Grace for Holiday Family Gatherings

This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Grace for Holiday Family Gatherings.

Grace for Holiday Family Gatherings

Grace for Holiday Family Gatherings

We love having homeschooling siblings to journey along with and have adventures with and learn from. We all learn from each other and discuss all of the things that can be a part of the homeschool high school experience. Every family is different, so embrace what we say all the time: there is not just one right way to homeschool. There are so many right ways to homeschool high school- especially during the holidays

A big piece of what we are doing in high school is preparing our teens for adulting. They are going to have a life after graduation. Yes, it may be hard to believe it sometimes, but they are. That is a big piece of what we want those high school years to be doing. And building character, communication skills and relational skills is very important, though it sometimes gets overlooked from high school. 

Did you know there are different kinds of social situations that can be really great character-building experiences for our teens? And since the holidays are upon us, holiday family gatherings are likely in your near future. Here are some ways to equip your teens for these kinds of situations as well as monitor our own character during family gatherings or extended family get-togethers or even just social settings we all have been a part of from time to time.

Building Grace For the Holiday Family Gatherings

Because of national health issues, getting together, especially during the holidays, has been tougher than ever. And it is so vitally important that we be with other people and find ways to gather, to build relationships, celebrate with, communicate with, share a meal, and all those wonderful things. Oh, sharing a meal is such powerful stuff! 

But we have to do it where people have varied degrees of comfort with how close they are to other people. It can be very tricky. So let’s help our teens and ourselves learn how to build grace into our character while approaching these gatherings intentionally, with a level of sensitivity, while we navigate the room with extra people in it.

Plan ahead for ways to manage difficult conversations.

Tips To Build Grace For the Holidays

When you get together with family, especially extended family, you usually have different versions of what is the right thing to do. In a gathering, is not it funny how we can share a lot of DNA and have very different opinions? 

That should be navigated graciously rather than trying to fix the difficult people that are around you and make them “do it right” or “think it right.” Instead, model Christ-like behavior.

1. Check yourself on your assumptions about people.

We think we know all about our family before these extended gatherings since we’ve known them our whole lives, right? So we think we already know what’s going on with them and know how they can be. It’s like we have a backstory about each person in our minds.

One quote comes to mind:

But there’s nothing worse than knowing that you know just to prove that you know absolutely nothing. – Unknown

In reality, you actually have no idea what is going on in somebody else’s head or in their private life, especially if you don’t see them very often. But you think you know them, and you judge them the moment they do something that you don’t agree with. 

To form gracious assumptions is to take a moment before the gathering and tell yourself:

I am going to assume there’s a good reason for whatever anybody does at this gathering. Perhaps there’s a good reason I know nothing about it.  And if I need to ask about it because I actually need that information, I will do that respectfully. But I will not allow myself to fill in all the blanks in that person’s story because I don’t really know what they’re going through.

So before you even go to the event, agree to intentionally not make assumptions about the other people there.

2. Give them grace even if you think they’re wrong.

So how do we behave when people are not doing it right? One of the things that is our natural response when people are not thinking the right way (because clearly we are the right ones – we are always right) is to let our blood pressure rise while getting an angry face, an irritated posture and start correcting.

We can talk to our teens and model the plan ahead. That is, when people do not do something right, we must still behave with grace towards them.

De-escalate the nonverbals during this time, which will teach your teens how to do that by mirroring your behavior. Have your teen lower their voice while talking a bit more deeper. Then have them bring their shoulders down as well, not up to their ears. See if they can practice a calm exterior. 

3. Practice redirection.

Redirection is a beautiful tool. When things are awkward, just redirect the conversation towards a different topic. 

You could bring humor into the conversation by making a silly little joke at your own expense, such as saying something funny about yourself or making fun of yourself in a funny way. And before you know it, the uncomfortable or awkward topic is gone. Whatever it was that was a problem is a problem no longer. 

Just never aim that “funny expense” at others!

4. Know what your mean face looks like!

In other situations, humans have mirror neurons, so they tend to mimic what they see on other people’s faces. And it happens before you think. For example, when somebody says something kind of stupid and they have their mean face on, your face is going to want to do a mean face too. But if you already know what your calm face is, you can intentionally put on your calm face.

And then people can pick up on their mirror neurons, your calmness, and they will feel some calm too. 

It also helped to look in the mirror. They can say:

When I am really mad, this is my face. And when I’m putting on my game face, I’m putting my game face on for the relatives. It’s my calm face. 

Therefore, while your teens are in the moment, they can do that and behave gracefully towards them.

5. Stay calm.

Sometimes you might witness a person’s behavior crossing the line into abuse. For example, you see someone in one generation who is cornering someone in the younger generation. This is bullying. 

When you need to step in, you can step in very calmly. You might want to start off with saying, “Hey, you can’t talk to them like that. Listen to yourself. You’re being a bully,” even if it is true and honest, but don’t. Unfortunately, it is not going to be very helpful to diffuse the situation. 

Instead, handle things calmer and with the redirection skill we mentioned earlier. Say something like:

  • How about we take a break and see what’s left on the appetizer table? Cause this isn’t really making anybody feel festive.
  • Let’s take a break. How about we do something else for a while?

But you may need to intervene in a situation that is not good, and if so, you can do it without getting upset yourself by projecting calm. This occurs when you stay calm during a heated moment and extends the illusion of authority by being the calmer person.

What may also help a heated situation to add grace for holiday family gatherings is talking in a calm voice with the calm nonverbals. This makes you the one that’s the power broker, since being calm is actually power. You will be stepping in and doing a calm rescue, which will likely cause the bullying person to feel a bit lost or embarrassed. Regardless,  they will go settle themselves down somewhere else.

6. Take a deep breath.

Know that all of this calmness comes from a place of taking a deep breath. It may not fix absolutely everything in the universe, but it is fundamental to being gracious, to behaving graciously, and even to thinking graciously. Because if you are breathing shallowly with a tight chest and throat, you’re not getting enough oxygen for your brain to even be functioning at its best.

Take huge, deep breaths before you respond in any way to anybody.

7. Engage in something positive.

Find a new activity even for just a minute to save the grace for holiday family gatherings! In fact, if you can plan ahead before you go to your get-together.

Your kids can make pleasant, engaging conversations with the older family members by asking them to tell their life stories. What was it like in the old days?

By doing this, your teens could log this down as history too! Engage the older ones in storytelling or bring some cards and play a card game. Do things that keep people from just sitting down. This will help lessen any anxiety in the air, and it will create positive engagement experiences.

8. Understand that relationships are more important than opinions.

It helps us grow in grace when we recognize relationships are more important than opinions. God has those beautiful, strong relationships in place, and family is vitally important. Therefore, recognize those relationships are not worth losing over opinions, even over opinions that you hold very dearly. 

Simply agree to disagree – you’re going to be family at the end of the day. You can overlook lots of other things and still respect them as an individual.

9. God and grace.

God and grace brings it all home. You can tell your teens:

Sometimes in life, you’re going to need to intentionally do something to facilitate relationships being protected and strengthened. And it is worth it. It’s worth it every time. 

Having grace for holiday family gatherings is a good time for your kids to learn life skills, which as we said, you can even log as a couple history hours while you’re at it! 

