One of the things I love about homeschoolers is their long-term view of raising children. Beyond just getting them through the day or the week (though we have all faced those moments), many homeschool parents look ahead to when their children will need to support themselves as adults. As a part of that, many parents help their children prepare for the future by helping their students find apprenticeships or other situations to work with mentors in a field of interest. This provides the opportunity to “work to learn” in a hands-on way about their chosen field. They might work for no pay, minimum wage, regular pay, or just for special benefits - like free veterinary care for pets, for example. We encouraged our children to look for jobs and volunteer situations that played to their career interests, not just working at any old job to get a paycheck. If your child has not worked in the field that he believes he has an interest in, an apprenticeship is one of the best ways for him to learn about the interest, and to see if it really is what he wants to do with his life.
Our children have worked in a variety of situations, including veterinary assistant, computer teacher, website designer, and many areas in the political arena. One daughter began working with local veterinarians when she was twelve, traveling to farm calls, observing surgery, running checkups for cats and dogs, and restocking the veterinary clinic. She has worked with pocket pets, large animals and exotic species. And with her homeschool schedule, she was available during regular school hours, and could work on academics at other times.
Another daughter spoke to our state Senate on fair treatment for homeschoolers, and found a passion for the political process. Since the age of fifteen, she has volunteered for local, state, and national campaigns. She interned with the state political party last summer, and has interned with our Representative and a State Court Judge. As a college internship, she has worked in the office of the Speaker of the House during the legislative session, which led to becoming the assistant campaign manager for an incumbent state commissioner's campaign. By her early twenties, she has found not only her fervor for politics, but the specific areas in which she wants to gain more experience.
One of our sons, a very hands-on, no-sit, learn-his-multiplication-tables-while- running-in-circles-in-the-living-room-and- jumping-on-a-mini-trampoline type of person, found an aptitude for building and working on computers, teaching computer usage to children and adults alike, and building state-of-the-art websites. When a local businessman asked around at his church for a teen to build websites for his business, everyone referred him to our son, who was hired and worked in that position for a couple of years, until he landed the job of his dreams: as a computer help-desk technician with a large firm. God has been gracious to help us help him learn and find his niche. He's finishing his college degree taking online and night classes.
Our children are not extraordinary. This is very typical of homeschool children who have the time to learn their inborn gifts, develop their skills, become proficient, and gain experience while still in the high school years. They enter job situations with much experience under their belt, and a focus on where they want to go.
Now let's talk about interpreting their volunteer work into resume language.
The most important item to remember is that a job is a job, whether there is pay involved or not. Work is work. This can be large ongoing positions, or small short-term situations. Everything counts on a resume. Be creative (but truthful) in your descriptions.
There are three basic steps to interpreting their work into a good resume:
- Give the job a descriptive title
- Create a job description from work performed
- Obtain letters of reference
In order to give a job a descriptive title, think of all the work the student has accomplished. If they worked in an office, don't just title it secretary, or clerical worker, but call it office assistant, apprentice, computer technologist or data processor. You can look online or in career books to find the best current buzz-words to make a resume stand out.
To describe the work they did, be specific about the duties: organized and set up for meetings, made fund-raising phone calls, data entry and computer processing, coordinator for small banquets and meetings with clients. A good way to document this is to keep a journal of daily responsibilities. This can be simply the date and a list; save the descriptive language for the resume.
Whenever your student works - whether for you or for someone else - get a letter of reference to put in his file. This can be from a supervisor, a friend or a knowledgeable person qualified in the same field who has seen your student's work. Make sure to list the person's title or qualification after their signature. Some bosses will be relieved for you to write a paragraph about the job the student did, create a list of their good qualities, or write how the person knows them along with specific situations they worked together, or other pertinent information. Some bosses will have standard forms they'll fill out for you. If not, you can again find this information in books or online. Put these letters of reference in a file or notebook - and remember to always keep the original and give copies of the letter to anyone who needs to see it.
In conclusion, we can make the most of our student's flexible schedules during the High School years, observing them to help them discover their interests, gifts and abilities, then assisting them in finding a suitable apprenticeship situation to help them gain valuable experience. Our students will be ahead of their peers, and will stand out on future job interviews. And that's just one of the benefits of homeschooling.
Twenty-year homeschool veteran, author and speaker, Kym Wright pens the “Learn and Do” Unit Studies, written for or with her eight homeschooled children. You can visit her websites at www.KymWright.com and www.Learn-and-Do.com.