Collegebound? What to Do in 10th Grade, Part 2
Last week, we looked at ways your teen’s brain is changing, and talked about how to make the most of the opportunity. I also mentioned that lifelong habits—for better or worse—are created during this season of dramatic cognitive development. Wherever your teen spends a bulk of her time, neural pathways are created, connected, and hardened into place. Reversing those pathways at a later point will take effort. (What habits got their start during your early teens? Are they still with you?)
Here’s the Secret
To help your teen develop healthy habits and manage adolescent risk-taking and reward-seeking tendencies, increase responsibility. This is the second most important decision you make in 10th grade (IMHO). Remember, I’m speaking with 20/20 hindsight. I really poured over a long list of potentially mission-critical decisions, and here’s where I landed.
Even though it probably feels like you should be singularly focused on academics, ramp up your sophomore’s level of responsibility first—and everything else important will eventually fall into place. Kids can always tackle an academic subject—don’t let some imaginary deadline make you feel that you must push, prod, and pull your teen through a traditional collegebound course load by the end of senior year.
Make It Easier on Yourself
What you want is maturity (currently, very countercultural). You can fuel that with more responsibility. Mature teens? They take responsibility for their academic achievement on their own.
This should make intuitive sense. Do you know someone whose life story includes an event they say caused them to grow up fast? Usually it means circumstances forced a load of responsibility on them at an early age. I think of my own father who left high school in the middle of his senior year to serve in World War 2—he is the most responsible person I’ve ever known and the positive character traits forged in him through the war had a profound impact on his children and grandchildren. (He’s still carrying forth at 95.)
He also was a lackluster student in high school, certainly not college material in anyone’s estimation. So, as he tells it, he and his buddies were raring to go. Of course, they came back with very different perspectives. My dad then entered college on the GI Bill and ended up being the first in his family to earn a degree—and eventually completed two graduate degrees.
Thankfully, you don’t need a world war to help your teen grow up. There are plenty of other ways to up your teen’s responsibility quotient. Let his or her interests be a guide, as well as, your teen’s input.
- Find a job—not just any job. Look for one where your teen will have some decision-making opportunities and a decent amount of responsibility. Ideally, choose one that will help your teen figure out what his or her field of study might be following high school. My four kids all had jobs very early (we may or may not have run afoul of a few child labor laws). In hindsight, what I think was most valuable about each job is they were primarily surrounded by adults, not other teens, and this elevated the standard of maturity in those workplaces.
- Get some animals—pets, livestock, wildlife rescues—find some living things for your teen to care about and care for.
- Play competitive team sports—having others depend on your teen for the group’s success is a great context for building character and a healthy sense of obligation.
- Work with younger children—babysit, tutor, teach Sunday School, be a camp counselor, seize any opportunity where your teen must be the adult in the room.
- Volunteer—obviously. Helping others less fortunate is a great wake-up call for the naturally self-focused teen in the throes of early adolescence.
- Keep them busy. Not a direct line to more responsibility but my inside tip for keeping teens out of trouble. One reason my sons say they stayed in line during high school is they were dead tired at the end of the day. The fact that they were doing almost all the above, all the time may have something to do with that.
I bet your teens are doing many of these things already! Homeschooling naturally engenders responsibility in kids. I hope this post helps you see the natural duties you expect of your teen as part of your family are also part of the best way to get your collegebound kid college-ready.