, I am no expert. It will be a constant journey of educating myself, growing from what I learn, and teaching my children as best I can.
In spite of my shortcomings, I wanted to find a way to help parents whose families are struggling as we watch what's unfolding this week. So, I found people who know better than I do and gathered resources that might be helpful to you.
It’s always a good idea, before you spend lots of time and/or money investing in a career, to do your research on the profession to make sure it is a good fit for you. There are a few ways I provide this opportunity to the young people I work with. One of which, I wanted to share with you today.
The podcast All Things College and Career, was created with the goal to provide a resource for all people that are researching careers, colleges, or academic majors.
Have your summer plans been upended? Because of this pandemic, many parents have recently expressed uncertainty about what to do with their kids all summer, while others are concerned about their teens' missing out on activities that strengthen college applications.
Although this summer vacation may not include volunteering or a typical summer job, it can still be a time for fostering self-discovery, growth, and independence. Check out these five ways that you and your teen can make the most of this summer.
Education today looks much different than it did a few short months ago. Many high-schoolers are sitting alone behind computers, instead of in classrooms filled with peers. We've been forced to rethink education. We've had to throw out the easy answers, the assumptions about "how things have always been."
This environment offers the perfect opportunity to question everything and really figure out what's right for every child. Some kids will be perfectly happy (and compliant) with online learning. Others might do better with hands-on activities, which require a bit more creativity and patience from parents. After all, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to education.
So why do we still take a one-size-fits-all approach to students after high-school graduation? We often assume that the natural path is to go on to a four-year university. But is that truly the right path for everyone?
Most of us have received the news that our kids won't be returning to school this year. This is jarring and upsetting for all of us, but especially for Seniors and their families. Graduating is a significant transition and there is often some grieving that takes place. Celebrating the milestones that happen during the spring semester of a senior year help make the grieving process more sweet than bitter. So to have Prom, Graduation, and for some, Birthday celebrations taken away makes the jarring end of the school year that much harder for seniors.
Regardless of the pandemic, these milestones deserve to be celebrated! I gathered some resources to help your family find ways to make these milestones special in spite of the quarantine.
Can you imagine your child getting to college, investing all that time and money for a few semesters, and then dropping out? A third of those who enter college will drop out. A third will finish in four years, and a third will finish in 6 years.
Students do not leave college “just because.” So, today I wanted to talk about the top reasons why students drop out and what you can do to help your child succeed.
Can you imagine your teen pursuing their future with drive and excitement? Can you imagine knowing that the path they chose will not only lead to a thriving life of financial security but also a life of fulfillment? For so many young people this isn’t the case.
Many teens get to graduation and just pick a school or a major because it’s what they are “supposed to” do, it’ll make them good money, or it’s what everyone else is doing. But there’s no purpose other than that and there’s no excitement for their future. Some get to graduation without making any decision at all.
This can lead to them feeling aimless in life, wandering through it hoping they will stumble upon their passion. These young people can often feel purposeless which can lead to depression or negative habits. They are often unmotivated, anxious, and sometimes angry. Or maybe it will lead to changing majors, which will cost time and lots of money for both them and you.
What can you do?
The good news is, all of this can be avoided! It is possible for your teen to craft their own unique definition of success that they are excited about. They can find occupations that are uniquely suited to who they are and what they value and then start taking the steps towards them with direction and purpose.
College is expensive! So, of course we all want to do our best to save some money. Most people look for ways to reduce costs, which you know I am all about.
What most don't realize is that many students have been blindsided with unexpected, surprise college costs that get added on top of what they were expecting.
You read that right...
Thousands of students get blindsided by $25,000, $50,000 or more on top of what they were already expecting to pay. For some, this has resulted in more loans and more debt. For others, this leads to dropping out. As a matter of fact, when college dropouts were surveyed, the number one reason for not completing their degree was costs.
Over the past few decades we’ve seen a doubling of the suicide rate among young people ages 15-24, a quadrupling of the suicide rate in children ages 15 and under, and five to eight times as many children suffering from major depression or a clinically significant anxiety disorder. Our current education system does not properly help students learn or practice the elements that lead to a physically or emotionally healthy life. The system even prevents it in a few different ways.