BTW- If you want to keep up some of the homeschooling during the holidays, check this post.

Thanks to Richie Soares with Homeschool and Humor for transcribing this episode.


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Choosing Extracurriculars for Homeschool High School

This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Choosing Extracurriculars for Homeschool High School.

Choosing Extracurriculars for Homeschool High School

Choosing Extracurriculars for Homeschool High School

Teens love the adventures of homeschool high school extracurriculars. As their homeschool parents, we decide whether we want to count things as electives or extracurriculars. But how do we know what is an elective and what’s an extracurricular? 

Choosing Extracurriculars for Homeschool Vs. Electives

We know it is not just about the grades when you are counting something as an elective. But there is a thin, yet blurry, line between electives and extracurriculars. Here is how to tell the difference:

For Electives

You could be choosing something because of the choice of major or interest in college your child has. 

If you have a child that is college bound and they want to have their transcript looking competitive, you can have electives that show they have done rich work in their area of interest

  • For example, if they want to be a physics major, they would do electives in that area, like extra sciences.
  • If they were going to be a music major in college, then they would do electives in music. And so they put that on the transcript in the subject section.

Also, you will need to track elective credits by logging hours and document them so that you can show all that you have done. You need supporting documentation what what you have accomplished because it is tied to the college of interest or major of interest your child has and will support that.

For Extracurriculars

If you are simply showing off how much was time spent on fun things outside class like sports teams – those could go under extracurriculars instead.

Transcripts can also have an extracurricular section where you put things that are not necessarily competitive for college as far as subjects go. Extracurriculars just show how your child is able to be involved in the community. It shows that they pick an idea and explore it, have connections with other human beings, and they are committed to a cause. 

Extracurriculars show the richness of your child’s personality, and because of that, they do not go under the subject part of the transcript. Instead, they go at the bottom of the transcript in a section called “Extracurriculars,” and it should detail which years your child did them because some colleges really want to know there has been a commitment to an interest.

Even if you have a child who is just workforce bound, go ahead and put extracurriculars on the transcript too. Because a transcript is like a scrapbook that you look back over later in life – you get it out and you say to yourself, “Oh, he did a really cool job in high school! And it’s all right here on this paper.” If you did it, record it.

Even though you may want to record extracurriculars, like we mentioned for work, you do not have to do that kind of supporting documentation like you would for electives. You can simply make a note of it on their transcript, but you don’t have include all the details for extracurriculars, not like electives.

Ideas for choosing extracurriculars for homeschool high school are endless

Tips For Extracurriculars For Homeschool High School

Ideas for choosing extracurriculars for homeschool high school are endless! Teens can do:

And they are great for parents too! It is a great way to plug into the community and meet some lifelong friends and also acquaintances. It always nice to get to meet some of your children’s friends, too, don’t you think? We homeschool moms can make friends, too. 

Don’t “Over School” Things

Sometimes we homeschool moms get fairly accused of turning everything into school because all of life is learning. And it is! But the fact that it is all learning does not mean we should turn all of it into rigid schoolwork. 

We do not want to over-school some things, so it is quite possible for you to add an extracurriculars just for the fun social aspect of it, which would make it not feel too “schooly.” Extracurriculars give kids a chance to experiment a little bit with other kids and try on some hats or fill in gaps. Because of this, there’s not one right way to choose extracurriculars. 

Choosing sign language as an extracurricular, for example, does not come across the same way as learning a world language the traditional way. 

Don’t Stress About The Transcript

Do not stress about what the transcript looks like! You can move things around, and they don’t have to stay the way you originally wrote it on the transcript. 

For instance, if you do not like a subject as an elective, you can bump it down to an extracurricular. Or if it is an extracurricular and then it suddenly turns into a real interest – like a career exploration thing – you can bump it out of the extracurricular place and put it down as an elective. 

Do not change it after they graduate – do not make it look suspicious. You have four years to scoot things around as your kids grow. Take a breath and just let life happen.

The transcript should not just be some pre-made thing that you are checking off to make sure that you have all the things done that are required by some authoritarian person somewhere who makes up a bunch of rules.

Transcripts are meant to capture the learning that takes place in high school – exactly like our scrapbook we mentioned earlier – except it is just a little line of text instead of pages and pages of photos and memories. It is like a scrapbook at a glance of all the learning that took place in those four years, so you get to be a little flexible with it. 

Nothing Is Ever Wasted

Even if kids do extracurriculars to fill in the gaps, they can still use all that richness they learned in those things in various ways for the rest of their lives. Nothing is ever wasted!

If you have a child who is interested in small engine repair or auto mechanics, for example, extracurriculars allow them to dabble in some vocational training without having to really commit to it.

Choosing Extracurriculars for Homeschool High School

Extracurriculars are not just places for your teen to do something fun, but they are also for you as the homeschool parent to take off some pressure and just allow yourself to dabble and explore and try new, fun stuff.

They help our kids become well-rounded and connected, causing them to breathe deeply in between some of the times when they are working real hard and getting a little anxious about things.

All of life provides opportunity for learning, and the extracurriculars are a fun and relaxed arena for a few specific kinds of learning. Embrace them and lean into them. Talk to your kids about what they might be interested in trying. 

When planning extracurriculars:

Do not just pick things just to pick things, like a local class because it is simply local or doing the thing that the older sibling picked, or even choosing the thing that you wish you had done when you were a teen and never tried. Talk to your teens! 

They may not get a whole lot of say in what math they are going to do next year, but extracurriculars are a great place for them to have a lot of say. Have conversations with them and just have fun with it. Some of your extracurriculars might end up just being lifelong hobbies, or they might be a way that you meet a great friend. 

Thanks to Richie Soares with Homeschool and Humor for transcribing this episode.


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Seven Ways to Earn High School Credits

This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Seven Ways to Earn High School Credits.

Seven Ways to Earn High School Credit

Seven Ways to Earn High School Credits

Some parents who are homeschooling a high schooler may be wondering how in the world they can earn a high school credit? Is there just one way or are there other ways? Well, you may or may not know this, but there are in fact seven different ways to earn high school credits! Your child will be building a valuable transcript for their high school years before you know it.

7 Ways to Earn Credits In High School

Because there are seven different ways to earn credits in high school, that means there is not one “right” way to homeschool your high schooler and therefore not one right way to earn credits as well.

You can choose from a variety of different topics. For instance, you might have a textbook you would like to use for math, and then you might want to do independent study for history. These would count for your credits. 

You can use all these different, creative ways to earn credits for different subjects, for all kinds of learners, and to meet your family needs.

Textbook Credits

The classic way to earn credits for homeschool high schoolers is with a textbook. If you read the textbook description, it will usually tell you how much credit is earned when teens complete the work of that textbook. 

And usually with textbooks, there’s associated tests or assignments that they do. When they’ve completed all that work, they have either earned half a credit or a full credit.

Online Courses

Another way to do that is to do some online courses. There are two kinds of online courses:

  • Live online courses: If you have a subject you want your teens to learn from somebody else, this is a good way to do that. It also puts the responsibility for getting that information to your teens onto someone else. They can teach your teen in a way that might even be more understandable than you could do, or even more understandable than you’re interested in doing it (which is totally okay by the way!).
  • Self-Paced courses: One-off courses are also available where the courses are not live but instead are self-paced. Teens just simply go online and take the course on their own schedule in their own time. This is great for teens who like to study late in the veenings or want to knock out a chunk of school or credits really quickly.

