A big challenge facing homeschoolers is secondary education. Often parents are teaching multiple grade levels, and the older student begins to work more independently. They also are in a period of life where there are many transitions and a great deal of growth, both physically and mentally. While not every high school student will graduate and go on to college, all must be adequately prepared for life after high school. Since I have a senior graduating from my homeschool this year, college is at the forefront of our thoughts these days. We also have a soon-to-be 11th grader, and I feel we need all the help that we can get! I was thrilled to review the book High School Prep Genius from the College Prep Genius company through The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew.
About this book: High School Prep Genius is a 437 page reference manual written by a mother and daughter team: Jean and Judah Burk. Jean is a veteran homeschool mom, as well as a sought after speaker on the subject of Mastering the Sat test. Judah is a homeschool graduate who earned scholastic honors in college. The subtitle of this book is "An Academic Guide to Excellence".
This book is broken down into several categories. The 'introduction' teaches how to use the book, as well as giving sample forms to use. It covers practical skills such as setting up a high school timeline, building a student notebook, and setting up a complete four year plan. At the end of the book there are extensive appendixes that help a parent design an official homeschool transcript, as well as assisting students with talent searches, scholarship searches, reading lists, and test taking strategies.
The rest of the book is basically split into three sections: the Foundation for Personal Success, the Foundation for Academic Success, and the Foundation for Future Success. Each chapter has a section for the student to read, a section for the parent to read, and interactive questions or assignments for both.
Foundation for Personal Success: The topics in these chapters are seldom included in books geared towards high schoolers preparing for college or life, but they are very necessary! While some of these chapters ask some hard questions or make some challenging statements, this opens up a tremendous opportunity for the parent to draw out their older teens in conversation, and really challenge them. Senior High School is the best time to have 'tough' conversations, while the parent is still able to have a great deal of influence in imparting their value system to their child.
There is an old quote that I think of often when parenting my teens:
"Rules without relationships breed rebellion."
While the writing in this book does recognize the importance of instilling your faith into the hearts of your children, it also takes a challenging tone to the student to "own their beliefs" and to question whether the beliefs of their parents are the ones they wish to embrace. It approaches this from a challenge perspective, rather than encouraging the student to follow in the traditional paths of their family. My first reaction to reading this was discomfort, but the more I dwelt on the thought, the more I realized that it is not much unlike the conversations I have already had with my high schoolers, challenging them to know what they believe and why they believe it.
After being in youth ministry and watching many beloved young people walk away from the faith, I am actually happy to see such a frank discussion taking place in a high school prep book. I firmly believe that if parents would embrace this opportunity to have these difficult conversations with their teens, they would be rewarded with young people who were very open and favorable to working through these heart issues with their parents by their side.
Parents must realize that very soon, their children's values and beliefs will be openly challenged as they step out into the world, whether it's college, the workplace, or establishing their own home. Having thought through many of these personal challenges while in a 'safe' zone, and making decisions in the areas of faith, character, finances, worldview, relationships, and support systems will definitely set them up for personal success, as this book suggests.
Foundations for Academic Success: The chapters in this section explain 'everything academic' from figuring a GPA to overcoming test anxiety. It includes a section on personal organization which is tremendous, and definitely very needful for young people to learn as they advance in their studies. While there is much information that any high school student can use, many of the pages are specifically geared towards homeschoolers and their parents. For a homeschool parent that is not familiar with educational or college requirements, there is helpful information written in a very easy-to-understand format, including explanations and suggestions for a homeschooler who wishes to stand out as an honors or exemplary student, even though they may be the only person in their class!
Foundations for Future Success: This section basically lays out the "nuts and bolts" of finishing high school and preparing for the future. I appreciate how it recognizes that college is not for everyone. There are some practical exercises for a student and parent to work through together, that will help them to sort out their goals and desires. This chapter covers everything from different types of colleges and programs available, to other options like vocational training or the military. It includes a small listing of resources for minority and disabled students as well. There are lists of questions that students can ask an admissions counselor or current student at a college, to get a feel for whether that college would be the right choice for them. There is so much information that we never even thought of, and we personally just finished the college application process this past year with our oldest!
Worth the cost of the book alone: The pages and pages of resources for test preparation, scholarships, and random things including homeschool codes for the SAT for each state make this book more than worth the cost! The High School Prep Genius book sells for $29.95. When you order from the website, use the code TOSCrew for a $5.00 discount! Also, since the time of this review, the publisher has made all the charts and worksheets available as a free PDF file that you can download with the purchase of the book.
Who should use this book: I personally feel that the information contained in this book would benefit every junior high and senior high student, whether they are homeschooled or not! It gives an anchor, a frame of reference, for them to start planning and preparing for their future. There are specific chapters for students in grades 9-12, and there is a pre-high school planning section for those in grades 7-8. Every parent of a teenager should read this book!
How we used the book: As the homeschool mom, my job not only entails teaching and planning, but I am also the guidance counselor. As such, I need to be very well informed so that my students don't miss out on anything that they need. This book makes it easy to be on top of everything, just by reading and following the timelines that are already laid out. I read through most of this book during the review period. I have had my high school children read through applicable chapters, and we discuss them. I plan on reading in depth over the summer as well, especially with the student who will be starting college in the fall! Although we have already kept student notebooks, I plan on utilizing some of the ideas here to better organize them and also doing more 'recording as things happen' rather than trying to remember and record at the end of the year.
My parting thoughts: I am very big on parent/child relationships, and I love how this book bridges that partnership between the parent and their teenager. This book takes a holistic approach in preparing a student for life beyond high school - it's not just all about academics! Raising a teenager means you are slowly transitioning the responsibility of life and decision making over to them, as they grow and mature. The authors of this book truly 'thought of everything' when they listed areas of growth and responsibility that must be prepared for!
This book is one of the most comprehensive reference resources I have ever seen for high school students! If you have teenagers, you will find it truly helpful. If you are homeschooling teenagers, I would say it is an absolute necessity!
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