The success of a school shouldn't be measured by test scores. It is more important that students are able to manage their inner world, relate to their outer world, and find their place in the world. My research lead me to write the book, "What's the Point of School? Ed Transformation: A Matter of Life and Death." In this book I go into more detail about the history of public education and how it came to be designed the way that it is. I also go into detail about why it is to the detriment of our kids' well-beings if we continue with this Industrial design. The good news is that I also researched what we can do about it.
“What’s the Point of School?” outlines the Five Happy Healthy Elements that will guide students to becoming citizens who know themselves, know their communities, and know how to create a fulfilling and happy life based on their interests and skills. I suggest a starting point for a redesign of the system that will transform education for a thriving generation. I discuss a new way to view and talk about education that puts student well-being at the top of the priority list.
Yes, it may take a while for a complete transformation of our education system to happen. But you can get started in your own home today. You can ensure your kids lead thriving lives by following the Five Happy Healthy Elements. Below you'll find tips to get started, but first, let me introduce the Five Happy Healthy Elements to you.
Think back to 20 years, or even just 15 years ago. If someone told you that many students would go on to have jobs in social media marketing, would you have understood what that meant or how important a role they would be playing? How do we prepare kids for jobs in a future that we can’t predict? In contemplating this question there are a few things one would need to consider.
Education truly is the key to a better future for the world. But not in it’s current state. There are people and organizations doing wonderful things for education reform right now. Lots of things are happening towards influencing policy makers for change. However, we aren’t all necessarily on the same page. A very similar page perhaps, but not quite the same. Also, when people are so deeply inside a system it can be difficult to think outside the box. For example, let’s say the telephone didn’t change from 100 years ago. Then we ask Apple to apply the same kinds of tools and software of their iPhones to the same piece of hardware from 100 years ago. It would be a challenge and not the best option for our needs. I feel like that is what we are doing with our education system. The classroom has not changed in more than 100 years. We are trying with all our might to make it better, yet we are keeping the same structure for a society, economy, and technologies that don’t apply anymore. On top of all of this you have a system that takes quite a long time to make change. So, what do we do about it? I want to address both of these concerns.
This is a two part article. In this first part we will take a look at how we reimagine a system that truly works for our current society, the longterm. Then, in part two we discuss how to make this happen in a more timely fashion, the short term.
Last week, in part one of this article, we discussed a new goal for our education system, and we envisioned futures if we accomplish it. However, the question remains, “what do we do about it now?” Right now, parents are worried about their kids who are stressing about standardized test starting at age six. And teachers are not even able to do what they got into the profession for in the first place because their hands are tied with standards and regulations. What do we do for the kids who are there now?
“The most damaging phrase in the language is ‘We’ve always done it this way!’” - Grace Hopper
Why do we bother to go to school as children? What's the point of it? In other words, what is the goal of our education system?
There is little argument against education reform. No one would say we shouldn't make things better. However, when a system is relatively unchanged for more than a hundred years it can be very hard to “think outside the box.” There have been lots of changes within the system over the past several decades, but we need to reimagine the structure all together. Cars have drastically changed in the past century, phones are unrecognizable from a hundred hears ago. Yet, the classroom remains relatively the same.
PBS says the purpose of school is to prepare children for citizenship, cultivate a skilled workforce, and allow students to compete in a global marketplace. Consider for a moment if this is truly the goal and if our system is accomplishing this goal. If you were to ask a student today what they perceive the goal to be, would this be their answer? I decided to ask current high school students what they think the purpose of school is. So, I conducted a survey and was shocked at what they had to say. Here are just a few of their responses:
Many people agree that education transformation needs to take place. Many agree that we need to change the way we teach and the way we treat our teachers. My work strives to add a unifying goal to this movement. We need to change the reason why we go to school. Rather than testing, standardization, and college attendance, the goal should be...
Alex, a DC student participating in the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, was working on how to cook his favorite food - hamburgers - in space. Marsville, a colony he designed on the fourth planet from the sun, wouldn’t be complete without burgers. In order to solve this problem he began consulting with a British scientist. The scientist told Alex he would soon be visiting DC for a National Science meeting and suggested they do lunch. As Alex told his teacher this he began to cry. When she asked why he was crying he explained that he’d not told the scientist that he was only in the fourth grade and that he didn’t know what “do lunch” meant.