You can find a few places online right now that have online course academies for teens! Places such as True North Homeschool Academy, Funda Funda Academy, and Dreaming Spires Home Education are just a few of them.

Also, our 7Sisters course, Psychology, is self-paced which is perfect to go on a high school transcript. But keep your eyes open for more!

College Classes

Another way to earn credits is with college classes. So very often local areas, like community colleges, will make teens wait until they are juniors or seniors. And sometimes teens can do online courses through a university a little bit younger than that.

Just check with the different schools around your area. If you get to something that you just don’t want to teach, or that your teens have outgrown the information you have available for them, then they may be ready to take a course college level. 

Independent Study

Another way to earn credits for our homeschool high schoolers is independent study. We very simply call that logging hours because it’s just so clear what teens are going to do. 

For example, let’s say you have a teenager who loves history. They just want to learn everything they can about a specific topic in history, like maybe the World Wars or the Colonial Era fashion. They can simply just study and learn everything they can from valid websites on the internet and library books and field trips and crafts and cooking, and just all kinds of online and in-person experiences. These make rich electives on the transcript.

And your teen will log the hours down. They will write down what they did on a certain day and how long they did it until they reach a Carnegie unit credit.

Side Note:

If you go to the Carnegie website, generally they’ll say it is 120 hours of instruction, but each state has adapted that to their own wish. Like in our area, a Carnegie credit for teens is 135 hours of education or instruction, which is about average. But some states need 180, so make sure you look at your state’s Department of Education site or check HSLDA. Both should tell you how many equals a credit, but you should aim for at least 120. 

The good thing about that is teens can earn a credit in anything that is meaningful to them. The tough thing is they have to remember to log that. Sometimes you may need to meet with them regularly and go over their progress by having them show you what they’re doing so that you’re sure they’re actually logging it down.

As the saying goes, if you didn’t write it down, it did not happen!

Here are some more tips from Carol Anne Swett in this Homeschool Highschool Podcast discussion about practical credits for reluctant learners.

Take Co-0p Classes

Another way to earn credits for high school is to take co-op classes or umbrella school classes. These are like live in-person classes, and they’re usually so much fun to do because:

  • They usually get a different teacher each class or term
  • They get to hang out with friends in person
  • They get local expertise

Your kids can learn about so many topics that you just don’t have the talent nor knowledge – nor energy – to teach about. For example, your kids can learn all about poetry or how to cook.

Generally, you know how much credit a teen is earning in a co-op class or an umbrella school class because it will be in the course description. If it’s not, you can ask and work with whoever the teacher is to clarify how much credit is being earned. Because you don’t want to shortchange your teen, but then you don’t want to exaggerate either.

Read Real Books

Another way to earn credits that is actually quite popular among the teens who love to read is…reading! Some of teens are bookworms and love to read. They will explore an area of particular interest by reading real books of historical novels, biographies, nonfiction, and so on. 

And as they read real books, they are accumulating hours of knowledge. Generally, teens will have them do a study guide, book summary or a reaction paper to show they had read it and interacted with the material in order to show they’ve learned from it. Because you don’t want them to passively read something. You want them to engage it and think about it and write it. You can have some kind of written interaction for them to do. 

And for a Carnegie Credit, usually around sixteen books will be pretty close to one Carnegie credit, but it varies. Also, if you have a monstrous book, you may count that as a couple of books, like an anthology book you could count as several books. 

Have teens keep a book list and their interaction papers or study guides that they have completed, so you could count those as a credit in that interest area.

Life Experiences

The final way to earn high school credits is through life experiences. Teens sometimes get opportunities to do a variety of things, like traveling or mission trips. These could easily count as an immersion experience because of seeing different cultures, hearing different languages if they are out of the country. This is experience and education that you can get in no other way!

When teens are having an immersive experience, you could count a week’s activity or a week’s travel as a quarter credit, so your teen could get a quarter credit for missions if they were headed for a Christian college. If they are headed to a secular college, a week would be a one-quarter credit called cross-cultural.

If your teen is going to do an apprenticeship, this experience looks incredibly valuable. Generally, teens will put a lot of hours in there, and it will really inflate what their transcript could look like. They might get two Carnegie units worth of hours done. 

Seven Ways to Earn High School Credits

As you can see, there are so many ways a teen could earn credits in high school. As a recap, they could earn from:

  1. Textbooks
  2. Online courses or self-paced, asynchronous courses
  3. College classes
  4. Co-op and umbrella school classes
  5. Independent study
  6. Reading real books
  7. Life experiences

Also, you  can combine credit styles to earn credits, check out this episode for details. Here is information on leveling up the credits to Honors.

And all of those go together to make a credit on their transcript. So sit down with your teen and discuss with them about how they can have a really awesome educational experience and a mighty transcript for their homeschool high school!

Thanks to Richie Soares with Homeschool and Humor for transcribing this episode.


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Career Exploration with Pathway

This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Career Exploration with Pathway.

Career Exploration with Pathway

Career Exploration with Pathway

It gets so exciting learning about a new, solid resource for your homeschool, doesn’t it? And we just discovered Pathway by Folderwave! If you are wondering what on Earth Folderwave is, read on to learn more about it from Ann McClure and Pamela Brennan, the experts on how it can help with career exploration for students.

About Anne McClure and Pamela Brennan

Ann McClure

Anne is a homeschool mom of 5, starting with a high schooler at 15, all the way down to a toddler at 2. She began homeschooling when her now-15 year old was starting kindergarten. 

Anne has a background in education, previously being a teacher in all different kinds of settings. This background helped instigate her thoughts on what to do next after her firstborn graduates from homeschool high school. 

Therefore, she started her research journey to learn more about what to do in high school and how to prepare her son for college and a career and beyond. This pivotal moment is when Folderwave came into the picture.

Pamela Brennan

Pamela has a background of 20 years in college admissions, counseling, recruiting, and mostly in operations management. She was a Director of Operations at a selective university in Boston and worked very closely with high school counselors, parents, homeschool parents, and the students (the applicants).

As she was working at the university, she was also working with Folderwave to improve their business process for application processing. But, after 20 years at the university, Pamela wanted a change. She could see the direction that Folderwave was headed and wanted to be a part of their evolution, so she began to work with them full-time and left the university. And now, she’s going on 10 years with Folderwave.

How Anne and Pamela Connected

When Anne was on a parent panel at a homeschooling conference, the moderator of the panel happened to introduce Anne to the president of Folderwave, Bob. He was seeking some feedback from a homeschool parent perspective about the market itself. 

After discussing different ideas together, they decided to start running focus groups and start developing additional content that would be a bit more geared towards the homeschool market. 

About Pathway by Folderwave

Folderwave is an evolving company. They went from college admissions to the high school space and then into the career and college counseling space. To Anne and Pamela, Folderwave is all about exploration and getting the kids to explore at an earlier age instead of waiting to the last minute when they’re about to graduate high school.

