Jo wants to be a veterinarian. If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know this to be the case. Ask the child to pick a book--at random--to read, and it will most likely be about animals in some way, shape, or form. Give her free reign of the day's plans, and you just might end up in a barn somewhere. Allow her to write freely on a topic of her choosing and yes, it will probably be related in some way to a four-legged friend.
This is an almost-life-long obsession. It started when she was 3, and has run rampant since then. From "I want to be an animal doctor," we have progressed to this: "I want to study large animal medicine so that I can be a field missionary that uses animals as their primary tool to opening the doors to unreached people groups."
So yeah, she's got what you might call "goals." :-)
Being faced with a child like this--a child with drive, vision and determination--sometimes leaves me at a loss as a homeschooler. Educating Jo can--at times--feel like loading cars on to a train that's already speeding to its destination. The problem? I'm supposed to be the conductor!
What I've wanted, more than anything, as we began to take our first tentative steps onto the high school loading platform, was a guide. A real guide. Something to hold my hand in a general way, yes ... but something that held specific information, too. Unfortunately there is not, to my knowledge, a book out there called "How to Homeschool Your Child to a Fruitful Calling as a Missionary Veterinarian."
Trust me--if the book existed, I would own it.
Instead, I own what I think just might be the next best thing: The Complete Career, College, and High School Guide for Homeschoolers, by Jill Dixon at Educational Diagnostic Prescriptive Services. (Ebook $26.20, hard copy $39.95)
This book replaces the role of a high school guidance counselor; instead of sitting in a wood-paneled closet of an office across from a school employee who has has no relationship with your child beyond the set of test scores he or she has in front of him, you--the parent educator--administer a series of common sense, revealing personality and interest tests and seek to discover (together!) how to match gifting with calling.
The tests are typical of what you'd expect to find in a career-planning guide, but with a twist: this author believes wholeheartedly in God's plan for a person's life, and the overarching theme of calling and equipping is present on every page. Even a child like Jo, who seems to be set in a particular direction, can uncover some truths about herself using the diagnostic quizzes. For example, Jo scored extremely low on the auditory learning assessment. This allowed us to discuss specific strategies for learning situations where there's no printed material available-- a skill that is vital learn when you're eyeing a college career.
After the tests are taken and scored, the book moves on to what I think is its most vital function: listing potential careers that match up with specific areas of giftedness, and then outlining a course of study that will best prepare a child to enter that field. Suggested classes start as early as middle school, depending on the degree of specialty.
And this is truly where the book shines in its service to homeschool parents. How often have you looked at your son, whose leanings are clearly in the mechanical engineering end of things, and wondered exactly what level of math he might need to be best prepared for college? How often have you watched your daughter throw herself into party planning and thought that there just might be a future home-based business there, if only you knew what direction to point her in?
The author of this book clearly believes that a degree isn't for everyone. Careers listed range from highly technical fields requiring doctorates to simple services that, while often overlooked, are worthy employment capable of feeding a family just fine. She also encourages balance for both sexes in the selection of a career, urging women to consider how a job might impact their future family while asking a young man to weigh family obligations against the lure of a high-paying job that requires weekly travel. This kind of eye to the future is often missing from career guides, and helps even the parents of homeschooled kids check our own ambitions at the door. Sure, your little genius may just be able to pull off an 80 hour-pre-week corporate lawyer gig in D.C. But, just curiously ... who's going to raise your grandkids?
I love the practical, reassuring information contained in this book. Flipping through its pages reminds me that although the high school years must necessarily be a time of narrowing of vision, they should also be a time of self-discovery and growth. Using the tips and plan laid out here, I think Jo and I will enjoy her high school years. Sure, we'll be spending a lot of time cutting open formaldehyde-laced pigs and eyeballs ... but it will be a good season. We know where we're going, we know how to get there. And any book that can help me to relax and enjoy that ride is welcome in my home.