"Everybody can be great ... because everybody can serve." - MLK
You see it everyday in the news, someone who is different is told to go back to where they “came from.” A kid who is different is bullied, beaten, or worse. Someone down on their luck is told they deserve it. Why? Why do we allow this to be a reality in our world? And what does this have to do with education transformation?
As it turns out, compassion, empathy, and altruism, while biological traits, can also be taught and cultivated. It is also something that is fundamental to the survival of our species. It is what will lead to collaboration to tackle the problems that we all face on this globe. These traits will make the world a better place and lead to happier lives. Why not create a school system that values these traits over, or at least as much as, academic excellence?
First, a story from Dave Ramsey:
“Ben and Arthur were friends who grew up together. They both knew that they needed to start thinking about the future. At age 19 Ben decided to invest $2,000 every year for eight years.” This may seem like quite a bit but keep in mind this could be done by saving wages from a part time job while going to school. Back to Ramsey’s story. “He picked investment funds that averaged a 12% interest rate. Then, at age 26, Ben stopped putting money into his investments. So he put a total of $16,000 into his investment funds.
Now, Arthur didn’t start investing until age 27. Just like Ben, he put $2,000 into his investment funds every year until he turned 65. He got the same 12% interest rate as Ben, but he invested 23 more years than Ben did. So Arthur invested a total of $78,000 over 39 years.
When both Ben and Arthur turned 65, they decided to compare their investment accounts. Who do you think had more? Ben, with his total of $16,000 invested over eight years, or Arthur, who invested $78,000 over 39 years?
The health and wellbeing of a nation is at stake. Our current education system does not properly help students learn or practice the three elements that lead to a physically healthy life. The system even prevents it in a few different ways. Most people can guess the first two elements: Fitness and Nutrition. However, the third remains largely a mystery, yet it is just as important as the other two. Do you know what it is?
Let’s take a look at each in turn:
In my time working with high school students I visited schools of varying socioeconomic statuses and demographics. One thing was the same across the board, a lack of emotional regulation training. Despite the incredible benefits emotional health has on us physically and psychologically this kind of education is sorely lacking in society in general. Regardless of one’s socioeconomic status, religious background, or home life most of us aren’t taught how to manage our emotions. Developing the skills required to regulate your emotions and take control of your feelings is not easy. And, like other skills, it requires time and practice. These are also immensely important skills to have in order to be successful in future personal and professional relationships and environments. For these reasons, Emotional Health should be a priority in our education system.
Regulating our feelings and the thoughts that lead to those feelings is also known as self control. When you are able to control your emotions, your prefrontal cortex is more available for you to make good decisions.
According to countless studies, having self control correlates with:
With the state of the current education system, parents and students can sometimes forget that teachers aren’t the reason it has become what it is today. Just like students, they are trying to function within the system. In spite of current flaws they are attempting to best serve our kids. In order to find solutions, we need to better understand the teaching profession. We need to work with teachers to give our kids their best learning circumstances. Today I am proud to share an interview with a friend and teacher. Her unique perspective comes from a variety of education experiences, and she has graciously agreed to share views with us.
Thanks to Kristin for her time!
This week I'd like to give a big welcome to Play Therapist, Mary Stuart Neill. My family has enjoyed working with her and I am thrilled to share an article with you that she wrote just for us. This article is a simple how to for parents of young children. The type of play she instructs really allows a parent to get to know their small child's inner world. She also takes the time to share some great resources. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to either of us.
It's time to get back to the basics and play! Children benefit from the power of play in reducing stress and engaging in activity that allows for creative expression characterized by intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. Play provides an opportunity to enjoy the process without the pressure of an end result. Positive feelings accompany play experiences bringing forth smiles and laughter. Play is a child's natural language and it is through this authentic communication that they can teach parents about their inner world. Through play time with your child you will build a secure child-parent relationship which is an essential factor for children's well being. While spending time playfully with children of all ages is beneficial to the child-parent relationship, the special play sessions outlined in this blog are geared more toward ages 3-8.