Pathway is a product by Folderwave, and it is a college and career exploration tool meant for students to begin using it as young as 12 years old or 6th grade. Students can access Pathway online and use their tools to discover more about their interests.

And it’s all about self-discovery 

They have assessment personality tests to help get kids to start thinking about things new to them and peak their interest levels. Then, it ties that interest to different possibilities for careers out there. It’s a nonabrasive approach for kids to discover new interests

Kids can save activities of interest throughout their time with it. They can reflect on their interests or activities with journaling or even with a reflections piece just to see how much they have changed or their growth over the years.

Investigate Your Future With Career Planning

Pathway has a state of the art, up to date, up to the minute program called Investigate Your Future With Career Planning that helps analyze certain aspects of jobs they might be interested in, job markets, future trends, and so many more amazing investigative tools kids can use to research more about their interests. 

Resume Builder

Pathway recently updated its resume builder for students to use for all sorts of scenarios, such as for college applications or even for applying for jobs while going to school. The resume builder walks students through each section to help the student make the most of their details.

Everything In One Digital Location

One of the exciting things parents within the focus groups pointed out was that they were so happy to see everything within Pathway was all in one place. 

Searching for what to do pre- and post-high school can be overwhelming since tons of research has to be done on top of the work you’re already doing. And so to have all those up-to-date tools all in one digital location in such a timely fashion is exactly what’s getting everyone thrilled about this product. 

How Pathway Can Help You

As we all know, there aren’t many resources available for career exploration for students. There are books, but nothing like Pathway, where everything you need is all in one spot.

Pathway has college counselors and digital portfolios for students to use in their career exploration. It can also be used to:

  •  Collect data and save it for future referencing
  • Be a course planner
  • Do life skills activities
  • Help create a resume. 
  • How-to guide
  • And more!

Some of their favorite tools within Pathway are the ones that show the stepping stones a child can take to a specific career. 

One such tool helps students how to get to a career goal. For example, if the student wants to be an attorney or a nurse, Pathway will show them some lateral careers or some stepping stone careers that you can take to get there.

Another great tool is the one that reveals the projected growth of different professions.It shows where in the world or country it is expected to have a growth or a decrease in need for those specific jobs.

There is such a wide range of tools in Pathway that it’s practical for all kids at different stages and ages. It can help reframe the way you think about college and career planning while educating you at the same time. 

How To Connect

Interested In Trying Pathway?

Anne and Pamela’s short term goal is to have a small group of homeschool parents who want to dig into Pathway and then give back constructive feedback to help further develop it, like beta testers.

If you are interested in learning more about Pathway, Anne and Pamela would love to connect with you. Simply email them, letting them know you would love to play around with it. 

For more information on Career Exploration check out these Homeschool Highschool Podcast episodes:

Thanks to Richie Soares with Homeschool and Humor for transcribing this episode.


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A Place to Belong, Interview with Amber O’neal Johnston

This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: A Place to Belong, Interview with Amber O’neal Johnston.

Interview with Amber O'neal Johnston

A Place to Belong, Interview with Amber O’neal Johnston

In all our six years of podcasting, we have only invited an author back twice. And then we read a book called A Place to Belong by Amber O’Neal Johnston – with the subtitle “Celebrating Diversity and Kinship in the Home and Beyond” – and we knew we just had to talk to this homeschool mom for the second time. She has been interviewed on NPR and Christianity Today, among other places, and we wanted her back here with us to chat about her book and homeschool journey. 

About Amber O’Neal Johnston

If you are a homeschooler, you probably already know Amber through her Heritage Mom website and resources.

Amber lives outside of Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, Scott, and her four children. They have been homeschooling from the beginning, even though they were the “least likely candidates for homeschooling”, according to Amber. She grew up with two public school principals as parents, her sister and grandfather are elected public school officials on the school board, and her husband is a product of public education just as she was, so it made sense to continue with what they knew. Which is why the thought of not being anywhere near the public school systems was unfathomable.

But when her oldest was about three or four years old, her husband approached her wanting to give homeschooling a try.

And because he is such a jokester, Amber assumed this to be just one of his jokey pranks. Yet, the next week, he approached Amber again about homeschooling, admitting that he was not joking about wanting to educate their child at home. 

Amber took the next several months to research homeschooling and discuss the options with other people. And even though many of these people did not exactly agree with her about homeschooling in general, they did all agree with how a child’s education should be in the early years. They all said to not rush the children into learning and to let them have a childhood, one that moves at their own pace, along with plenty of time outdoors. Kids need to learn to use their hands, work on habits, and strengthen character development. 

Through Amber’s research and her discussions, she started thinking she had this all wrong – the idea of how children should be raised. She and her husband then started homeschooling in order to accelerate their children, and today, seven years later, they continue to homeschool to give their kids a fuller kind of slower paced lifestyle.

About “A Place To Belong” by Amber O’Neal Johnston

It began with Amber looking for a book that would help her focus on what she could be working on in her home.There are books about the corporate world and healthcare and what the government should be doing and broader society, but as a mom with her children, she could not find very many books that were talking about societal issues in terms of race and ethnicity and diversity with inclusion of equity.

And the books she did find seemed like they were almost asking the readers to make a choice between celebrating the child in front of you and ignoring the uniqueness of that child in order to all come together. 

Amber wants to have a celebratory home atmosphere where her kids feel like she sees them and loves what she sees.

But at the same time, she does not want them to become so self-centered and always inwardly focused that they fail to reach out to other people and all the wonderful things that she wants them to believe about themselves and other people too. Because of the limited books there were, Amber decided to write the book she was searching for and having trouble finding. 

In the book, she shares what her journey has been like in their own home, so it is part memoir, along with lots of storytelling. Amber also wants to make a kind of anthropological contribution to the literary world in terms of what a homeschooling mom is in this day and age with children living in a mid-covid divisiveness world. She added this to her book and made it a bit of a manifesto. 

Amber also wanted to offer some guidance to parents, like her, who were sitting at home and wanting to make a difference, but could not go out and do all the impact. She believes the impact that we make when we raise our children to think differently is underestimated. Because of this, her book evolved into part guide, part memoir, and part manifesto, which ultimately led Amber into creating a book that is unlike any other book on the market today.

A good book serves teens as a mirror to themselves and a window to the world. Amber O'neal Johnston

Takeaways From The Book

Books And Mirrors

Reading the book is like reading three books integrated in a very beautiful way. And what can really catch your heart is the beauty of the writing. Because of the excellent writing talent, the book is communicated in a way that feels so beautiful that it also helps you think about what it’s discussing.

One of those beautiful topics is the concept of books and mirrors and windows. 

When Amber first started working with her children, she was using a lot of book lists. The book lists contained some amazing books on the lists, but her children were not responding to all the books in the same way. And one of my children made the point to tell Amber that they never read books with people that look like her, which broke Amber’s heart because that wasn’t something that she had done intentionally. 

She did not really know what her children should be reading, which is why she was using book lists. But the more she investigated, the more she realized the book lists were not expansive enough. 

She came up with the concept of books being mirrors, literary mirrors, where your children can see themselves and their families and communities reflected. Where life experiences and the way the kids see the world is actually something that’s shared culturally with other people, starring children or adults who are out there changing the world.

And this concept or idea does not stop there. We can also look to books as windows of ourselves in all ages. Everyone can learn about other people and how they live and how they see the world by reading their words and their experiences. 

The Dangers of the Single Story

In A Place To Belong Amber talks about the dangers of the single story. When we are looking at windows, we cannot just open a general window about a girl in Pakistan, for example, and see what her life is like. Because there are many books about girls in Pakistan, and each of the books come from a completely different direction.

The power of story is important. We need to get a variety of different stories before we can even begin to piece together someone else’s experience, even from the outside from our perspectives. 

Be an "askable" parent. -Amber O'neal Johnston

Be An “Askable” Parent

One of the brilliant concepts you’ll find inside of Amber’s book is about being an “askable” parent. Let your kids ask questions or have opinions that you don’t shoot down and that you listen to. It is so important to be an “askable” parent and allow children to explore and grow in that way.

A Study Guide For Moms

Even though there is so much to think about in the book, it can also be used as a study guide for moms, as found in the back of the book. Moms can sit with a group of other moms and discuss the chapter with prompt questions. So for us geek key moms, I think we will all enjoy.

Where You Can Find More About Amber O’Neal Johnston

Under the brand name “Heritage Mom”, Amber writes and speaks about a variety of things. One of those areas is general homeschooling, and even then, she is working to help just diversify even the stories within the homeschooling world. 

  • She shares her own book lists now where she reveals tons of fiction books.

    • She also breaks down historical books, or history books by historical time periods, because so many homeschoolers pace their years in that way. With this timeline, people can look up each historical time period and find Amber’s recommendations for them, such as black history books that her family has really enjoyed or biographies, historical fiction, non-fiction, picture books, poetry, art, music, and so on.
  • You can also find packs called Heritage Packs, which are topical lesson guides.

    • Amber created these because she was often frustrated with trying to teach her children about things that only contained minimal information. These were the lesson plans she created with her own children when they studied topics for the year, and she’s now sharing them with other homeschoolers.You can find these Heritage Packs on her website along with which videos to use and which books to read and when to read them. 
  • In addition to her website and blog, you can also find Amber active on Instagram and Facebook as well as see her speaking at various conferences throughout the year.

    • She has spoken at about thirteen conferences this past season alone where she shares some of these ideas found in her book with other homeschool parents across the nation. 

She helps parents know how to articulate and pursue the concepts in her book because we are all in this homeschooling community together and in the world together. Her wish is to have other parents open those windows and give their kids the mirrors for themselves, so they feel good and be accepted right at home, along with being accepted in the world outside. 

Join Vicki and Amber for a discussion full of wisdom and encouragement.

This episode was transcribed by our friend, Richie Soares from Homeschool and Humor.


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Transition Planning for Teens with Special Needs, Interview with Peggy Ployhar

This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Transition Planning for Teens with Special Needs, Interview with Peggy Ployhar.

Transition Planning for Teens with Special Needs, Interview with Peggy Ployhar.

Transition Planning for Teens with Special Needs, Interview with Peggy Ployhar

Our high schoolers are going to graduate one of these days, so let’s help them (and ourselves!) with being prepared for what happens next. Let’s talk about transition planning for our high schoolers!

Peggy Ployhar, with Sped Homeschool, is going to fill us in on what transition planning is and how to get started.

About Peggy Phar

Peggy Ployhar is the founder and CEO of Sped Homeschool, which stands for Special Education Homeschool. Her oldest was diagnosed on the autism spectrum when he was five and that opened the door for other educational opportunities the Ployhars had never even considered.

Peggy has been homeschooling for almost twenty years. Before forming Sped Homeschool, she worked for two different state organizations as their special needs consultants. She didn’t come into this by accident, though. She started her own homeschooling journey in similar situations and she’s now helping other families. So you can say it’s helping families and homeschool children who struggle that is really where her heart is!

What Is Transition Planning?

Transition planning is the process of making sure your child with special needs will have the necessary support when they “age out” of the school system.

There are just so many kids that struggle on so many different levels. And, having the experience of homeschooling her own children who all have had struggles in certain areas, and then her parents who have adopted ten children who have homeschooled on and off, Peggy understands the importance of transition planning.

It’s important to ask questions, such as Where are they going? and How do we bridge that gap?

And that’s what transition skills really are. Whether you have a student who struggles or not, that’s something we should all have in the back of our mind, along with having the answers to questions like, “Do they know how to do the laundry?” and “Do they know how to cook?”

In other words, transition skills are life skills.

How To Begin Transition Planning With Your Kids

If we are going to really face the facts that our kids are going to have to live life and do it well, how can we plan for transitioning not only our special needs kids but also all of our kids?

1. Evaluate where the gaps are they need to fill

The first thing you have to do is take a step back and really evaluate what you can fit in the next four years, or the remainder of the high school years, by looking ahead.

If you know your child is lacking in communication skills, for example, you know to introduce more learning opportunities that help strengthen these transition skills. If your kids aren’t great housekeepers, then start a game plan to make them better ones. See where their personal gaps are and then make a plan to fill those gaps.

2. Set goals for those gaps

Once you’ve identified what those learning gaps are, set goals to strengthen these gaps. Consider where you want your child to be and talk to your kids about what their goals are for themselves. Many kids will not really know exactly what they want to do, but it is good to think about it and consider the options. Even trying their hand at a few different subject areas is good for them to discover their likes and dislikes in order to plan properly for the future.

3. Introduce transition skills in their experiences – not only academics

Be sure to do this also for life skills, not only academics. These other transition skills can be cognitive skills, emotional skills, communication skills, life skills, social skills, physical skills, and so on. Find an activity or something helpful that your child can do on a regular basis where they will continue to work on those skills.

They can take co-op classes, join a club, and explore different extracurricular activities. Encourage your child to just try something different that will fill these gaps. You never know where these different activities or classes will take your child!

For example, Peggy’s son originally wanted to go into the military. Because of this, they directed a lot of their studies around the beginning of his first year of high school.

But then the next year, he decided he wanted to be an underwater welder. And even though that took a whole different spin on their classes, they aimed to study more about that.

And then for the following year, he decided he just wanted to go to welding school first before he did underwater welding. And he did that, for three years, until one day he woke up and decided he didn’t want to do it anymore.

And now? At the end of the semester, he is graduating with a degree in biomedical engineering. How’s that for a change?

What If Plans Change?

If your child, like Peggy’s son, decides to go a different route, that’s totally okay. You tweak, and you change as the kids figure out what they want to do. When you’re looking at transition planning and looking at the high school years, learn how to embrace the bigger picture.

Get the bigger picture in your head and review it on a constant basis. Finish half of the school year or a semester, and then take an evaluation. Is my child still wanting to do this? The great thing about high school students are the opportunities to have wonderful life conversations with them.

When the plans do change, be flexible enough with your homeschooling to let them know the direction they’re homeschooling is going. Help them understand if something isn’t moving them toward their new goals. You can still count the work you’ve done as half a credit, but it’s better to head in the right direction now versus getting to the end of the year knowing it wasn’t helping serve the overall goals.

And if you do change plans mid-year, you will still have notable work to put down on your child’s transcript. So, it’s never a waste of time.

Final Tips For Transition Planning

One thing we often do not think about is communication skills because they kind of go off our radar. But yet employers say that communication skills are the biggest thing they are looking for in employees.

We do not have to have a formal education plan to develop communication skills. We need to put our children in various situations that require them to communicate. And communication is verbal, nonverbal, body language, and written. (Check out these HSHSP episodes on job hunting and interview skills. Also, this post on first-day-on-the-job skills.)

Communication is probably one of the most important things we should be focusing on and just having normal, everyday conversations. There are several things we can absorb and do in our homeschool life to help build those communication skills, and it doesn’t have to look like a classroom or a course to do.

Other ways to help build communication skills:

  • Listening to audiobooks
  • Learning correct grammar through hearing
  • Making videos and podcasts
  • Making videos or podcasts

The more you do these things, the more you learn to control what you say and to think about it before you say it.

Peggy also shares tips for homeschooling high school in this Homeschool Highschool Podcast episode.

About Sped Homeschool

Sped Homeschool was formed in 2017 after taking a look around and deciding that there are a lot of organizations that have little help available for special needs kids. Their website is full of resources, partner organizations, and interviews, with an interview showing every Tuesday night live. Also, they are now broadcasting on Facebook and YouTube all at the same time with the primary goal of the interviews to empower parents to be able to make this journey successful.

BTW- Thanks to Richie Soares for transcription work. She is awesome and so is her website: Homeschool and Humor. Check it out!


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Graduating from College Debt-Free, Interview with Kara Walker

This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Graduating from College Debt-Free, Interview with Kara Walker.

Graduating from College Debt-Free, Interview with Kara Walker. She shares her debt-free college story along with tips for college-bound teens.

Graduating from College Debt-Free, Interview with Kara Walker

This has been a fun week because this week Vicki got to sit down with Kara Walker from Money and Mental Piece, who’s a homeschool grad and entrepreneur!

You and your homeschool high schooler may have thought about college, but have you thought much about the cost of college? Of course, you want your child to be whatever they want to be, but at what cost? Maybe it will be a lot cheaper than you fear! Because today we’re going to see exactly how your child can graduate debt free from college!

Kara’s Homeschool Story

Kara is a 20-something Christian entrepreneur who was homeschooled and transitioned to college after her homeschool journey. And, most significantly, she graduated from college debt free! 

Because of this feat, Kara’s on a quest to help other students do the same through her Money and Mental Peace podcast as well as her upcoming course called The Debt Free College Blueprint.

She’s an amateur snowboarder and recovering overachiever – something that she is working on wrangling even to this day. She likes goal setting, budgeting, and living a debt-free lifestyle. And her goal is to help kids, parents, and families to do the same. 

Kara’s mom is a public school teacher and was even a teacher back when Kara was homeschooling. During high school, she’d participate in co-ops and extracurriculars, which she believes was the foundation that set her up for college.

Kara and Financial Literacy

During high school, Kara took a Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, where she learned all about compound interest, investing, and making money. Through this course is when she realized just how impactful finances are and how much of a huge role they play in life. That’s when she fell in love with finances. (Shameless plug: take a look at 7SistersHomeschool’s interactive Financial Literacy course. Our teens find it life-guiding!)

As she was going through college, she learned ways to test out of courses with CLEP tests and SATs, among learning other neat tricks to save money, which helped her get the first two years of college free.

Savvy college credits and scholarships

She also got a full scholarship to her community college by simply calling the director and asking about scholarships. She says that initiating and bugging people politely is awesome in college when it comes to important decision makers of scholarships. Her friend ended up getting a full women’s scholarship, and he is a man – but no one else applied for that scholarship!

She also did an articulation agreement where she got to do two-thirds of her degree at her community college to transfer to a university. She ended up paying about $1,200 for her Associate’s degree in all because of her neat tricks that she’s going to share with us today!

When she did not know what she wanted to do next, she spent a gap year interning with the National Park Service, which got her an educational award scholarship. 

When she graduated from college at Eastern Michigan University with a BA in Marketing and minor in Math, she left with $10,000 in her bank account because she did not have to use that money she had saved for college tuition.

After graduation, she immediately became a business owner to help students find scholarships for college and guide them through. Since her graduation, Kara has found so many more options to help kids through college debt-free and that is what she is going to share with us today!

Tips For Graduating College Debt Free

Take advantage of doing CLEP tests

There are study guides specifically made for CLEP tests that aren’t that expensive ($20 or less) that you can find on Amazon. 

There’s also a website called to help kids study for these tests and probably a few other sites if you google. 

The company, Modern States, has CLEP test study guide programs online. If you sign up for them, they will give you a voucher to reimburse you for taking the CLEP test, which will also save you money for taking the test!

Once you study for a few weeks, you can schedule to take the test at a local college campus. The test is pass or fail. If you pass, you use those credits for college.

Find which colleges accept the most transfer credits

There are a few colleges that accept more transfer credits than others. You can check to see which colleges take the most transfer credits (for instance, credits from community colleges) and then work towards gaining these transfer credits.

Some kids go to specific colleges just because they accept the most transfer colleges, which helps them graduate from college a lot earlier. For example, one friend Kara knew got his Bachelor’s degree at the age of 19, a year after he graduated high school, because he specifically went to a college that accepted the most transfer credits.

A few colleges that accept higher transfer credits than others are namely:

  • Excelsior College
  • Thomas Edison State University

You can also google which colleges accept higher CLEP transfer credits and then see which programs they have, so your high schooler can start having a plan!

Look for internships and volunteer opportunities

AmeriCorps has internship and volunteer opportunities you can apply for. You can take awesome opportunities and all these rich experiences to help save on tuition.

Several companies and internships have scholarship opportunities, so just do google searches for companies like these.

By doing internships, you can trade time for tuition! 

Talk to Kara at Money and Mental Peace

Kara guarantees to find each child between $10,000 and $30,000 in opportunities and scholarships. 

  • Listen to Kara’s podcast called Money and Mental Peace, which is full of free information on saving money for college. You will discover scholarship and school hacks for Christian college girls to graduate debt free!
  • Learn more about her upcoming course where she will reveal all of the in’s and out’s of graduating college debt free.
  • Follow Kara on Instagram and Facebook to gain more knowledge about graduating college debt free.

On top of that, Kara will teach you how to go find scholarships, so you will be able to take this skill and use it for the rest of your life. (As in, the “teach a man how to fish” expression.) 

It is completely possible to graduate debt free from college. It sets your child up for life where he or she can focus on other avenues of life and not worry about being in debt from college. 

Connect with Kara

You can connect with Kara at Money and Mental Peace podcast, Instagram, and Facebook.


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Training Teens to be Civil in an Uncivil World: Special Replay

This week we will discuss: Training Teens to be Civil in an Uncivil World, special replay.

Training Teens to be Civil in an Uncivil World, special replay.

Training Teens to be Civil in an Uncivil World

Join Sabrina, Kym and Vicki for an important discussion about civility. Our world is increasingly unkind and uncivil. Teens are surrounded by political figures on the news who are crude, rude and unkind. Social media is full of ugly, unkind behavior. Civility seems to be going out of style.

This is so contradictory to the love of Christ and the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and self-control. There is no room for unkindness there. If we are wise, we will train our teens to be civil in this uncivil world.

What is the difference between kindness, niceness and civility?

  • Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit. The fruit grows in us as we grow in the Lord. It is a spiritual outgrowth of our love for God.
  • Niceness can be not-good. When someone acts *nice* but is actually a manipulative trickster who is trying to get you to do something you do not want to do.
    • So-called *nice people* can include abusive or manipulative friends, family or others (who always do what you want, until they explode).
  • Civil behavior, on the other hand,  is very intentionally good and wants what is best for the other.
    • Civility is not necessarily a natural process.
    • Civility has to be trained into our teens.

Why do we care that the world is an uncivil place?

Because we are all broken, so we can have compassion on other broken people.

When we operate in incivility we tend to emotionally eat each other up. Remember the book Millions of Cats? A peasant with a million cats found that they were a cranky and jealous bunch who got into such a big fight that they ate each other up. Here’s a video of that classic book.

  • We humans tend to take differences and make them a thing of hatred.

What are steps we can use to train our teens to be civil?

Remember: Hurt people hurt people.

  • The first thing you can do when you are about to fight back is to stop long enough to remember that this is a broken person who is acting out of that brokenness. This gives you a chance to calm down.
    • When you are suddenly angry or afraid, neural cortisol floods your brain for six seconds preparing you for fight, flight or freeze.
    • If you wait ten seconds, the cortisol flood will pass on by.
    • If you breathe during that ten seconds, it is even better.
  • Remember when your parents taught you to stop and count to ten? They were right!
  • Beware: The social media negativity feeding frenzy in this dog-eat-dog world.
  • Teach: your teens to ask themselves is there something they can feed themselves with, instead of negativity?
  • Draw emotional sustenance from:
  • Remembering: We are friends together
    • What are our good memories?
    • What are our common goals?
  • In the big picture we are actually on the same page, we are not actually on different teams after all, really.

Do not attack the person. Wrestle with the concept or idea but not the person.

  • Avoid ad hominem attacks. (Attacks on the person to deflect poor skills.)
  • Beware of HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.
    • Nothing good can come of your communication if you are in HALT.
    • Take care of these needs and then come back to the issue.
  • Look to your deportment.
    • Look to how you are carrying yourself.
    • If you are about to snap, flatten yourself (take a breath, flatten your facial expressions).
    • Walk away before you hit send or enter. Do not type your angry comment in the comments, type it onto blank document.

Teens who learn to be civil are showing Christlike character. #HomeschoolHighSchoolPodcast #Civility #SocialSkillsForTeens #HowToBeKind

How often do you mishear the meaning when a speaker is needed?

  • We sometimes misunderstand non-verbals.
    • Tone of voice
    • The body language
    • Do reflective listening:
  • Ask: Am I understanding what you are saying: repeat what you think you heard, non-judgmentally.
    • They can answer with a tweak of information so that you both are on the same page.

Teens do not come to these skills on their own. They need parents to:

  • Role model
  • Teach teens
  • Help them practice
  • Mom-shaming

There’s not ONE right way to do most of life. Do not judge others. Monitor your own self and emotions.

  • When someone hurts us, they have been listening to some other hurtful voices.
    • We can ask what hurtful voices they were listening to.
  • In the same token, what hurtful voices are we listening to.
    • Sit down with your teens and have some conversations about civility.
  • These conversations with your teens will train teens to be civil in an uncivil world.


Here’s another Homeschool Highschool Podcast episode on training your teens to become cultural influencers.

Or check out this post where teens explain how 7Sisters Great Christian Writers course was powerful for their character development.


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Training Teens to be Civil in an Uncivil World

What to do When Your Homeschool is Behind

This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: What to do When Your Homeschool is Behind.

What to do when your homeschool is behind

What to do When Your Homeschool is Behind

Need a little encouragement today? What if you are behind in your homeschooling? Is it a disaster? Can you catch up? Are you a failure? The answer is “NO!” Life happens sometimes and things get behind. It happens to most of us homeschooling families at some point or the other.

So what do we do when we are behind on the educational goals for our homeschoolers?

Tips for what to do when your homeschool is behind

Get ready for a little encouragement. You can do this!

Tip #1: Ask yourself: Is this a disaster?

Answer: No, it is NOT a disaster. So just take that thought off your plate. Take a deep breath and then get ready to recalibrate your own attitude from feeling like there is a disaster to “We can do this!”

The cool thing about recalibrating your attitude is that you can role model a growth mindset for your teens:

Things did not go as we planned BUT we are going to recalibrate to get where we need to go!

A growth mindset acknowledges the tough things but thinks positively about going forward.

Teens need to know that life is not an endless series of disasters. Yes, tough things happen but tough things do not define them. Rather, those tough things are an excuse to grow. In fact, a lot of life is about growing through the hard times.

Things did not go as we planned BUT we are going to recalibrate to get where we need to go!

Tip #2: Sit down with your teens and ask, “What do we want at the end of high school?”

When times have been tough for a while, it is easy for teens to get lost in “the weeds of right now”. (The same is true for us moms.) That is survival, of course.

However, there is a future! In the future, teens will graduate and need a transcript so they can do something after high school. Even if they are non-college bound (whether they are simply planning on a gap year, joining the military or will be studying for a trade), they will still need a transcript.

  • Many teens start out homeschooling high school, thinking that they will be college-bound. However, some of these teens, change their minds and decide on gap year, military or trades.
    • When that happens, it is a good time to reel in the academics. You can make academics more simple and more tailored to their goals.

However, if your teen is behind in their homeschooling but still wants to go to college, it is time to sit down and ask, “What do we need to get you ready for college?” Discuss with your teens:

  • Is community college a good fit for your teens goals? (Some states even have free tuition for community college.)
    • If this is so, you can recalibrate gently. Get caught up and feeling secure on the basic academics. This is because community colleges are not competitive like some four-year colleges. Rather, they exist to help serve their communities. (They can even do some remedial courses to start their community college experience.)
  • Are your teens interested in a more competitive four-year college.
    • Make plan together for moving forward with age appropriate academics, followed by a “scheduling backwards” plan for going forward with individual academics.

Tip #3: Then ask yourself and your teens, “realistically, what can we accomplish this year?”

  • If your teens are interested in a more competitive four-year college, (such as a state college) and they are a senior now, you might need some realistic recalibration of goals.
    • Your teens might have to do one year at the community college and earn high grades, then transfer.
  • On the other hand, if your teens are non-college-bound thinking gap year, military or trade school, this might a good time to sit together
    • And pare down the credit numbers and credit levels for simpler goals and then, graduation!
  • For a seriously stuck teen who is having anxiety and panic about catching up:
    • You might want to bring everything down to an average or remedial level for this year.
    • That way academics get done in a healthier, lower stress environment
    • Give them some Health credit time by getting some counseling. This is a GREAT life skill!

Make sure your teens are part of the discussion. This will earn you their buy-in.

Tips #4: If it is mid-year and your teen is behind in their textbook, ask these questions:

  • Do I need to take a look at the textbook and reduce the numbers of chapter questions or math problems that must be done?
  • Or do I need to trash this textbook and get something simpler or more fun? It is okay to start over.
  • Do I need to get online instruction with programs like:

Tip #5: If they are behind on their booklist for the year, do you need to:

  • Cut down on the number of books you planned for them to read?
  • Reduce the numbers of study guides they work on this year?
  • Use audiobooks for a quicker read and change of pace?
  • Switch out for shorter books?
  • Switch out for some easier-to-read books along with an inspiring study guide? (Think 7Sisters Chronicles of Narnia Literature Study Guides)
  • Count some books of the Bible? (We did this, for sure.)

Tip #6: If they are behind on labs for their Lab Science course?

Can you take the whole family on a field trip that can be part of a “science lab”?

  • For instance: zoo, nature centers, museums

Can your teen skip some of the labs in their lab manual?

Tip #7: Do a course or two over the summer

Sometimes, “summer school” is necessary for catch up!

Tip #8: To make sure they are not wasting good time, teach them study skills such as:

Tip #9: When you sit down with teens to talk about catching up on academics:

  • Get some snacks!
  • Go to a coffee shop together
  • Doing things over food, just makes things work better.

Remember, you can do this! Recalibrate and live in grace!

Join Vicki for an informative discussion on what to do when your homeschool is behind.


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Helping Teens Deal with Stress from Current Events

This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Helping Teens Deal with Stress from Current Events.

Helping Teens Deal with Stress from Current Events

Helping Teens Deal with Stress from Current Events

This world is full of stressful news. The constant influx of anxiety producing, negative news can really take a toll on teens. As you might have noticed, it can be hard for adults to manage themselves well when their news feed and social media is bombarded with scary and anger-producing news. If it is difficult for adults, it is even more difficult for teens because they are younger in their human development and have less life experience.

With these things in mind, Vicki pulled on her counselor hat to give a few useful tools for teens during these times. (Vicki is a licensed professional counselor in private practice besides having homeschooled her kids.)

Tools for helping teens deal with stressful current events

There are a several tools for these current-event circumstances that can be stressful to teens.

Situation: There is something scary or stressful going on in the news. Your teen feels overwhelmed and comes to you about it.

You can choose one or more of these tools. On the other hand, you can also use these tools as steps.

Pray about it together

This may sound cheesy and you can say that to your teens. However, explain to them that the Number One thing you both can do is to stop right then and pray about it. Remind them of II Chronicles 7:14 which says:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways: then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sin, and will heal their land. KJV

I know it sounds preachy, but do not get on a high horse with this. However, you can also explain I Timothy 2:1-2:

I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercession, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. KJV
Explain that these are scriptures that are guidance for us. God wants us to pray about these current events! (Maybe make it part of a family prayer time daily.)

Evaluate who is profiting from how you feel

The truth of the matter is, many of us (especially teens) get their news through social media. Whether it is TikTok, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook or another platform, somebody is profiting on our attention to their presentations about this current event. Watch and and think:

Who is making money off my big feelings?

Is it:

  • News outlets?
  • Influencers?
  • Commentators?

These organizations or people get money from advertisers or supporters. Advertisers pay more for ads on coverage that gets more views, comments, likes or clicks.

Therefore, during “big” current events, news outlets, influencers and commentators tend to use more hyperbolic language. They use intense wording like:

  • So and so was SLAMMED on the new today
  • Disaster strikes

Just seeing these words causes our blood pressure to rise! When your blood pressure goes up, your brain tells you to watch out! (In media terms that means: watch more!)

This happens not just in social media but the big news outlets will do the same.

Not only that but in video media, people who are profiting off your big emotions will often use anxiety or anger producing non-verbals:

They will speak with staccato tones and exaggerate scary words by saying them loudly.

The WORLD Is Com-Ing To An END!!

Not only that but they often use much more arm, head and hand movement that signals fear and anxiety

So, when you see hyperbolic wording, you know someone is profiting on your anxiety or anger!

Reel those emotions in!

Teach your teens to imagine that their emotions are like a big ball of string. When they feel anxious or angry, those big emotions pull a LONG line of the string out of the ball. Have your teens visual pulling that string back into the ball.

This is SO important. Want to know why? It is because you can only think clearly when your emotions are small! Cortisol, the stress hormone floods, and fogs your brain! This turns off the logic system. Instead, of logic the brain reacts with fight, flight or freeze. (The media and influencers are pushing for the fight response.)

You and your teens are not denying that things are happening in the world. Rather, you are refusing to be manipulated for someone else’s profit!

The way to get the big feelings down is to take some deep breaths!

The oxygen from deep breathing is God’s gift to us to neutralize cortisol. Of course, one deep breath will not cure all cortisol. However, breathing exercises done regularly will significantly improve anxiety feelings over time. You can teach your teens some breathing exercises (Progressive Relaxation) with this freebie download from my coaching site.

Enough deep breathing will help bring the logic back online for them! Don’t fund the person or outlet with your anger or anxiety. Instead, breathe and stay clear minded and strong!

Do something practical

No matter what is going on, there is usually something practical you can do. For instance, currently there is a war going on in Ukraine. After praying, you and your teens can send a donation to a reputable organization that is there to help with humanitarian aide. Tell your teens that to these organizations who are helping in humanitarian ways know that every dollar counts. (So do not be ashamed of small donations!)

When I was a kid, I would watch Mr. Rogers on television. He would say:

When I was a boy and would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Do something practical like sending a helper a donation!

If there is a local situation, there are often tangible needs that your teens can help with, also:

Our brains feel better if we are doing, not sitting and stewing!

Our brains feel better if we are doing, not sitting and stewing!

Contact your elected officials

If it is a national or international current event that is of concern, write:

  • The President
  • Vice President
  • Your Senators
  • And your Representative in the House

They have staff that count letters, phone calls and emails. Elected officials know that if none of their constituents ever contacts them about a current event, their constituents do not care about that topic!

Tell your teens they do not need to be subject-matter experts to write a letter of concern. Subject-matter experts can write long, intelligent, information-filled letters. You and your teens are not SMEs so just share how you feel about the situation.

State level elected officials:

  • Governor
  • State Senators
  • Representative or Delegate

There are also County Councils, Mayors, and more!

You and your teens can also attend local meetings or visit other elected officials.

Teach your teens civility

Character matters. For ideas, check out this episode on teaching teens to be civil in an uncivil world.

When teens have something healthy they can do about stressful current events, they can start preparing to take their places in society- rather than living with anxiety.


  1. Follow this link to our Apple Podcasts page.
  2. OR take this IMPORTANT STEP: Under our Homeschool Highschool Podcast logo, click on View in “…your favorite podcast source”
  3. This will take you to Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast source and our own podcast page.
  4. Click SUBSCRIBE.
  5. Click RATINGS AND REVIEW. (Please take a minute and do this. It helps others find us. Thanks!)
  6. Thanks!


  1. Tap the purple Podcast icon on your phone
  2. Tap the search icon on the bottom-right of your screen
  3. In the search bar type: Homeschool Highschool Podcast
  4. Tap the Homeschool Highschool Podcast icon
  5. Tap *Subscribe*
  6. Please tap *Ratings and Review

Helping Teens Deal with Stress from Current Events